Department of Human Resources

“Diary of a Fisherman”
by Lou Gaglia

Well, I says to the wife the other evening, if we was to ask your parents if we could live with them, say for just a year or two, then we could wind up saving enough money for that dream house we been dreaming about.
The wife she made a coarse gesture and then replied smoothly, Well, that is neither here nor there because we don’t even know if they are going to say yes or no, so there is not no use speckulating.
I ain’t speckulating, I says to her, I am just tired of living in this dam apt. with the kid screaming and yelling all the time and there is not no room for normal living. So if you was to just ask your parents, then we could save up some money and buy that dream house.
You ask them yourself, says the wife with a pompuss look. It is your idear in the first place to buy that one dream house–like as if no other dream house exists on the planet. Anyway, she continues after a snort, if it is such a dream house, don’t you think it will be gone in five or ten years when we finely have saved up enough $ to buy it?
That is neither hither nor thither, I says to her. Just ask them, stupid, so we can save up some money at last and get out of this dump.
The wife didn’t say nothing at this point. She was cooking on the stove. So I said, What are you cooking? and she says, Meatballs.  I am sick of meatballs, I says to her. You’re the biggest meatball around here, she mumbles, so I told her to shut up and she didn’t have no more come backs. Stupid wife.

*****
I have been trying to get out of this teensy apt. in a complecks that not even Elmer Fudd would be caught dead in.  A man like I, who is 6 feet and 4 and a half inches in just my stocking feet and boots, cannot be roaming around in a teensy apt like this.  A man like I needs a big old house where he can stretch his legs and mount his mooseheads. Where can I put my guns in this place? No where, that’s where. The kid keeps picking them up because there’s no place to hide them except in the toy chest. And if I had that dream house I could clean the fish that I catch in a special room that I could make up special just for fish cleaning, and not have to drag the fish into the kitchen or the bathroom where the wife has a fit.
We been living in this crummy apt. for 6 years now, and now that we have the kid taking up space and acting all silly all the time, it is time we get out and find our own place. But it seems no one wants to lend me a hand. My friend Butch wouldn’t lend me the 50,000 dollars we need, even though I told him we would pay him back every dime. So I ain’t talking to him no more, and after all I done for him in my life, like lending him things, and making sure he never got beat up when we were kids. Big thanks I get.
Then there was my wife’s brother who is independently wealthy as a school teacher out in NYC, and he don’t do nothing except put $ into the bank that he will not never use anyway except for hospittle bills when he gets old, and he is not married nor has no kids so all he does is sit around useless, but after I hinted around about needing 50,000 dollars, he acted like as if he didn’t know what I was talking about. He just says, And I need some tuffs of hair on my molting scalp, and I just looked at him like what was he changing the subjeck for.  So I don’t talk to him no more neither.
Now I have struck on the idea of making my wife ask her mom and dad if we can stay with them for a while and save up the money, and personally I think it is a stroke of genius because we are not actually asking them for money but just to live there so we don’t have to pay no rent and can save up for a change.  The last job I had didn’t pay no good money, and the job I have now working at the wear house pays even less than the last one, and the boss don’t let me take so many days off like the other boss let me, so now I have to do all my hunting and fishing only on the weekend. So how can a man like I spend time with his family if he has to do all his hunting and fishing on the weekend and has to work all week? In the modern error, a man can’t be a family man and still enjoy life. He is up a creek without no paddle.
Anyway, since my wife has not yet asked her parents if we could live with them, there is not nothing else to write about, so I will close for now and write again later when something happens.

