February 17th, 2003

Water Under The Bridge


Mom and baby Liz, at a playground near Riverside Drive, on the west side of Manhattan. Betty comes twice, three times a year to see her granddaughter.

"Okay, smile!" Tommy says.
"Come on, Liz. Let's see a smile now. Just for daddy."
Betty and Tommy don't ever talk about the past, because it's better left alone. Too many painful memories. Water under the bridge.

But he thinks about it all the time. Maybe she does too.

The light glints off her glasses. Which seem too big for her face.

Twenty years ago. Remember?

Her glasses reflected the bright light of the window, hiding her eyes.

"What's wrong?" she said.
"I've committed a terrible crime," Tommy said, dramatically lowering his head and pinching the bridge of his nose with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand.
"What crime?" she asked.
"A truly awful and horrible crime. The violation of an ancient tribal taboo."
"Tell me."
"I'm a usurper."
"Oh, for Christ's sake Tommy quit talking bullshit!"

He looked at her, took in the full weight of her annoyance.
"My father is in the hospital," he said. "Two broken ribs. And I did it."
"Because he was drunk and he attacked me. Three times. He threw a bottle right at my head. Then he charged. Twice. I was defending myself."
"Two broken ribs?"
"Yes. He has the bones of a bird. I threw him against the kitchen cabinet as easily as you'd toss a dead sparrow. He has no substance at all."
"Oh, my God."

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