Probably one of the most sarcastic characters I’ve ever encountered, is Michael Reuben from Snowed. A displaced New Yorker, Michael now lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming. How did he end up there? Well, he was trying hard to get away from his controlling, nagging mother. He loves Ma, but she’s got a way of getting under his skin in less than 10 seconds. It’s his birthday, and his mother calls to sing to him. Below is his birthday phone call, which gives you a good idea what their relationship is like:
The fact that I am 1,743 miles away from Kings County, New York is a decided plus. My mother hates to fly and there is no way she’ll drive twenty-seven hours just to see me. She can’t stand the bus or the train either and no one in their right mind would travel with her anyway, so I’m safe. Except on my birthday and over the phone.
“So how’s my little Mikey-wikey like being twenty-seven?”
“It’s peachy, Ma.”
“Do you have a girlfriend yet?”
“Mother, please. Do we have to start on that?”
“Your younger brother is married with three kids.”
“I can’t help he can’t keep it in his pants, Ma. I haven’t found the right girl.”
“Are you sure you’re not gay?” The tone was teasing, but the old bitch meant it.
Normally, such a question wouldn’t offend me. Because even if I’m not married with three kids like my brother, I’ve gotten more tail than he’ll ever get. Sweet, luscious, all kinds of sexy tail. . . . And I’m talking to my mother with my balls in a vice. Because even if I’ve gotten more than him, it’s not been so much lately.
“I got to get ready for work, Ma. I got a long day with the bus. Kids got a field trip.”
“I’d think you could give five minutes to your mother.” She sniffled, pulling the New York Guilt Trip on me. “The woman who loves you. The woman who gave you life!” She was really pouring it on, pulling out all the stops. “Who lives so far away, she can’t see her oldest son on his birthday! Her son who is almost thirty!”
“Don’t be adding years to my age. Twenty-seven is not almost thirty!”
“Almost thirty! You’ll be thirty before I get a single grandchild from you. The fruit of your loins, the. . . .”
“Ma! I get the idea.” I totally hate when she starts like that. Fruit of the Loom, maybe I want to discuss with my mother. Fruit of my loins is not on the list of top 10 subjects for parental discussion.
“I called to tell you I’m coming for a visit,” she said quickly and hung up.
Cursing loudly, I sat there yelling at a dead phone. I called her back in a New York minute. Her tone was very smug.
“I see. Now you have time to talk to your mother.”
I didn’t say anything. Replying to that remark simply gets me in trouble and gives her more ammunition against me. I haven’t been her son twenty-seven years without figuring out a thing or two.
“I’ll be there this time next week.”
“Do I need to make arrangements to pick you up at the airport?”
“I’m not flying. I’m driving out.”
“What? How? You don’t drive!”
“I have a new friend. I’ll be riding with my friend—In a Lexus.”
“This friend wouldn’t happen to be a man, would it?”
“Why, Michael Aaron Reuben, what a question to ask!” She tried to sound appalled. She was too damn smug.
“But it is a guy. And how do you know this guy? How good a friend is he?”
“If you lived here, you’d know. Your brother has met him.”
“Good for him, Ma. Good for Gabriel, he’s met this mystery man. I’m happy for him. So, this guy. . . .”
“His name is Chester.”
“Okay.” I paused. The silence asked the next question for me.
“He’s a dentist with a very good practice.”
I continued to wait for her to supply the information.
“And he’s got a nice house, a beautiful car. . . .”
“Okay. . . .”
“You could be more enthusiastic.”
“I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
“The downside of this conversation. I’m waiting for it. Like, he’s got six months to live or he’s going to prison or something.”
“You’re too sarcastic, Mikey.”
“No, Ma, me, I’m cynical. Sarcastic too, but what you’re hearing in my voice right now is cynicism, not sarcasm.”
“Don’t be a smart aleck. It’s unbecoming for a son of mine.”
“His name is Chester.”
“Yes, ma’am. You said that already.”
“I don’t like your tone, young man.”
“And I don’t like being called ma’am very much.”
“Yes, I’m aware of that.”
“Then why do you keep saying it?”
“It seemed the best way to keep out of trouble. Look, Ma—I really do need to run.”
“Your brother has a big house,” she continued as if none of the other conversation existed.
“Yes. I’ve seen it. Big house, huge, very lavish.”
“And what have you got?”
“A cramped two bedroom apartment. What’s your point?”
“Your brother has three children—almost four.”
“His wife is pregnant again? Good grief! They never heard of birth control?”
“And you don’t have any.”
“Well, that’s not a for sure. There was that time in Atlantic City I hooked up with that chick at the roulette table and we fooled around most of the night. I could of got her pregnant. . . .”
“Michael! Such a thing to say to me!”
“You’re always wanting to discuss my fruit, Ma. I could have fruit. I could have lots of fruit. I’m a pretty fertile guy, love to sow my seed. In fact, I bet even if Gabe’s been married five years, I’ve sown more seed than he has. Maybe not here lately. . . .”
“We’re bringing someone to meet you,” Ma continued, ignoring my comments.
“Oh? I thought you and Chet were coming alone.”
“Chester. He doesn’t approve of nicknames.”
“Whatever. Who is it?”
“His daughter. She’s about your age. She’s not married. Divorced—very well. . . .”
“Then she’s not gonna want a bus driver for a husband.”
“The point is, he treated her lousy. She needs a good man. You may be a loser, but you wouldn’t treat her bad.”
“I’m not a loser, Ma. This is a career choice.”
“Some career! You drive a bus full of noisy, rotten kids! What kind of job is that for a man your age?”
I sighed, having had this conversation more than once. “Ma, I gotta go. Big day today with the field trip.”
Her only reply was a sniffle. I was supposed to pick up on this and get all tender and sympathetic, but I didn’t care. My life had been laid out in front of me in black and white. Perhaps I’m not too happy with what I’m seeing. Perhaps the worst thing in the world is to turn twenty-seven and be a bus driver in Cheyenne, Wyoming—but I doubt it.
© 2018 Dellani Oakes
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