*****
This 5 A.M. at breakfuss the wife staggers into the kitchen and says to me, Before you go out fishing why don’t you say hello to your preshush daughter for a change. I bet she don’t even reckonize you.
I was slurping at my coffee at the time and minding my own bizness so I says to her, Go on back to sleep and don’t be telling me my own daughter don’t reckonize me.
Well, says my wife accusingly, last night I was reading to her before she went to sleep and I says to her, Maybe Daddy will take you fishing with him tomorrow because it is Saturday, but she looked at me like she didn’t know any Daddy.
The wife was flaming up her nostrils at me, so I got mad too and I says to her, Stop trying to get at my goats, telling me my own daughter don’t know me. And what are you telling her I’ll take her fishing for? She is too young to go fishing and she might get swallowed up by a guppy.
My wife gives me a hangdog look and yaps, Why don’t you just stay home for a change and get to know your daughter?
Don’t tell me what to do, I says to her. Now make me some toast.
She beat it out of the room at that point, so I made my own stinkin’ toast. Then afterwards she comes out of the bedroom again just as I am about to leave, and she says, Don’t forget your fishing pole.  I won’t, I says.
Don’t forget your fishing boots, she says.
I got them, I says.
Don’t forget to pack some beer, she says.
I didn’t, I says.
And don’t forget to spend some time with your daughter later.
I wo–. Funny! I says to her, and beat it out to the truck. Stinkin’ wife.

*****
Tonight I come home from a hard day’s hunting and I said to the wife, What’s for dinner?
Chicken cutlets, was her clever retort.
So I said to her, Why can’t we ever have anything else, like flownder?
Because we are having chicken cutlets, that’s why, she replied lamely. Personally, she continued horsely, I am sick of your fish. I found a dead fish rotting under the bathroom sink today.
What did you do with it? I said. I was looking for that.
I threw it out, she cracked brokenly. What do you think I do with a rotten fish, cultivate it? Maybe I should ought to have  cooked it for tonight’s dinner instead of stinkin’ chicken cutlets!
That’s right, I says to her, and she didn’t have no comeback for that one so I beat it out of the kitchen.

*****
Yesterday night my father-in-law calls me on the phone and says to me, Hey, Gil, since I heard you will be taking another day off from work tomorrow, you want to have a friendly game of pool down in my cellar?
So I said, O.K, Pops, right after I get done fishin’ in the A.M. I will hi tale it over there, so rack em up.
I thought to myself as hung up the phone, Wow, this is a great oppty for yours truly to ask about moving in with the in-laws so I can buy that dream house. (See, I’m always thinking) Since the wife don’t have no more sense than a chip monk and is ascared of asking her own dear mom and dad, I figure I will have to do the asking. Then I will surprise her with the good news, no thanks to her, and we will have our dream house in no time flat. I figure they can’t possibly say no to their own flesh and blood son-in-law besides witch I have always treated the wife civil and I can tell they know that because they cook special for me on holidays because I don’t want any of that Italian slop and all those meatballs they eat so they go out of their way and cook special for me, all though after all they should ought to do that anyway because I’m their own son-in-law, so to speak
****
After my fishing adventure I went over to the in-laws spacetious house and I says to my father-in-law, Hey Jerry, it is time for some serious pool. Break out the sticks because I’m going to destroy you.

