Post-Turkey Day, I feel a tad regretful. It wasn't a good day at all, really, but I may have made it a little worse. The weather was lousy, grey, humid, and of an indeterminate temperature. There was nothing crisp in or out of the house. I sat inside my own home until mid-afternoon listening to music blankly until it was imperative I take a shower and get ready for dinner with my mother's neighbors.
I got to my mother's house about an hour early so we could chat and have a Kir. I had a good bottle of champagne for later, but Prosecco and Chambord would see us through until then. Neither of us had really eaten all day, so my mother, unlike me, wanted to be careful about drinking before dinner.
"Psyche," I said to myself as we gathered the pumpkin pie, the deviled eggs, and the full wine sack and ambled across the street. "It's showtime!"
I didn't mind, really, stepping onto this foreign stage for it was a stage and I a performer. And as I've mentioned, I can be a really good performer which is why we keep getting invited back for dinners. This year, we were meeting the other half of the wife's family having eaten with one of her two daughters and her husband last Christmas. This was an entire family, mom, dad, and two college aged sons. We were greeted at the door by--let's call her Lucy. Lucy is a good gal but loopy as a fucking parakeet, a bit older than I, and yesterday she had obviously overused her "meds." She met us at the door with heavy, blank but smiling eyes, and a drunken gait as the two little dogs ran around our feet barking as little dogs will.
"Where should I put this?" I asked.
There was nowhere. The table was set formally for eight, but I was told to use the wine glass set for me. I was shown my seat.
"Her husband--let's call him Dave--was in the kitchen slicing the turkey. Next to him was an attractive woman, nicely dressed and proper. This was Lucy's daughter--let's call her Anne. Anne turned to me and extended her hand. She was an attractive fifty-something, slender and fit. She spoke softly in with an understated sensuality.
"It's a pleasure to meet you."
I explained the recipe for Kir and the Kir Royale, and made one for myself as demonstration, then returned to the living room to sit with my mother, Lucy, and one of the two sons, the elder. As I sat down, one of the two dogs leaped into my lap. The dog belonged to the visiting family but was in dispute as Lucy had taken the dog in for the summer while the family decamped to Martha's Vineyard. She did not intend to give the doggy back.
"Look. . . mom!"
Anne came in from the kitchen. Apparently the dog never leaped into anyone's lap. The family came to see this evidently strange phenomenon. The dog lay relaxed, giving me occasional kisses on the hand.
"I'll tell you the secret," I said. "I just ate a deviled egg and was finishing chewing when I sat down. I think the dog was after that."
They all seemed relieved by the explanation which was total horseshit, but as I say, I'm a performer extraordinaire. I was just warming up.
"So," I queried the elder son, "what do you do? Are you in school?"
He was, he said. He went to a state university near his home in a familiar Gulf Coast town.
"What is your major?"
"Entrepreneurship," he said.
What the fuck? They continue to create these funk degrees at an incredible rate as colleges have been forced into the role of a business serving its customers.
"Uh. . . I'm guessing that degree is offered through the college of business."
He said he was in his last semester, so I wondered, "What was your curriculum like in your junior and senior years?"
I think that kind of stumped him, so I tried to get more specific to help him out.
"What courses are you taking this term?"
"Oh. . . . "
He was able to name three of his four courses. He just couldn't come up with the name of the last one. . . then. . . "Oh, it's called Professional Writing."
I could see why he had so much trouble. That's a difficult one to remember.
"You must be taking your courses online."
"Oh, yea, I've done the whole degree online. I don't like face to face classes."
The kid was obviously a dolt. At this point, the younger son came in. Same questions. He attended a junior college in the state's capital. I decided to let him off the hook with questions as he looked like a deer in the proverbial headlights, that same look he'd have if you walked into the bathroom and caught him jerking off.
They got up and left when their father entered. Let's call him Frank. He was tall and fit and quite the talker. He was a quipper who had a comment about anything said. I could tell there would be no air left in the room that night. I think he asked me if I had any pets, so I told my Tale of Two Cats, one feral, the other beautiful and domestic. He began singing a song from some popular movie I'd never seen. Apparently there was a feral cat who had many names according to different people who fed him.
"Never saw it. The only thing I've ever seen about alley cats was the old cartoon, "Top Cat."
He launched into the shows theme song. He knew them all, every song to every cartoon ever made. As Anne passed through the room, she said, "He knows everything about t.v. He'll go on for hours."
