I am grateful for “my private slaughter house”

Everyone new to them, asks if Nie and Nan are sisters.  They both hate this.  They see no resemblance.  Nie is actually Irish and Nan is “sorta” biracial identifying as mostly black.  They both fight over visiting Tomo who is Japanese.  Tomo likes everybody but wishes he met Nie before Xander and Xander is biracial identifying as British and looks white but he’s from India.  Jay is the All American white boy fed on superhero comics and planning to feed the world with them as a grown up.  Kris is almost a translucent blond she’s so pale but NOT an albino and she understands how mean ducks are.  How they bite and do not let anything but water roll off their backs. . .

Nie questions my “Hope” because she doesn’t know why I still have it and so as if to argue me off some ledge, she asks me, “Have you ever read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair?”

“No.” I say,  “But I actually own a copy.”

“Well read it and then after that, tell me if you still have hope.”

“Okay.” I say to her with good intentions but somehow I know I won’t read it.  I know I will look at it.  At the spine of the paperback.  And consider it like all those times before.  And now, I think about how it has sat there on my shelf for years… just waiting for me to lose all hope.  So I tell Nie, “A book can’t make me lose hope. If a book were going to do that, I’d have hung myself after reading the Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace.”  And then I can’t help a small shudder.  Since Nan decorates her office cubical with John Woo action movie stills, she simply takes her bulky sweater off to wrap around my shoulders, mistaking my repulsion with her own concept of Nie being stingy about the heat.

“The Jungle is a much shorter novel.  Just read it and then get back to me.”  Nie grunts.

“You’re daring me to lose hope?”

Ex-act-lee.”  She says and she doesn’t quite smile when she lets out a “Heh, heh” for a laugh.

We all watch Nie chop onions and tomatoes for the salsa and she asks me to do the limes and Nan the avocados for Nie’s famous guacamole.  Xander  hovers around us at the counter and eats nacho chips plain.

“Are you going to pour the bag into a bowl so we can all have some?”  Nie asks him and Xander shrugs.  “What bowl do you want me to use?”  He asks.

“Uh, maybe the giant one in front of your face?”

Xander silently pours the bag into the bowl and then wanders to the parlor where Jay is watching a Green Hornet re-run.

Nan winks at me and smiles like we’re cozy together in winter.

“Xander’s such a man.”  Nie says as she presses a clove of garlic, and she lets out another, “Heh, heh.”

Tomo is as close to Nie as he can manage, sitting on one of the high stools, and he stops swinging his feet from time to time like it helps him listen.  He asks Nie, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Nie says, “Tab’s never read The Jungle, Tomo.”

Tomo shakes his head no.  

“She lived in Chicago.  She’s not from there.” Nan explains to Nie.

Ex-act-lee.”  Nie says.  “Heh, heh.”

I tell Nie, “Rahm says he has an idea for Chicago.  He says, why not volunteer the Francis Parker School kids for community service?  He’s pretty sure that’s the solution to gang violence.  Get the affluent white 8th graders who need to work off their hours in a drug rehab program, to teach the poor black kids how to read.”

 “Diabolically ingenious.”  Nie says. “He doesn’t have to pay for the literacy program if the rich kids are required to volunteer and while the rich kids are being supervised and kept sober they act-tually think they are being mentors.  Rahm’s SO stomach and NO heart.”     

“Who wants to take turns reading The Jungle out loud?” Kris asks sarcastically and she laughs in an exceedingly high pitch. 

Nobody laughs or answers her.

“So hey… after the tamales, who wants ice-cream?” Xander proposes and he sounds tremendously hopeful.

Nan, Jay, Kris and Tomo all race to raise their hands.

And Nie goes, “Awww Xander, you have such a big mouth.  Heh heh.”

***

The Smiths “Big Mouth Strikes Again” (audio) is being posted here for NO COMMERCIAL PURPOSES.

“Big Mouth Strikes Again” Lyrics:

Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking
When I said I’d like to
Smash every tooth in your head

Sweetness, sweetness I was only joking
When I said by rights you should be
Bludgeoned in your bed

And now I know how Joan of Arc felt
Now I know how Joan of Arc felt
As the flames rose to her Roman nose
And her Walkman started to melt

Bigmouth, bigmouth
Bigmouth strikes again
And I’ve got no right to take my place
With the human race

And now I know how Joan of Arc felt
Now I know of Joan of Arc felt
As the flames rose to her Roman nose
And her hearing aid started to melt

Bigmouth, bigmouth
Bigmouth strikes again
And I’ve got no right to take my place
With the human race

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