Jerry answers me and says, Yes, you may destroy me at your lessure, but first let me finish my coffee and cake and have a few cigarets.
Hurry up, I says to him, because I have not got until the next millenium to wait for you and did not come here to watch you add to your waste line.
Hold onto your horses, says Jerry to me. In the meantime why don’t you wash up your hands? I don’t want my pool sticks smelling like fish guts.
Just then the mother-in-law waltzes in and she says, Jerry, don’t say fish guts while you are eating, it’s disgusting.
It’s only disgusting if someone else says it, retorts Jerry with his mouth full of lb. cake.
After a couple of hours of coffee refills, Jerry was finely ready to take on yours truly, so we beat it down to the basement and racked em up.
Stop playing Jap pool, says Jerry to me on the first shot when my stick slipped and the white ball only graced the other balls.
I am not playing Jap pool, my stick slipped, I says to him, trying not to get mad because he is a old guy and anyway I was going to ask him about living there as soon as he was feeling good and didn’t want to get up his gander.
Anyway, it was his turn, and he tried to hit the two ball but he missed it by a mile and all the other balls went flying all over the table whilst the two ball just sat there minding his own bizness.
You broke em all up for me, I remarked to him, and you have left me a nice layout. It is time for me to clean up.
At lease I am not playing Jap pool, he replied with a lordly sneeze, chalking up his instrument.
You may as well rest your tired bones, I says to him, because you will not get no chance to shoot for a while.
Oh contrair, he says to me. You will be choking on the first shot.
Well, on my first shot I would not’ve missed but he was not playing fare and let out a wooping cough just as I was about to shoot. My stick slipped again and the white ball went flying off the table and rolled toward the earl burner.
Told you you’d choke, says the old guy as he chased after the white ball.
It was his turn now and this time he got a few lucky shots in. One time I pretended to sneeze to throw off his shot, but he must of knowed it was coming because he shot the ball in anyway  and as he was circling round the table he says to me, Bless you. You better take care of that cold or you will make my granddaughter a orphan.
He missed the next one because I crossed my fingers behind my back as he shot at the ball, and I tole him, Out of my way, Methuselah, it’s my turn.
It is six to nothing, Yewl Gibbons, he says to me. I thought you was going to destroy me.
The day is young, I says as I was lining up my next shot, but just when I was going to shoot he dropped his pool stick and my own stick went flying out of my hands and skidded across the basement floor into the laundry room.
This is not the javelin throw, coughs Jerry as he chased after the stick. That is a scratch and it is my turn.
What a cheater., I mumbles to him at last.
Stop being a little infant, he says to me.
I wanted to punch him in the head but he is too old and I might of killed him, so I kept quiet thinking that my dream house was more important than a game of pool so I may as well make him happy so I can pop the question after he wins. I was cheering myself up O.K. with words of wisdom like that, but he was humming to himself as he was knocking the balls in and circling the table like a dancer. So I says to him at last, What are you so cheerful about?
It is fourteen to nothing, that’s what I am so cheerful about. Now rack em up, Jock Coostoe.
The next rack was about the same. He got in six in a row but it was because I was being fare and standing still while he shot. Then it was my turn again and I thought he was not going to try nothing because he was just standing off to the side reading a book, but just as I was shooting he shut the book really hard and the popping sound made me flinch and two balls went flying off the table.
You are going to ruin my linoleeum, he cracked whilst he chased the two escapees. What are you so ascared of. I thought you was a fearless big game hunter.
I was going to say to him, Well, if you don’t shut up maybe I will hunt you down and mount your head in my living room, but I said no such thing and took it like a man.
Well, he won the game 50-5, and he said, Let’s stop now and go upstairs before you have a stroke, and I thought to myself this is a perfect oppty. to ask him the big question because he is so happy about my letting him beat me, so I says, Maybe we can have one more game but first I want to ask you a big question and I know you will say yes because you’re my father-in-law and just beat me fare and square in a game of pool.
He says, Yes, what is it, I am not getting no younger.
So I says to him, You remember that dream house I showed you, the one with the three levels and the big yard?
And the game room and the TV room and the fireplace? he says.
Yes, that’s the one.
The one for 550,000? he says to me.
Yes, that’s the one.
No, I don’t remember it, he says.
Well, all kidding to one side, I says to him. I was thinking if me and your preshush daughter could just live here for a year or two and not pay no rent we could save up enough money for that dream house and then you can come over any time you like and we can play pool in a real game room and you can beat me on a real pool table all you want instead of on this dinky old thing that don’t have no good cushions. What do you say?
About what? he says, lighting up a cigaret.
About us living here for a year or two so as we can save up some money to buy our dream house.
No, he says. That is not a good idear.
What do you mean no?
No, he says. No is no. No. What part of no don’t you understand, the N or the O?
What do you mean?
I mean no, that’s what I mean, he says, blowing smoke in my face.
You mean you will deprive your daughter of her very own dream house and make her live in scwalor like she is doing in that dinky apt. of ours?
That is neither here nor there, he says to me, and he begins walking up the stairs from the basement, leaving me in the darkness.
When I got upstairs to join him, the mother-in-law was there, too, and I could tell already that she heard the whole preposition from him cause she was looking at me like she was sorry. I says, You will both be sorry. You are not giving your own family a decent chance. That made the mother-in-law start to cry so I left them both there feeling guilty like they should ought to feel. Stinkin’ in-laws.

