We were sitting down for dinner. As always, one of our kids--this time Lewis--was having a kid issue easily solved over the mashed potatoes and the meatloaf.
"It wasn't my fault," Lewis said. "Mooo-ooom. This meatloaf is dry."
"Not my fault," my wife, Iz, replied. "I just cook here."
Mysterious applause from the neighbors.
As Iz heaped a pile of dry meatloaf onto May's plate--dear May, with her pigtails tightly secured with yarn and her bright smile held up by childish innocence--I proposed a solution to Lewis. "Lewis," I said. "How is it not your fault?"
Lewis picked at his food for a moment.
"Dad. Really. It wasn't my fault because Jamie was letting me read off his test." There were chuckles from outside our dining room, probably the neighbors watching a sitcom. "I didn't want to do it, Dad, but his answers were right there, dangling off his desk."
"Like when my scab dangled off my knee a few days after I had that rollerskate accident!" May offered.
Again, weird laughing from next door.
"Son," I said, putting down both my knife and my fork as a way to signal a very important moment of advice. "Just because--"
"He's outside again." Iz, who hadn't yet picked up her own knife and fork, nodded to the front door of our living room, which was connected to the dining room. In fact, the dining room and the living room were the same room--with some creative furniture placement, we'd always made it seem like the one room was, in fact, two separate set spaces.
I followed Iz's gaze to the door. There were bright lights suddenly pouring in through the curtains of our front door window. And we heard a voice: "Yeah, this is where I used to live. Right here. It's where I grew up, and where I learned the importance of survival."
Lewis looked at me. "Dad, can he just--"
"Hush, son. Eat your... what is this?"
"Dried meatloaf," Iz replied. "You were eating it just a few minutes ago without questioning it." Again, the neighbors laughed and hooted a bit.
"Dried meatloaf. I mean, good meatloaf. Son, just eat what's on your plate and ignore--"
"When I lived here," we heard the asshole on our porch say as the lights shifted, "we were so poor I'd never think I'd be so rich now."
"Goddammit." Yes, I cursed. And I apologized. "Sorry, kids."
May gasped. Iz shot a look at me that should've been from a grassy knoll. Lewis assumed he was now off the hook and muttered, "Goddamn is right" under his breath. The neighbors laughed even harder than before, and there was a smattering of applause.
"Go on," Iz said, her eyes stuck to me. "Finish that sentence."
"Alright. Goddammit, I will. Goddammit, every time we sit down to eat, this asshole has another news crew following him up to our porch, where he talks about how poor he was when he lived here, and how he overcame his poverty, and do they honestly, every time, need to get footage of him standing on our goddamn porch talking about how awful it was for him to live in what is now our goddamn house?"
The neighbors--annoyingly--reacted to whatever was on their TV set with a loud 'Oooooooo' sound.
"I mean, every goddamn time there's a documentary about assholes, there's one scene where they go back to 'where it all began.' And it is always our goddamn home. Here we are, trying to have a nice life of dried meatloaf and working-class situations, and then this asshole is showing up on our porch to tell a film crew just how awful and hard-scrabble it was to live here."
Iz shifted her eyes. When she shifts her eyes, I always get it. It's a signal, always, and her shifting struck me in a way no outside light or laughs ever could.
"You can see how the neighborhood is now, but imagine how much worse it was when I was here," the asshole on our porch said. His voice, like the kleigs, and the neighbors' laughter, cut into our dinner. "It is my hope to inform people of just how awful it is to be in these homes."
I met Iz's eyes. Nodded, which is my own signal. "It's not dry meatloaf, son. And it doesn't matter what's dangling off what. You don't cheat."
The neighbors burst into applause. I assumed some resolution had been made on the show they were watching, but the asshole on the porch continued talking, as always, for another 30 minutes.
"We're a two-parter!" May shouted, clapping.
Inappropriate sharing, incomprehensible ramblings, uncalled-for hostility: yup, it's a blog.
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