There was a scream. It shattered the still, midnight air. And pierced the emptiness everywhere. The shriek boiled over like the howling of an urgent train whistle. But no police sirens followed. No neighbors flipped on their lights, or gathered about.
For they had heard and seen it before. So they recognized it. Like Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” the second most recognizable painting after da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” They knew what they damn well knew: That more often than not we don’t get what we want, but merely what comes.
And with what’s coming in a few days we don’t know whether to scream or whisper. Because one has become politically incorrect. And the other falls on deaf ears, like in a cemetery, where both whispers and screams often get buried.
Hmm… and such is as it was the other weekend at a family reunion. Just a few days before the damn — but clear-to-me — choice between Hillary and The Donald. And I was facing yet another dilemma of a potential breach of etiquette: I didn’t know whether to bitch-slap the ‘harlot’ or spank her ‘partner.’
Indeed, the pernicious choices we face. And it was all in the family, too.
Go figure. And all this time I have candidly believed that family, like friendship, is non-negotiable. You know, just be a decent person and accept the flaws and ‘idiot-syncracies’ in others. Even the one… or two… thousand roiling in moi. At least according to my exes.
We had congregated at cousin Mike’s home in the stone house suburb just across the city line where the democrats from Philadelphia have been creeping into.
We gathered to host three relatives on my Father’s side who I had never met until a couple of days before. They were from Louisiana, but since Katrina drowned their homes a dozen or so years ago now hale from Dallas. That’s in Texas for those of you mis-educated in our flailing public schools. It’s also where many of my Louisiana clan have relocated over the years. That and Houston.
There were about 20 or so of us. And although some of the gathering cousins I vaguely recognized from my sober childhood days, there was one woman, with a constant look of surprise on her puzzled face. And I felt the need to introduce myself. You know, perhaps she was sick or abroad during my heydays of print journalism.
But of course!
I think she said her name was Eileen. And then she immediately informed me she was Barbara’s – a cousin I hadn’t seen since we were prepubescent kids 50 years ago – ‘partner.’
“That’s nice,” I offered. Like, okay, that settles that.
But at that she insisted on inquiring if I understood what ‘partner’ meant. Like she was about to reveal some fundamental fact that hasn’t been already scrawled on the walls of public toilets.
So, I bit my wise-ass tongue and decided not to say something on the order — which I swear I didn’t say but merely thought – during one of Mike’s previous little galas of his erstwhile TV news friends who invited me, no doubt, to examine how a real, non-vegan, print journalist can hold so much liquor. And a shit storm ensued when a screaming and obviously mind-reading associate producer had imbibed one more potent cosmopolitan than she could hold. And she actually tried to tackle me.
Now that was a party.
But I promised Mike I’d be ‘reserved’ and muzzle my affliction of wit.
Sooo… this time to Eileen’s query I only replied: “Yeah, it means you play for the other team.”
Eileen’s big ol’ cow eyes blinked once or twice while the rose in her cheeks burned to rosy ashes. And then she spun and made her way a tad quickly to the other side of the room.
Gee… and here I was being so non-contrarian. I even poured myself another drink and plopped down next to Jerry. He’s the 88-year-old Louisiana-now-Dallas cousin who Mike and I gave a tour of Philadelphia with his middle-aged daughter and son-in-law two days before. He is also a first-cousin of ‘partner’ Barbara’s mother who turned 93 the day of the family reunion.
And, by the way, Jerry is a real, deep-South good ol’ boy who I was charmed by the moment we exchanged ‘howdy’.
He is a Trump fan. And so am I by way of default. Indeed, Trump may be an asshole, but Hillary is the stuff you flush. I mean, didn’t she and Bill supposedly steal the silverware when they departed the White House last time?
Anyway Jerry and I got to discussing Trump. And in desultory fashion we both got to pointing out that the Democratic Party has long taken Black Americans for granted. And that de facto segregation of most minorities is still rampant. And that I had switched my party registration back before the primaries in order to vote for Trump. Partly because I am sick of the castrating political correctness. And, also because we are really missing an opportunity here to hold forth and have a real and honest discussion on the failures of so-called progressivism and the overall leadership of the country.
And even though I had voted for Obama, we both strongly felt there needed to be real change, a real shake-up in Washington. And that would require a guy who is beholding to nobody. And here is never-can-be-too-crazy Trump who has been a Democrat and a Republican. And now they both hate him. So he must be doing something right.
And just then Barbara walked by, and was about to sit with us. But instead she yelped something on the order of: ‘You guys are voting for Trump! I’m not talking to you!’
And she, like her partner Eileen had before, skirted away. But not before I smiled and laughed: “Well I guess we’ll talk again in another 50 years.”