Thank god, however, at that moment we were called to the dinner. Around the table, they all joined hands to say a prayer of thanks. Amen. Then the plate and platter passing began. I was seated next to Frank. When I revealed I'd been a factory foreman for many years and once my pedigree was revealed, there was the usual reaction. It was quiz time.
"Well," I said, "there are a lot of books I've never read."
"What is your favorite book?" he asked.
I hate that question.
Frank never shut up. No matter what was said, he was determined to make the last comment. And, as had his predecessor, the other daughter's husband, he began to crow a bit about the things he had, boats, houses, cars, trips to here and there, the usual menagerie of places and objects of the moderately successful. He had done well in insurance, I understood.
I think this is where it started to go bad. He had a splint on one of his fingers and my mother asked him what had happened. He was strapping down his boat, he said, when the storm was coming, and he slipped and fell into the water. Somehow he had bent his finger backwards so that the tendons were torn. Now he couldn't bend it.
"What kind of boat do you have?"
It was an 18 foot Boston Whaler, he said. It needed a new electrical system but right now everything was so expensive. . . .
"How much do you use it?"
His wife said it hadn't run for five years. He quipped to her and she said something back. I don't remember this part clearly, but of a sudden he was looking around the table, eyes popping, hands wide, saying, "That's right. I make all the money and you spend it all. Right?"
He looked at me.
"It just seems like a man ought to get a little credit, right? I wish I could trade places with her."
She looked blandly at him. She'd heard this all before. I, however, was quite put off. This was not the sort of thing you say to company. You might say it in private, but you don't showcase it at the dinner table. Old Money Bags was throwing his paycheck on the table.
My mother was explaining how I had come to live with her so much in the last few years, me taking care of her after her shoulder injuries, her taking care of me after my accident. I played it off, of course. Talking about your physical injuries is no more interesting to people than explaining how much your hemorrhoids hurt.
"Evel Knievel. Can you imagine that?" Frank exclaimed. We talked about him for a bit, all the crashes, all the broken bones, attempting to jump the Snake River Canyon.
"I went to school with his daughter," Anne said. "Tan Knievel. Her locker was right next to mine. She was beautiful."
I tried to pull a story from her but she demurred. I continued to ask her questions, laughing a bit, and Frank asked why I was so interested.
And here, I think, is where the evening really went off the rails.
"Well, Frank. . . she's just a lot more interesting." I grinned mischievously. His eyes popped open, then he nodded knowingly.
"Go ahead, Anne. It's fascinating."
The table was being cleared and the pies were being cut.
"Do you want pumpkin, apple, or pecan?"
"I'd take a whiskey if you have any."
Dave brought out a bottle of Chivas. I shouldn't have, I guess, in hindsight. I think I really shouldn't have.
My right knee was starting to hurt from sitting at the table for so long, and I tried to stretch it in front of me, but I kept hitting my shin on the table legs. Frank looked at me. I told him I thought I had torn my meniscus. This introduced me to Fitness Frank.
"How do you stay so slim?" I queried. And so. . . I got lesson after lesson about physical fitness. A couple times, he decided to correct what he saw as my errant ideas on health. I think this is where the first "Fuck you, Frank," was issued. And later again when it came to personal romance. Short version--since my accident, I'm pretty pissy about both of these things, and having grown up in Crackerville and having spent half my life in a Giant Steroid Gym with criminals, and having not had human touch since Covid after spending my life enchanting the crowds with my high wire act. . . .
I'm a prick.
But goddamn that guy.
When I walked my mother back to her house, I poured a scotch and sat down on the couch. And for whatever reason, I told her the Fuck You Frank story. She looked at the glass in my hand. She wasn't amused.
When I got home, I didn't like the story, either. I'll have to go over to Dave and Lucy's house in a couple days and see what kind of reception I get. They are awfully nice to my mother, coming to see her, bringing her soups and chicken salads so she won't have to cook.
The highlight of the day was a phone call from Brooklyn. My new old friend had gone out to search for an open wine shop. She had called her mother. She had called her father. Now, she was calling me.
"So this is the New York version of a drive time call?"
I don't think that one went over so well, either. I had intended for this to be a fun holiday season, all cocktails and cartoons, but it was off to a miserable start.
Later, in a text, I briefly mentioned my faux pas.
"I'm thinking," I wrote, "that I need to get some cowboy boots."
They looked pretty cool on the young Dwight Yokum,.
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