Rick Edelstein was born and ill-bred on the streets of the Bronx. His initial writing was stage plays off-Broadway in NYC. When he moved to the golden marshmallow (Hollywood) he cut his teeth writing and directing multi-TV episodes of “Starsky & Hutch,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Chicago,” “Alfred Hitchcock,” et al. He also wrote screenplays, including one with Richard Pryor, “The M’Butu Affair” and a book for a London musical, “Fernando’s Folly.” His latest evolution has been prose with many published short stories and novellas, including, “Bodega,” “Manchester Arms,” “America Speaks,” “Women Go on,” “This is Only Dangerous,” “Aggressive Ignorance,” “Buy the Noise,” and “The Morning After the Night.” He writes every day as he is imbued with the Judeo-Christian ethic, “A man has to earn his day.” Writing atones.
Hi, Mom, how are you doing? I parked my car in the driveway I hope I’m not blocking you or dad but I came by because I want to talk to you about something that is...
Shhh...wait wait...here it comes...six, five, four, three...ahhhh...it hits. Ahhhh...twenty-two minutes and thirty eight seconds.
What is twenty minutes?
Two, twenty two and thirty eight seconds. It takes that long for the pills to be effective.
How many pain-pills did you take?
Not pain-pills, darling, pain assuagements as the dark forces hide in the ebony crevices of my being awaiting an opening to inflict their demonic surges which is their mission apparently.
How many, mother?
Two how often?
You are positing picayune queries which are hardly applicable to a situation evoking...what did you say?
How many and how often did the doctor say?
Ah yes, Dr. Franke said one every four hours but she doesn’t experience the discomfort, that’s the elusive perfusive word she used in her inflexible rigid intransigence but negating the cognizance of excruciating searing life-challenging pain.
How many, how often?
Two every two hours which is a blessing undisguised and a blatant necessity irregardless of Dr. Franke’s...did you know there is no such word as irregardless?
If Dr. Franke said that you should...
I wonder about women doctors. I would have preferred Dr. Eckstein, a man, on vacation. Since when is it appropriatable for a healer to go on vacation. It’s a vocational violation of the hypocritical oath. You know where Eckstein went?
Mom I wanted to talk to you about something personal but now, well, I’m not sure you’re up to it so...maybe later.
Africa. The land of extremities and extinction.
Are you talking about elephants?
What are you typing?
Giraffes...look...those beautiful animals. You see them run in their awkward hobble as if they are choreographed by Mia Michaels. Don’t you just adore that show?
You talking about So You Think You Can Dance?
See their gentle mouths nibbling flowers, I could kiss them. Oh God!
Pain hit? I thought the pills were...
Not physical pain. Don’t you children understand the grossest most effusive effective deflective pain is...oh God, Giraffes are going extinct god damn it! Ahhh, the absence of pain is a demonstrable palpable gift.
Well, okay, I get that it’s been rough morning, so I’ll...
Pain was off the charts. Off the charts...
What are you typing now?
Googling: Ah, Off the Charts: Extraordinarily out of the norm; beyond expectation; top of the line. There you go, my pain was beyond expectation and now the relief is top of the line. Google and I are so near, dear, one could say endearing but don’t tell your father as we might be declared illegal. That was humor. Even a survivor has humor. In fact that is the saving gracefulness of surviving. Humor. Ask the Jews in Auschwitz. Why did Hitler kill himself? He saw the gas bill.
Ugh, Mom I don’t think that’s all...
Want to hear another?
I’m not sure.
The read brick wall was the color of a brick-red crayon.
What’s the punch line?
The Apostles were Jewish by birth.
Mother, please, your brain is getting fried from these opioids so either...why are you waving at me?
I wasn’t waving I was just...oh Hannah, sometimes I do forget. Sometimes my mind goes on pause, what do you think?
I think that you should take the doctor’s advice, one every four hours rather than two every two hours which might be excessive, don’t you think?
No I do not think. How can you say that behind the deficient awareness and ebbing knowledge of such pain that could drive a submissive rejecter of a tangentially person mad. Almost as bad as when I gave birth. No one tells expectant mothers about the excruciating pain while giving birth. If I knew then what I know now I never would have gotten pregnant.
Somehow that’s not very assuring.
And particularly now.
Now what, mother?
You’re not paying sufficient attention. To bring a child into a world absent of Giraffes is the height of insouciance.
I’m not sure that word is...
God damn it, how can anyone choose to live in a world without Giraffes!
Well, for most of us, there is no choice.
Oh, you’re here Hannah. You said something about blocking the driveway I think.
Yes, in case you wanted to drive but I don’t think you’re in any kind of state to drive.
Wrong again. I have a license to drive in this state.
That’s not what I meant.
