“…The antagonism is so obvious, and so far-reaching, that it extends to the smallest thing. The cultured, highly-conscious person of today loathes any form of physical, ‘menial’ work: such as washing dishes or sweeping a floor or chopping wood. This menial work is an insult to the spirit. ‘When I see men carrying heavy loads, doing brutal work, it always makes me want to cry,’ said a beautiful, cultured woman to me.
‘When you say that, it makes me want to beat you,’ said I, in reply. ‘When I see you with your beautiful head pondering heavy thoughts, I just want to hit you. It outrages me.’
My father hated books, hated the sight of anyone reading or writing.
My mother hated the thought that any of her sons should be condemned to manual labor. Her sons must have some-thing higher than that.
She won. But she died first.”
– D. H. Lawrence, Studies in Classic American Literature
It’s really always been all about you hasn’t it really, mom?
That’s ridiculous. Stop being dramatic. You should be more like your father. He was a real man.
I’m a man! I’m a man’s man! I’m the bear in these woods!
He notices the table’s the shape of a grave, a page with depth, haunted by the words and echoes of everything ever said there, that will ever be said there, reaching out for the reader…grasping at the eater…clawing him every time he sits down to eat with her…the table’s blank page, a sepulcher of meals, appears no golden rectangle.
Why are you here?
Why shouldn’t I be?
How could you…
How could you turn out this way?
Look in the mirror.
She looks at the table instead, sees Dick staring her in the face. Stop coddling the boy. Tough love. Throw him out. But he’s 40. So what? So he tried to kill himself. He failed at that, too, eh? How could you say such a thing? Then he quit trying to kill himself, he quit trying to quit because he’s a quitter. The only thing he won’t do is quit quitting, and you’re helping him do it. At least he tries to quit. A waste of time. I raised him to take charge and dominate. All he does is whine. That’s not true, he works very hard at his writing. He’s effeminate. He’s always thought he was J.C. Entitled little Lord Fauntleroy. He’d be eaten alive if I threw him out. That’s the way of the world. The weak get gnoshed. Most suffering is caused by attempts to alleviate suffering. What kind of world would it be if every time a predator attacked its prey the universe united behind the victim on the moral grounds of justice, peace and equality? Stop whining. Throw him out. I don’t want to talk about it.
He’d been watching TV and eating, and heard her mumbling to herself, which isn’t uncommon, then thought nothing of it until she said she didn’t want to talk about it. For some reason, most likely mundane of nature yet, perhaps, a bit odd, he suddenly heard this, and felt a need to talk about it, though not knowing what “it” was…
Obviously it’s something. Wolf Blitzer breathlessly announces that any minute a mom in Topeka’s going to give natural birth to octuplets and CNN will be there. Spit it out, he says, eyes on Wolf. He takes another bite.
Your father would have thrown you out. “Damned right I would’ve.” They both hear that. Even the dog looks up from his sleep on the couch, stirring the cat to jump on the table between them.
The old woman balls up her arthritic fist and feebly punches the purring feline in the ribs, in effect shoving it to the floor where it scampers off into the living room.
There you go. Resorting to violence. It’s your life story. You’re inarticulate so you speak by hitting. A wonderful percussionist. “You got a point there, boy. She threw a nasty slap, wudn’ scared a grabbin’ sumpin either. But don’t say percussionist. Don’t be a wise ass. Nobody likes a wise ass.”
I’d shoot that pussy if I had a gun.
The cat looks at her, widening its eyes and arching its back, then disappears like a bolt of dark furry lightening behind the sofa the dog’s trying to sleep on.
We’re sure you would. “You could always poison it. That’d be easier.”
I love that cat.
Of course you do.
It sits on my lap all the time and I can’t get up.
Like that cat in the nursing home, eh Mummy Dust.
Don’t call me that.
Why, not appropriate for the kitchen table?
That’s right. You’re father wouldn’t approve. “It drove me to drink.”
He wouldn’t approve of most things I do. He’s something of a compass…
Watch what you’re saying about your father.
At least I’m not a drunk. “Watch it or I’ll give ya the back a my hand.”
Your father drank for a reason. He earned it. He worked hard and supported his family. He didn’t give up dating, move in with his mother, lock himself up in a room and smoke pot and write stories in la-la land that no one will ever read. A man takes responsibility for women and children.
That’s right. That’s what I learned at this table.
And so why are you here?
Precisely because nothing here is trivial.
He snaps off the TV in disgust and shovels his food into his mouth.
Neither looks the other in the face, preferring the table instead…
“Great. Just great.”