Serious Nuts: The Inevitable Rise of Miss Grainger
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by Geoff Geauterre
Description: Gerald Hedgerow, son of two famous writers, one a novelist and the other a poet, has finally achieved success on his own . . . or rather, with the help of Miss Grainger, his pen-named alter ego. Unfortunately, though, this sweet, even tempered agony/advice columnist offers fame at a steep price. First, he can't reveal to the world that the wisdom of Miss Grainger belongs to someone else; she has too many faithful followers. He can't tell his parents; they keep telling him to follow 'her' advice. He can't keep a relationship; every time he gets close to a girl and finds out too much about her he/she tends to panic. And fourth, Miss Grainger is starting to threaten his ego, and he hasn't a clue what to do about it. Still, all those elements might have been taken care of in time, except when Miss Grainger sniffs out a scandal involving innocent seniors and their community center, then this champion for the rights of the elderly comes unglued. If that wasn't bad enough, suddenly she finds those she has exposed are actually quite dangerous, and as Gerald is her noble protector . . . they're both going to have to move mighty fast. From Pittsburgh to the Mediterranean to England, Gerald tries to keep a low profile, but when 'her' enemies sniff out the trail, leading straight to him, every resource he calls upon doesn't seem enough. Finally, realizing the obvious, he vanishes into the realm of his eccentric relatives in Worcester and trusts to luck, which has some surprising consequences.
eBook Publisher: ebooksonthe.net/ebooksonthe.net, 2011 ebook
eBookwise Release Date: August 2011
1 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [672 KB]
Reading time: 410-574 min.
"Your fate," the old crone said, peering down into Gerald's palm, and looking as if she wanted to spit, "crosses here!" To make certain he knew where 'here' was, she stabbed into the spot with a long, cracked nail.
He jerked from the jab of her claw. "Hey! What are you doing? That hurt."
"Be still," she muttered, "I am reading."
Gerald tried pulling back, but the clutch on his wrist was too tight. "Say, listen, I'm not here for this. Besides, I don't really believe in it."
"All a person is," she croaked, "is portrayed in the hand!"
A soft chuckle came from behind his ear. 'I could certainly tell her that is not necessarily true...'
He coughed. 'Not now!'
The crone's eyes shot up suspiciously. "What did you say?"
He tried to look innocent. "Nothing."
She shook her head and peered down sourly, examining his fate, and then she saw something, something that was obviously more disagreeable than all the rest. "Your future is nigh..."
He rubbed the bridge of his nose and felt a migraine coming on. "You could be right."
Her fingers spread his palm further outwards. "There is something here I do not like."
He gave his fortune a glance. "I'm getting a pretty good picture of it myself."
"This line does not run true."
"If you say so."
"All right, I give in. What's wrong with it?"
"Short attention span, you think?"
"And there is something else."
He sighed. "There always is."
"You have black blood in you."
"Now there," he declared, finally extricating himself, "you're wrong. I can trace my lineage all the way back to a pair of starving immigrants clinging to Plymouth Rock." Then he chuckled. "Say, that's good. I'll have to remember that."
However, she wasn't laughing. Instead, reaching around, she swung something at him and the lights suddenly went out.
When his eyelids fluttered open, he found himself looking up at his fiance. "Your grandmother," he told her, "just hit me over the head with a mallet."
"It was the family bible."
"She wanted me to sign it?"
"She wanted to see what would crawl out of your ears, if you were struck by the word of God."
"Angela, I looked that bible over. It's twenty pounds if an ounce."
"It's only a bible for God's sake."
"It's encased in metal. She has to be working out when no one's looking."
"We took her upstairs. She wasn't feeling well."
"Well, honey," he admonished, "that's the wrong place to send her. She ought to be in an asylum. That's where she belongs. I can attest to it."
"Can you get up?"
He struggled into a sitting position; the room seemed to swirl, but resolute he gave her a manly smile. As a reward, she slapped him in the face.
When the room settled down again, he felt his jaw.
"Would you mind telling me what that was for?"
"We're talking about my grandmother," she declared, "who is eighty-eight years old, and a more saintly woman you would ever care to meet."
