Mary is cooking breakfast in an ordinary kitchen in a subdivision with a pool in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She pauses for a moment when she catches her reflection in the brushed metal surface of the new refrigerator. Mary is young—like, really young to have a seventeen-year-old son, but her face is tired, creased with the worry lines of motherhood. She looks at the microwave clock. It is almost time to head out; today she takes her oldest to college. She quickly puts the food on the table, and goes to call up the stairs, and stubbing her toe on the corner of the counter she cries out, “Jesus!” Hopping slightly on one foot she calls out again, “Jesus H. Christ!”
A thin, long-haired boy softly bounces down the stairs. He is good-looking like his mother, so attractive that he could have any girl, but because he never dated, everyone from his high school had assumed he was gay. Mary often asked him if he felt comfortable talking to her about these things, explaining that she would love him no matter what he “liked,” but he always stopped her and began to pray. Just like his father, she would think.
Mary takes a seat at the table and pours three glasses of juice, and begins to put food on his plate. He eats, complementing her on each specific component of his breakfast. “Mom, the eggs are perfect. Eggs are amazing, right?” “Mmm, I can’t believe you made vegetarian bacon I know it’s hard to find the kind I like, nice job.” “Mmmchckshmm,” he mumbles through a mouthful of toast.
There is a loud whistling, tuneless and jolly, coming down the hall, which stops when Joseph enters the kitchen.
“Good morning, kiddo! Big day, huh? Ready for it?”
“Yes, I think so.”
“Sure you don’t want to come straight to the furniture biz like your old man?
“You’re not my real dad,” he mumbles.
Joseph deflates immediately. Mary looks up at him, shrugging slightly as if this was a response he should have expected. “Here, sweetie, here’s your paper. Come eat with us.”
“Yeah, Joe, we haven’t said grace yet.”
Joseph took this as a peace offering and pulled a chair up to the table.
Bicker (n.) — From the Princeton University Undergraduate Admissions website: Five clubs engage in a selection process called “bicker,” in which students apply for membership, and current members bid, or bicker, for new members. It’s a voluntary process and any student who isn’t accepted may enter a second round of sign-ins for clubs with open membership.”
“Okay, guys, let’s do this one then take five. I’m exhausted.”
“We have a guy I talked to next, nice guy.”
“Jesus, is he Hispanic or something?”
“I don’t know, I got a Middle Eastern vibe.”
‘Wait, like an ethnic vibe?”
“What the fuck is an ‘ethnic vibe,’ you prick?”
“It doesn’t matter. Come on, guys, focus.”
“It says here that his interests are fishing, reading, mountain climbing—wait, wait, okay here it literally says “spending time with my dad” is that a joke or?”
“He seemed really sincere and interesting, maybe he just likes his dad.”
“Yeah, dude, not everyone’s dad almost went to jail because of Bernie Madoff.”
“What’s his major? Any sports? Clubs? Let’s go, we’ve got a lot to get through.”
“He plays ultimate Frisbee. Religion major. Says here he’s in a band called Fuck Judas.”
“Any chance he plays bass?”
“Why do you care if he plays bass?”
“Jimmy kept trying to fuck our bassist and she filed a harassment complaint or some shit, I don’t know.”
“Can we get back to this? Other stuff about him?”
“Is this the guy who you were saying bakes?”
“He bakes bread, that’s different than, like, cupcakes.”
“Who would he retro-hose?”
“Said he didn’t have an answer.”
“Kill fuck marry?”
“I talked to the guy—my God, nicest kid ever, but I mean he seemed a little vanilla, you know? White bread. But I’m just not sure that’s what we need.”
“I don’t know, I think he’s got something special we’re not seeing.”
“The whole point of this is that if he’s got something, we’re supposed to see it now.”
“He’s a good-looking kid.”
“He’s gay, right?”
“Uh, he bakes.”
“Okay, what? We have to play affirmative action and let in every kid who’s vaguely Hispanic-sounding and gay?”
“We actually don’t have anyone with that description, to my knowledge.”
“That’s kind of fucked.”
“Yeah, guys, come on, I think yes he’s cool.”
“I need coffee.”
“Let’s break. Okay what do we say? No one seems to have any real reason to say yes.”
“Maybe next year?”
“Great band name though.”
“Fine, fuck, whatever. Nice fucking guy.”
“Jesus Christ, someone get a hose.”