*****
At home later the wife meets me at the door and she remarks simperingly, You have upset my poor parents with your stupid idear about moving in with them.
Your parents is both selfish, I says back to her, and I order you not to talk to them ever again.
She didn’t say nothing else. She just looked at a magazine without reading none of it, so I knowed I had got my pt. across.
*****

This A.M. I had breakfuss which was toast and coffee and juice and cereal and the newspaper, and then I seen that the wife wasn’t even in the kitchen and I didn’t hear the kid neither. When I went in the two bedrooms I reduced that they was both gone. And then I came back and seen the note on the kitchen table right under my coffee cup.

Gil,

We have gone to my parents to live there for maybe forever. They feel all guilty and stuff and says for me to let you stay here too. But I tole them no, your dream house is more important than your own flesh and blood wife and daughter. Don’t try and get any idears about trying to move over here with usbecause then we will go off to a hotel. Then if you try to follow us to a hotel, we will come back here, etc, back and forth, over and over again, and vice versa—add infant item.

Your “stinkin” wife

 

“Spoons”

by Tyler O’Donnell

 

“The Jungle Gym Rapper”
by Matthew Dexter

I used to beat the crap out of little kids at recess and sometimes when they were waiting in the lunch line. Milk lady feared me. She had a mustache that terrified the children, but when the bully came over for some mashed potatoes and gravy she shoveled shit onto my plate with an ice cream scooper so quick you would have thought I was king of the cafeteria. I was the bully. I didn’t realize it at the time but I did some bad things.

Kids treated me with terror, handing over money, sling shots, half-melted chocolate bars with chunks of coconut warmed by their buttocks and the residual friction from the plastic slide on the playground. I would corner them at the top of the slide, concealed from teachers and the recess monitor by the majestic walls of the jungle gym and the madness of my imagination. Before all that global warming bullshit.

“Muchas gracias,” I would say, pocketing contraband fire crackers wrapped in red waxy paper that smelled like gun powder and tearing open a blue Almond Joy wrapper. Little boys wiping tears from their eyes, coconut melting onto my tongue, I’d become a coconut rapper, quietly and melodiously rapping my songs for flat-chested girls from the top of the jungle gym, coconut dripping down my throat.

The girls would shake their heads. They never understood. This was before text messages when my freestyle was fierce. Boys would pivot in mid-step horror when they climbed up the ropes to the slide to find me sitting there. They’d run away into the shadows–my rapping skills bloomed in the grass just beneath the surface like fresh tulip bulbs, when Public Enemy was singing Bring the Noise, with Anthrax. Way before Flavor of Love. We had this substitute teacher who was the mother of one of the musicians in Anthrax. That knocked my socks off. We were too timid to ask her about it (even me: the bully), but we would whisper about it all day, Anthrax gossip filling male corners of classrooms a decade before the halls of Congress were attacked with white powder, even when she hadn’t substituted for months.

Years later I’d be selling weed and cocaine to many of these same girls, the boys on the jungle gym their husbands, their children now play with my own. My son’s not a bully. He pulls me into his arms everyday after he gets off the school bus and kisses me on the cheek. He’s an amazing rapper. He’s destined to be the next Eminem–only pastier, preppy, and Italian. I always have a banana cake ready for him, already on the table by the time the yellow bus pulls away from the curb. The steam rises as my son unzips his Swiss Army backpack and takes out the personal possessions of his closest friends.

He’s a kleptomaniac. Don’t ask me where he gets it from. Not me. All I know is that I burn all the evidence–everything in one of the pizza ovens. We run a bakery and pizza parlor; so we always have an oven ready. You never know when the little rascal will show up with his booty. Or what: purple mittens, an iPod shuffle, 3-D glasses from Avatar, 3-D glasses from Alice in Wonderland, pencil boxes, pink erasers, magic markers, Miley Cyrus earrings, Hanna Montana stickers, candy wrappers, Vanessa Hudgens naked pictures (I keep those). I often use stolen candy for the chocolate surprise cake in the center of the display window; third grade frosting for the lucky family that buys it every morning. I’m a baker, proud of my son. Your daughter would be proud of him too, happy to have his hand up her blouse and his tongue down her throat. Does she like coconut?

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