Sure, my brother’s a Vicodin addict, but at least his migraines have disappeared. And hey, he feels absolutely great; some Vikings get all depressed, even more depressed than the kids at my high school. (Vike-kings, get it?) Every time I drop by his apartment, his upbeat mood almost convinces me he’ll be okay. Almost.
Speaking of his apartment, how does he even pay rent? He won’t tell me; he lost his job months ago, and I sure as hell don’t give him anything. Maybe Mom does. She won’t tell me, either.
My last visit, he said “You should quit teaching and become a barista. Coffee keeps people sane. Homework doesn’t.” (I do puns; he does epigrams.)
“You know what Mommy said?” my six-year-old son asked me during dinner at Dave & Buster’s. “She said the firefighters serve the people, the ambulances serve the people, and the cops serve the government.”
Later, after I’d returned him to my ex-wife, and he’d gone off to watch Trolls World Tour for the millionth time:
“Stop feeding him your anti-police bullshit,” I told her.
“Yeah, telling him the truth is bullshit,” she said.
“Keep it up, and I’ll sue for full custody.”
“Good luck with that. You’re lucky you get to see him at all.”
“A little too early for PMS, isn’t it?”
And then she really went ballistic. Even the single life stresses me.
“Wanna know why we lost in Afghanistan? We didn’t bang enough hookers. If we banged any. I don’t think they even have hookers there. When you invade a country, you gotta keep the troops motivated.”
“What about Vietnam? I saw Full Metal Jacket; we banged plenty of their hookers, yet we still lost.”
“Not really. According to Noam Chomsky—”
“Who’s he? A pimp?”
“No, a political writer. He said we actually won in Vietnam, ’cause we made it an example. Fuck around and find out. That philosophy kept us in charge around the world, long as we had hookers. But now—I doubt Afghanistan’ll ever get a Starbucks or even a Taco Bell.”
As we ate organic chicken taquitos in the employee dining hall during lunch, my coworker Brynn asked me if I planned to attend “that thing” commemorating the twentieth anniversary of 9/11.
I couldn’t resist. “You mean take your plane to work day?”
Brynn laughed. Then I think that bitch complained to HR, just as I think she’d complained when I’d joked about fundamentalist anti-trans nutcases. No sensitivity training this time, though—the company fired me, after those federally-enhanced unemployment benefits had expired. So much for the publishing business. Perhaps I had a death wish, saying anything around her. But I had gigantic balls. And I still do. In your mama’s mouth, ha ha.
Half the cops in town are honest, and the rest are smart. You can guess which type I prefer. A greased palm or two can work wonders. (Turn that into a meme, ha ha.) The honest cops either quit or get fired, or they eventually wise up and start getting their share. I think my son Preston knows how things work with law enforcement; he grew up here, after all. He’s at college, working toward an MBA. He’s ambitious as hell and thinks he’ll become the next Bezos or Zuckerberg. Maybe. I thought I could do anything at his age. Well, I did something. No regrets, though—regrets are for the poor.
My fiancé Delbert and I met my family for dinner one night at Eat’n Park. Soon after the waitress had brought our group’s beverages, five Cokes, my parents asked him how he expected to support me on an associate proctologist’s salary. “Quite well,” he said.
“Yeah, you make a hole lotta money, right?” my brother asked.
My parents laughed, drawing me closer to Delbert. He hated jokes about his profession. If my parents hadn’t laughed, who knows? I might have told him “Sorry” and married Hank instead, who actually ended up marrying my future lover Brenda. I might never have met her or even stopped drinking Coke. (She preferred mineral water.)
A week after the 9/11/2001 attacks, The Journal of Clarified Culture, an obscure quarterly based in Topeka, hired a new editor: a 23-year-old, right-wing Republican named Randall Sutphin. (No one else had applied for the job.) Soon the journal started featuring articles such as “Whack Iraq and Nuke Iran” and “We Need a New Blacklist, Just for the Blacks.” Controversy resulted, and so did free publicity. Readership increased by 0.6%.
Sutphin resigned in 2008 due to what his resignation e-mail called unspecified “editorial interference.” The journal returned to publishing apolitical content. Today he lives in Abilene, where he writes for the website White Victory. He’s never abused animals, especially kittens.
One day, as Jessie and I lounged around at home, listening to some news show on the public-radio station, the host said “A warning to our listeners: this story contains graphic descriptions of the physical and sexual abuse of children.”
“Gentlemen, start your boners,” I said.
“YOU SICK BASTARD!” Jessie screamed.
“Come on, they obviously want to attract listeners, or they wouldn’t’ve said that.”
Jessie—not yet my ex-girlfriend—calmed down. You can’t joke about anything nowadays. And since my parents had treated me like dog crap for most of my childhood—ah, who cares? I care more that the news show host looks hot. (I Googled her photo.)
Marrying my longtime girlfriend, Darla the dental hygienist, was the best decision I’ve ever made, despite her attempted micromanagement of my teeth. She does this less often than she used to, but she still does it. Take this morning, for instance. “Oh, Jenna—your mouth guard has turned into a real petri dish,” she told me; she’d convinced me to wear a mouth guard at night to prevent further damage from my occasional bruxism (or tooth-grinding, which I’d apparently started doing years before I’d met her, and which she’d diagnosed soon after we’d started dating). For her, my oral appliance must represent the plastic manifestation of her love.
I’m glad I married Sandra. Though, thing is. she’s a dental hygienist? And she won’t let me forget it? Like, this morning, we’re in the bathroom, getting ready for the day, when she tells me “Oh, Jenna—your mouth guard looks like a real petri dish.” I’d just removed it, the mouth guard? And it looked clean to me. I wear it at night at her suggestion, to protect my enamel. I grind my teeth, which I’d apparently started doing years before I’d met her? And which she’d diagnosed soon after we’d started dating? I guess to her, the mouth guard symbolizes our love, excuse the fancy talk.
My sister Kim has sent me a voicemail barring me from any further contact with her children. “You wanna starve yourself to death? Fine. Just don’t convince them to do it.” Belle, the thirteen-year-old, had viewed the ana lifestyle with that “yeahhh, right” attitude that teenagers have toward everything. However, five-year-old Jasmine had taken me more seriously; she’d reacted with genuine alarm upon hearing that excessive weight can kill you or, worse, make you not fit into your favorite clothes. Perhaps she’ll encounter more thinspiration on the Internet. I know I’ll sound like an old hippie here, but we can’t change society without the younger generation’s help.