He tongued the inside of his cheek, and at that moment, imagined himself married to this woman, granddaughter to a lunatic. His stomach gave a slight twist. Galvanized, he scrambled to his feet and took stock. The family, which was about to claim him as one of their own, seemed oddly unmoved by what had just happened. Moreover, his focus narrowed on several specifics he had earlier overlooked.
Angela's father, for one thing, deserved a keener examination. A somber, sullen man who rarely smiled. The suit he wore was black, as if going to a funeral, and the tie was an odd pink, along with a charcoal shirt, and already on his fourth drink in less than an hour. Why was he holding onto it as if it were a life buoy?
He stared at Gerald in a very peculiar way, and it reminded him of the first time they met. Even then, he wondered what the other's gaze was really fixed on, and this time he thought he knew. The man wasn't looking at Gerald. He was looking at what Gerald signified. He was looking inwards... at his own life before making a catastrophic decision.
Then, across the room, he saw Angela's mother as she tittered and talked a mile a minute to the young priest, who was supposed to join them in holy wedlock. He looked inexperienced and bored.
Angela's sisters; young cutouts of the woman he was to marry, seemed to tremble on the brink of womanhood, with hungry, dark eyes. Across the room, their adolescent cousins giggled and whispered secretively, their curly mopped heads with bouncing locks looked like writhing snakes.
Other family members spoke in undertones and whispers, and when he tried to meet their eyes, they looked away, as if he was not really there.
"I think," he said carefully, "I've seen enough."
Angela scowled. "What are you babbling about this time?"
"Up to now," said Gerald wonderingly, "I have been walking in my sleep, but that slap of yours woke me up. Now I see things with startling clarity."
"I knew you were drinking too much. You're starting to sound drunk."
"Angela, you know I will always think of you fondly, although I must admit it will be in a curiously disaffected manner. Now, be so good as to move aside. A light beckons in the distance."
"Maybe," Angela muttered, "she hit you harder than I thought."
He pivoted for the door. "No, she struck the right chord, and so did you. It's just resonating, that's all."
"Where are you going?"
"Well, frankly, I don't know where I'm going," he said, setting a course, "but right now I'm getting the hell out of here!" He bolted.
"Don't worry," he called back, whipping through the exit. "I won't bother you by writing. I just want to give you your freedom, as you've given me mine!"
She howled. "You spineless son of a bitch! Come back here!"
But once outside, he leaped down the steps and started running, frantically searching for a cab. In a moment one swerved his way, and diving into its protective womb, it took less than ten minutes to get to his hotel, another five to throw everything in his suitcase, and five after that to pay his bill at the front desk.
Then, back out to the sidewalk, he jumped into another cab, shouting: "Fifty bucks if you get me to the airport in under fifteen minutes!"
As they screeched to a stop at the first terminal available, he rushed towards the counter, asked for the next flight out--he didn't care where it was going--was waved down a wide corridor, jumped around people as if they were standing still and made it to the gate just as it was closing.
Once safely buckled into his seat, he peered out the window, half expecting his ex-fiance to come galloping up on a great white charger, furious, naked, scowling and waving a spear. 'Now that was a close call.'
"Why," he spoke under his breath angrily, "didn't you warn me!?"
'And spoil all the fun? I knew where it was going, only this time you moved a little slow for someone escaping perdition.'
When the passenger jet lifted off the runway, he drew a deep sigh of relief and took out his laptop. He was going to give himself a note about never believing in one's fate, and while he did, in the back of his mind he wondered what his father was doing?
The voice trembled with anxiety...
"When she walked, the very floor crunched beneath her feet. She was more than just Woman; she was Gorgonzola Woman! When she frowned, the very heavens cried out. She was Gorgonzola Woman! When she growled, all who heard her cried in dismay. Those she had strapped down knew their doom was at hand--enemies to be drawn and quartered--she was Gorgonzola Woman! And when she--"
He ducked his head sheepishly. "Yes, dear?"
"What the devil are you writing in there?"
"Oh, just something about cheese."
