Chapter 2 read by Frank Atrash
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-Well, now that we’ve cleared that up... -Mrs. Berger started, but didn’t know how to end. She stammered some more and then turned on the TV-. ¿Are there any hippity-hop movies you’d like to watch with your distraught mother?
Charlie claimed that the remote control had been commandeered by casaba melons, and he wasn’t about to fuck with casaba melons. But he and his sister obediently pretended they also had noticed nothing unusual. And Mrs. Berger moved back into the kitchen.
One of Margaret’s “little friends”, Diana, who lived nearby, comma, dropped into the drama.
-¿What time is it on your planet, Mrs. Berger? -Diana asked as she looked around at the kitchen’s gruesome display of blood-stained mallets.
-I dunno -Mrs. Berger responded nervously-. My sister has fled to a mental hospital in Tucson. My husband is perpetually locked in our bathroom, though he assures us that no one has been murdered in there. My kids seem like mindless automatons. And I haven’t gotten any in ten years.
-O... kay... -Diana managed to say-. ¿Are the mindless automatons around?
-I come... in peace -Margaret said, lifting her hands and eyes toward the ceiling-. I’m better than you, Diana.
-And I am more intelligent that all ya’all -Charlie said in his role as habitual liar.
-And I worry about all you motherfuckers -Mrs. Berger said, looking nervously like a watch-. You’re crazier than your dad.
-You’re the crazy one -Margaret said, suddenly serious-. You married him.
-It’s like I’ve been in a coma for ten and half years -Mrs. Berger said-. This fucking obsession of your father’s has literally made me sick. I don’t eat anything except salad dressing.
“We were much better off when Mom was committed -Margaret thought-. Dad never locked himself in the bathroom”.
For the past two weeks all they’d heard were murderous screams coming from the bathroom. And after the screams, their father would always appear with a Key Lime pie in his hands. He’d look nervous and his hands shook. But during this time he would always say something nice to them, like “nice day” or “guten Tag”.
-You didn’t have a nervous breakdown for nothing, Mom -Margaret said, feeling obligated to appease her mother-. Aunt Leonor had one, so it runs in the family.
-Call me when I get to Tucson -Mrs. Berger said, looking with impunity at her watch. She went up to the door and screamed:
-¡Miguel! ¡It’s airport time!
After a long pause, Dr. Berger responded.
Mrs. Berger turned to face her children:
-¿Who believes me when I say I’m going to Arizona to get a document notarized? -She asked in a serious tone. Both children obediently raised their hands, revealing just how co-dependent they were in stemming “The Wrath of Mom” .
A few moments later they were all listening at the bathroom door when their father appeared, Key Lime pie in hand. He had had a shipment of bats flown in for his bathroom laboratory and two of them were chowing down on the pie. They were wearing purple bat pants the color of Amarillo Slim .
-This is Cooloocoo -Dr. Berger said, nodding to one bat-. And this -He said, nodding to the other-, is Baraka.
Cooloocoo jumped onto the family’s escalator and was happily crushed between the metal stairs. Baraka, it may be noted, survived for two more weeks when he was jumped and murdered by four fellow bats in what authorities described as “a grim, gangland-style vendetta”.
-¿Another trip to the notary public, my dear? -Mr., sorry, Dr. Brewer... ¡Berger! ...asked his wife.
Mrs. Berger sighed.
-I supposed it is -She knew that Charlie and Margaret didn’t buy any of it, but they played the adoring children while their father played the maniacally understanding spouse.
-Let’s go, punk asses -Dr. Berger said impatiently. He picked up a nasty looking mallet to emphasize his point-: ¡Move! Now, ¿who believes in a wise and eternal God? ¿Anyone? -He saw the looks of disgust and despair on everyone’s faces and let the subject drop without comment.
-Goodbye, Mrs. Berger -Diana said against her better judgment-. I hope you find a good notary.
-¿Do you know where she’s really going? -Charlie axed-. It’s cause her sister’s in the hospital.
-I’ll believe that when I see it -Diana replied, partially because her cerebral cortex had misfired.
The kids watched the car sail out of the driveway. Charlie grabbed the remote control away from a casaba melon so he could watch a movie.
Diana slammed down onto the sofa next to him and picked up an old bag of potato chips from the coffee table.
-¿Who died and left this movie on? -She axed, rude as she pleased.
-I did. Me -Charlie said-. And it’s a great, fucking movie. It’s about Hiroshima and Nagasaki -He took a tomato that was in between the sofa’s cushions and smashed it into Diana’s face.
Margaret sat down too late to witness the tumult. She liked tomatoes smashed in faces and she liked the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. But this is the same girl who thought the Contras “silly”. Now she was thinking of her mom, flying out to Arizona to be committed once again.
-It’s an awesome movie. It’s got tragedy and... tragedy... and we originally saw it in a double-feature with “Shaft In Africa”.
-I’ve got to git -Diana said, wiping tomato spit from her face-. I can see that I’m getting nothing but Hamas from you two.
-Me too -Margaret sighed-. Let’s git outta here before Dad gets back or dinner appears. Diana, ¿did you finish your math homework? And, if so, ¿can I copy it?
-¡Shhh! -Charlie shushed, his eyes transcendental meditation’d to the TV-. This is the best part.
-¿How old is this fucking movie? -Diana chill’d.
-Twenty seven years old -Charlie admitted-. It stars Eddie Albert and Hans Conried.
