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Jonathan Goldstein

Lenny Bruce is Dead

AT McDonald’s, when I’m throwing out the stuff on my tray, there’s a point where I get scared that my wallet could have been on there, too. I always think, as everything is tumbling into the garbage, that I might have tossed my wallet on the tray and forgotten. It always feels possible.

‘I’ll never do stuff like that when I’m a father’, Josh said.
    ‘You are a better man than I, Gunga Din’, Chick said.

Josh thought that bachelorhood would mean he could wear dresses all day, but he never got around to buying any. He woke up at noon and watched The Flintstones. He played Air Supply’s Greatest Hits while lying on the floor pretending to have a mental breakdown. He memorized Richard Pryor routines. He went out to buy beer in his sweatpants. He lay under the bed and pretended he was on Devil’s Island.

At the bottom of the yogourt, there was something black and beetle-like. He suddenly felt a gob of vomit move up through his throat. It made him feel ten years old.

At the shopping mall there was a teenage boy who handed out pieces of paper.
    ‘You are going to die’, the papers read.
    Those people thought they were getting coupons.

Josh’s father, Chick, wanted to write a book about growing up in New Jersey and he wanted to call it The Corner.
    Josh wanted to get his father started. He pulled a piece of loose-leaf paper from his binder and drew the cover. It was a picture of people yelling and fighting and old men sweeping. In the centre was Chick and he was screaming with his hands over his face.
    He pulled out a second piece of paper and wrote an introduction.
    ‘The corner was where men met to play cards and fist fight’, he wrote. ‘This is one man’s story.’

Before Josh sat down, he always checked the toilet water. There were stories of snakes that had crawled up miles of pipe looking for sunlight. Sometimes, right in the middle of everything, he would get up and look down between his legs.

Chick once told Josh about an old army buddy of his who went around kissing women on the hand every time he was introduced. One day he kissed the cherry on the end of a woman’s lit cigarette. His lip was burned so bad he had to go to a speech therapist. It was one of his father’s this-is-what-you-get stories.

Frieda, Josh’s mother, would bring over food she made for him. Sometimes Josh ate it from a pot because all the dishes were dirty. He called it ‘cowboy style’. When the coffee table was too cluttered and he had to eat it off his chest, he called it ‘deathbed style’. One time someone came over and left a skateboard behind. He ate off that for a while, wheeling it behind him on a shoelace as he went from room to room. He called it ‘little boy lost’.

Chick smacked his thighs, searching. Frieda called it the car-key dance.