"Well, keep it down. When you shout like that, the neighbors can hear you a block away, and they already think my husband is a lunatic."
"Gorgonzola Woman," he muttered, turning back to the typewriter.
"What did you say?"
"Gorgons all of 'em. Pay them no rind."
The doorbell rang, and one look at their wet son, in from the pouring rain, dripping all over the welcome mat was enough to tell the tale.
His mother sighed. "So, you've done it again."
"I had no choice," said Gerald defensively. "It was them or me."
"Wipe your feet."
As he was hustled in, his father took Gerald's jacket, gave it a shake, and canted his head towards the guest room that once upon a time was his.
His mother went into the dining room grumbling, and when Gerald was finished putting his things away, he slipped into some dry clothes and followed his father into the study.
Once he was positioned in the grilling chair, the ritual began.
"Ah, I remember sitting in this chair when I was a boy."
"What are you getting at?"
"You were dumped again is what I'm getting at."
"Not this time. Besides, it wasn't my fault."
"Dumper, or dumpee, it never seems to be your fault, but there are always victims."
"No one was hurt."
"We are hurt."
"Well, I know you and Mom want grandkids, but--"
"You know the real problem, don't you?"
"She's a bad influence?"
"You're not listening. If I was your age, and had never met your mother, you would never have been born. Then where would you be?"
Gerald was too tired to wrestle with that cryptic analysis. "I think I see what you mean. Luck seems to have a lot to do with it."
He snorted. "Luck, schmuck. It's your mother."
"Okay, it's Mom. Is this leading anywhere?"
"Son, I don't understand you."
"Well at least you listen to me. That's something."
Roger Hedgerow clasped his hands together, as if in prayer, and implored. "Don't you want to find the right woman?"
"If the right woman was out there, then yeah."
As if suffering the patience of Jove, his father looked up at the ceiling. "Is that a yes, or is that a no?"
"All right, I suppose I do."
"That's good. Go for it, then."
"I knew this was leading somewhere."
"All right," said Gerald, resigned, "how do I find the right woman?"
His father smiled and smacked his lips. "It depends on what you're looking for, Son."
"I suppose you want me to say I don't know what I'm looking for?"
"Now you have come full circle. Now we arrive at the meaning for this visit. Now you understand why that old, broken down chair is so comfortable and so new."
"And now is the time," he declared, swiveling around and picking up a pad and pen, "we make a list."
Gerald cringed. "No, Dad, no. Not another list--please."
Ignoring him, his father set himself as if for some grueling, but satisfying task and concentrated.
"Okay. What's this girl supposed to have? Pumped boobs. Big boobs. Medium boobs. Small boobs. What?"
Gerald muttered. "Oh, God, he's starting with boobs."
"Come along, come along. Don't tarry. Life is short, and gravity wears out mammalia."
"I suppose medium boobs."
"Good choice. Less wear and tear. Next. Asses. Big ass? Medium ass? Small ass?"
"Jesus. I guess the same. Medium."
The elder Hedgerow paused, his pen aligned. "Really?"
"All right, maybe a little smaller than that."
His father chuckled. "Now, do you want her to look good?"
"Of course, what do you think I am?"
Roger Hedgerow wrote quickly, and stuck a tongue out of the side of his mouth. "That's what we're finding out right now. Figure. Good figure?"
Another pause, followed by a sigh. "Why not? Do you want your children to look like potatoes? Wake up, Son."
"Okay, okay. I want her to look good; I want her to have a good figure."
"Right." Pen jotted down the necessary comment. "Next. Common sense or daffy?"
"I don't mind eye contact."
"Five-ten, then. Now, blonde? Raven-haired? Brunette? Redhead--let me warn you about redheads, Son. They've got a temper you wouldn't believe."
"Dad, Mom's a redhead."
"So I ought to know."
"I guess if I had a choice, probably raven-haired."
Lines were added.
"Okay. Next. Education. Elementary, High School or College?"
"College, of course."
"Drop-out or degreed?"
"Drop-out if she was bored; degreed if she's focused."
"Choosy, aren't you? All right. Here comes the biggie. Ready?"
