Judy had to go out after all. Despite rearranging her schedule so that she didn’t have to leave the house for another day or two, she was now out of whiskey, and that forced her hand. It was a real emergency, and she couldn’t even steel herself for the trip, because she was out of booze. Maybe her first stop should be the neighborhood bar, for some fortitude. It was a real problem, because it was so much more expensive for they-pour, and she was always in a cash crunch. But she couldn’t go out in public sober, it made her so anxious that she wouldn’t get half her errands done before she was fleeing back home. The thing to do was to get merry, and then she could accomplish everything.
She rolled another joint.
The conversation with Mom bothered her, as it always did. Mom knew every button, and pushed them all gleefully. She probably didn’t even realize the damage she did with her casual, offhand remarks about what a loser Judy was. But she felt the sting for days. Loser, she’d mutter as she surveyed the mess of her house. Loser, she’d chant as she went thru her grocery basket picking out the things she couldn’t afford this trip. Loser, she’d breathe as she poured her third drink before noon.
It wasn’t just Mom, tho. It gave her the shakes dealing with anyone in the family. They were so different from her. They weren’t sensitive like she was, they didn’t have feelings for people who suffered and didn’t understand why she couldn’t take the hostility they threw about the place so casually. All she wanted was peace, and since she was a child she’d done everything she could to be the peacemaker in the family, to lead by example, and look where it got her. They made fun of her. They ignored her. They went on with their successful lives and didn’t spare a thought for poor, principled Judy, their oldest sister. She should have been the leader of a far-seeing family of philanthropists and do-gooders, but what she ended up being was the joke in a family of right winged capitalists.
Where did she go wrong?
A gnawing feeling in her stomach reminded her that she was on a mission, so she collected her things, except she couldn’t find her bag, so she didn’t have her license. She found her keys after a ten minute search, stalking thru the rooms trailing pot smoke, and then had trouble remembering where her wallet was, so she scrounged handfuls of quarters out of the change jar and made it to the car, only to have lost her keys again.
A few rounds of this and she was grateful to pull into the parking lot at the corner bar. It was a dive, and she tried not to frequent the place, and they laughed at her when she counted out quarters for her drink. But she felt better afterwards, and got back into the car to run her errands, much more at peace with the world.
Back home, with a huge mug of coffee loaded with whiskey (the cheap stuff), she went downstairs to visit with her husband, Frank.
Frank was an inventor, one of some note. His big success had been a knife that cut a loaf of bread and buttered it with one stroke. But that was back in the ‘90s during the bread-machine craze, and it hardly sold at all now. The royalties were pitiful. He spent his days trying to come up with the next big thing, but he never seemed to get it right.
Currently he was working on a better mousetrap, one that caught the mouse by a paw and dangled it in the air for the cats to play with and eventually finish off. It wasn’t going so well at the moment; the spring release tended to slap the mouse against the ceiling and kill it, and then the cats weren’t interested.
Judy clumped down the stairs to the basement. She must be upset. Sure enough; she was lit.
“You’ve been talking to your mother again?” Frank cleared off a chair for Judy to slump into. Her eyes were animated, but she took a gulp before speaking.
“You have no idea.” He thought he rather did. “She’s so hurtful, she says things without even thinking about them. About how they affect me.” She took another mouthful. Frank slowly moved over to his workbench and returned to his adjustment of the spring mechanism. He listened with one ear. “Today she was all like huffy about how I don’t do anything. But I do lots of things, and she doesn’t even want to know. Does she ask about what I’m doing? No. She never asks. She must think the only things that interest me are either satanic or drugs, and that’s just not true.”
Frank worked in silence. His mind was wandering and he missed some of what she was saying. He knew she was upset, and that the best response was to just let her have it out. The trouble was that she got obsessive about it, and would worry one of her mother’s slights for a week before becoming offended by something else. “Well,” he responded while she sipped on her coffee, “in another century you would have been burned as a witch by now. She’s just taking the party line.”
Judy scowled. “Well, it hurts, is all. I don’t know why I have to do everything her way just to get her approval. It’s not like I need her approval or anything.”
She was whining. Frank didn’t like it when she whined. He hadn’t married a spoiled teenager, and when she started whining he just wanted to slap her. But if he said anything now, she would turn on him and start to push for a fight. And Frank was Mister Wimpy when it came to fighting with women. “Yes, dear.”
