Monday, November 9, 2009
The Counting Machine Fuhrer
The clock hanging over the kitchen sink says it’s fifteen minutes after the hour, the small hand making its move to split eleven down the middle.
You can still hear the acid sarcasm dripping from your father’s gin-bathed lips, as he surrenders to his high-backed chair, the evening paper slung across his gamey lap like a worn saddle.
“You get that sorry ass back in this house by eleven – you hear me?”
Your head is spinning. You lean into the sink, smelling the dank perfume of the garbage disposal.
“Who is it on that damn clock anyway?” you think, revisiting the cheap whiskey in the well of your throat, striking up another aimless conversation with yourself.
It’s – it’s that black cat – the one from the old cartoons, what the hell was his name? Francis? Fred? Frederick?
Christ, I’m stewed – the old man’s going to rearrange my face for sure.
Wait on! Got it! Felix! The Odd Couple! Tony Randall! The geezer who keeps pumping out the babies! Felix Unger! Felix! Felix the Cat – Felix the goddamn cat! That’s who’s on the clock! Mom loved Felix!
Your vomit spirals into the metal sink, splashing the lace curtains before you can drop your head. Deep down into that stinky drain you go, smelling potato peelings and egg shells and the vodka your mother used to christen the pipes with – while your father was out there, somewhere in Minnesota, selling his inferior calculators to brain-free office managers, cracking bad jokes in a greasy spoon, rubbing himself against a waitress on his way to the restroom – a slow-motion race to unleash the bitterness spoiling below his dry heart.
What’s going on? Why do we have such a hard time recalling this simple shit?
Cats, mom loved cats – especially the cartoon ones.
Garfield. That one’s intact. Now, what was that other one – he was orange too, but kind of lame – Heathfield? No, stupid! Heathfield? Fuck me!
God, my head – I wish I could open it up and stick it under the faucet. My brain’s rising like Jiffy Pop on the stove – corn and artificial butter fucking in a silver chef’s hat.
Heathcliff – that’s it! I knew it was like one of those romance books – you know, windswept cliffs and silk handkerchiefs and all that gothic stuff? Shit – mom liked those too, didn’t she?
You encounter your father by the stairs, fit for a gladiator’s pit, his inky eyes stenciled with anger, an anger you have been helping along, what with all your silly “gay gallivanting” around town, sporting those circus-bright playboy jackets, the rumpled hip-hop fedoras – all the tell-tale signs of a roll in a Motel 6 with the likes of Audrey or Nancy – or that totally-stacked Betty – man, what a doll! A virgin too – according to the latest spread sheets.
Spread sheets! Get it? Life’s a regular funnies section around here – I swear it is!
“I don’t wanna to haf to do thish – but yew leave me no choice, Albert. Yer muther, God haf mercy on her shoul, wood agree – if she wuz here wif me to witnessh yer debauched homecomin’.”
Oh, shit, that’s dad, slurring in your ear, smelling of his drink cabinet.
How many times have you heard him say that?
How many times didn’t he find those condoms in your pocket?
How many times did you escape the fury of his Joe Palooka fists – without even realizing it?
Do the phantom beatings haunt you even now, as he forces his sleeves to his elbow, taking on the face of a made-for-television dog – a countenance learned from his early days – just another slack-necked pup sat before the flickering attendant?
Shit. That little, snickering one – Wacky Races, that’s where! Muzzly? Muttley? Muttley! Yeah! Fuck you, Muttley, get out of my fuckin’ way, I’m goin’ up stairs!
Your hat takes flight.
It must be the thermal updrafts, those born as your brain fulfills it’s buttery mission, a fever of culpability raging in your guts, a sick, soggy collapse coming to your aching heart.
Why did mom have to die? Why isn’t he the one lying under that damp grass by the reservoir?
He moves towards you, his forearm a parade of muscles, a dark strand of oily hair sliding across his face, giving him the momentary appearance of some Fuhrer of the counting machine set.
You almost laugh, closing your eyes, steeling yourself for the blow, seeing a tiny chick flipping off a hungry hawk, banjo strings plucking your demise.
Suck me, old man!
You raise a finger in feeble protest, sensing the inevitability of it all, knowing you’ll be tasting your father’s knuckles in a second or two – merely an appetizer to the rich sweetness of your own blood.