HOLLYWOOD—Jason got lucky. On his second swing around the airport loop at LAX, there stood Mom and her luggage. She was not smiling.
Preparing for this moment of reunification Jason had burned sage inside the front seat of the Nissan Sentra to take away the old bad energy, but his day's hectic pace had prevented him, as he had intended, from supplementing his mental state with a brief but intense reading of his guru Mylanta.
Jason hopped out of the running car and gave Mom a perfunctory hug and felt her layers of manmade fabrics underneath, followed by a perfunctory “I love you.” She looked smaller than he remembered. Jason gave her a second, more heartfelt hug, but Mom pushed him away. Jason wondered how much bourbon she'd downed on the flight.
“Put my suitcases in the trunk,” she demanded.
The trunk opened, revealing a morass of file-filled boxes, headshots of Jason gazing earnestly, and Kit's stuffed animals. Mom sighed. Two police on the curb were rocking on their heels. A soothing female voice announced that the curbs were only for stopping and picking up passengers, and all violators would be prosecuted.
“You should have cleaned out your trunk,” Helene said and sighed again. “Just like your dad. Never planning,” she said, shoving a stick of spearmint gum in her mouth.
In order to make room for Mom's suitcase, Jason scooped stuff up from the trunk and heaped it into the backseat.
“You're looking terrible,” Mom said. “Too skinny.”
“I auditioned for a role as inmate in a concentration camp.”
“Did you get the part?”
“I didn't,” Jason said. “I couldn't concentrate.”
A patrol car drew up alongside Jason. The law gazed and told him to move.
“C'mon, ma. Let's get in the car.”
Her new permanent doo, which was anything but permanent, bumped on top of the cardoor rim and matted down. Jason pressed the accelerator before Helene had closed the door. She shrieked, and they were off. After a long silence, the kind of silence that congeals and could be easily sliced and put into loaves, Jason ventured, “So how was your flight?”
“So so. I didn't care for the noodles. They were soggy. The airline said it was fettucine Alfedo, but they couldn't fool me. It was noodles where you add boiling water and Parmesan sprinkled on top. I sat by some nuns from Toledo. They gave me a nasty look every time I ordered Jim Beam.”
When they moved all the stuff to the back seat, Jason realized, he had buried the beer- and coffee-stained copy—now torn in half—of Mylanta's Oneness. So he was all alone, on his own and left to fend for himself and deal with Helene's psychological booby traps. She started in:
“Eight years in Los Angeles and what have you got to show for yourself?”
The pre-Mylanta Jason would have automatically answered, I spent three hours breaking my back and cleaning my apartment. Jason sharply felt the need to exhume the Mylanta volume, such as it was.
“Mom you can be very negative,” he said at last.
“I'm not negative, I'm realistic. Have you got a girlfriend?”
Everything his mom said pressed buttons. Her remarks led down a corridor he wished didn't open up, and he judiciously chose not to go there. Silence was his only good option.
“Have you got a girlfriend?”
The question immediately reminded him of Kit, his daughter. It wasn't easy having a girlfriend or going to a movie, for that matter, when taking care of a worldly eight year old. It was dangerous to go the way of his thoughts: kids could be the cutest thing and they could also be stifling, selfish little creatures. Before he could manufacture a sufficiently watered-down response, his mom said:
“Nobody wants to go out with a wannabe actor. They're dime a dozen.”
Jason was boiling now. He had trouble focusing his eyes, let alone keeping his them on the road. Helene went on:
“You are thirty years old. Over the hill. They want young blood in Hollywood. . . You've done whatever you wanted. When he was thirty, your brother had already established his dental office in Shaker Heights.”
“Suzanne will be 30 her next birthday. What about her?”
“Suzanne is different,” she said.
He veered from an oncoming car. Its blaring horn shook Jason.
“She's a star.”
If there was a god, Jason would have dropped dead that instant, and Helene, dear mom, would have catapulted from the windshield after the car hit a tree. But there wasn't, and his ego, nasty, scrotal vestige of the psyche, kicked and writhed and screamed.
“Take me to Suzanne's new mansion,” Mom was saying.
“What?” Jason said.
“Take me to Suzanne's. I want to see my cute little granddaughter.”
(to be continued)
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