(Monologues are posted as a recurring feature on Stage Voices.)
ARTHUR is in his 30s; he lives in Brooklyn.
I went to see a psychic on West 76th Street. Sixty bucks a pop. I figured, what the hell. And she was pretty good, too, although she did keep bringing up near-death phenomena. She did know I'd moved, though: She also knew my work had moved. And she knew I was going to see my father after slightly more than four years . . .
The very next day my eighty-one-year-old Dad shows up. He's with my brother on the last leg of a seven-day road trip from Georgia. In New York, they’re stopping over at the Princeton Club and having Sunday brunch at the Algonquin. Then they're going to see my Dad's boyhood friend, Lucian. So, I walk into the brunch, O.K., to see my father plowing into the dining room in his wheelchair, and his hair is all over. He looks like this mad genius musical conductor. Immediately, the serving staff thinks he IS a mad genius musical conductor and seats him at the famous Round Table. They start asking him why he's been gone so long and when he's going to come back again for his birthday parties. . . . I mean, my father never went to Princeton. He's never set foot in the Algonquin. I say to my brother, “O.K. what's the deal? You two win at Lotto or what?" He says, "Can't you even once make your old man happy?"
I just get served the eggs Benedict, thinking this can be great, thinking this is the first real meal I've had in weeks as my father puts down his fourth shot of Old Fitzgerald and says, "Well, we did that. Time to go see Lucian." My brother then says to me, "Take care of the tab, fancy boy." I say, "Wait a minute. I thought you were taking care of this.” And my brother says to me, “You're the one who's been a little remiss for slightly more than four years. You take care of it." I say, "Yeah, but that's because seeing you people makes me CRAZY.” And I start flailing around trying to dig my debit card and twenty bucks out of my trousers, saying, "I just spent my last sixty bucks yesterday." And my brother says, "So stiff the waiter!"
The next thing I know–after I've done exactly that, giving my brother lead time to load my father into their rented BMW—we land in a rundown tenement on the Lower East Side. I try to tell them that Lucian has had a stroke. I try to explain that Lucian hasn't talked in eleven months and has been practically comatose. I try to tell them that Lucian doesn’t recognize me. I try to tell them that he’s in the hands of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York. I try to tell them that Lucian is totally dispossessed and 1ives in abject poverty. I try to tell them that there’s nothing more anyone can do and that I don’t go anymore to see him. So my father says to this veritable corpse lying shrunken and decrepit in the stench of that apartment: "Get up Lucian. It's time to get down on that field and practice." And, suddenly, Lucian, who is about to go at any moment, becomes lucid. He opens his eyes and says, "Hey Mac, how you doing?" So my father says, “Oh, I'm pretty qood, what about you?" And Lucian says, "Can't complain." And my father starts crawling into bed with Lucian to give him a rubdown, and they start whispering to each other as if they’re little kids planning to run away to see the world.
My brother, the entrepreneur, finally decides to unveil his plan, whereby, we should sell all of our family's property back to ourselves so that we can create an estate. “I gotta buy back my bronzed baby shoes?” I ask. He's says they'd be cheaper if I bought them before Dad dies. "How long's that?" I say, just to be flip, and he says, "Toscanini's got four months, tops. Cancer." And, suddenly, I realize that the brunch at the Algonquin was my father's way of saying goodbye to me.
And, suddenly, I realize that neither of us expect to see each other again.
And, suddenly, I realize he’s saying goodbye to Lucian right now.
I hope death means floating on the ceiling until the ambulance arrives. I hope it's like passing through an invisible curtain. I hope there’s a tunnel of blue light where someone who once loved you comes to meet you. If we aren't all repenting some ghastly sin we've all committed, then why are we even here? I should have asked the psychic: How can we reach the invisible hand that will point us on the right path? Why won't it reveal itself?
© 2010 by Bob Shuman. All rights reserved.
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