-Hans Conried’s a fox -Margaret admitted, displaying her brazenness-. I used to move up and down on my bike seat dreaming of him.
-¿Did he ever live in Michigan? Because I think I saw him once -Diana said-. And he wasn’t wearing anything except a bolo tie.
-You shoulda seen him when he was young... and naked -Margaret said a little too enthusiastically.
Diana wasn’t much help: she hadn’t done her homework.
She was too busy thinking about boys.
-Yes, tall boys... -She was rubbing her butt and licking her lips-. You’re dad seemed a little on edge, ¿ya know what I mean?
-Yes, but, ¿what are you failing to say?
-Just that he seemed, you know, nervous. ¿How do say “nut case” in your family?
-¡Shhh! -Charlie insisted, and he took another tomato from between the cushions and threw it at Diana.
-¡You fuck! ¡That hit me right in the Totie Fields! ¡And it hurt!
-It was supposed to hurt -Margaret said distractedly-. In reality, it doesn’t hurt, but all of the emotional-slash-psychological stress you create before it hits... Well... that hurts. It’s a lot like Dad’s experiments.
-¿Experiments? I heard about this shit, but I never believed it -Diana broke out the Morton’s salt and started salting the sofa until it was completely white.
Diana was a fanatical Scientologist. She did two things fanatically: 1) Fall behind in Math, and 2) ¡All hail Scientology!
It was two of the things Margaret detested about the ditz.
“She’s the one who ruined the family name of Brewer”, Margaret thought with a mind full of ammo. “That, and Dad’s drinking. Oh well, it all makes for life being one big, interesting piece of mea culpa magic and gossip mongering”.
-¡Fuck this shit! - Diana said suddenly, throwing a piece of modern jargon at Margaret-. Botany experiments, ¿right? ¿Who gives a fuck about botany?
-It’s complex botany -Margaret said, pulling jargon from her ears like it was entrails. She didn’t know how to explain the explosions, the institutionalizings, the salacious TV reports, but “complex botany” seemed to do the trick-. One time, I had to be treated for overexposure to pair-it-to-nee-um, but... -Margaret’s voice had pushed itself into a corner and was now peeking out at her friend.
-¡Banzai! -Charlie also said suddenly, intently watching his movie. You could actually see the stress lines forming under his eyes as he started jumping rope.
-¿Is he concocting some kind of Frankenstein’s monuron ? ¿Or the Secret Primrose Police? Because, ¡that’s some fucked-up shit!
-¡Banzai! -Charlie repeated suddenly, as Arnold Schwarzenegger licked his lips before nuking Nagasaki-. ¡Fuck ‘em up, Governator!
-He’s got all sorts of plants and mannequins and bats -Margaret said, ignoring her kamikaze kin-. But fuck me if I know what he does in there.
-¿Yeah? ¿It’s all secret and shit? -Diana’s green eyes illuminated like over-excited kale-. ¡Come on! ¡There’s gotta be some decorous and dentigerous shit in there!
-No, it’s mostly just jonquil -Margaret said quickly. Her mind flashed back to two weeks earlier when she and Charlie had decided to surprise their dad with breakfast in the bathroom. She still couldn’t make her mouth form the words “mushy”, “rutabaga”, or “motoneuron”.
-Come on. You’re killin’ me -Diana defiantly doted on the details-. ¿Are you... chicken?
-I have chicken qualities -Margaret replied, moueing . Diana was always daring her to do shit she didn’t want to do.
¿Why can’t Diana understand the importance of not fucking with a madman’s main machination? -Margaret axed her self.
-¡Chicken! -Diana screamed.
-¡Banzai -Charlie echoed.
Diana was such a literal sack of shit that you couldn’t leave her unattended at a Nurseryland or she’d get sold as fertilizer.
-Listen... ¡Boom! ¡Heh-heh-heh! -Charlie was in the peregrine grip of the TV’s aperture-. ¡Wait! ¿Where are you going? ¡It’s burning bodies time! -He jumped up and almost all of the salt from the sofa came with him.
-We’re not going any... -Margaret started, but Diana was mouthing the words, “Bok, bok, bok”.
-We’re just going to listen at the door -Diana insisted-. If Old Man Maelstrom comes home we’ll cheese it, sit, and watch Arnold burn Nagasakians.
-That’s good. -Charlie said, putting the photonuclear pyrotechnics on pause-. You don’t want Dad pissed,
-¿Why are you so hot about doing this? -Margaret axed her friend-. ¿Why are you interested in bathrooms all of a sudden?
Diana knew she was surrounded by home brews.
-It’s because... I think I left my math homework in there.
-¿And you want to listen for it? -Charlie axed.
Margaret was suspicious and slowly deliquescing .
But Charlie went through the kitchen doorway and got on...
¡The escalator to the bathroom!
Charlie loved listening to, and feeling the hum of, the modern, electric marvel. He loved the brilliant, futuristic steel lines and the way it brought him right to his dad’s bathroom door.
“This isn’t fucked up”, Margaret kept telling her self. Meanwhile, every fiber of her being was telling her “This is fucked up”.
“This is... an adventure”.
“There is nothing bad in the bathroom”.
¿Why then was her heart beating like a buzz saw? ¿Why should experimenting with plants in a bathroom freak her out?
-- on to chapter 3 or back to the Bathroom --