What Means What Now?
Photos by Janicza Bravo, featuring Johanna Parker
Did you know I was married? Of course you don’t. I didn’t tell you. I don’t really talk about her very often. To me, a wife is pretty much a backup plan. If I don’t get no shtuppin’ for a while, if my career falls apart, if I got no one else to turn to—you know, that kind of a gestalt. I got her holed up in a nice little place in the Valley. Nice house. Nothing too fancy. I keep telling her that it’s temporary, that she shouldn’t worry about the size. Bought her a dog so she could have someone to talk to.
When I’m around, I’m actually a very good husband. I don’t make her cook for me. I’m fine with going out for Chinese food or a nice salami on rye. I tell her that I got to go on a lot of location shoots out of town. I tell everyone she knows to repeat this if she asks. I try to limit my bringing her to functions, but even if there’s just no ditchin’ her there’s usually not a problem. Everybody plays ball in this town. They won’t tell if you won’t tell. It’s how things work here. We play by different rules, we take it when we see it, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Sure, I spread the schmeckle around, but she’s none the wiser. That means she doesn’t get hurt, and that’s all that matters.
Johanna. Beautiful. I mean, come on, I wouldn’t marry some Cyclops. What’s the point in that? She’s gorgeous, but I get bored. I can’t help it. It’s my nature. I always need the next thing. I can’t stay still or I’ll rust. That’s how I got to be who I am. But it’s time to check in, to make sure she doesn’t leave. Can’t lose my backup plan. Never know when you’re gonna need it.
I get to the house. I don’t take two steps in, and she’s off to the races.
“Where the fuck have you been, you piece of shit?! ‘On location,’ my ass! Yeah, you been out of town! You’ve been on location at Pussyslutville. That’s where you’ve been on location. Fucking every whore who’ll believe your lies and doesn’t mind a dick that smells like rotten mustard. You fucking pig. I should kill you. I should kill you and leave your body rotting on the floor of this fucking jailhouse you cooped me up in. You’re an animal! You’re a fucking animal!”
I try to console her. She’s crying. But she’s not the only one who’s crying.
“Hey, Jo, what is that?”
“What is what?”
“That. That crying. That’s a baby, isn’t it?”
And sure enough it is. A little girl. Cute as all get out. I actually start to get a little choked up. I’m a daddy. I’m a—
“She’s not yours.”
“She’s not yours. Since you’ve been gone I’ve been on a gardener fuck tear. Gardener dick for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Speaking of dicks, you should see the cocks on these gardeners. They’re golden and they’re huge, just like I like them. Not like yours. You put that little zit in me, and my vagina feels emptier than usual.”
She’s screaming about gardener dicks, the baby’s crying, and now the goddamn dog has joined in the mix, growling at me like I’m some sort of dybbuk.
“How could you do this to me, Jo? I give you everything. Anything you ask I give!”
“I asked for a husband! You’re not even a fucking man.”
She slaps me. It’s the kind of slap that would turn me on in a different context. Does this mean divorce now? What means what now?
“I’ll bring up the baby like it’s my own. How’s that sound, Jo?”
“It sounds like nothing. I knew I should have never married a Jew. My mother warned me. She said, ‘Those people are hated for a reason.’ I should have listened to her. You’d probably eat this baby if I left you alone with her. You’d mistake her for a baked potato or some shit like that.”
She slaps me again. And again. And again. I guess I deserve it.
I guess I’m single now.
This is the tenth chapter of Combover, Brett Gelman’s new novel about Hollywood, the beauty of the Jewish tradition, baldness, and murder. We will be serializing it until March.
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Excerpt from the Novel ‘Family Life’
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