We’ve had all we could take. They have relied on us for more years than we have left on God’s green earth. And we’re sick to death of their demands, the limitations it puts on our own existence. Because that’s all we’re doing now: merely existing. I can’t remember the last time my husband and I fucked or the last time he was able to afford to take us both out to a movie or a concert or a Broadway show. Last April, Don had scraped together a bit of cash from his ever-diminishing earnings and we went on one of those cruises for the kind of old people that we had suddenly realized we were fast becoming and no sooner were we sitting down for the buffet with the dinner performance by those former members of Chicago who had joined forces with that guy who was ousted from Boston when the cell went off and Jimmy called us to tell us one of his stupid doper friends had accidentally set fire to our gazebo during the house party we had forbade James Nicholas O’ Ryan to have while we were away and, just like that, our extended holiday plans were canceled and our non-refundable cruise passes flushed down the toilet and we had to dole out another $1,200 besides to catch a ride on a cigarette boat and board the last ferry of the night so we could rush home and assess the damage our dickweed delinquent son had done to our domicile and, instead of remorse for his irresponsibility, we got the Third Degree about what kind of souvenirs we had brought back for him and Sandy, our hopelessly promiscuous and academically-retarded daughter who was the product of the last fun, drunken cocktail party night we had ever hosted.
I’m remembering this as Stephen next door tries to discipline his unruly son Phillip and gets a, “Yeah, whatever, get out of my room. I’m going to college next year! Isn’t that enough?! I fucking hate you! Leave me alone! God!” And I’m talking to Shannon on the phone and she’s telling me that military school cost her and her ex something like eighty-five grand, but she’s not sure because Gary really handles all the finances, but she says that for all that money it just didn’t take and now they’ve got a disturbed nineteen-year old neo-Nazi skinhead on their hands and they’re afraid to go to sleep with their bedroom door unlocked, but they’re even more afraid to lock it for fear that he’ll set the house on fire with them in it. I tell Shannon I gotta go because Jackie’s on the other line and she’s in hysterics because her stepson just impregnated her daughter and he’s looking to her for the abortion money, even though they’re supposed to be Catholics, and one of the neighbors’ kids just spray-painted their fence and town hall is threatening to fine them if they don’t remove the vandalism themselves.
“Yeah, well, you should get rid of the vandal then,” I say and I mean it, as visions of a couple whipper-snappers with spray cans jammed up their assholes flashes in my head and I feel guilty for even thinking these things, but I’m a mass of sweat and I’ve just had it because Sandy’s in the kitchen, drinking out of the orange juice bottle again and she stole twenty dollars from my wallet and the nursing home called this morning to tell me someone booked me a room there and I don’t know if it’s a prank by one of my son’s friends who might have a summer job at the nursing home or if one of my bastard children is really checking out rooms for their mother when she only just went through the menopause two months ago and my nipple burns and I have goosebumps on my neck and I’m wondering if Don’s gonna be able to afford take-out tonight what with all the downsizing going on at his job and we didn’t even get Christmas bonuses this year, but the taxes out here are experiencing a big hike and Jackie can’t believe it either, she says, as she chokes on snot and sobs some more.
Don comes home thirty minutes earlier than usual and I can tell by the baleful look on his face that something is wrong. He walks right past me like I’m not even standing here, like I’m invisible, which is something Ma told me never to tolerate from a man, and I want to clear my throat loudly so he’ll get the hint, but I can see by the way his posture is slack and one hand is on the last beer in the fridge and the other in his Dickies that he’s got a good reason for ignoring me, but now I’m panicking. Jackie says something about our bridge game Wednesday night, but I hang up on her and forget all about poor Shannon as I follow Don into the family den and find him sitting before the fish tank, watching the bubbles rise around that little scuba figurine and admiring the algae on the little white pebbles on the floor of the tank as he nurses the foam at the bottom of the empty can and he looks like he’s going to cry or maybe he’s just suffering an allergy attack from the mold we haven’t seemed to be able to eradicate in the wall behind the love seat.
“It’s over,” he says. “Twelve years…” I can see he wants to say more, but it’s not coming. Nothing’s coming but more tears welling up in his eyes and he’s sucking it back, sniffling like Jimmy when he scraped his knees open after he fell off that board with the Spitfire wheels he had to have when he was thirteen and the Jnco jean leg with the frayed bottom got caught on the wheel and he took that spill and I had to hold him in my arms like he was dying as he cried and then punched me in the stomach when little Jenny Milligan saw me comforting him and he resented my maternal instincts.