Gerald already felt depressed. "Yes, I suppose."
"You want a broad or a lady?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"One thing you've got to keep in mind is there are some women who are just naturally hotter than a pistol. Others are as frigid as ice. Getting involved with either one of those could be detrimental to your health, so choose wisely."
"Okay, apparently you've got a problem there, and we'll have to work on it."
"Now, do you want a hard-on when she walks into a room?"
"Jesus, what kind of a question is that?"
"A good one. Answer it."
"I don't know how to answer it."
"What about the two you dumped, and then the three who dumped you? Any reaction in the old ding-dong when they gave you a bump and a grind?"
Gerald looked embarrassed. "No, as a matter of fact, ah, no."
"Uh huh and how do you do it when you get the chance?"
"This is serious stuff, Son. It's important that we focus. Is it slow and languorous, and wonderful or do you turn into a bunny?"
"Well, more like the first part."
"Hmm." The pen worked, a wrinkle formed in the elder Hedgerow's brow, and then this time a more meaningful pause.
"Oh, nothing, nothing. Only, Son, I'm sorry for you already."
"Uh huh. When will this torture be over?"
'Listen to your father!'
Gerald sighed. "Nothing. You were saying?"
"Have patience. We're getting there."
"You do know, don't you, this exercise makes me very uncomfortable?"
"Nonsense, I'm saving you a fortune. When we're finally through with these sessions--"
"Is that how you think of them?"
"--you'll never have to go to an analyst for anything ever again."
"Dad," Gerald said patiently, "the only time I saw an analyst was when I was thirteen, and you sat me down in this chair and told me to pretend you were an analyst."
The Hedgerow elder sniffed. "I had no choice. A school guard followed you into the girl's room."
"Remember? Fresh paint? Wrong sign on door?"
He shrugged. "Answer the original question and stop struggling to get off the track. Okay, where were we?"
He glanced down. "Right. Next is compassion. Yes or no?"
"As to that, definitely. Must have. No ifs, ands, or buts about it."
"Color Preference. White, Brown, Black, Yellow--what?"
"As long as they're not polka dot."
"For the most part you've been raised well. Okay. Politics. Republican? Democrat? Socialist? Greenie or Corporate nutso-wacko, everyone else should drown as long as I own the lifeboat?"
Gerald shrugged. "I guess if she's progressive, tech savvy, generous and doesn't splurge too much that's okay."
"Mm. That's a tough one even for me. Maybe you'll have to look on another planet."
"Are we finished yet?"
"No. Next. Animals."
"What about them?"
"Preferences, Son, preferences. Dogs, cats, horses? What? Let me tell you something, this topic is always messy, so give it a few seconds."
"Okay, if I had to make a choice, I prefer cats, but dogs are okay, as long as they don't eat like horses."
More scribbling, and then a look back up. "Now, religion. Buddhist? Catholic? Muslim? Christian? Jew? Any Orthodox versions? What?"
The pen stilled. "Son, you better get your head screwed on straight. You can't have a 'no preferences' for that kind of shit. Either you beg the heavens for answers, or you seek them out for yourself. So what are you? A man who stands on his own feet or somebody who would rather grovel in some rented stone cave?"
"Right. I get you. Okay. Atheist then."
"Ah, hmm, you know, on second thought maybe you better choose something like agnostic. You don't want to screw up your chances of going to heaven if you're wrong, do you?"
"I'm getting a headache now. I didn't have one when I arrived, but I'm getting one now."
"Okay then. Let's just say you're open-minded, and hope you're not questioned too closely when your time comes."
"Who would question me on that?"
"You never know."
More scribbling. "Almost done."
"Children? No children?"
"Maybe in time."
"No, Son. I'm asking if you wouldn't mind a woman who's divorced, or a widow with kids."
"Oh, I see. I guess I'm not particular, if the little brats are well bred."
His father chuckled and wrote. "Okay. No children." He studied the result. "I think that does it."
"A moment. This is heavy stuff."
The moments ticked on.
"You know," he muttered, "I ought to take this up as a sideline."
"This is ridiculous."
