The Voice of the Father

. . . did your mother tell you we’re moving? That we’re moving back to California finally this spring? We’re moving, son, I’m harking one last attempted time to that celluloid siren’s call, I’m giving it the one last total shot a man’s obligation to his last waning talent deserves, Jim, we’re headed for the big time again at last for the first time since she announced she was having you, Jim, hitting the road, celluloid‐bound, so say adios to that school and that fluttery little moth of a physics teacher and those slumped chinless slide‐rule‐wielding friends of no now wait I didn’t mean it I meant I wanted to tell you now, ahead of time, your mother and I, to give you plenty of notice so you could adjust this time because oh you made it so unmisinterpretably clear how this last move to this trailer park upset you so, didn’t you, to a mobile home with chemical toilet and bolts to hold it in place and widow‐webs everyplace you look and grit settling on everything like dust out here instead of the Club’s staff quarters I got us removed from or the house it was clearly my fault we couldn’t afford anymore. It was my fault. I mean who else’s fault would it be? Am I right? That we moved your big soft body with allegedly not enough notice and that east‐side school you cried over and that Negro research resource librarian there with the hair out to here that . . . that lady with the upturned nose on tiptoe all the time I have to tell you she seemed so consummate east‐side Tucsonian all self‐consciously not of this earth’s grit urging us to quote nurture your optical knack with physics with her nose upturned so you could see up in there and on her toes like something skilled overhead had sunk a hook between her big splayed fingerling’s nostrils and were reeling skyward up toward the aether little by little I’ll bet those heelless pumps are off the floor altogether by now son what do you say son what do you think . . . no, go on, cry, don’t inhibit yourself, I won’t say a word, except it’s getting to me less all the time when you do it, I’ll just warn you, I think you’re overworking the tears and the . . . it’s getting less effec . . . effective with me each time you use it though we know we both know don’t we just between you and me we know it’ll always work on your mother, won’t it, never fail, she’ll every time take and bend your big head down to her shoulder so it looks obscene, if you could see it, pat‐patting on your back like she’s burping some sort of slumping oversized obscene bow‐tied infant with a book straining his pronator teres, crying, will you do this when you’re grown? Will there be episodes like this when you’re a man at your own tiller? A citizen of a world that won’t go pat‐pat‐there‐there? Will your face crumple and bulge like this when you’re six-and‐a‐half grotesque feet tall, six‐six‐plus like your grandfather may he rot in hell’s rubber vacuum when he finally kicks on the tenth tee and with your flat face and no chin just like him on that poor dumb patient woman’s fragile wet snotty longsuffering shoulder. . . .

Infinite Jest

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