“Leaving aside the enormous hubris of your project of writing the definitive biography of me,” said the skeleton of my father, “let’s put the shoe on the other foot, shall we? How would you like your life summarized the way you’re trying to do with mine?”
I would hope the summary would start off at 800 pages or so and get boiled down to a rich, flavorful reduction of about 300. I’d hope it would be written by somebody who had a right to hate me but who loved the best of me nonetheless. That it would highlight things like my sense of humor, my almost conceited sense of humility, my inviolable sense of fairness and relative openness to a well-reasoned argument against my position, that I tried my best to practice what I preached, treated people the way I’d like them to treat me, listened well and things like that. If all that was in there, fine, then, add in my inability to make a living, my self-righteous streak, my exasperatingly inexplicable procrastination, my poor housekeeping, my tendency to get very angry when I’m being fucked against my will, the torrent of unconscionable words that fly out of my mouth when I’m in that state.
“As if your overflowing toilet bowl of a mouth were your worst flaw,” said the skeleton. “Look, all I’m saying is it’s very easy for you to sit there, living a penurious life off the money I worked hard for and left you, tapping out this critique of my life.”
It’s very easy for me. Clearly. I finished the entire job in about twelve hours, done. Sent the randy little tramp over to the agent who sold it, tarted it up a bit more, to the publisher, who assigned a marketing expert editor to make the whole thing a bit more titillating. Yes, very easy for me, dad.
“You know very well that’s not what I mean. Look, for one thing, you’ve never endured the ultimate test of a person– parenthood. Until you’ve faced the challenges of raising a child, how can you really judge somebody who has?” said the skeleton.
I’ll give you a half of a point for that one. And while I’m giving points, I’ll point at six terrible parents we both know, nightmare parents who destroyed their children utterly. And let’s not forget the loving, excellent parents who did everything right and raised children who turned out monstrous in one way or another. Look, there’s four of those perfect parents, right over there. Is how good a parent you are really the ultimate test of what kind of human being you are? Maybe so, I’d have to think about it, I really don’t know. Surely, though, it’s a bit feeble as a critique of your definitive biographer, that he never raised children, don’t you think?
“I don’t know. I’m just defending myself here, as anyone having their portrait carved for eternity would. I suppose if you don’t call this my ‘authorized biography’ I really have no right to complain. You are giving me a voice here, which is pretty sporting of you, I have to admit. I just… it’s just the idea of someone writing the definitive story of my life. It just hit me and I had sort of a ‘what the fuck?’ moment. You know, who died and made you king biographer?”
You did, pops.
“Stop with the ‘pops’, would you? You never said it when I was alive and it’s a bit of an affectation, wouldn’t you say? It comes off as disrespectful too, and undermines your credibility.”
If you say so, pops.
“Fuck off, then, you little wise ass, and transcribe my brother’s draft obituary, better. Would you do that?”
Sure, I’ll do it right now.
“Yeah, just like you’ll take the garbage out. I told you, with a pained smile, how pleased I was that you never gave me shit about taking the garbage out. You remember that? Every time I asked you if you’d taken the garbage out you told me very pleasantly that you hadn’t yet, but that you would do it. Service with a smile. Except I always wound up taking the garbage out myself. Didn’t I?”
I took it out a few times. Plus, I almost always dragged the empty garbage cans back to the side of the house the next day.
“You’re a fucking piece of work, Elie.”
Aren’t we all, dad?