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.”