A husband and wife and their adolescent son are having dinner at home, and the husband is complaining about his job at the law firm where he handles complex civil litigation involving private property rights, telling her a very long and involved story about the novel he is writing. The novel concerns a newly retired litigation attorney who wears Loro Piana cashmere sweaters and sunglasses on the golf course, and by a stroke of good fortune happens to be dating his ex-wife’s half-Italian niece, Gabriella, who’s twenty-three and lives in a West Village duplex.
“Not to be confused, of course, with your niece Gabriella who lives in the West Village,” the husband says.
Meanwhile the wife is thinking about a vacation at the Falls Resort at Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica that would serve as a second honeymoon that’s long overdue. A second honeymoon, however, that would include taking their son with them, because she’s that protective of a mother, a woman accused of being “overly affectionate” and “too coddling”. The Falls Resort at Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica is a perfect family vacation spot, her Pilates instructor told her. You can walk through the gardens and see seven different types of hummingbirds, also parrots, small lizards, and toucans. She loves the idea, even the name itself: the Falls Resort at Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica, such a beautiful place. She imagines herself relaxing, sipping mimosas under palm trees by a waterfall, doing Yoga outside at six in the morning, sitting in a whirlpool in a room with ceilings custom hand-made of laurel and almond wood. How cute, she thinks. The brochure describes the guest houses overlooking the jungle corridor and creeks as having “Eco-friendly designs, solar power, and a zero impact waste management system.”
While the wife is having this dialog in her mind, their son, who was recently hospitalised at St. Anthony’s and labelled “emotionally troubled” after a suicidal incident that involved swallowing several tablets of Benadryl and then chasing them with Woodford Reserve 90-proof bourbon, has begun to cry right there at the table. Out of nowhere, he is crying. The son is a straight A student, nicely groomed, an altar boy at church, one of the top students in his class at St. Mark’s Academy. After his release from the hospital, the son and his father developed a close bond. Most nights the wife could hear their laughter downstairs in the basement, where they watched syndicated episodes of Cheers! and Night Court. But now, at the table, the husband stops talking and looks at his son with a look the wife thinks is insincere and condescending and mean.
“Cheer up,” the husband says. Meanwhile the son is covering his face with his hands and making sniffling noises. The wife is stunned at what’s happening. She has always considered her husband, like herself, a person of great feeling and conscience. Someone who doesn’t react but instead exercises patience and active sympathy. So she reaches across the table to comfort her son.
“This is your fault,” she says to her husband.
The son laughs.
Her husband leans back in his chair and pretends to strangle himself.
Brandon Hobson is the author of The Levitationist (Ravenna Press). His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in NOON, New York Tyrant, Trnsfr, Gigantic, Narrative Magazine, and elsewhere. He is currently working on a PhD at Oklahoma State University.