Tuesday

POSTPONEMENT

(Last installment of SEXUAL PARENTING not finished yet. To keep you ravenous freeloaders from turning on me I throw you a substitute piece of flesh -- the story below. Tell me something about the narrator that is only hinted at -- althouth I worry you're too fucking stupid to spot it. Just know that my 15 year old daughter got it first read through.)


OUR FATHER'S WIFE

“Look,” squeals Monique in her manic, high-pitched Gallic voice, “It's Will, Mizzes Geller.”

Francis peers at me through her thick horn-rimmed glasses.

“Will,” she says, clutching my jacket sleeves and pulling me to within inches of her face, “you look so handsome.” She hugs me warmly, holding onto me without the stiff formality with which she hugged me as a teenager.

“Will iz your baby, Mizzes Geller. No matter how old we all get, he will always be your baby.”

“William, you’re my youngest son, my baby, isn’t that right?” We sit at the kitchen table and she gazes at me fondly.

“That’s right, Francis, I’m the youngest of all four. Artie’s the oldest, he lives in New York City, Lanie is next, she’s down in Atlanta, then Tom in Chicago, and finally me in Fort Lee, just three miles down the road.”

“Why don’t they ever come to visit?”

“It’s not easy for them, Francis, having little kids and all. But they come whenever they can. Arthur stopped by just last week.”

“I don’t remember,” she says, “I have absolutely no memory anymore.”

“Oh, yes, you do, Mizzes Geller. Arthur comes by every other Wednesday and you sign ze checks. She love to sign ze checks, Will.”

“Who is Arthur?”

I pat her hand. “It’s okay, Francis. It’s what happens when you live so long – your memory goes. In a way it’s a good thing, a sign of longevity.”

“How old am I, Will?”

“You’re eighty-eight, Francis. Can you believe it. Eighty-eight years old.”

“Eighty-eight,” she repeats. “How are your children, Will? Why don’t they ever come to visit?”

“Will doesn't have any children yet. He hasn't found ze right girl,” Monique shrieks. “He's looking for someone like you, his mother. Isn’t zat right, Will?”

Monique glances at me hopefully, and I smile at her cleverness. Francis looks from me to Monique and back at me, not too far gone to detect a touch of conspiracy.

“What’s new, Francis? What have you been up to?” I ask.

“Well, the others, the others in the house, they, the other people, there’s been a problem with the, the uh…we’re uh…” her voice just trails off.

“Sometimes she gets tired in ze late afternoon. She's much better in ze morning.”

I stand up. “Francis, come, walk me to the door.” She hooks her arm in mine and I lead her through the corridor from the kitchen to the back porch, Monique trailing us.

At the door I take Francis in my arms and she kisses me on the lips. Hers are surprisingly soft. Before her descent into dementia, I can’t recall her ever having kissed me on the lips before. She wraps her arms around me and clings to me. “I’ve got to go now, Francis,” I whisper. “I’ve got a million errands to run.”

Monique takes Francis from behind and gently pries her from me. “It’s okay, Mizzes Geller, Will alwayz come back.”

“You look so handsome, Will,” she says. “You’ve turned into such a handsome man.”



“The perpetual scowl is gone, Lanie, not a trace of it.”

“Just keep her from dying, baby. Six months is all. Hold on, it's fucking call waiting.” The phone clicks and a minute or so goes by. “That was Tom. I told him you said there’s a certain sweetness about her and he said, and I quote, ‘Bullshit, the woman’s a paranoid cunt, and she has been since the day she was born.’”

That night Tom e-mails, ‘W. Don’t be such a little faggot, always trying to find the good in people. You’ll get fucked everytime. I love you little bro. T-man. PS, keep the bitch alive.’

“Great,” says Arthur as he lathers butter on his scone. “The more you visit, the more likely she is to stay healthy.” He looks around for the waitress, holding up his coffee cup and pointing at it.

“What I’m trying to say, Arthur, is maybe it wasn’t all her fault. Maybe Dad wasn’t the easiest guy to live with.”

Arthur shrugs. “Of course, he wasn’t. Why do you think Mom died of colon cancer at forty-eight.”

“I mean, here she was, never married, dumped by – who was the guy?”

“Jonas Salk -- supposedly. Personally, I never believed it.”

“A fucking salesgirl at Bloomingdale’s, no children, almost 50, losing her looks, the one thing in her life that was worth anything to her. You’d get bitter, too.”

“Yeah, but then she married a guy worth 25 million bucks. You’d think the bitterness would have faded a bit.” The waitress pours us both a second cup of coffee. After she leaves, Arthur looks around for eavesdroppers. He leans in closer. “The woman fucked Dad’s best friend and about half a dozen other guys behind his back, including Larry, Dad’s driver.”

“Really?”

“Really.”

“How come I didn’t know?”

“You were too young.”

“Dad never knew?”

“He didn’t want to know.”

“Unbelievable.”

