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188 pages, Paperback
First published May 1, 2000
“Remember I told you about Chief Joseph, who never stopped walking? You’re like him. My brave little warrior. Bibby, give him a juice box. Also he’s got some goo-goo coming out of his nosehole.”
“Jesus Christ,” Janet mumbles.
I give her my sternest look.
“What was that?” says the dad. “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you. What did you just say?”
“Nothing,” Janet says. “I didn’t say nothing.”
“I heard you very clearly,” says the dad. “You said Jesus Christ. You said Jesus Christ because of what I said about the goo-goo in my son’s nosehole. Well, first of all, I’m sorry if you find a little boy’s nosehole goo-goo sickening, it’s perfectly normal, if you had a kid of your own you’d know that, and second of all, since when do cavepeople speak English and know who Jesus Christ is? Didn’t the cavepeople predate Christ, if I’m not mistaken?”
“Of course they did,” the mom says from outside. “We just came from Christ. Days of Christ. And we’re going backwards. Towards the exit.”
“Look, pal, I got a kid,” says Janet. “I seen plenty of snot. I just never called it goo-goo. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Bibby, get this,” the dad says. “Parenting advice from the cavelady. The cavelady apparently has some strong opinions on booger nomenclature. For this I paid eighty bucks? If I want somebody badly dressed to give me a bunch of lip I can go to your mother’s house.”
“Very funny,” says the mom.
“I meant it funny,” says the dad.
“I was a good mom,” Janet says. “My kid is as good as anybody’s kid.”
“Hey, share it with us,” says the dad.
“Even if he is in jail,” says Janet.
“Bibby, get this,” says the dad. “The cavelady’s kid is in jail.”
“Don’t you even make fun of my kid, you little suckass,” says Janet.
“The cavelady just called you a suckass,” says the mom.
From out of his suit he pulled a bowl and a box of oatmeal, and filled the bowl with the oatmeal and held the bowl up.
“Simple, nourishing, inexpensive,” he said. “This represents your soul in its pure state. Your soul on the day you were born. You were perfect. You were happy. You were good.
In the mirror was a skeletal mask of blue and purple and pink that the barber knew was his face but couldn’t quite believe was his face, because in the past his face had always risen to the occasion. In the past his face could always be counted on to amount to more than the sum of its parts when he smiled winningly, but now when he smiled winningly he looked like a corpse trying to appear cheerful in a wind tunnel. His eyes bulged, his lips were thin, his forehead wrinkles were deep as sticklines in mud.