Swans Commentary » swans.com September 21, 2009  



Only Read The Small Print


by Peter Byrne





(Swans - September 21, 2009)  

She:  Is she a blood relation?

He:  Auntie, we always called her.

She:  Yes, but is she kin?

He:  Would she be easier to take as a relative?

She:  No, but it might explain you.

He:  Let her alone. She's a harmless old lady.

She:  I'm a harmful old lady?

He:  Call her eccentric then. All right?

She:  There's something not all right about her. She's wrong-side up.

He:  Nobody can say she's crazy-insane.

She:  Nobody? Nobody knows how my shoe pinches. But my toe's bleeding.

He:  Auntie never spilt blood. You can see her teeth aren't for chewing. Did you ever see her not smiling?

She:  That's what I can't take.

He:  You're mean spirited. You never want to give credit. Here's a nice old lady who gives you a smile.

She:  A smile? 'A' as in, one, two, three? I always want to beg her, "Look, cutie, turn it off. Think horror show for the nonce. Enough with the goddamn sunshine."

He:  Shhhush! You'd talk like that to a nice old lady?

She:  Listen, Sir Galahad. I'm the nice old lady. Auntie needs medication. She has to be brought in line. Tell her the American Dream was last year.

He:  Hmm. You know she's my aunt -- or anyway may be -- but even I shiver when I see her coming at me with her mouth open like that. Those big cracks in her cheeks get to me.

She:  Now we're communicating. Those are smile lines.

He:  But you don't put someone away for that. You've got to understand.

She:  Understand the joke that keeps her grinning?

He:  It's no joke. It's those signs of her father's. He used to beat her.

She:  With a sign?

He:  KEEP SMILING in block letters. He nailed them up around the house. I think it was a New Deal thing. You could buy them a dozen in a pack.

She:  The poor kid.

He:  She got used to it. The old man would jump out of bed in the morning and holler, "How about some optimism around here!"

She:  A friggin' patriarch?

He:  Patriarchs hadn't come in yet. He was just an ordinary S.O.B.

She:  Jesus, it takes all sorts to poison a girl's day.

He:  Amen. Then he'd clobber the lot of them.

She:  For not laughing at him?

He:  Because they were killjoys.

She:  An upbeat kind a' guy.

He:  There was nothing funny. I mean it's not funny. No careless childhood years for Auntie.

She:  So as a teenager she bit the hand that beat her, top of her class in running wild?

He:  No way. Auntie kept her pants on.

She:  Passive resistance? A coy target?

He:  TV. Daddy-o sat her down in front of the big box.

She:  He made her watch Amos 'n Andy?

He:  You remember those applause cards they used to have in the studios?

She:  I don't believe this. You're going to tell me this sign-painter perv, right there in the living room, held one up demanding a good round of clapping both hands?

He:  No, no, no. Don't be silly. The sign said LAUGH

She:  The kid should have made a run for it, hit the street.

He:  No need. It was her dad who left for the happy hunting ground.

She:  Life of the party in the great beyond? That was a relief. So she relaxed and put on an all-day frown.

He:  Not so simple, as they say in expert-tease.

She:  Huh? Is there no justice?

He:  Not very much. You see the kid had never put on anything but a happy face in her whole sad life.

She:  I see where you're heading.

He:  She would read nothing but the ads for toothpaste. On the radio she was piggy-back with Doris Day going over that rainbow.

She:  So now, no more signs but she's still daddy's little sunbeam in front of the boob box?

He:  Right. She zaps out the parts between the commercials.

She:  My god! Think. She must be a sewer full of smiles inside, a real Cloaca Maxima.

He:  Whatever. It keeps her happy, you know, smiling.

She:  Slaphappy's the word. Auntie's going down the toilet with the New World Order.

He:  No danger of you looking on the bright side.

She:  I keep forgetting we live in the world's unique superpower.

He:  Right. We got the muscle.

She:  We got the steroids.

He:  We're a democracy.

She:  We can say what we like on the Internet.

He:  Except obscenities. They remove those. But there are slip-ups.

She:  They must be sharp to know which is which.

He:  Did you see those nine hundred comments on what's-her-name's haircut?

She:  Nah. They slipped up there, nine hundred times.

He:  I like to participate, take my responsibilities. I voted. No, I said, she shouldn't have had it all shaved off.

She:  I'm taking the pooch for a run.

He:  Keep him to the wrong side of the billboards.

She:  He's a non-reader with a mind of his own, no smiler.

He:  What if he suddenly couldn't stop wagging his tail?

She:  The pooch? He's not suckered by publicity. He knows where to lift a leg.


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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art15/pbyrne109.html
Published September 21, 2009