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Baby Love

Baby Love

Ratings: (0)|Views: 179|Likes:
Published by Christopher Horton
It's about a guy in his mid-thirties at the crossroads of his life.
It's about a guy in his mid-thirties at the crossroads of his life.

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Published by: Christopher Horton on Aug 21, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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11/21/2012

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“BABY LOVE”
 A short fiction by Christopher Horton
“Don’t you think it’s time to think about settling down with one girl?”“Why? I already have a cat that interrupts me when I’m doing something I want to do.”Jack’s mother laughed. She had just turned sixty. More definitively, she was a professor of literature at a small New England college. Nonetheless, she had a healthy sense of humor. She and Jack had always gotten along. At least after he’d grown up.“I’d like to have a grandchild to spoil in my dotage.”“You? When I was growing up, you walked around saying, ‘sharper than a serpent’stooth is a thankless child’ and ‘I should have raised Dalmatians’.”“I didn’t say I wanted to raise another child---remember that. I said I wanted to spoilone.” Now Jack laughed. He could hear her pleasant, knowing---just shy of arrogant--- smilethrough the phone. He could picture her sitting in an overstuffed chair by the fire in her colonial house, while the snow drifted outside the windows. Miserable weather most of the year. Jack swiveled on his chair so he could see the Sunset Strip below his hill andthe flats of LA spread out in geometric light patterns as far as he could see under a clear desert night sky.“How did we switch from steady girlfriend to grandchild, Mother dearest?”“You’re ready for a big leap. You’ve more than mastered casual girlfriend.”“I think you’re confusing ‘casual girlfriend’ and ‘conniving starlet’.”They both laughed. It was pretty easy for him. He was thirty-five. And a successfulagent. And he looked like the high school quarterback he had once been. Jack was alsosmart enough. Eventually, his mother had resigned herself that her only son was not ascholar, but had, as she had snidely described others, but never him, a first rate secondrate mind. Nonetheless, she’d stuffed it full of things that mattered to her and smugly feltit did a lot for the quality of their conversations now. She also wryly admitted to herself that his charm and beauty had served him far better in the vicious world he had chosenand she largely ignored. When he was young, she called him, ‘Achilles’, because he was perfect, except for one little flaw---the nail on one of his little toes was wavy and bent.She didn’t hate the flaw, but it annoyed her because it was a constant reminder of theother half of his genes. His father’s toenail was the same. And his father’s father’s, andso on.“You sound like you’ve been talking to your father?”“The other week.”“Any great words of wisdom from the carpenter hyphen shaman hyphen bum?”
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Jack’s father also largely ignored the vicious world, too. They split up when Jack wassmall because they didn’t want to opt out the same way. Instead of academia, Jack’sfather never really gave up on the flower child way of life. Not in the deranged sense of the sad, often addled ghosts that still haunted some places in the canyons and VeniceBeach. Although he lived in Venice. Jack’s father was sane enough---on the surface, atleast---but still lived a life of subsistence and coffee shop debates.“He said, on the whole, he thought pot was cheaper and more reliable than women.”“He would. You were talking about women with him?”“Well, he is my father, as much as you try and skip that. And, I’d be up for settling downwith someone who really loved me.”“Then why don’t you?”“Maybe you guys set too high a standard.”“You are indeed a wretched, thankless child. I should have raised Dalmatians.”“No, really, Mom, I would settle down but I don’t want a starter wife.”“At least you’re a sensitive thankless child.”“Don’t tell anyone. It would ruin me professionally.”“That might be for the best. Maybe then you’d meet a better class of women.”“Don’t you need to go to sleep---it’s late out there.”“You always say that when you’re losing.”“You thought Felicia was alright.”Felicia had been the first, longest lasting, and probably nicest of the starlets. But that waseight years ago.“Everything’s relative.”“You said you liked her at the time.”“I said she was a rhinestone in the rough.”“Meryl Streep gets all those roles now. What else you got?”“Touche. What happened to that smart girl you were with?”“Brittany?”“I didn’t say she had smart parents. The architect.”“Brittany.”“She could always change her name. What happened to her?”Jack debated what to say. He decided to skip the opening she gave him---she hadchanged her name---and go with the truth, the brief version at least. He thought it might bring him sympathy points. After all, she was his mother.“She dumped me.”“The world shudders on its axis, then recovers.”“Thanks, Mom.”But he could hear kindness, sympathy, and maybe even a touch of outrage in her tone.But only because he knew her well.
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“Why?’“I don’t know. I guess she wasn’t that in to me.”Jack had no interest in discussing any details with his mother. Fun’s fun. And he knewshe knew that. So he just let the silence ride for a second.“Maybe I will go to bed. The fire’s burning down. I can dream about my grandchildren.”“Everyone should have a good fantasy life.”“What do you mean by that?”“I mean, it would be cool to have someone but I’m not falling all over myself to havechildren. Dad told me that you can have a great life if you don’t have children.”Every once in a while, Jack liked to pull her chain. She was smarter than he was, but hehad a weightier advantage. She was his mother. No contest.“That’s awful. When did he say that?”“Not when I was ten. A couple of years ago. At Thanksgiving. He said, ‘If you don’thave children, if you decide on Wednesday that you want to go to the Bahamas onFriday---you go.’ He’s got a point.”“What does he know about going to the Bahamas? Or about anything besides sitting onhis ass on the beach suiting himself?”“Like you always say, Mom, ‘blind pigs and truffles’.”“Wrong pig.”“Well, just the same, I’m not sure I’ll have kids.”“We shall see what we shall see. Goodnight, honey.”“Yes, mother. Goodnight.”Jack tossed the phone on the table. He did like talking to his mother, but it was wearying just the same. And sometimes, like tonight, it made him think more than he personallyenjoyed doing. It was much easier to just not notice. That was a virtue of a first ratesecond rate mind that his mother never could appreciate. He wasn’t sure he wanted tohave children. Even as a boy, he just couldn’t wrap his mind around doing that. He justhad to look at his folks. Clearly, about three weeks a year was his Dad’s capacity for involved parenting. And his Mom, yes and no---he’d been her top priority but she wentthrough the days with this “how did I get here?” expression on her face. And she wasalways busy. To Jack, it seemed like it might be way too much work for questionablerewards. He wondered if she remembered saying to him, “I hope you grow up and have ason just like you” at a couple of stressful moments. Yeah, he actually was pretty sure hedidn’t want to do it. He figured his Dad might have found a truffle.By now, he was standing, looking through his picture window at the neon radiating upfrom below. It was a lot more soothing than some damn blizzard. He did think that itwas too bad about Brittany. Or too bad about somebody like Brittany. It was gettingtiring to be alone. Not that he noticed that often. And not that he was alone that often, atleast literally. In fact, hardly ever. He was supposed to be at some party tonight. Anafter screening industry party at a club. Nothing better to make you feel alone in public.
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Daniel Essman added this note
Good story...you captured the Miasma. I especially like the incessant caricaturing, seeing of people as stereotypes, which made Brittany such a cypher. My San Francisco grandmother, who lived through Old Hollywood, called it that hell hole down south...and your dialog made me laugh...

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