October 6, 2016

“I’ve asked the Iscariots over for potluck

and a game of bridge.”

You’ve what?

“On Friday.  I hope that’s okay.”

I guess there’s not much point in objecting, now, is there?

“Don’t be like that, Joe.  They’re our neighbours.”

Well, I hardly have a choice, do I?  You’ve already

made the invitation.

“I tried you at the joinery.  The line was busy.”

Well … it’s done, now.  When are they coming?

“I could call and cancel.”

Drop it, Mary.  It’s going to happen.  When are they coming?

“About six.  They’re bringing one of her casseroles.”

I was afraid of that.

“I’m making my Chicken Tetrazzini on noodles.

The one with a can of soup.  Easy as pie.”

Well, I’ll be able to eat that at least.

“I know you love my Chicken Tetrazzini.  And I’ll

take a chiffon cake out of the freezer.”


“There’s ice cream, too.”

Are they bringing that broody kid along?

“You know they are.  They never leave him anywhere alone.”

They’re probably afraid he’ll burn the house down.

“That’s not fair.”

Jesse will find any excuse …

“I know.  That’s why I want you to talk to him.”

They just don’t have anything in common, Mary.

“Jude’s a decent kid, I think.  He’s just an only child

with no friends.”

All he does is sit around all day reading comics

and watching the Donna Reed ShowAnd they let him.

“Exactly.  It’s not entirely his fault.”

He’s unwholesome, like some kind of poisonous

mushroom that never sees the light.  I’m afraid to look at

his palms.

“Come on, Joe.  Why don’t you set up the extra card table

in the rumpus room?  Maybe they could work on a

puzzle or something.  Or play Scrabble.  Jesse could bring

down his record player and they could spin some 45s.”

Jesse’s been asking me if he can spend some evenings after school

and weekends at my shop.  The coffee table he’s making is really

coming along.

“If he spends all his time on his woodwork, he might not

get to university or amount to a hill of beans.”

What?  You don’t want him to follow in his father’s footsteps

and be a lowly carpenter?

“Stop it, Joe.  You know what I mean.  We’re not putting $15

a month into his Gerber Savings Plan for nothing.”

I’m not going to pressure him to stop working on his coffee table

just so he can keep that weirdo company making a puzzle while

we play bridge upstairs with his weirdo parents.”

“You don’t know he’s a weirdo.”

Just look at his parents.  Chester’s building a bomb shelter

in their basement.  Lorna makes kids sing songs for their treats

at Hallowe’en and then gives them Cheez Whiz on celery sticks

wrapped in wax paper.  The kid never had a chance.

“Which is why you should be nice to him.  You don’t

know Jude’s a weirdo.  He’s just quiet.  A loner.   It’s kind

of pathetic, really.  It would really do him some good to spend

a little time with Jesse.”

He’s a Class-A weirdo and you know it.  Didn’t you think it was

just plain bonkers when they were here at Passover last year and he

criticized you about all the makeup and perfumes and nail polish

in the bathroom?

“He just made the point that a lot of people are going

without while some of us spend money on trivial things.

He’s right, you know.”

He’s a visitor at someone’s house and he …

“I admire him, frankly, for saying what he believes.”

Jesse’s eyes just about popped out of his head.  If he was

a little less like you, Mary, and a little more like me, he’d have

drifted him.

“Jesse would never do that.”

I know. I know.

“It was an awkward moment.  He didn’t like what Jude said—

I felt uncomfortable too—but Jesse is very forgiving.”

Yeah, well, if some kid visiting my house had criticized my

Mom like that when I was Jesse’s age, I’d have drifted him.

Pow!  Lights out!

“Well, that’s one difference between you and Jesse, then,

isn’t it?”

You’ve got that right.

“Maybe not a bad one?”

Well … He could be a little more … you know …

“He’s very forgiving.  An amazing kid.”

Well, he’s a helluva young carpenter.  I’ll give him that.

“That’s true too.”

So …

“Will you talk to him?  About staying in on Friday night,

with Jude, to keep him company?”

Alright, already.  I’ll talk to him.  Now, get me a beer.

“You’re a dar …”

I know, I know.  I’m a darling.  A darling with no balls.


I used to have balls.  Not now.  Do all men lose

their balls after they get married?  Or is it just me?

“Joe, please!”

Not that I needed them, as things turned out.

“Now, don’t you start …”

Make it a Black Label.  A Carling Black Label.  A Carling

for your darling.


P.W. Bridgman lives and writes in Vancouver, Canada.  He has published short fiction in Litro UK, Litro NY, GrainThe Antigonish ReviewThe New Orphic ReviewThe Moth Magazine, London Grip, A New Ulster, Easy Street, Section 8 Magazine, The Mulberry Fork Review, Aerodrome and other literary periodicals and e-zines.  One of his stories was short-listed for the 1994 Canadian National Magazine Award for Fiction; another placed first in the Pottersfield Portfolio short fiction competition in 1998.  More recently Mr. Bridgman had a piece of his work short-listed for the 2010 U.K. Bridport Prize (flash fiction category) and two of his short stories placed in the Leonard Koval International Fiction Competition (in 2012 and 2014) and were published by the Irish publisher, Labello Press, in its Gem Street anthologies for those years.  Mr. Bridgman’s Standing at an Angle to My Age — a selection of short fiction — was published by Libros Libertad in 2013.

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