“She died horribly,” said Mother, turning her face to hide her expression.
“Accident with a bear trap.”
“What was she doing with a bear trap?”
“What was she doing with a bear is the important question.”
I took a moment to picture the event.
“Well that’s a mercy!” said I at last. “I’ve always hated the woman.”
This seemed to put Mother in a good humour. Aunt Rosemary was, afterall, her own sister. They had once had a stage act called the Something Sisters & danced very well, but that of course was in younger days, before Rosemary developed her zoological interests and Mother developed no interests at all, but had a lot of husbands nevertheless.
After a time, while we sat in the dark, and Mother finished off the crossword, and won every sudoku, she said, “Forgive me for mentioning it, my sweet one,” and lit another cigarette. “This is perhaps not the thing a young girl wants to hear from her own mother. But I’ve got the impression lately that you have turned into a little bit of a shitkicker.”
“I cannot tell a lie, Mother.”
“Think of all the things you are good at.”
“That would take too long,” said I.
“Yet you sell popcorn for a living.”
“It is really first rate popcorn,” said I.
I tried to explain about the ennui, the weight of the centuries, the insidious creep of time, and self reflection in the dead of night, the velvet darkness, the void of silence, etc. etc. etc. “I am really suffering for the lack of a point,” said I at last. “I have all the diamonds & beauty & praise & brains, afterall. But it’s not enough.”
“Yes,” said Mother thoughtfully. “It is famously difficult to satisfy a Shitsville woman.”
“Is that an entendre, Mother? I like it.”
“I like it too. It is true anyway. It accounts for all of the junk I have got here.”
“That painting, for example.”
“Frank Sinatra gave it to me. Ava Gardner was the one who picked it out.”
“I hate it. They were both drunks. ”
“But really,” said Mother. “You must try to find an occupation that marries what you are good at and what you enjoy. Besides the obvious.”
(She didn’t want me to follow in her footsteps.)
I took some time to think.
“Well, Mother… I am very good at insulting people & offering unasked-for opinions on many subjects, and I enjoy it very much.”
“Oh!” said Mother. She looked distraught. “Are you a hipster?!”
“Oh, Mother!” said I. I was close to tears. “The things you say to me!”
“Ohh, you meant you could be a sort of reviewer,” she said. “You really frightened me for a minute.”
“Generally reviewers are required to take some kind of interest in contemporary culture & modern life,” I sniffed. “So that is OUT.”
“Then you could be like Truman Capote & Dorothy Parker & all of those tits, and live off writing thinly veiled portraits of your friends and family.”
“Mother – Mother – Mother, that is something I would never ever, ever do*. It would be such an absolute betrayal of trust*. And I’m afraid they would not be very interesting or complimentary.”
“But they are your own friends?!”
“It is their one redeeming feature.”
“So that is OUT too, I guess. Maybe you should just forget about a career and do what every other woman does, which is try to give meaning to a meaningless life by pursuing meaningless & uninspired love affairs with unworthy gentlemen.”
“Oh, I’ve done all that, that’s all been done,” I said, waving my hand to get the smoke away. “How do you think I got so bored in the first place?”
“Why? What happened with your last boyfriend?”
“He was largely a somnambulant boy. He only remembered we were dating when he was drunk, then would pass out before he had a chance to do anything about it.”
“Why don’t you try dating someone who is not an alcoholic?”
“Because then we would have nothing in common!”
Footnote: *a lie.