Everything you can’t help because it’s part of your nature is no way to go through life, but that’s the way most people feel obliged.
Cam, for instance, hated the water. »I never learned how to swim«, he explained, illustrating with the windmill sweep of his arms the manner by which he would probably drown.
»Big deal«, Jil said. Twelve years old and cloaked ambiguously in a tutu, she steered Cam back upstairs. »I’ve seen ’em kick people out of the adult beginners class for spoutin’ at the shallow end without a single warning. All you gotta do is be able to change into trunks – and you can do that, right? Your mom took you in the locker room when you were little and showed you everything?«
»My mother«, Cam sighed, and the pain in his dormant foot became active again, active and lapidary – an electric, many voiced, synthetic choir.
»Hmm..?« Jil’s dad said. The visor of his motorcycle helmet tilted back, Mr. Anderson was standing in the entry shuffling through the stack of mail, his eyes alert for any fresh bright prospect of winning another million dollar sweepstakes.
»Dad, this here’s… what’s your name again?«
»Cam«, Cam apologized.
»At least that part’s true – but, dad! You wouldn’t believe what a liar this guy is! Plus he always calls me Jill, and won’t bet about getting kicked out of the pool!«
Mr. Anderson jerked off his helmet. Standing in strands, his tomato red hair appeared rescued from the neighbor’s compost. »Hmm..?« he reiterated. He ripped open a letter addressed to his wife from the municipal park and recreation department.
»And he’s the worst kind of liar – the kind you can get to believe anything! Like I told him mom had to rush out to the airport to get some family remains repatriated, and that was the only way to make him stop looking at our basement!«
Re: — Mr. Anderson read — suspension of swimming pool privileges. »Well that’s just fine, honey«.
»When really she raced off to spa because Veranda grunked the sink again«.
Cam, filling up with his secret nature, yawned. Providentially, his every thought contained a clandestine compartment where he could always hide, as well as a clever pullout couch where he could, if need be, spend the night. Sickly and privileged, Cam had grown up in an educated tour bus where his parents, both punk musicians, had yelled about everything. At a tender young age Cam had learned how to avoid all manner of gripe: remotely anguished by anything, he could simply stalk to the medicine pouch and help himself to a handful of the green/orange ones.
Mr. Anderson glanced up from the official letter to smile absently at his probable daughter. »Today’s Tuesday?«
Jil stamped her foot. »Dad, did’ja even hear me?«
»Of course I heard you, honey. This man’s here to pour something down the sink. Some family remains grunked it up«.
»Meist allchrity!« Jil exclaimed, a small store of her seaman’s language spilling out into the open. »It’s pants down and croaks to the wind trying to get anything across to you! This guy wants to buy the house!«
Veranda, quizzically sniffing a napkin, poked in her head from the kitchen. Veranda was part-Pakistani, part-Native American Indian, and part-Vietnamese — a welcome proving grounds for any political strategist. Cam’s line of vision only gained admittance to Veranda’s highly exotic upper torso, and he was immediately put in mind of some three-masted bark’s buxom figurehead caught in the attitude of sniffing a napkin. His thoughts unballed to clot more festively.
Jil sighed. »What’s the big napkin fuss this time?«
Veranda shrugged her shoulders. »Wormser’s basset hound’s been eatin’ spiders–?«
»God! I can’t believe you get more allowance than me! Plus next time, dealin’ and cuttin’? My rules!«
Veranda wordlessly withdrew into her vexed demeanor.
Cam didn’t like to share his unballed thoughts with anybody -– while growing up, he had selfishly licked all over them with his tongue – and so he felt impelled to abruptly save the day by changing the subject entirely: »I once lived with a Valkyrie soprano who tacked tuna cans to our cardboard walls so that the neighborhood cats would stop pestering us. But her little ruse backfired, serving only to break up our little home«.
A remote knock at the sliding door seized control of events.
»Holy mastodon mother of Tarzan!« groaned Jil.
Cam’s ungainly foot upset the plant water.
»Probationary status!« announced Mr. Anderson, his eyes parsing ahead to the good part. »Beginning this family night!«
Jil whipped open the sliding door drapes to reveal Mr. Wormser, his socks pulled up unequally, jogging in dizzy circles on the backyard terrace. For a face it appeared as if he had picked out an especially sweaty ham from the long Armour line-up. Jil slugged open the sliding door.
Mr. Wormser went into a set of jumping jacks; grunted: »I saw the daylight and heard the voices. Thought I’d better check in with you people. Find out if my dog was over here. He’s turned half our spiders into widowers!«
»Like duh! Plus go change into sandals and flop around some! It’d be more you!« Jil slapped shut the sliding door; tugged shut the drapes; noticed the darkening spill. »Veranda!«
As Cam watched the water glug free from the green wine bottle, his stomach returned to its wrong, happy, ugly, secretly delicious settings – the default legacy of all his home-schooled years spent on the road (the two ferns in back placed alone in his charge). He could almost smell all the peroxide – glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug, glug… »I’m afraid I’m perhaps to blame«, he offered. »It was my challenged foot, product of my dysfunctional upbringing«.
»Where for the love of Courtney is that front-stoop canasta showdown showhorse? Veranda!«
»Probationary status!« Mr. Anderson repeated, his eyes looping again to the good part. »Beginning this family night!«
Craig Eldon Reishus lives south of Munich north of the Alps and is an anti-nuclear activist, anti-night club piano player, all-around pro webGuy, and translator of a broad score of films and books. He originates from Fort Smith, Arkansas. www.reishus.de