fuck ain’t even kind of Texan. Was that worm piece of shit insect of an agent
Bill’s idea to have Karl wear the ten-gallon hat, beef up the accent and fool
three million loyal viewers into believing his fat ass wasn’t born and raised
in Toldeo, Ohio. PhD. My ass. He went and changed his name to it. Dr. Karl
McCardle, PhD. How he signs checks and everything. Womanizing cunt scab barely
got his high school diploma. Now, you don’t even want to know how many
housewives and house husbands punch in every weekday and listen to the dung
that oozes from between those thick pork links he calls lips. They really shake
the stupid tree to find these couples to clasp hands and hang on every
ridiculous turd he spews at them. The handlebar moustache. Those beady little
eyeballs. The monthly teeth-whitening. Don’t get me started on the fake hick
monotone, especially in his favorite catch phrase to voicey husbands: “Siddown. Okay? And shut up.”
He made that one up all on his own.
They call him The Voice
of Family Values. Maybe his people maybe oughtta see what goes on in his
dressing room, or ask me, because all they’d have to do is ask, about his
pocket-sized flashlight, the pepper shaker collection from Sao Paulo, or why he
goes through a vat of Crisco every month. Even if people did know, after seven
years of prime-time marriage counseling, structuring their lives on his
retarded advice, they’d have no choice but to find it in their hearts to
let me get this straight. You: Janelle. You’re sick and tired, of waiting for
Jim to come home at night, sometimes as late as eleven or eleven thirty?
And furthermore, this has
been happening as often as two nights a month?
Jim, does this sound about
right to you?
Yes it does, Karl.
And this is where they boo, even though they don’t know what in
tarnation they’re booing.
It was his fake wife’s idea to do the spoken word tour. Her
name’s not really Holly. Now they’ve gone and made her a producer because she
threatened to come forward and tell the press she’s a paid actress, hired so
the world wouldn’t think Karl’s married to what Bill calls a whale-sized,
chain-smoking potty-mouth. They want to kill me. They’ve had secret meetings
about it. Maybe it’ll be a sudden pillow, or a piece of chicken wire or a
tragic leap from the third-story window of our ranch house. Don’t see what
stops them really, since the public would go on believing Karl spent the last
twenty years lying next to God damn Holly, that it was that anorexic,
horse-mouthed, bitch-bomb who stuck by him when he was paying rock-heads in
alleys for a ten-dollar butt-rape and landing his sorry ass in county. Of
course, those records were mysteriously lost seven years ago when he sold the
idea for his dumb-ass show to the network.
All right. All right.
Let’s find out where Jim’s been going that’s not home to his wife who’s been
loving and nurturing their four children all day, without, mind you, even
thinking to take a few hours for herself. Now, Janelle, where does Jim tell you
he’s been when he comes home at eleven or eleven thirty two to three times a
That’s easy, Karl. He
says he got off work, went to the Sports bar downtown with some of his
colleagues and couldn’t call because his cell phone died or ran out of
Here’s them booing again. Shit-eating cum garglers.
And Karl, you can smell
the beer on him soon as he pulls into our driveway.
Jim is that true?
No, Karl. It’s an
Why the need, Jim, to
booze it up with your pals three or four times a week?
Actually, it’s once,
maybe twice a month tops, Karl.
Okay. Jim. See where I’m
sitting? This is my chair. I know it’s my chair because it says Dr. Karl on the
back. See that? Now, when you finish medical school with a degree in Aspects of
Family Values and Therapeutic Application, then you can ask the questions.
I didn’t ask any quest…
Well you would have. And
that’s really the point, now isn’t it? In fact Jim, you just said something
that explained a lot about what’s really going on here. Janelle’s asking
questions too. The right questions? Who knows? But Jim’s answering in his own
way. He answers by living the life of a thirty-six-year-old account
representative for a well-known banking institution who ignores his responsibilities.
And he’s so secretly ashamed of what he does, that he answers everyone’s
questions with his own, and they don’t even pertain to what we’re talking
about. Let’s let the audience decide. What do you all think about the way in
which Jim’s trying to communicate?
Spoken word, my pussy. When they finish booing, them folks in
the audience just stare with their mouths wide open, looks in their eyes like
they’ve been zapped with a laser gun that makes them possessed, only it doesn’t
possess shit, it just makes them stupider, if that’s even possible. I saw a
couple interviewed after the show last night while I was watching TV in bed,
saying stuff like, “He’s so smart. He just understands everything.” And then
the wife, “Yeah. Wow.” Makes you just want to slap the stupid out of them.