She ignored him. “I just know I’m not going to be happy until she’s gone to her final reward,” she said, draining the mug. “And I sure wish she’d hurry up about it, because I’m not getting any younger.” She rose and looked intently at the empty mug. “In fact, I think all this harassment is making me sick. Too bad we couldn’t do anything to hurry her along. Just think how peaceful it’ll be once she’s gone and I can get on with my life.”
Judy tripped going over the threshold, and stumbled up to the kitchen for another drink, leaving Frank to wonder why she didn’t just get on with her life while her Mom was still alive. He actually liked the old bat, tho he could see how she drove Judy over the edge. They were too much alike, was the problem. No wonder they carped at each other all the time.
* * *
Rick’s day was going from bad to worse. He’d had to make a personal phone call to stiff a big vendor, and the guy hadn’t been very understanding. Then his CFO told him they were going to have to do another round of terminations, but there was no deadwood left to trim, and he was going to have to let some personal friends walk. Today he was meeting with the bank for that credit extension he’d asked for, and he was beginning to think it might turn out badly. Well, it couldn’t, and he was determined to get it one way or the other.
Rick was a determined man. He started the company with a trivial piece of software pirated from a friend, borrowed money from the guy to start up the company, and then hired him as his chief programmer. They developed more software, jumped a few trends, sucked the brains of people hired from other software firms, and rode high on the hog in the early years. And he’d expanded. They had a fancy corporate park, they had loads of perks, his top guys were getting high 6-figures, there were plenty of droids for every project, and everybody got stock options. But the company was seriously in debt, and now that NetSuite was king in the on-demand software industry, the market position of his FUXU package was bottoming out. He needed to borrow money just to make payroll and benefits, more money to make the lease payments, yet more money to put his kids thru school and buy his wife the car she insisted on driving. He was going broke, and it was making him lose his hair. And other things.
Back when he had loads of money he’d casually mentioned it to Mom. She’d insisted that real estate was the only safe investment. Unfortunately he’d listened to her, but not the part about buying raw land for cash and building a house to grow old in. He bought highly developed land that he could get an immediate return from. He became a slumlord. It didn’t really fit with his running a medium-sized software empire, but the skillsets weren’t that different. Employees, like tenants, were lazy and shiftless, and would rob him blind if given half a chance. And the cost of upkeep and evictions just added to his troubles. He owned half a dozen buildings and servicing that debt was no joke. It didn’t hold a candle to what the company owed, but it was a limited company and he wasn’t responsible. The apartments, like the kids’ school, was all on him. And boy did that chafe his nuts.
Mom. He’d taken more bad advice from her than a loving son should have to take. And he’d finally learned his lesson and stopped giving her ammunition, but by then she knew all about his finances and took every opportunity to bitch at him about how stupid he was. That investment in gold way back in ’80, right before it crashed. She never let him live that down. The stock market crash of ’87. She acted like it was his fault. The derivatives scandal last year – he almost wished he’d become a stock broker, because even after the meltdown he’d still be rich enough to ignore her carping about those evil investment advisers.
Of course, his bad luck with investments lately was part of the reason why he was in such a fix, and the last thing he wanted was for Mom to rub it in his face. It reminded him of when she used to wash his mouth out with soap, humiliating him in front of the rest of the kids. He never thought about it without a poisonous surge of rage.
Rick looked at his Rolex. A real one. Second hand. It didn’t keep perfect time, but who cared? He was going to be late for his appointment at the bank. He eyed the sky in disgust. What else could go wrong today?
His phone rang. It was his wife, complaining that Mom had hung up on her. Mom needs to die. But wait, if Mom died we’d get our inheritance, and that would really help. Especially if the others’ll help me out – for shares in the company, say.
* * *
Cindy had been up for hours and only had a Zoloft, a Beverly Hills Spa diet drink and a stick of celery. And maybe a single potato chip. That’s how she stayed so fashionably thin, but it got very difficult this late in the morning. Too early for lunch – first lunch; lunch lunch was with the girls at the Palm. It wasn’t time to eat yet, she told her stomach firmly. Maybe some water. Maybe a zero full of Nutrasweet and Splenda. Oh for a diet Red Bull.
