Boy Uninterrupted

They walk into the diner, mother and father in their late forties, and towheaded Junior, maybe ten. They sit at a round table, Junior across from Dad and Mom at Junior’s left arm. Junior takes out an I-Pad, inserts earphones, and starts watching.

Dad gets up, pulls Junior up and removes his coat, Junior all the time absorbed with the device. Dad nudges the oblivious Junior forward until his waist bumps the table; Dad pushes the chair until it contacts Junior’s knees and Junior plops down, never once distracted away from his device.

Dad and Mom look at each other, not a word spoken. The waitress takes their order—Mom orders for Junior—and leaves. Dad says something angry to Mom and points an index finger at her. She shrugs.

They pull out their smart phones, each in their own world. Junior is lost in something on his I-Pad. It could be porn, for all his parents know.

This is Neo-America. Lifeless, bloodless, unspoken save for anger.

A teacher will have to deal with Junior tomorrow. He or she, by talking, will interrupt Junior’s life. He will be waiting and clock watching for the moment he can open his I-Pad, stuff in his earphones, block off all outside engagement and get back to Magic World where nothing is real. He is a quantum physicist and doesn’t know it.

I eat breakfast, grateful to get out of my house after the snowstorm. I glance at Junior from time to time. Only his fingers and eyes move.

The waitress brings their food. Mom takes her plate and Junior’s. Dad takes his. He digs in, she digs in, stopping between bites to remind Junior to eat. She contacts his left arm, he brushes her away and snarls.

This is Neo-America. Lifeless, bloodless, unspoken save for anger.

Why did Mom and Dad have a kid? When they courted, did they talk of having a kid? Did they name him “My Boy Bill,” and smile at the thought of the future? Did they kiss and feel each other, drench each other in each other’s holy sweat? Did they wake up after the honeymoon, Peggy Lee on the record player, singing, “Is That All There Is?”

I wanted to kidnap the kid. Take away his devices and take him on a hike. He will be attending to me in the old folk’s home, and he will hate my guts, hate my shit and sweat and sores and smells and quotes from Beckett and cries for my dazzling life my precious life.

“Brook Shields kissed me on a TV show,” I’ll cry, “when my first play was Off Broadway, and I sat next to Alexander Hamilton’s grave and ate my sandwich, on the way to the theatre, on 43rd Street.”

Junior will slap my face, stare dead-eyed at me, dare me to tell another story and another. He will take me out with a pillow on my face.

And I will deserve it. I invented electronics that suck life from children. I burned coal for heat and devoured everything in my path. I turned the Grand Canyon into the Grand Canyon Casino. I gave two dollars to homeless people and two hundred dollars for the latest machine that could smash fruit. I fucked my way through the seventies no thoughts and prayers for the girls that mistook Gene for Judas, a role I played. I deadened myself with any and all things that could put me to sleep.

So: A reckoning. Junior cometh.
This is Neo-America. Lifeless, bloodless, unspoken save for anger.
Coming soon to a nursing home near you.

 

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