with the Wardens


Is your soup all right, dear, you’ve hardly touched it.

Chintz soup with knotty pine croutons

It’s fine, Mom, fine.

which contains a poison so subtle I can’t taste it and it doesn’t kill me until I eat something else special that isn’t served at home. What don’t we ever eat? Shrimp. He hates shrimp. So I go to Fisherman’s Wharf, order shrimp, die, and they can’t trace it to him.

How’s The Girl?

Shit starts already. Usually waits till main course.

Everything’s fine with Jennifer, Dan. She said the soup was fine.

Did I say anything about soup, Maggie? Did the word soooop come out of these lips?

Worse when he’s out of uniform. Another uniform under his skin.


The Girl says she’s fine, Maggie.

She said the soup was fine, Dan, that should be enough.

You have a precise mind, dear. Did you know that? Your mother has a precise mind, doesn’t she?

Someday Mom’s chopping onions and he turns his back and she sneaks up behind him with the cleaver. And she can’t do it, she drops the cleaver and cries, right by the breakfront and he says nothing, does nothing, except every dinner after that he sets the cleaver next to her plate instead of the knife, doesn’t say anything, daring her, reminding her, she takes it back to the kitchen, brings back a dinner knife and that happens every night every night. Until.

Don’t you think a household capable of precise distinctions should engage in rational analysis?

What are you talking about, dear?

Too late, soup’s done. Have to wait. The Girl will stay at the table. Maybe she has something she wants to get off her chest. Clear the dishes, Maggie.

This is bad.

You do have something you’d like to get off your chest. Don’t you? Princess.

Accidents happen on base. Jerk backed over by a halftrack. Kid boiled by the steampipes, it could happen to you.

Ah, brisket. Maggie knows I love that brisket. Come and get your reward, Maggie.

Oh, I don’t.

Yes, you do.

This is bad. Slaps her on the ass in front of me. Lovey dovey knife fight.

As I said, we need to exercise our capabilities. What would you say, Princess, is the difference between a slut, a harlot, and a whore?

Dan, please.

I know you’d rather go first, dear, but let’s give The Girl a chance. Do you see a progression in terms? Don’t they give you these kinds of questions in college? Slut is to harlot as harlot is to whore? That would make harlot the Golden Mean.

Don’t know what you’re talking about, Dad.

What does a whore do, Maggie?



She prostitutes herself.

That’s not precise, is it, Maggie? Many are prostitutes but few are whores.

We don’t have to talk this way, Dan.

Princess, your mother’s not making fine distinctions. I’ll deal with her later. Let’s start on familiar territory. How do you define slut?

Someone who gives it away for free.

So delicate. Did I tell you, Maggie, the brisket’s really great, really. And a whore?

Someone who makes a living at it.

Got a hard-on yet, Daddy?

And a harlot?

Sometimes she does and sometimes she doesn’t.

Where would you place yourself, precisely, on that spectrum, Princess?

I’m going in the kitchen, Dan. I’m not listening.

Sit down Maggie. You don’t want to miss the political part.

What do you mean political?

Going somewhere new. Somewhere buggy. Think about the fuckups, what they do to fuckups in the brig. Anything’s possible. It could happen to you. The Colonel who jumped off the bridge.

Eat up, girls, this is one of Mom’s specialties, brisket. What is this, dear, a red wine and onion sauce?


“So good. So right! Huh huh huh!” Isn’t that one of those Negro songs, Princess?


The political part. The Girl is up to something.

Does anyone want more stringbeans?

I say she’s up to something and you talk about stringbeans. Try to follow the conversation.

Garrotting, like they did with wire to the generals in the basement who tried to kill Hitler. That’s political.

You got Army Intelligence following me, Dad?

Coming from a little girl who I believe was caught fucking a young man in the 902 MI Group.

Dan, stop it, stop it, stop it.

If he pours the sauce down her blouse I’ll stick him, this time I’ll stick him. In the arm. Warning. Hear me thinking, Dad? Hear me thinking.

Princess. You’re wasting your time. You won’t find him. Your so-called brother is a keen disappointment, a family failure, that is to say, garbage. As good as dead in some junkie shooting gallery and I know you know what that is.

You don’t want to find him, Jen, dear.

Oh and I thought your mother had shut up. If he wanted to find you, Princess, he knows where to come. Fact is he doesn’t want to know you’re alive, doesn’t care whether you are on this planet or not. He’s a former human being.

The kind I need.

And the political point is, your so-called brother is better off dead. The more crispy-crittered his brain is, the better for all of us.

You don’t know the half.

You’re saying to yourself, Daddy doesn’t know the half of it. Daddy does. Instead of studying, Maggie, The Girl wastes her time searching among the drug garbage and the hippie garbage and the biker garbage and the negro garbage, a path that can only lead to disaster.

The Colonel who jumped off the bridge.

So you see, Princess, I know everything, and it is a burden on my soul. I’m sorry, Princess, I’m truly sorry you do not have a brother anymore.

Stew, you shit, you burned-out worthless fuck, where are you when I need you?