Hmm… Family… I am told it’s still illegal to shoot em… or leave them hanging from a tree. Sooo… you just have to smother them (to death) with love.
Yet, it was as if some fundamental fact about Barbara – and perhaps some aberrant family DNA — had been exposed. Even aging Jerry didn’t seem able to lasso the possibility that Barbara may have been a tad shortchanged with the cerebral dexterity to see the humor in all this. Because it really is farcical. All the shouting and shooting about ‘Crooked’ Hillary and ‘Misogynist’ Trump. And these, laughably, being the ‘best’ two candidates we could conjure up to lead the free world.
They’re both troubling. They both lie when their lips move. “But what do you expect,” teased Jerry thru a coursing drawl, “it’s the nature of all things. Hell, even a fish wouldn’t get into trouble if he kept his mouth shut.”
You know, I never quite thought of it that way.
The point is Jerry and I were merely having a discussion that anyone could join from any point of view. But like the trouble in Washington and with our prevailing two party system it seems that politics has turned poisonous, into a real blood sport that pervades our neighborhoods and, obviously, even our families.
It’s all about winning and not about country. Obviously we have quickly forsaken what JFK exhorted us to ask with what we can do for our country. And not the other way around.
At that Jerry and I looked at one another and tried to figure out why do the haters always scream loudest? And Jerry then noted that “it is the people who scream the loudest about America and Freedom who seem to be the most intolerant for a differing point of view.”
Well… that narrows it down… to most of us.
But since Jerry was easy to make laugh I suggested that perhaps when distant people on other planets pick up some wavelength of ours all they’ll hear is a continuous scream.
“And that’s because we’re all drowning,” I told him. “And unless we do something drastic – like elect an outlier like Trump – there isn’t a lifeboat big enough to rescue us. So most of us are screaming in the wind. Because when you’re drowning you don’t say: ‘I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me.’ You just scream!”
Jerry sort of eyed me wisely, like I was giving him paralysis by over analysis. And then he wondered with a sly smile creasing his cheeks: “You’re not talking about sex now, are you, son? Because I only scream during sex.”
I don’t know,” I replied with a chuckle. “Sometimes I get them confused.”
At this juncture Jerry felt he needed to wipe the smile off his aging face. And puncture me with a thought or three.
He pointed out that the country’s woes have been galloping in for the last 30 years. And that both parties are more than a little bit pregnant with blame.
“So you have to ask,” he said, lightly smacking his right hand into his still calloused left palm. “That after 25 to 30 years of Hillary and the rest of them: Are you better off? Are we better off? Is the country better off? Is anyone but Hillary and those other politicians and bankers better off? Really?
“Because if we are, then you have to really wonder why is she, with just a few days to go, still in a neck-to-neck, photo-finish, horse race with a bombastic, insecure pussy snatching, political dilettante, scoundrel, billionaire businessman whose had even more bankruptcies than wives and Bill’s infidelities?”
And leaning towards me he beckoned to know: “You following me down this bending river?”
Wow! No shit…
“Can you repeat all that,” I laughed. “I mean that was way above my pay grade.”
“Seriously,” he said. “You don’t think folks are really fed up?”
Half-heartedly I admonished: “Jerry, we get the government we deserve. And as long as folks keep masturbating to football games you ought to be damn happy that you’ve got more yesterdays than tomorrows. Because nothing lasts forever. Nothing. Which is why Viagra is so popular, isn’t it? It keeps us going when we’re long past lasting — and without having to work for it.”
I’m not sure even I understood the point I was making. But Jerry seemed to. And he went off on a tangent about everybody feeling entitled without having to really work for it. But our conversation soon ended as we all gathered around Jerry’s first cousin, and Barbara’s mother, Ruth, to sing happy 93rd birthday.
Hmm… I know there must be a metaphor in there somewhere about why some people grow older than the rest of us ‘without really working for it.’ Then again, is this an entitlement… or just an extension of our life sentence?
Anyway, a couple of days later Mike phoned and sarcastically wondered what I could have possibly said to Barbara and Eileen to roil them so much. But at the same time he admitted he honestly really didn’t want to know.
I simply told him I had no idea. But I may have suggested that if they play their cards right, they could probably also ‘partner’ up with Hillary. And Mike, who is a pusillanimous Hillary supporter, exhaled: “Gee. And you wonder why some people just fail to appreciate your humor.”
I said I honestly had no idea. Because at the same time the Louisiana-now-Dallas clan emailed me. They said I ‘really’ made their trip fun. And that they ‘really’ enjoyed meeting me.
And I simply replied: ‘I know.’
Isn’t that just a scream?!
And dats yDrewIS on dis penal colony…