"And I'm still pondering. Give it a bit more."
Five minutes later, pen writing madly, mental calculations arriving at a finish, his father started to look gratified. Then he smiled widely. "Son, I have your answer. I know your soul mate. Your companion for life. The woman who will make you or break you."
"Okay," Gerald breathed. "What sort is she? Who am I looking for?"
"A nice girl, who looks like a knockout when she takes off her glasses, knows the Kama Sutra backwards and forwards, has a Ph.D and doesn't mind putting up with a klutz."
A whistle sounded and he canted his head. "Your mother is summoning us to dinner. Let us wash our hands."
When the meal was over, Gerald and his father helped with the dishes, tidied up, and then relaxed back in the study.
"Son, be frank with me."
"How was dinner?"
"Wonderful, as usual."
"Make sure to tell your mother. She doesn't need the compliment, but she likes hearing them anyway."
"What have you been writing lately?"
"Dad, I work for a newspaper--oh, all right, you call it a tabloid press--so I do write."
His father looked at him blankly.
"I'm also doing a lot of other stuff."
"We all know you're doing a lot of other stuff, Son. We all do a lot of other stuff in our general makeup of life. What I'm attempting to understand is what you are, out of all those other stuffs, if you see what I mean?"
"Dad, I'm the youngest person at my level, and I make a decent living, which is more than can be said of many in my graduating class."
"Is that why you attract women of such low caliber?
Gerald didn't know what to say to that.
"Now, your mother and I understand why they take pity on you, but it is they who should be pitied."
Gerald felt at his temples. "I interned in three papers before I got this position. I should think you'd be proud. I'm almost an editor."
"That tabloid is owned by a scoundrel."
"And how long have you known him?"
Roger Hedgerow huffed. "Since school, but that's not the point."
"If I hadn't made the grade, I wouldn't have been hired, you know that."
"But does he pay you what you're worth?"
"See what I mean?"
"No, not exactly."
"Are they paying you for being a reporter?"
"Not quite. I'm a kind of a roustabout, you see. My work lies in several areas."
"So then, they're paying you for being a rug?"
"That's not fair."
"Your mother thinks you're wasting your time."
"What do you think?"
"I'll know what I think when I see you write something."
He waved a hand dismissively. "Son, you have a first class mind. You can do anything; you can go anywhere. You speak four languages fluently. That's one more than me, and one less than your mother. You have what it takes to make the world sit up and beg, while instead, you pander to the bourgeois and the mediocre. You give them, for the pennies they sparingly begrudge you, the crudest form of entertainment imaginable; comic book literature." He sniffed disdainfully.
"I'm a disappointment to you, aren't I?"
"No, Son. You're not. You're just surprising, is all. You surprised us when you chose to work for the college paper. I wanted you to work in the library, where you could soak up the wisdom of the ages. Your mother didn't say anything about it, but I know she wanted that too. "
"I'm sorry, Dad."
"Next, you surprised us when you spent so much time, playing with layouts and whatnots."
"I was following grandfather's advice on learning the trade."
"Yes, for a newspaper. Not a college wipe."
"Their articles," Gerald defended, "are read throughout the state."
"A blessing they're not read farther than that."
Gerald shook his head and tried dredging up something to say, but there wasn't anything.
"Then you surprised us even further, when we realized you lacked the ability to discern quality from quantity."
"Are you still talking about women?"
"Speaking of which," he said, perking up, "do you recall our stroll through the streets of Paris, and your mother had a convulsive attack from the stench of the sewers?"
"A number of times."
"Do you also recall that French is her favorite foreign language?"
"I know. You're going to point out the irony of her latest work on Baudelaire."
"You see how astute you are? Believe me when I tell you, you are wasting your talents."
"I've just begun to realize why my life is so complicated."
"Don't foist your petards in our direction, Son. Just because you can't locate, and home in on some nice, smart, spicy pussy is no reason to be mean."
"Apology accepted. So, what would you write, if you had the old man's talent and the time to think about it?"
"Probably political analysis."