“Twelve years what?” I say, but I already know. He’s been canned and now I can forget about eating out tonight or getting eaten out since Sandy’s bringing her boyfriend over later to eat all the food we won’t be able to afford any more and Don will doubtlessly be docile and flaccid after the wound to his ego and Jimmy will probably want to curse up a blue streak about the modifications I made to his iPod once I realized that our twenty-year old son not old enough to legally drink is listening to propaganda about pussies and cunts and cop-killing by some bleached-blond hood from Detroit.
Don barks at me. “I can’t take your fucking nagging!”
“I just asked.”
“Don’t ask, Jeanne! Okay?! There’s nothing to ask any more…Twelve years.”
Jimmy marches down the stairs and gives me the evil eye because he thinks I was spying on him and his friends earlier when they were smoking a bong in his bedroom and he says, “Dad, the fuck is this shit about giving you money for the phone bill? I don’t even use the fucking phone! I got my cell! What the fuck is your fucking problem, old man?! I pay fucking rent! Isn’t that enough?!”
Don stands up and he’s got a look on that I don’t recognize and he hauls off and smacks Jimmy in the lips and they start wrestling and I feel like I’m gonna have a coronary, but then Sandy walks in and says, “You people are freaks” and heads down the hallway to lock herself in the bathroom.
Don relents before Jimmy does, so that Jimmy lands a fist in Don’s chest before scrambling to his feet and running out the front door. He pauses in the doorway and, as his father lies crying on the shag carpet, he turns his scowl on me and says, “I’ll come back for my stuff later, but I’m leaving Connie’s stuff in the garage and don’t give me any shit! I’m talking to someone about you too. There’s a word and it’s ‘incontinence.’”
I’m so angry I could shit and I guess that’s what Jimmy was trying to infer. I wait for him to slam the door and then I crouch down and try and help Don up, but the bear claws he’s been eating at work for the last couple of years have contributed to a mid-section that is just untenable for me with the carpel tunnel syndrome and I start crying too, but I right myself pretty quick when I hear Maude leaving a message on the answering machine in the kitchen, whispering something about her son throwing her out on her ear for losing control of her bladder on the fold-out bed in his guest room.
“It’s time for solidarity,” I tell Don. He looks at me in a way he’s never looked at me in all the twenty-two years I’ve known him. It’s the expression of a little boy and it comforts me in ways I’ll never be able to convey to him. I feel stronger just because of his doleful little eyes and I guess he feels stronger too, on account of the warrior-like resoluteness I’m exhibiting. Maybe it even turns him on and he won’t need the Cialis this weekend. I tell him, “It’s gonna be all right. We’re gonna bond together.”
I gather the girls in the garage, by the crates full of Jimmy’s live-in girlfriend’s shit, by the skateboards and bicycles we bought for Sandy and Jimmy when they were adolescents, by the boxes full of toys and trinkets and acne creams and baseballs and bulky late-90’s cell phones and old computers and everything else we ever placated these little cocksuckers with and I feel like a dictator when I say it, which makes me sort of ashamed, but it’s no time for being bashful, it’s time to act. And, so, I say what we’re all thinking: “It’s time to get them before they can get us.”
They’re rounded up into cages, the ones we bought for their rabbit hutches, for the re-enforcement on their shoddily-constructed clubhouses, for their pets and their presents and the gardens on which they played tea party, the fences we put around our gladiolas so they wouldn’t trample them in their haste at being obnoxious rugrats. They soiled their pants and skirts when they saw that we were for real and those that didn’t get the idea were pelted with whatever dried-up old rabbit droppings we could find in our gutters. Their long hair was chopped off with thinning shears, their tattoos burned off with Stephen’s acetylene torch, the one he used to weld the custom-made low-rider bicycle his son wanted when he went through that Hispanic rapper stage back in the day, while Don busied himself with pouring all of their old toys through the slats in the chicken wire’s lattice-work.
We’ve singed off their genitalia so they can’t propagate another inferior generation of societal rejects and this makes us sad, for we know that as our life expectancy balloons beyond one hundred, there will be a limited number of youthful slaves to assist with our diapers and desires. But we sleep soundly all the same, maugre the malignant cries and clattering of chains against chain-link fence, secure and serene for the first time since we ourselves were children.
© Bob Freville 2014