Let’s ask Janelle. What
kinds of questions does Jim ask you when he comes home, that is, the times he
occasionally decides to make an appearance?
He doesn’t really say
anything, Karl. He pretty much just goes to bed.
How does that make you
Lonely. Real lonely,
Of course it does. Of
course it does. Because when your husband doesn’t care about anyone but
himself, and only comes home on weekends, it’s got to feel extremely alienating
and, what’s more, pretty dang lonesome.
Karl, I come home every
Jim: Siddown. Okay? And
The dumbshit audience goes crazy for it every time.
Karl flew me out to Vegas for this spoken word vomit ‘cause I
told him I wanted to play some slots and if he didn’t, I’d be dead when he got
back to Houston. That’s his weak spot. He knows I’ll do it. Next up on the tour
is Denver, then they hit every major city in the Midwest. Some day I hope to
Christ it goes public how his mama used to burn his balls with matches every
time he got himself a woody. In a way it’s horrible, sure, ‘cause he was just a
helpless boy, but if you think about what he became, he kind of deserved it,
just in reverse. Might be sometimes bad stuff happens to people for the stuff
they haven’t done yet. Makes me wonder when if something good’s waiting for me,
which is why I stick around, or if maybe the opposite is true, and everything
bad that’s been my life so far is God’s way of saying I can go ahead and sin as
much as I want because I’ve already paid for it.
Jim, I’m gonna give it to
you straight. It’s time to grow up. You’re a married man. College is over. You
have a responsibility to yourself, to Janelle, and most importantly to your
children, to set an example for the rest of them, so that they know, beyond a
shadow of a doubt, that you’re in this for the long haul. Now, here’s what I’m
going to prescribe. Janelle: You’re going to start calling Jim at the office
ten minutes before he gets off work, so we can bury the excuse of the cell
phone once and for all. When you get him on the phone, you’re going to tell him
that dinner is ready, but you’re not going to do it in a way that’s demanding
or intrusive, no, you’re going to tell Jim that you’ve cooked his favorite
meal, and that the children can’t wait to see their father.
Jim: I’m gonna compromise
with you. You are allowed to have drinks with your buddies one night out of the
month. You’re going to set a day, mark your calendar and you’re going to stick
to this day. Janelle: You’re not going to call Jim at work on this day, or try
to call his cell phone. You’re going to expect Jim home by ten o’clock and if
you can both stick to this compromise, you’re thereby giving each other the
necessary space, and if you have the necessary space, you’ll become more intimate,
and if you become more intimate, there will be less resentment from both of
you, and if you have that, you have the cure for selfishness and the neglect of
your family duties.
It’s not a sex thing when he answers the hotel room door naked.
Karl knows it’s the bellman. If you even flinch he’ll lay into you, give a
lecture on self-pride and why being ashamed of body is the ultimate enemy of
personal-esteem, and he’ll do it in the buff, even though he’s hung like a
gumball. He may even ask you to show it to him, and tell you, “See, you’ve got
nothing to be ashamed of.” Today, it’s no secret Karl’s in a foul mood because
he doesn’t try and explain anything, he bunches up those furry brows of his and
asks the poor kid if he has a problem. Of course, they always say they don’t
have a problem at all ‘cause if they do it’s their job. I go ahead and walk on
down with the bellman and the suitcases and wait in the limousine.
That’s a sex thing.
Karl’s placed a call for the hotel masseuse, something he does
regular, and she’ll do what they do when they get paid enough. Which is all
fine and good. Our understanding about such things goes back over twenty years,
when he was just Carl, not the author of Mr.
Matrimony and Conforming to Love: The
Dum Dum’s Guide to Husbandry, and it was just me who was fat. Maybe this
understanding could be a problem if the man hadn’t taken a spill off the
disgusting tree and never quite hit the ground. That and his tastes got
stranger and stranger and there’s just some places an old-fashioned gal from
Houston ain’t putting her mouth, no matter how stale and empty a marriage gets.