Oh why don’t children of your generation say what they mean instead of elucidating around. It’s such a distractioning dominatrix way to translate the existential essential clarity of communication which is too often oblique, discursive and inconvasive to say the least. To say the most you come to see your mother and all you talk about is driveways never asking your mother how she feels!
That’s the first thing I said, how are you doing, Mom, when I came in, how are you doing I distinctly asked.
Doing is not being. Doing is not feeling. How do I feel was never asked.
All right, how do you feel, Mother?
A good a time as any.
Right now I feel...I think you should go downstairs and visit Daddy...right now I feel, ...ahhhh, I’m going to close my eyes right this moment of now and float into the enigma of rewarding entropy of pleasantness. That’s better. Shhhhh....
Ah, Hannah, just in time. Listen to this: I’m far from birth closer to death, putting on my socks I’m out of breath.
Dad, I got a problem.
Okay, yes, it’s just a first draft with much more to come but in time I may just compete with rappers of your generation. What do you think?
I got a problem, Dad.
You don’t like it, huh? Okay, I respect your opinion but...
No, my problem has nothing to do with your inane rhymes.
Inane. My daughter’s going for the jugular.
Hello! Hear me oh father of mine. Your daughter has a problem. A personal problem.
Oh, sorry, I thought you were referring to my “inane rhymes.” So, you have a problem. Good.
Good? What are you talking about?
A problem has a solution whereas an issue is embedded in the path of your life as a stepping stone or an obstacle to which you have to adjust, accept, or...
Stop, Dad, stop. I am not in your philosophy class.
Forgive me, Hannah. It’s just that I have a full day with grading essays, a meeting with the dean which may be good news as I expect to be granted tenure even as we speak...or not which would be a grotesque disappointment so forgive me if I seem distracted.
Distraction shmistraction, are you not interested in the problem that Daddy’s daughter is dealing with? A problem, yes, not a fucking issue, a major fucking problem.
When reason goes out the window vulgarity enters.
Your mind obviously does not integrate any information which does not fit into your conditioned comfort zones so I’ll leave you alone.
No, no, please Hannah, forgive me. I’m just...on top of all that I had a...what is the word...disappointment, disillusionment, hurt, yes that’s the word, hurt from your mother. After all these years, I asked her, are you still in love with me? You know what she said?
How would I know?
That was rhetorical. In love with you, she said. After all these years I am more in habit with you.
Lately Mom goes in and out of clarity. She misuses words and loses a train of thought so I wouldn’t take what she said as literal.
No, your mother was coherent, unfortunately.
But don’t you think she sort of over-indulges in popping her pain relievers which may cause...
Your mother has had two back operations, a concussion from falling, she deserves relief.
Even if it begins to distort reality?
I still think she should be monitored in use of opioids.
Just plain no?
Your mother was a major linguist, a respected professor. Now she is a wounded woman who must be cared for. If those opioids stultify the pain, I’m for it.
And her mind?
Occasional forays but most-times lucid, intelligent and rationally dealing with her infirmities. She’s not hurting anyone, Hannah, so let it be.
Your wife, your call, Daddy.
You said you had something personal to share.
Okay, yes, is this a good time, or is there ever actually a good time to hear about your daughter’s problem?
You’re being melodramatic. Yes, of course, what’s the problem and can I be of help?
My God, how did that happen?
A man puts his penis in...
Don’t be snide. It’s not an attractive aspect for someone so...
You’re grading me again, dear God, give this daughter a break!
And give this father some reason as I am sure you know about the pill, contraception, condoms, how in the hell did you get pregnant?
A moment of impulse, I guess I was too lonely and now I’m too late.
How far gone...how long?
Seven weeks now.
Well, that is a problem. Does the man know? Do you know who he is?
Don’t be insulting. Yes, I know who the man is and no I did not and will not tell him. My problem, my decision.
Are you going to abort?
Still cogitating on it.
You’re what, a sophomore at the University, planning to go on for your Masters and then perhaps even your doctorate. We discussed this and I happily agreed to support you in...
Most of the fees are covered by scholarship thanks to your daughter who is smart enough to get great grades in the University but not in life, baddabump!
Have you told your mother?
I intended to but...Mom is...she’s made complaining into an art form. I know this is redundant, Dad, but when she is pain-free that’s because she is deep into an oddly detached relief from a gang of opioids, saying words that are inappropriate or just outright confusing.
That’s unfair. We’ve been through it, Hannah, you know she has been dealing with severe pain since...
Dad, come on, it’s like a secret whispered in the stall of the girl’s bathroom. Mom, your wife, is addicted.
I’m grateful that she gets relief from the punishing agony. And regardless, she’s still there for you. You’re her first born, her daughter for God’s sakes. She loves you more than life. Consult with Mom.
Right now, though, I need my father’s counsel. What do you think I should do?
You’re an adult. Your decision. Do you plan to abort?
Think I should?
A child now, at the apex of your education, not married and apparently not involving the father...