"Oh, God," he looked dismayed. "Any schmuck can do political analysis. Look at all the clowns who work in TV news. All they're doing is interpreting what someone else said, and then making their inane conversation of the subject a part of their story line. I keep expecting the narcissists to be taken away in straitjackets."
"Dad, they're under a lot of pressure to produce around the clock. One has to expect it of them."
His father snorted. "Nonsense. The news is plain and simple. Write about it well, and it stands the test of time. Play with it, and the significance is lost forever..." He blinked. "Say, that's good." A pen came out and wrote quickly.
"Well," said Gerald, "if I stuck strictly to writing, then, there's always the Constitution. If you recall, I took honors in that course."
"All right. You have a top-notch memory, and it's almost as good as mine; I concede that, but still, we're talking about a two hundred year old document which has lived past its time."
"If sunlight ever shines on the thing, it'd blow away like Dracula's ashes."
"Dad, if we didn't have the Constitution, we'd have--"
"What? Chaos? Son, look around you. We've got people blacklisted for telling what they thought. We've got eighty-year-old grandmothers strip-searched by a bunch of ne'er-do-wells who shouldn't earn more than six dollars an hour, but they do, and that's only because of inflation. And we have inflation because we've morons in the government who can't do their jobs without mismanaging all the money--and they stole that money so they could mismanage it."
"You know," said Gerald, "if I've ever learned anything at your hand, it's that the tolerance for incompetence is suffered only for so long."
His father smiled. "Thus, has the Constitution outlived its usefulness. Giving it more importance than it deserves is perpetrating a nation-wide fraud. I've proven that a number of times in my writing."
"You know," he added softly, "you could have read for the law, and become a powerhouse, but perhaps it's better this way. If you'd done that, you would have fallen into the grip of politics, and with me as your father, I would inevitably have influenced your thinking, and then you would have become an enemy of the state."
"You aren't doing another one of those political novels, are you?"
"Marcuse wrote political novels when he spoke of intolerant conditions. What I write about is the hope of mankind in a depressingly static environment. Have you been keeping up on your reading?"
"I am working at a newspaper."
"Not the same thing."
"All right. Just forget about me. What are you doing lately?"
"I applied for a visa to Guantanamo Bay to review our first official, quasi military governed prison without rules. I can't understand why they turned me down."
"So, what else is new?"
"They also had the effrontery to put me on a list."
"Is that so surprising? You've always been on someone's list. Anything else?"
He glanced at his fingernails. "I am currently preoccupied with writing about cheese."
"Your mother doesn't understand."
"I'm writing about cheese because of you."
"You're writing about cheese because of me?"
"Now I can't stop writing until it's finished. Anyway, to get back to the point, analyzing politics is for failed writers, talking heads and dopes. It's the kind of work that misses the whole picture, while struggling to define it."
"Great men have thought otherwise."
"Bah! What great men are you alluding to? Take Alexander for example."
"Now there was a focused--" He stopped abruptly, eyes widening. "Say," he chortled, "that's good. A focused faggot." The pen scribbled.
"Dad, did it ever occur to you that I like my life just the way it is?"
"No," he contradicted, "because life is not something you put on an agony sheet. Life is a hard won act of survival and triumph..." He paused. "Hey, I like that one too!" He jotted that down, as well.
"I love you, Dad. But I don't think we'll ever learn to know one another."
"Too true," his father lamented. "Like Atlas, I must burden myself with the weight of an entire world, while you prepare tidbits for scum-sucking pond fish."
"I knew you had some regard for me."
"Of course I do. Now give my regards to your Miss Grainger, and go see your mother. She's patiently waiting for you in her parlor."
"Is he," his mother asked shrewdly, as she set some clothes out on the bed, "making you crazy again?"
Idly, he picked at the contents of the pendant box on the mantle of the fireplace, as always liking the workmanship of the stickpin with the twinkling toes motif.
"Mom, I don't know which of us is more discouraged when we get together. I mean, I don't want to upset him, but whatever I do I can't seem to meet his expectations."
"My dear, always remember your father is a genius. He's a man with a plan."
"So I've gathered often."
She folded some things, discarded others, chose a necklace, then a bracelet and checked on a couple of pair of shoes.
