(In the early 1990’s Eve Ensler [author of The Vagina Monologues] was editor of a quarterly literary magazine in New York City called Central Park. For the opening pages of the Spring ’92 issue of Central Park Ms. Ensler chose this story of mine. She wrote me a lovely letter in which she called the story “a perfect, perfectly surreal statement on the American family and all that surrounds it.” The fact that I had no idea what she was talking about dampened my appreciation of her letter not a whit.)
The Story of My Life
Once upon a time there lived a man named Dewey Watkins, and his wife Bipsy. Dewey and Bipsy lived in a pretty pink house on a big broad street in a whole neighborhood of pretty houses. The roof on their home was painted a happy kelly green. Sometimes, especially in lovely weather, their roof would hover just a few inches above their house.
Dewey and Bipsy would be at home, watching television or dusting, and they’d notice a thin strip of blue sky lining the top of their living room.
“Look!” Bipsy would say. “Roof’s up again!”
“I’m so afraid!” Dewey would cry. “Wait. Now I’m bored.” Dewey was a complex fellow. Kind of.
Dewey worked at the Spongee Bread factory. His job was to make sure that each and every loaf that made it into the red and white checkered Spongee Bread bag was suitably soft and pliant. He sat on a stool before a conveyor belt that slowly moved past him a never ending train of Spongee bread loaves. With an expert touch, Dewey would reach out and prod each one. If his little poke mark hadn’t disappeared in about two seconds, well then, that loaf of bread just didn’t have what it took to be a Spongee loaf.
“Too bad,” Dewey would say, tossing the loaf over his shoulder.
When Dewey came home after work, there was nothing he enjoyed better than to have his humongous black dog Slicko gnaw his toes. As soon as Slicko heard that door latch give, he would stop whatever he was doing and come lumbering right over, dead anxious to wrap his gums around the toes of Dewey’s wedgies. (And gums it was, for Slicko had no teeth. Something happened to them.)
Every day Dewey would stand just inside the doorway, holding his lunch pail, while ol’ Slicko gummed the tips of his shoes.
“Hi, honey!” he’d say, waving to Bipsy. “I’m home!”
One night, after a heart-warming dinner of cubed avocados and mutton, Bipsy slowly put down her fork, a sparkle dancing in her eye.
“Oh, pipsy-poo,” she said coyly.
“I’ve got a surprise for you.”
Dewey, his eyes wide with wonder, asked, “What’s a ‘surprise,’ Bipsy?”
“It’s something you could never ever guess, not in a million, trillion years.”
“Oh,” said Dewey dejectedly.
“Guess!” said Bipsy.
“Who’s got the time?” said Dewey.
Dewey quickly pushed back his chair a few feet.
“Good lord, that sure is a white one!” he said. After a moment or two he held out his arms. “Toss it to me.”
Bipsy said, “Now, Dewey, you big sinister idiot, this is a baby, not a football. It just came today.” She gazed lovingly at the baby. “Someday, this baby will make us happy.”
“Great!” said Dewey. “When?”
“Someday,” said Bipsy. “I just know it. Why, it’ll wear little red and white striped hats, and eat delicious marshmallows and sweet Hostess Twinkies, and call to us sometimes.”
“It will?” asked Dewey. “Why?”
“Well, like if it got stuck up in a tree. Or maybe it will try to swim, but then sink like a rock. When our baby is in trouble, who do you think it will call to, if not to us?”
“Nobody,” said Dewey earnestly.
“That’s right. Nobody. Just to us. And if this baby ever needs us, why, we’ll just come a’ runnin’, because that’s what babies are for. And that what we’re for now, Dewey: To live and breathe and spend every moment of our lives now just trying to be of service to this little critter.”
Dewey swallowed a bit of avocado. “Can I still go to work?” he asked.
“Yes. And I will, too, whenever I want to. But at first I won’t want to. I’ll just want to stay with this baby, and cuddle it all the time, and tickle it, and clean out its ears with a wet cloth. Oh, won’t it be wonderful, Dewey? Won’t we just be the most wonderful little family ever assembled under one roof?”
“We sure will!” exclaimed Dewey. He held out his arms again. “C’mon, Bipsy. Lemme hold it.” Bipsy gently handed the baby to Dewey, who cradled it lovingly in his arms.
“Gee,” said Dewey, “It barely looks human.”
“Yes it does,” said Bipsy. “It looks like you.”
They both stared at the baby for a moment, and then Bipsy remembered that she still had some wet clothes in the dryer.
“I’ve got to go do laundry, honey schnookums,” she said. As she disappeared through the kitchen door that led into the garage, she wiggled her fingers good-bye.
Dewey looked back at the silent baby. The newest addition to his household was staring intently at the light above the dining room table.
Dewey felt a sudden itch on the top of his left foot. Bending forward to give it a good scratching, he accidentally knocked the side of the baby’s head against the table. Although it was only a light rap, it left a slightly sunken spot on the baby’s head. Dewey watched that spot, expecting it to quickly pop back into shape. The impression stayed just where it was, however.
“Too bad,” said Dewey, tossing the baby over his shoulder.