Don’t call him that. It was just a mad indulgence with I won’t tell you with whom but certainly not intended to be a father. What should I do?
A child at this time would be a major inconvenience.
Whew...a human being categorized as an inconvenience. You have a way with words.
Why are you trying to hurt me? You asked my opinion, I gave it and I am here for you, Hannah, so cut your dear ‘ole dad some slack and you tell me, what do you want to do, and I will support your decision.
The world’s in a mess, isn’t it.
I assume that’s metaphorical but yes and I’ll spare you the details.
No, please, detail away.
You’re being snide again, aren’t you.
I mean it, I just want to hear words, something, anything that’ll help...or maybe hinder...if you think I’m confused, you are accurate. Come on dad, tell me why this world is so fucked asked this potential mother.
Okay, I’ll indulge you. Let’s see, okay,
today’s reality, some cities in China and Indonesia, citizens are encouraged to stay indoors because breathing the soiled air is hazardous to your health. We’re living in the age of stupid where people wave off extinction on the altar of revenue. Enough?
Nailed it. Thanks. Maybe the world’s not ready for another child.
Can I ask you a question?
You know you can.
And please, Dad, answer me honestly, even not considering my condition. Okay?
When does life start?
Whew, that’s a high hard one.
When I used to play baseball, before you were even born, I was pretty good, too, but I couldn’t hit the high hard ones. Your question is a high hard one.
Hit it, Dad, when does life start?
If you’re a scientist or an ultra religious conservative, when the egg is fertilized by the sperm.
And if you’re just a regular human being?
Some say when it takes its first breath. Genesis 2:7 is clearest. The first human became a living being, nefesh hayah, a living breath, when God blew into its nostrils and it started to breathe. Others say when the woman feels the first kick of the baby. It’s complicated.
And if I do decide before the first kick...
I’ll drive you to the hospital and then home.
You understand, Dad, that an abortion, I mean almost eight weeks old, is killing a living being.
It is not a...not a child yet. Your first priority must be you, Hannah. How does this impact on your life?
Can we do an evil act to get good results?
Now who sounds like they’re in my philosophy class. Please, darling, I know this is a difficult time but you must make a decision...particularly at this early stage of pregnancy because...
What do you think of Uncle George?
Uncle George. Your brother.
Talk about a non sequitur, where’d that come from?
I lost my key and he was very helpful.
You didn’t answer my question. What do you think of your brother?
Okay, I’ll play although I don’t know the rules of the game. George is twelve years younger than me. Not only chronologically but his generation is, well, culturally, dress, hair style, tattoo even, he’s my brother but we have little in common, he’s into Real Estate I’m into Academia. You’re renting an apartment in one of his buildings, right?
Yes, like I said he opened my door with his master key and made a spare for me. He was very helpful.
We rarely spend time with each other so when you see him, thank my brother for taking care of my daughter.
No, I won’t do that.
Good so...what did you say?
I won’t thank my Uncle George for taking care of Daddy’s daughter.
What does that mean? There’s some awkward subtext going on that I dread and want to ignore. Talk to me, damn it!.
His tattoo is a panther.
On his lower back.
Hannah, what the fuck is going on...yes, I’m into obscenity with a fear of not wanting to know but having to...tell me, Hannah, what!?
Uncle George and your daughter had sex, ergo, pregnancy.
That son of a bitch...I’ll...
Where are you going?
To get the phone. First call him and then maybe the police.
Stop...Stop damnit...you’re going to call the police because your adult daughter had sex?
Because that bastard obviously raped my daughter and...
No...stop, dad, it was not rape. Not. N – O – T rape. Consensual. In fact I may have been the one to instigate although I’m not sure. He came up with the key and I was wearing short shorts. He couldn’t miss it and like any man he complemented me on my butt which I mocked a shy thank you and even wiggled my butt as we both laughed knowing what we’re laughing about and...
Enough God damn it, Enough! I don’t know what to do with this.
Here he goes again. He doesn’t know what to do with this...as if it’s all about him.
Enough mean spirited cracks about your father. Obviously you must abort.
The chances of having a normal baby with my brother’s genes are...
I Googled it. More nieces had sex with their dirty uncles than you might think. And one I read about, in England, has two normal babies while the Uncle is in jail because she was underage and...
Stop, Hannah, just stop. Please. You can not have this child.
I know and yet...
There is no room for yet. Make an appointment. I’ll drive you to the hospital.
Dad, the truth is...we like each other. We really do.
You’re talking about your father’s brother, god damn it!
I’ll think about it and come to a decision.
There is only one decision.
I know. But I’m just not ready to make it.
The longer you delay the more...
I don’t know, Dad. I know it’s not...what, sensible, reasonable, all those rational, cogent words, everything points to the ride to the hospital but...oh God, Daddy, there is a very real part of me that would like to feel the baby’s first kick.