by Peter Byrne
(Swans - December 3, 2007)
Bill said, "It's difficult to figure out where he's coming from."
Then he was sorry he spoke. Martha looked blank. She answered, playing up the blankness he thought.
"Didn't he say he had a house in Oak Ridge or Elm Park or one of those snooty suburbs?"
Bill grunted. He was right. He shouldn't have spoken. He winced, going on,
"Ideologically, I mean. To figure out where he's coming from ideologically."
"Oh," said Martha.
He recognized she was feigning by the way she let her eyes glaze over. She was pretending not to care. Again.
She worked the crumbs into a little heap on the bright, skimpy tablecloth, the one she called the breakfast cloth.
Hell, she'd been through it all with him, a lifetime of it. So why was she playing dumb lately, indifferent?
"He had a funny look on his face when I mentioned Trotsky."
There she went again, pretending not to be interested. Well, he'd go on. What was it Horkheimer said about a revolutionary's superhuman belief?
"Leon Trotsky was a great man, a great Marxist thinker -- when I said that he kind of smiled."
"Maybe he wasn't sure whether you meant before or after you had that fight with Bailey and his buddies."
Bill was right. She'd been faking detachment.
"You know we couldn't go along with Bailey. The Trotskyite movement was a sectarian mistake. Remember, you told Bailey's girlfriend off about it."
"Jesus, Bill, that was 1985."
"I'm glad you're awake at last. It was the end of August 1986. The debate went on all summer. Then in mid-September the scission came."
She was faking again. He knew.
"You mean when that overfed dolly bird dumped Bailey?"
"It was sealed by the first of October when he attacked me in that two-faced letter to the college rag. You were back at work on your dissertation."
"I'm going to get the kids up or they'll be late again. Don't forget the Little League game."
"Wait a minute," said Bill. He'd brought a softer tone into his voice. "The comrades have been talking about putting out a statement of principle on our web site. You know, restating our positions. We haven't done that for ages. The Heuston left has been confusing the issues. Of course you can't consider them to be genuine leftist. We want to nail things down and also re-dedicate ourselves after all these years. It will make a nice Web page."
"You and the guys in your club do have fun, don't you?"
"I'm asking you if you want to participate."
"Look, it's not one of those twenty-year marriage anniversaries where a couple gets dressed up again and repeats their silly vows. You boys don't need a female."
"No reason to be nasty."
"I suppose it is a waste of breath."
" No, nothing's wasted in our movement. Elementary dialectics, my dear Watson."
"Sure, I forgot."
"You're not kidding me. You forget nothing."
"Well, don't you forget to phone your mother. She called yesterday to say she's having trouble with her back again."
"It's that quack chiropractor she goes to. He's bogus, with hands like a butcher. You should see his phony smile."
Martha wasn't listening and climbed the stairs shouting ahead of her for the kids to get out of bed. She was really too absorbed in her day job. That was a mistake Bill was proud of never making. Still, it was time he got ready to push off to the office.
The kids were having breakfast when he left. Martha came to the door to fetch the mail.
"You know what Martha, and I don't say this subjectively, you've become one of those soccer moms."
"Well, the game's better than the driving back and forth to it. The traffic! Hurry up or you'll be late for the office. You remember what the boss said last time."
"Fuck the boss."
"And, Bill, don't do anything revolutionary when you park the car."
Martha closed the front door.
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