Arthur signals for the waitress, air-signing a check. “Listen,” he says, balling up his napkin, “I’ve got to get back to the office.” He fixes me with his eyes. “Your job is to keep her alive for exactly five more months and eighteen days. Think you can do it?”

“Why is it my job?”

I know why it’s my job: I am the only one of the four of us without full-time employment or a family and am clearly the most dependent on the largesse of our father’s estate.

But Arthur will only say, “Because you live the closest and have the least demands on your time right now and, frankly, Will, because she likes you the best. You’re something to stay alive for. Christ, she knows who you are. I could be the fucking exterminator.”

The waitress arrives with the check, and he waits for her to leave. “It’s not chump change we’re talking about here. The tax liability on the 2005 gifts alone is over six million bucks.”

“Arthur, you’ve told me this four times.”

He can’t help himself. “If she lives to June, it drops to 4.6 million. That’s another 1.4 mil. that stays in the estate, 25% of which will eventually be yours.”


Monique leads me into the living room. “Mizzes Geller, look who's come to see you.”

Francis is lying on her stomach under a sheet on some kind of massage table, her skinny pale arms and legs flailing about like an insect’s beneath its carapace. I am more than a little surprised to see Sam, my step-mother’s sometime driver, rubbing her back under the sheet. Sam is a large muscular black man, and with his shaved head, moustache, and earring, he bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Clean. Francis swivels her head toward Monique. She does not have her glasses on.

“Who? Who is it?”

“Hi, Francis. It’s me, Will.”

“I can’t see you.”

I crouch down till my face is inches from hers. “I can’t believe you’re actually getting a massage. Last Thanksgiving you told the entire table, ‘I’ve never had one and never will.’”

“Did I say that?”

“Emphatically.”

“I don’t remember.”

“Arthur’s wife Elaine was going to get a massage the next day and she wanted you to have one, too, and you said, “Absolutely not. I’m afraid I’ll have an orgasm.’”

Monique shrieks madly with pretended shock, and Sam chuckles. “Now don’t go gettin’ any ideas, Francis.”

Francis makes an inverted peace sign with her extended right hand and vibrates it up and down in a motion that, although I have never seen it before, resonates nonetheless in my limbic brain. Francis cranes her head around to look at me and Monique. “My vagina still works, you know,” she says.

Monique shrugs, as if to say, I have no control over that.

“Well, I’ve got to run, Francis,” I say, “I just stopped in for a quick hello.” As I start to leave, Francis quite suddenly starts to climb off the table.

“Will, wait, I want to say good-bye.”

She has caught Sam off-guard and is now sitting up, the sheet hanging off her shoulder, her aged breasts bare. I avert my head. Monique rushes over and as Sam fashions the sheet around Francis into sort of a toga, Monique helps her to her feet.

“Will,” she croons, moving toward me, one shoulder bare, her arms extended. “You look so handsome.”

She wraps her arms around me, laying her head on my chest, and after a few seconds it dawns on me that she is pressing her pelvis against me. I pat her on the back to indicate I have to go. But the pressure on my thigh only increases.

“Monique,” I say, “I gotta go.” Monique takes her by the shoulders and pulls her from me.

As I drive home, I recall a time back in junior high dancing with Janine Feuer in Allan Geissenberger’s finished basement to a Johnny Mathis tune, not realizing till the song was almost over exactly what it was that was pressing against my thigh. With a man, you know right away.

I track down Arthur on his cell phone. “Can’t talk, I’m in an executive committee meeting.”

“Bullshit. I’m not visiting Francis anymore.”

“Oh, Christ, hold on a second, guys. What’s the matter?”

I relate the hugging incident.

“You’re shitting me. Guys, get a load of this. My stepmother has taken to dry humping my kid brother’s leg.” There is a gale of laughter.

That night, I am standing at a bar in Chelsea, drinking scotch and watching people dance when my cell phone rings. I see it is Lanie’s number and I step out onto Ninth Avenue. “I understand you’re taking one for the team,” she says and breaks into her sarcastic little giggle. I hang up and go back inside.

No matther how late it is, no matter how much I’ve had to drink, I always check my e-mail before I go to bed. Tom has forwarded a joke: ‘Man is visiting his dying wife in the hospital, the doctor says he doubts she’ll last through the night. As he starts to leave, the wife says please make love to me one last time before I die. She’s all skin and bones, but the husband closes his eyes and honors her request. When he comes back in the morning, not only is she not dead, she’s sitting up in bed eating breakfast. Again when he goes to leave, she asks him to make love to her just one last time. He does and when he returns the next morning the doctor says he doesn’t understand it but she’s actually gained a pound. This goes on for a month, at the end of which time the woman is completely cured, tumor gone, weight regained. The man is about to take his wife home, when suddenly he bursts into tears. “What’s the matter?” asks the wife. “Aren’t you happy I’m all better?” And the man says, “To think, I could have saved Mother.”’

I won’t deny that when you’re the baby in the family you tend to be a bit spoiled. On the other hand, you also take a lot of shit.

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