Poor mother, locked away in the Alzheimer’s home, walks around the courtyard garden to hum the hymns she still remembers. I was tidying up, anticipating the arrival of my stepfather, Mr. Bromley. Admittedly, we had waited too long for this discussion, about the will and last rights of my mother, Bromley’s wife.

He is always late. Always eager to show he is more important, his time more valuable. Sells time for a living. Not time, really, offers liquidity on futures contracts. Salesmen, family defiler. He has a big house. I have a small house. I believe he thinks I’m a fairy.

I laid out two rows of cigarettes in a wooden box. Laid out two settings of mother’s silver. Rearranged the cushions on the couch. What does one do when waiting for an important discussion? Utmost importance. Sweet Irish voice, red sweater and tweeds, in the church choir while father watched belchingly proud in the pews. She sings like freckles and collies in the hills.

I decided to go in the backyard to do exercises while I waited. Walk inside sweating, just as he arrives. “You’re here already! Please wait there on the couch between the prearranged cushions and enjoy the cigarettes I’ve laid out. Have you quit smoking?”

Coming out after my shower in only a towel. I will seduce him. The cherry hard candies are in a silver dish on the coffee table. Steam rising from my muscled back, a drop of water descends slowly between my pectorals. The oven beeps. The muffins are done!

“Just one more moment. Must take the muffins out of the oven to cool.”

He watches my house slippers.

“I came here to discuss your mother’s future.” Bromley said.

I exploded. “So you can mortgage it like one of your derivatives?” Unwisely, theatrically, I swept my arms upwards in a gesture that led nowhere. They fell back to my sides.

“I apologize for that outburst.”

Oh they’d meet at assemblies of the Women’s Voter’s League and Bromley looked handsome in a fez, driving the go-kart behind the phalanx of Veterans of Foreign Wars. Usurper! Pale heresiarch! Mummy ought never to have come over on the boat. She takes two sherries after dinner while Daddy picks out the chords, lilting between dominant and tonic.

“Please use the ashtray if you’re going to smoke.” He has not touched the cigarettes. I’ll slip the keys out of his coat pocket, take the Land Rover to East Newton where Mommy’s locked away, and we’ll drive into the old memories, when we were alone together when Daddy went on August business trips and she let me sleep in bed with her. Nine years old. Didn’t mention that one too often on the playground!

“Jonathan! Sit down and stop buzzing around for one goddamn moment.” Bromley says.

She lives upstairs and slips into my room at night after you go to bed.

“She doesn’t even remember our names anymore. We’re all trying to help her,” he says. Saboteur! Brimstone to you and the heaths of all cuckolding widowmakers!

“I came to say I have power of attorney now. Bernstein wrote it up on Friday.”

Fireweaver!

8 Comments

  1. Jesse Wilson

    This story kicks ass. It’s really funny without forcing it. “Heresiarch” was a new word for me. Great word. I also admire your use of exclamation points, which seem to get a lot of hate in the writing world but have their place, which is when you’re being funny, which this story is.
    I think you should get rid of the “Not time, really,” up top. “Sweet Irish voice, red sweater and tweeds, in the church choir while father watched belchingly proud in the pews. She sings like freckles and collies in the hills” sounds great but threw me off a little in terms of picturing the action. Also, the outburst happens a little suddenly. I know, I know, that’s how outbursts work, but maybe do a little more build up.
    I think you should make this a longer piece, I could listen to this guy all day.

  2. Bud Smith

    Jack,
    Goddamn, this story is a real pisser. I love it. This part is incredible, “Oh they’d meet at assemblies of the Women’s Voter’s League and Bromley looked handsome in a fez, driving the go-kart behind the phalanx of Veterans of Foreign Wars. Usurper! Pale heresiarch! Mummy ought never to have come over on the boat. She takes two sherries after dinner while Daddy picks out the chords, lilting between dominant and tonic.” Like … that language is ON FIRE right there. And you do it again towards the end of the story:

    She lives upstairs and slips into my room at night after you go to bed.
    “She doesn’t even remember our names anymore. We’re all trying to help her,” he says. Saboteur! Brimstone to you and the heaths of all cuckolding widowmakers!
    “I came to say I have power of attorney now. Bernstein wrote it up on Friday.”
    Fireweaver!

    My suggestion with this draft is to just continue on with what you have. I feel like we are in act one of a three act story/play. I would follow these characters on and I would delight in seeing the man with the small house supersede the man with the large house. Any man who sells time for a living is a man I am happy to root against for some reason. You are a deft writer of prose and I would like to read an expanded version of this story one day out there in the world with further descriptions and hitches and so forth.

  3. Saxon Baird

    Damn, this story kills! I love the archaic use of name-calling. Saboteur! It also really moves, reflecting the nervousness and anxiety of the narrator. I think it might be cool to expand the part around stealing the land rover and driving into memories. Perhaps a little bit of background info would just add some depth to an already stellar piece.

  4. Benjamin Niespodziany

    Like everyone else has been saying, I love the name-calling and exclamatory energy! It’s contagious. “He has a big house. I have a small house. I believe he thinks I’m a fairy.” I love this rhythm and this punch. “…lilting between dominant and tonic.” So musical and beautiful. The inner workings of the narrator seem to generate the most excitement and energy. I’d like to see more of that interspersed with the dialogue.

  5. Kara Vernor

    Love it. Great language, energy, and set up. I think what I admire most is that it’s fun and wild while still having real conflict. It’s not just a romp; there are some real daggers at work here. I’d love to see these two go at it a few more rounds.

  6. Greg Oldfield

    Jack, there are some tremendous lines here, fueled by the anger of losing out on the control of mom’s life to the father-in-law. We’re so wrapped up into his hysteria that those phrases in the second paragraph and again with the paragraph “Oh they’d meet…” just hit so hard.

  7. Rachel Pollon Williams

    Oh my, the conflict between these two characters is rich with possibility! Love Jonathan and his big, open heart. More please!

  8. Bill Merklee

    Wonderfully poetic opening line. Captivated by the narrator. Only part that was jarring on first read: “Sweet Irish voice, red sweater and tweeds, in the church choir while father watched belchingly proud in the pews. She sings like freckles and collies in the hills.” Realized it was the mother, but maybe something just before it to make that clearer. Love the exclamations. Agree that this feels like the beginning of a larger work, one I would happily read.

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