Chapter 1 read by Wendy Smith
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-Hey, Dad, ¡there’s a rat in the trap!
Charlie threw the Frisbee, but it landed in a green cesspool and quickly sank. His mad dad waded into the mucous, coming out with a pair of dead raccoons and a mini-refrigerator, but no Frisbee. The Frisbee had been devoured like candy and the cesspool wasn’t giving it up.
-Not today -Dr. Berger said-. The cesspool got the best of us today, I’m afraid.
They all turned abruptly and went into the house, God closing the door behind them.
Charlie tore apart the first thing he saw as he entered - which was a Mekons CD.
-¿What did I just do? -He asked his sister Margaret, who was watching the scene like a cost accountant had just accosted a giraffe at the zoo for being “too much cost-per-use”.
-I wasn’t looking -Margaret lied. She put her hands into her jeans and pulled out the Frisbee-. But, I’m sure it was psychotic and impulsive. I’m gonna go play Frisbee with the dead rat.
-That’s a good -Charlie responded-. That stupid fuck falls for our Frisbee bit every time.
-Yeah, but he pulled some good shit out this time.
Margaret knew exactly how far they could push their dad before he snapped. It was like a sixth sense with her. She had him believing that all she and Charlie did all day was play Frisbee and Nintendo. Dr. Berger had no time to think otherwise.
Margaret did like to play Frisbee, but Nintendo fucking bored her. It sent a chill up her spine that was still there, chillin’. And her father did like his children, but, like Nintendo, they bored the living Christ out of him. He just didn’t have time for shit like that. If he wasn’t busy with some crazy invention, he was busy writing his congressperson to complain that the word “word” needed to be changed officially to “dingbat”.
“And I wanna be named Princess”, Margaret thought. “Wake me when that happens”.
It was an odd thought, but odd thoughts ran in the Berger (formerly “Brewer”) family like diarrhea. Beginning with the family name change to Berger (“Brewer” was too reminiscent of Mr. Brewer’s... uh, Dr. Brewer’s... Berger’s alcoholic past), and ending with having Dr. Berger chasing phantom Frisbees into real cesspools.
Charlie had tried to stop the name change but, in the end, all he could do was watch helplessly as one more reason he was gonna get his ass kicked at school was foisted onto his skinny shoulders.
“California”, She thought, as odd thought after odd thought tumbled through her brain. “It’s too weird here. Here it is, the middle of summer, and I haven’t been allowed to go nude skydiving. Charlie and I have to wear shirts and jeans, and it’s fucking summer”.
She grabbed the Frisbee and really threw it into the cesspool this time. Then she ran off triumphantly to find her dad.
-You can’t pull that again so quickly, even if it really is in there -Charlie called after her.
-You’re the pud-puller of the family -Margaret quickly countered.
-¿Oh, yeah? Well, you’re the Turkish game hen... of... the family.
-Wait, I hear something. ¿Is that your dignity scraping at the door? It wants its... uh... dignity... back.
Charlie knew he couldn’t win.
You’d better watch your self in these next few days -Margaret ESP’d to Charlie’s brain.
This was easy for Margaret to do, but only to Charlie, because he was so simple-minded.
The Frisbee sank into the cesspool and Margaret pushed more thoughts into Charlie’s cramped cranium:
¡YOU go look for it! -Hit Charlie’s brain like a Dontrelle Willis inside fastball.
-¡No, YOU! -Charlie screamed.
-Charlie -Margaret said aloud-. You’re eleven years old. Think about it: ¿Is this advancing the plot anywhere?
-You wouldn’t know an eleven-year-old if you saw one -Was the only comeback Charlie could conjure. Meanwhile, he headed for the cesspool ready to pull the Frisbee out of the dreck.
“Dad isn’t the only stupid fuck”, Margaret thought. “The ambulance doesn’t fall far from the emergency room - or the bathroom. Speaking of which, ¡I gotta GO! Oh well, not while there’s air still out here to breathe.
“And when I do go, it looks like I’m gonna have to go strapped with fucking Pampers”.
There wasn’t a second that passed where Margaret wasn’t thinking something wacky, but this paragraph is not here to catalog Margaret’s wacky hijinks.
“Mom’s got Dad by the short curlies”, Margaret thought. “And we have him fetching phantom Frisbees in the local cesspool. No wonder the poor fuck locks himself in the bathroom”.
In fact, their father had pretty much taken up permanent residence there: “I’m going to find something. And when I do, boy, ¡watch out!”
-¡I’ve got it! -Charlie screamed, hand on Frisbee-. ¡Jeez! ¡That shit stinks!
Margaret watched all of this like the unacknowledged princess she was. Her family members didn’t bow when they saw Margaret, though her dad did. Sometimes. He was also the only family member who tied his own shoes, the only one who cursed their mother, and the only one who could take his eyeballs out.
-No, really, dig this shit -Dr. Berger would say, roller-disco’ing through the house, plucking his eyes out and putting them back in. Charlie averted his own eyes by checking the rat traps and then curling up in a corner.
He would stay there for days sometimes, never saying a word.
-I protect my eyes -Margaret said, protecting her eyes from the afternoon sun-. Come into the house, Charles.
Charlie threw the decroded Frisbee into the garage. It was kaya time now . He knew how to mellow out his sister.
-Dad’s always fucking around in the bathroom -He said irritably-. And I, for one, am glad. You and I can get high out here instead of in the bathroom.
