by Peter Byrne
(Swans - September 21, 2009)
She: Is she a blood relation?
He: Auntie, we always called her.
She: Yes, but is she kin?
He: Would she be easier to take as a relative?
She: No, but it might explain you.
He: Let her alone. She's a harmless old lady.
She: I'm a harmful old lady?
He: Call her eccentric then. All right?
She: There's something not all right about her. She's wrong-side up.
He: Nobody can say she's crazy-insane.
She: Nobody? Nobody knows how my shoe pinches. But my toe's bleeding.
He: Auntie never spilt blood. You can see her teeth aren't for chewing. Did you ever see her not smiling?
She: That's what I can't take.
He: You're mean spirited. You never want to give credit. Here's a nice old lady who gives you a smile.
She: A smile? 'A' as in, one, two, three? I always want to beg her, "Look, cutie, turn it off. Think horror show for the nonce. Enough with the goddamn sunshine."
He: Shhhush! You'd talk like that to a nice old lady?
She: Listen, Sir Galahad. I'm the nice old lady. Auntie needs medication. She has to be brought in line. Tell her the American Dream was last year.
He: Hmm. You know she's my aunt -- or anyway may be -- but even I shiver when I see her coming at me with her mouth open like that. Those big cracks in her cheeks get to me.
She: Now we're communicating. Those are smile lines.
He: But you don't put someone away for that. You've got to understand.
She: Understand the joke that keeps her grinning?
He: It's no joke. It's those signs of her father's. He used to beat her.
She: With a sign?
He: KEEP SMILING in block letters. He nailed them up around the house. I think it was a New Deal thing. You could buy them a dozen in a pack.
She: The poor kid.
He: She got used to it. The old man would jump out of bed in the morning and holler, "How about some optimism around here!"
She: A friggin' patriarch?
He: Patriarchs hadn't come in yet. He was just an ordinary S.O.B.
She: Jesus, it takes all sorts to poison a girl's day.
He: Amen. Then he'd clobber the lot of them.
She: For not laughing at him?
He: Because they were killjoys.
She: An upbeat kind a' guy.
He: There was nothing funny. I mean it's not funny. No careless childhood years for Auntie.
She: So as a teenager she bit the hand that beat her, top of her class in running wild?
He: No way. Auntie kept her pants on.
She: Passive resistance? A coy target?
He: TV. Daddy-o sat her down in front of the big box.
She: He made her watch Amos 'n Andy?
He: You remember those applause cards they used to have in the studios?
She: I don't believe this. You're going to tell me this sign-painter perv, right there in the living room, held one up demanding a good round of clapping both hands?
He: No, no, no. Don't be silly. The sign said LAUGH
She: The kid should have made a run for it, hit the street.
He: No need. It was her dad who left for the happy hunting ground.
She: Life of the party in the great beyond? That was a relief. So she relaxed and put on an all-day frown.
He: Not so simple, as they say in expert-tease.
She: Huh? Is there no justice?
He: Not very much. You see the kid had never put on anything but a happy face in her whole sad life.
She: I see where you're heading.
He: She would read nothing but the ads for toothpaste. On the radio she was piggy-back with Doris Day going over that rainbow.
She: So now, no more signs but she's still daddy's little sunbeam in front of the boob box?
He: Right. She zaps out the parts between the commercials.
She: My god! Think. She must be a sewer full of smiles inside, a real Cloaca Maxima.
He: Whatever. It keeps her happy, you know, smiling.
She: Slaphappy's the word. Auntie's going down the toilet with the New World Order.
He: No danger of you looking on the bright side.
She: I keep forgetting we live in the world's unique superpower.
He: Right. We got the muscle.
She: We got the steroids.
He: We're a democracy.
She: We can say what we like on the Internet.
He: Except obscenities. They remove those. But there are slip-ups.
She: They must be sharp to know which is which.
He: Did you see those nine hundred comments on what's-her-name's haircut?
She: Nah. They slipped up there, nine hundred times.
He: I like to participate, take my responsibilities. I voted. No, I said, she shouldn't have had it all shaved off.
She: I'm taking the pooch for a run.
He: Keep him to the wrong side of the billboards.
She: He's a non-reader with a mind of his own, no smiler.
He: What if he suddenly couldn't stop wagging his tail?
She: The pooch? He's not suckered by publicity. He knows where to lift a leg.
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