With him it’s never enough anyway. If it it’s not the mouth, it’s the
mini-flashlight, or the corncob, or he’ll whisper and plead for the empty root
beer bottle he’s so conveniently left on the night stand while he fingers
himself with three chunky digits. Why should what he does with other women
bother me when it’s not really cheating if he never actually puts his thing
into anyone? Oral never interested him.
Besides, me and him were always an arrangement. From the
beginning, him, a prematurely bald real-estate banker, and me, the overweight
daughter of his mother’s second cousin, twice removed. It wasn’t about
attraction, or seeing past what wasn’t there because of our charming
personalities. For Karl, he needed validation. All I needed was a ticket out of
my parent’s house, and all they were after was relief from a
twenty-six-year-old manic-depressive who didn’t even know how to drive.
Karl once called me a human balcony, which made me think he
meant my weight somehow, but really, he was saying he never fell for me, but
falling from me would eventually destroy him, and he planned to enjoy the
Janelle, does this sound
like a plan?
Yes, Karl, it sure does.
Jim: You game, buddy?
You bet I am, Karl.
Then they stand and applaud. Makes me want to cough up a great
big corn-filled turd.
But I’m just the secret that hides in the backs of limos where
they’ve made sure to put all the things Karl needs not to go ape shit. Like the
chocolate-covered Salmon bites, the pail of cookie dough with the marshmallows,
and a bowl of hard-boiled eggs, which I kind of like too. The newspaper talks
about that what’s-her-name twin who got shot out in front of this same hotel just
days ago. About how America is mourning, and who could do such a thing. I never
did see any of their stupid movies, never liked TV period, but the only
question this gal’s asking, and not asking out loud asking, is how could
someone not do such a thing?
Takes Karl a half hour to finish up with the masseuse and get
escorted to the limo by his bodyguard Lucius, a big bald bull-looking
ex-prisoner who, rumor has it, beat the ever-loving crap out of Barry Steele,
the famous action film star, when he used to guard his body. When Karl shuts the door and sees the empty box of salmon
chocolates, he rolls his tongue over his teeth and exhales, then sends Lucius
back into the hotel gift shop for more. Karl takes off the ten-gallon hat and
wipes the sweat-puddle from his forehead, wipes it on the seat, says, “Maureen,
did you get a look at that tiger the hotel has so beautifully displayed inside
“Might have. I can’t recollect.”
“Well, it’s a magnificent specimen. It occurred to me once I
exited the establishment that the animal had gazed upon me in a way that
suggested we understood one another. It was an extraordinarily moving
He straightens his bolo tie and sneezes three times. Most
people can’t tell if Karl’s sneezing or coughing up a lung. I stare out the
window, past the fountain in front of the lobby and the lines of limos, all the
while feeling his stare, trying to find an area of me he wouldn’t call
cottage-cheesy, every second that he looks justifying what he does with the
masseuses and God knows who else all the time.
I hear a pop, turn around and see a bus across the street
slamming on its brakes. Can’t tell because of the glare what’s happening, but
it sounds like fireworks inside. Then folks are running out of there like it’s
on fire. My eye catches someone looking my way from a high window in the Wild
Western Hotel across the street, a real pale thing, looks like she’s got bright
red hair and a rifle, although, it could be the other way around. Now she’s
gone as I look down and there’s a million rocks of glass in my lap and my ears
are one constant test of the emergency broadcasting system. To my left, Karl’s
having trouble breathing, as his white button-down’s blossoming red. Bastard
looks at me like it’s all my fault. He even half-points.
Maybe there’s something about it like when you see something
simple, might be finding a quarter on the ground at the department store, or
getting a call from a long lost friend, or hearing a song you ain’t heard in
years and right when it happens, you remember dreaming it the night before.
Maybe that’s why none of it surprises me even a smidge.
Now here comes Lucius running out the lobby doors with all
kinds of security folks in tow. I watch Karl gasp his last stupid breath, the
sounds of meat in his throat and blood gargling like mouthwash filling the car
and something makes me smile, and that smile, whatever kind you want to call
it, is the last thing that fat piece of non-Texas shit sees in his worthless
life besides the ten-gallon halo I cover over his eyes before I act like being
the heir to the Family Values fortune could never even a little bit replace the
overgrown, hairy, barbecue pit and warped leather smell I don’t have to wake up
next to ever again. If they only knew through the tears and mucus running down
my face, two words and two words only was fermenting in my brain:
I’ll dedicate it to the red-haired angel from yonder.