-¿Will you just “puff, puff, pass”? -Margaret Groucho’d and then started juggling three ears of corn in the air-. A trained chimpanzee can do it.
-¿Why do you always bring Dad into the conversation? -Charlie asked.
Margaret burped. And said nothing. So the question hung there like a tomato with a helium balloon attached to it.
Margaret’s pallid pallor was not palling around:
-You know what I’m going to say, ¿so why should I say it? -She axed, evidently quite pleased with what she hadn’t said.
Talking was not one of Charlie’s strongest points, and he avoided it like it was his dad. Once, he went four weeks without talking with or seeing his dad. That had been extraordinary, but that was the goal he always set.
-We’re just going to follow in Dad’s footsteps and teach at the polytechnic, ¿aren’t we? -He asked, evidently in an uncommon mood.
-Yes. But, until then, ¡let’s get loaded! -Margaret said grabbing the hash pipe from Charlie’s hand. She could hear her freaky father bestirring himself in the bathroom.
-But, ¿why? ¿Why don’t we just stare at the bathroom and try to psychically move it to Boston? -Charlie was so high. The idea that his father could be psychically transported was a solid one - but, ¿who wanted to stare at the bathroom long enough to do it?
-No, we’re not going to stare at the bathroom all day -Margaret said, juggling corn and toking hash at the same time-. We’re going to become botanists and then teachers of botanists and botany, ¿dig? Then we can evolve a race of super flies.
All of the corn fell to the ground in a mound.
Charlie laughed and stretched his body to grab an ear of corn, which he then covered with Ranch dressing.
-Not exactly what I had in mind -Margaret said, literally through a hashish haze-. But, ¿have you ever listened-in on Dad blabbing on the phone? He’s on right now, talking to Mr. Martinez, the department director. ¿Hear it? ¿That idiotic silence that hovers when you know Dad’s thinkin’ about setting the poor bastard on fire like he was a barbecue?
Charlie was in to it.
-¿Does Martinez despise Daddy?
-Probably -Margaret murmured-. If you listen close you can hear Dad trying to sell his soul to the devil.
-But Dad’s too smart for that -He insisted, as if Margaret was short-circuiting the last admirable trait Charlie could think of for his Dad-. If his experiments go bad, all hell’s gonna break loose anyway.
Margaret knew she had struck a nerd.
-That’s a lot of nothing to say -She say’d-. Come on, Charlie, let’s go. We’ll all be dead soon anyway. -She socked Charlie in the larynx, just to show him how horrible the world could be.
-You’re horrible -Charlie managed to squeak out. He opened the door and then he turned the knob, the result being a face-full of door.
-¿Who’s horrible? -Mrs. Berger asked from the kitchen. She turned and poured salt on Charlie-. “Major Baby, reporting for duty”.
“Mom looks haggard today”, Margaret thought. “Her fine lines are torn up, and her eyes, well, one looks one way and the other looks like a casaba melon that’d been hollowed-out and filled with taxi cab oil”.
-I hear, therefore I work -Mrs. Berger said, and then pointed at her ¡brand new refrigerator!
-¿What is that? -Charlie axed, knowing it was The Mini-Frig From The Cesspool Lagoon .
-It’s steak and tiny John Leguizamos -Mrs. Berger replied.
-¡Yuck! -Margaret exclaimed.
-Thanks for your appliances -Mrs. Berger said, as the telephone rang, her second hand on a paper towel. Her third hand picked up the phone.
Margaret took a jug of anti-freeze out of the refrigerator and poured it over Charlie’s receding hairline. The bathroom door was permanently locked when Dr. Berger was working. It was kill or be killed.
Charlie started to stop, and then he stop-ped to start.
-We’re going to break down the bathroom door and see what Dad’s up to -Charlie said unsuredly.
Margaret stopped pouring anti-freeze over Charlie and started rubbing her hands together.
-That’s a good.
She didn’t know that it was a good, but it was an opportunity to fuck with her dad, and she was curious.
“¿Who works in their fucking bathroom all day and night?” Margaret thought. “¿¡Or at all!? He taught interesting classes about plants and weeds. And he made eight figures doing it. ¡And still he works in the bathroom! ¡And no one in this family’s moved their bowels since!”
-Yes. ¡Let’s do it! -Margaret said-. After that, ¡we can burn the motherfucker down!
They had determined that it was high time that their father was called-out on his Manifest Botany bull crap. They were tired of the endless quizzes on florae and phyla. And ¡they wanted to use the bathroom (though this begged the question of “burning the motherfucker down”)!
-¡Oi, Dad! -Charlie screamed and pounded on the bathroom door-. ¡Dad! ¿Are you alive in there?
They heard scurrying, and when their dad appeared outside the bathroom he had a pie in one hand. He looked at each of them, contemplating his next move. It was a Key Lime pie with so much extra lime it was glowing. It was taking all of his manly might not to throw it in someone’s face (that, and he couldn’t decide which face to throw it in).
-¡No one’s in the bathroom! -He shrieked maniacally, in a voice that Hamas (???? ?????) would envy.
They all backed off, surprisingly stunned to hear their father so out-and-out out of his mind. Usually he was able to gloss over his glassy-eyedness with glad tidings.
-¡No one’s in the bathroom! -He shrieked again, and again the family took a step back-. You are never to go in there. ¡No one’s been murdered!
-- on to chapter 2 or back to the Bathroom --