She went upstairs to get dressed. She had to get her hair done, and then lunch, and then Nordstrom’s for a few things and then coffee with another group of girls, and then meet Bill and some business associate of his for cocktails and dinner. That’s one outfit for five different functions. You had to be a genius. And she was. But sometimes she wished she had a dresser. A personal assistant.
Cindy happily fantasized a life full of servants while trying on various parts of her closet. If she’d had servants, she would just toss the rejected outfits into a pile and let them put it away. As it was, she rehung everything neatly as she took it off, and put it in order on a rack at the front of the walkin. To be refiled later.
The short list was a little racy, a little matronly, a little expensive, a little runway. Putting Mom in her place always made her feel lucky, so she decided to go with a little racy thing in black with heels only a 20 year-old would wear. A few flashy pieces of jewelry in discreet places, a touch of moose sweat on her underwear and a spritz of Clive Christian, a relaxing pharma melange in the jeweled clutch – for drinks with the client, and a pair of slippers in the italian handbag – for the drive home. She covered all the bases.
All the decisions made for the day, except the menu choice (which wasn’t a decision, really because she always got the same thing), and the department roaming in the afternoon, Cindy headed downstairs to have a little bite to eat. As she was nuking herself an expensive frozen meal she took out her collection of pills and tapped out her daily dosages. She ate walking the treadmill.
It wasn’t until she had her head back in the sink and the girl was rubbing her scalp (she tipped for a good long head massage) that she thought about Mom. Her heart always raced when Mom called; she wondered if it wasn’t a mini-heart attack. Mom would give her a heart attack one day. Unless she got her first. She drifted off daydreaming of holding Mom’s head under the water.
The girl scratched her head with her fingernails, so Cindy made her stop and only tipped her a dollar. She was snappy with the girl who did her hair, too – she was going on about nothing and it annoyed her. She looked around at other clients, all of whom had some defect of taste or intelligence. It was a blessed relief to sit and close her eyes when they put her under the dryer.
On the way to the restaurant she sorted thru her clutch and took a Zyban with some Apollinaris, and a Xanax to buffer it, and popped a Meridia to manage her appetite. If she took so many pills, it was because Mom had traumatized her so when she was a child. The tirades, the evil schemes, the persecution of Cindy, the cute one. She’d like to beat her to death with her bare hands. Nothing was ever good enough for Mom, and it sounded trite but it was the central truth in Cindy’s life.
Thank God for modern medicine. She had charity business to discuss with the girls. They were organizing a fund raiser. It was a barrel of laughs but it was exhausting and thankless, and certain others always snatched the fun things and left the drudgery to her. She had to stay sharp or she’d end up with the trash detail, and thoughts of her horrible childhood had no place in important business like this. But with the particular blend of pharmaceuticals she was on now she could just stop thinking unpleasant thoughts. Just like that. La la la la la.
* * *
Gordon spent much of the afternoon loudly illustrating a textbook case of sleep apnea. He got up to piss once. He looked out of the window in passing. He smoked a couple of packs of cigarettes. He slept like the dead for 30 seconds at a time, having stopped breathing, and then woke himself up with a snort that sounded like a trumpet. He was exhausted to the point of tears the whole time.
Around 3:30 he got up, drank an energy drink warm, peed and shat, jerked off in the shower, shaved, and gussied up for the evening in a sports shirt and slacks with black socks and shiny shoes and several concealed weapons.
Like the rest of his family, except maybe for Rick, Gordon didn’t actually [b]do[/b] anything you could point to. He freelanced. He dabbled. He entrepreneured. He was always busy, but he still had to make up things to put on his taxes. And to tell Mom. He always answered her queries with “Nothing,” so she felt at liberty to send him on errands and have him over to fix the smallest things. But that’s what sons were for, and he felt an obligation to do whatever it took to make her happy. Family before business.
* * *
Mom ate something that didn’t agree with her for lunch, and spent much of the afternoon on the toilet, reading while it worked its way thru. She thought with regret about how her kids had grown up to be so distant, so uncaring. She could die alone in the house and they’d never know. Some of them would be glad. And for no reason. She loved them all. She loved their faults as well as their accomplishments, and it was always her role to help them choose the right path. For this they hated her. She wasn’t deceived by the “loveu” sound s they made; she knew they were just waiting for her to die and leave them alone. But Mom didn’t intend to do that, and they were just going to have to deal.
* * *