"Oh, just putting a few things together."
"Can I help?"
"Yes, you can. Come along." She took him into the living room and pointed to the armchair. "Sit. I want to try out some deserts."
She disappeared, and then returned with a tea cart. Like a well-trained puppy, he shivered with anticipation. A silver pitcher of cocoa, a bowl of grapes, and a dish of ripened Brie, cut into triangles just the way he liked, with a small presentation of fresh cranberries in the center of a serving dish.
While he happily munched away, she asked, "Now what will you do for the rest of your vacation, dear?"
"Mm, I thought I'd stay here for a while. The presses won't stop if I'm not there. Everyone knows what they're doing... something wrong?"
She had shaken her head. "No, not really. You intend to stay here, then?"
"Well, I have come for a visit."
"Well, dear, that's all right. You will take care to keep the kitchen clean, won't you?"
"Er, yes, of course."
"And the bathrooms too?"
"Be sure to scrub the tub when you use it."
"Don't forget now? You sometimes do, you know."
Gerald's head sunk. "I won't forget."
"And the toilets? I like to keep them sparkling. Your father does carry on when there are specks where they shouldn't be."
"Now, when we're gone, make certain the drapes are drawn closed when the sun is on the east side, as I don't want to bleach those new couch covers. Do you like them? I was thinking of upholstering, but the covers should do nicely for a while."
Gerald was confused. "No problem."
"And the trash has to be taken out Tuesdays and Thursdays, as the trash people have changed their schedule."
"Mom, you're speaking as I'm going to be here alone."
She looked around and nodded absently. "Yes, dear. Your father and I are off to the Bahamas. He wants a chance to use a new laptop just like yours."
"It's supposed to be the latest thing, and he likes the big screen and the hundred and sixty, or is it three hundred gigabytes or whatever."
"Yes, well, anyway he needs to try it out away from the office."
"He doesn't have an office."
"He wants to do away with his typewriter, dear. Moreover, I approve. It will be so much quieter now."
"So you're going away to test a laptop?"
"He wouldn't stop complaining until I agreed, so now we're off."
"Does he have any inkling how you manipulate him?"
"No. If he did, I'd have my work cut out for me."
"Mom, I never asked before, but what's your I.Q.?"
"Hmm? Oh, just a few points higher than your father's dear, but don't tell him. He'd be a bear if he knew."
"How do you know his?"
"Didn't I ever tell you? We met at a Mensa lecture on worrying about the world, and I bribed a clerk to look in their records and find out."
She looked at him in surprise. "Well, Son, I could never jump into bed with anyone smarter than me, and so there you are." She smiled brightly.
"So, what's his I.Q.?"
"What do you think mine is?"
"Oh, dear." She looked distressed. "Do you really want me to guess?"
"If it's all right with you, I think I'll pass staying over. I probably ought to get back to work."
She struck a pose: "The lair of our forefathers, the hearth of the nation; the place where every lost soul mourns for the greatness that was, and shall never be again."
"Working on another poem?"
"A commentary on Pittsburgh."
She tousled his head with motherly affection. "I love you Son, but you're dim sometimes. You remind me of your grandfather. Brilliant in spots, unbelievably sharp newspaperman, but then asleep as a tree. No wonder your grandmother had to rescue him."
"Whoa. Wait a second. I never heard that before. I thought grandpa was the one who took grandma adventuring and landed in New England. Now you're telling me it was the other way around?"
"Son, they live in Worcester, you know."
"I know. We've visited often."
"But they had to come from somewhere else if they landed there."
"What does the Worcestershire label suggest?"
The blank look on his face seemed to frustrate her. "England, dear heart. England. The home of our forefathers?"
"Why did they leave?"
She sighed. "Oh, it's an old story. We've told you it so many times."
"You never told me once."
"Hmm? Oh, Romeo and Juliet. So sad."
She stared at him; sorrow intermixed with indulgence. "Son, you're dim sometimes. Now tell me, have you had a chance to speak to Miss Grainger?"
"Why about your problems with women, of course. And also, have you been writing anything lately?"