s u n d a y, 4 :4 5 p .m.
K A T H E R I N E T A Y L O R
"Your mother is insane."
This is a very short story about my father.
"She's schizophrenic, Jane. She's a lunatic."
When he wants to talk to me he takes me shopping. "I'm telling you," he said, "This is it. I'm worn."
We drove in his collapsable roof sports car. "Daddy, can't we listen to disco?"
"I try to do everything she says. I try to be understanding." He wears wire rimmed glasses and usually awful golf shirts. "Do you think it's menopause? For ten years I've been hoping it's menopause."
"Go faster. You drive like an old man in this car." When I'm with my father I chew bubble gum and put my feet on the seats.
"She just eats and eats and eats," he said.
"Let's buy some rain boots."
"You don't have rain boots?"
I found Pet Shop Boys on the radio. "Gay 80's disco," I said, pleased. I moved my head from side to side and bounced in my seat.
"And when she's not eating she's crying or screaming at me."
I sang: "I love yououou, you pay my rent."
"I think your brother's gay."
"He is. I told you."
"He is not."
"Yes he is too."
My father sighed.
I said, "And thank god. That's one less sister-in-law."
"Change this station."
"Go faster, Daddy. What's the point of having this car? Let me drive."
He came to a stop at a yellow light. I unlatched the roof and put the top down. "I have the air conditioning on," he said.
"What's the point of having this car?" I put my hands up and let them flap against the air. My parents live in a small town. People thought I was waving hello.
"What makes you tell me Rodger's gay? Keep your hands in the car, Jane."
"Let me drive."
"Your other son makes up for Rodger in heterosexual behavior," I assured him.
"Don't talk to me about that."
"Fuck fuck fuck all day long."
"I don't like that language."
"He's the one you should be concerned about."
"Take your feet off the seat."
"You have x-rays on the floor." My father drives his work with him everywhere. "Do you want my footprints all over someone's hip replacement?"
"Where does one buy rain boots?"
"Not rain boots," I said. "Let's buy something fancy."
"Why do you need something fancy?"
I changed my mind. "I don't want anything. Let's get some caffeine."
"I must be boring."
"Let's get some martinis." I smiled toward him, raised my eyebrows.
"I don't know what to do." He sighed and pouted. I thought, pathetic to see him pout. I stuck my tongue out, wagged it at him. He said, "That's unbecoming."
We stopped to buy flowers for my mother. Patients said hello to him in the store. "This is my daughter," he told them. I smiled, shook their hands. They adored him, doted on him. They told me immediately about his care, his kind surgeon hands, his steady swift operations. They were fans and behaved like people in love. We bought orchids for my mother.
In the car I said, "Have you seen those people naked?"
"Move those x-rays to the back," he said.
"Perfect life," I told him. "I want to drive around in this car. I want my wifey-pie to have dinner ready when I come home. I want to take sunny vacations and golf on Wednesdays."
He said, "When I die I want to come back as my daughter."
When I was thirteen and left for prep school the first time, he cried at the airport.
He cried again five years later when his brother died.
Since then I'm waiting.