Issue Twenty-One - Winter 2013

It’s All About Teeth, in the End

By Brian Doyle

And while I am on the subject of elementary school holiday music productions, which I feel should be regulated like any other controlled substance, I am reminded of the Easter pageant, again at Saint John Vianney School near the Atlantic Ocean, when another one of my brothers, not the one who suddenly stepped forward during the Christmas musical and sang when you’re out of Schlitz, you’re out of beer, which still sends my father into a happy coma when he remembers it, emerged from an enormous cardboard Easter egg on the stage and said in a voice that shook the rafters, Jesus Christ, it’s hot in there, which caused our father to laugh so hard he sprained an eyeball, he said. Bless my hoary soul, says my dad when I reminded him of this last night, do not under any circumstances remind your mother of that, or she will spit her tea on me, which she does on a regular basis when caught by surprise, which I think indicates a problem with her dentures. If we do not pay close attention to dental engineering, I feel, the terrorists will have won, which is a good example of the way my dad talks, sailing smoothly from the earth into an asteroid field without turn signals, and often laughing so hard at his own narrative that he loses his spleen and has to search under the couch cushions for it, as he tells his granddaughters, who gaze at him in amazement like children gaping at the endless stars.

My dad says the Easter pageant slid into a dullness so thorough after Peter’s remark that he fell asleep and drooled on himself such that a pool formed and the National Guard came, but my mother, by now on the extension phone, says this is a roaring lie, it was the Coast Guard, which sets the two of them to laughing so hard my mom said she had to lie down or there would be an accident and hell to pay, so my dad commandeered the conversation and said he could remember at least ten mortifying and hilarious events for each of the children, which is a total of eighty incredible moments, if you do the math, which was never exactly your strong suit, my boy, which reminds me of a story. This is how my dad talks, like a driver who is parading along only slightly over the speed limit and suddenly he sees a cat that he can get an angle on if he guns the engine. It was hard enough for you to get the concept of paired body parts down when you were a lad, says my dad, you were always losing track of how many feet and hands you had but also losing shoes and gloves at a terrific rate, not to mention the time when you started losing your pants also, it was unnerving for everyone concerned to see you come trotting around the corner from kindergarten wearing only your eyeglasses. But my point is that while you finally did grasp the concept of two hands and feet and ears and eyes, probably during college, I vividly remember the one time your brother Kevin the math genius sat down to help you with your homework and he grew so frustrated that he chewed and swallowed his own teeth, which is why he also wears dentures today. It’s all about teeth in the end, as Saint Luke says in the gospels.

This is how my dad talks, which is why his appearances as a lector at Mass, for example, draw such crowds, but my brothers and I think that he is more on his game at home, where he does not have to wear a suit and tie, and can wander around in the slippers he has had since he served with Lincoln in the Revolutionary War, as he says, waving his cigar like a wand, and talking about the time our sister spent a week trying to teach a kitten to speak. I admired the child’s open heart, says my dad, but after a week I had to take her aside, when your mother was out of the house, and point out that cats, even tiny ones, are the spawn of Satan, and many years ago Saint Matthew forbade them to speak. Yet cats, as I informed your sister, do have one use in this world; they are why God invented cars, as it says somewhere in the Gospel of John.

Copyright Doyle 2012