Episode 27: A Hill Of Beans

BLACK COMEDY

By Michael G. Glab

© 2013

Twenty-seven —

[Life is so unfair. All Anthony wants to do is Change the World — and he knows he can do it the week of August 26th when the Democrats come to town to nominate their presidential candidate. There’s so much to do, so many people to call, so many plans to make. Abbie’s depending on him to take care of logistics in Chicago, man. This is important stuff, people! So why’s Anna bugging him? Here’s today’s episode of the serial e-novel, “Black Comedy.”]

BC Archives Link Final

“You owe me,” Anna says. “You owe our child. You owe us. And you know it.”

“I don’t know any such thing,” Anthony says. “Here’s what I know: you’re selfish. All you can think of is your needs. Y’know Casablanca? Where Bogie goes ‘Our problems are just a hill of beans in this sick world’?”

“Please, don’t start quoting movies at me.”

“No, no. Don’t tell me what to do. I’m making a point here.”

From "Casablanca"

The Point

“Anthony…,” Anna says.

“Do not interrupt. Our having a kid is just a hill of beans when there’s an imperialist war going on. Changing diapers, giving the baby a bottle — none of it means anything in the scheme of things. We’re on the brink of civil war! The brothers are rising up against The Man!”

“Anthony…,” Anna says.

“What did I say? Do not interrupt. Those are the important things. If I ignore them, I’m just as guilty as Lyndon Johnson or George Wallace. Don’t saddle me with that suburban fatherhood bullshit. This ain’t Pleasant Valley Sunday, man. I’ve got a calling here on this Earth. This is the time for all good men…, y’know what I mean?”

Anthony Pontone is pacing in the living room. Anna sits, uncomfortably, in her usual place, upright on the sofa. The due date is in two weeks. Dr. Francona says it’ll be August 28th. Anna’s sick and tired of carrying a medicine ball in her abdomen. She’s tired of a lot of things, although she really can’t articulate what they all are just now. It’ll have to suffice for her to ascribe all her angst and discomfort to being a fat brood sow.

“Are you finished, Anthony? Can I speak now?”

“I may be.”

“Okay. All I’m saying is please promise you’ll be with me when I go into the hospital on the twenty-eighth, or the twenty-seventh, or whatever. I know the Convention’ll be here and the marches’ll be going on but I really think it can all go on without you just for one day. I’m not asking you to join the Establishment! I’m not asking you to crush the black man! I’m not asking you to drop napalm on little Vietnamese girls!”

Vietnam

Anthony is aghast. “Oh, so it’s all a big joke to you, huh?”

“No, no. Please listen to me….”

“I won’t listen to this bullshit, man! I’ve got responsibilities….”

“Yes! Yes you do!”

“No, no, not your responsibilities. You don’t define my life.”

“Anthony — my God! — don’t make this anything more than it is. We’re having a baby! Just be there with me!”

“I can’t reason with you,” Anthony says. “You think like a woman!”

He stomps out of the house and into the middle of the night. Anna hears him open the garage door and get into the old Plymouth. She hears him try to start it.

He got the thing a couple of weeks ago from some old dude in Bridgeport. “It runs like new,” he told her over the phone from the old dude’s house. The house was only a couple of blocks east of the Amphitheater where Anthony’d been spending the last few days scoping out the area, trying to figure out where to stage the hundred thousand or so protesters that were going to come to Chicago. “It’s a 1963 Plymouth Sport Fury. Blue with white trim. You won’t believe the deal I got on it — a hundred and fifty bucks!” Anna could imagine the big grin on his face but still….

Plymouth

“We don’t have two hundred and fifty dollars,” she said quietly.

“No,” Anthony said, “not right now.”

But the guy was cool. He trusted Anthony. He said Anthony could pay him whenever he got the money. Anna thought, Hmm, let’s see. When will that ever be? She even considered actually saying that over the phone but decided against it. Anthony seems to be growing less and less tolerant of her negativity these days. Instead, after she hung up, Anna wondered if she really was being negative these days and, if so, why.

So Anna sits upright in the sofa, uncomfortable as always, and listens for ten minutes as Anthony tries to crank the engine. He tries at least twenty times. Twice he interrupts his efforts to shout “God damn it!” and “Piece of shit!” She hopes the neighbors don’t hear him even though she should know better.

Curtains are parting ever so slightly halfway down the block, almost as far as the Dudek house.

Finally, Anthony gets the thing started. The Plymouth chugs down the alley sounding like Oliver Douglas’s beaten-up old farm tractor on Green Acres. Anna’s not watching, of course, but she just knows it has to be spewing out blue smoke. She says a silent prayer that the old dude from Bridgeport won’t start calling the house tomorrow and asking where his money is.

As this very moment, Tree stands at her living room window, smoking Pall Malls and staring at Anna and Anthony’s place.

To be continued

 All fictional characters, descriptions, and situations are the property of the author.

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