The man with the pinkie rings is in charge.
“Gather round,” he said, “I want to tell you something. I am the fifth son of a fifth son of a fifth son. My mother is from the South and my father is not. I am color blind. I do not mean that metaphorically. My brothers are PhDs and an MD and an MBA. I am, instead, a colluder, an organizer, a deceiver.” (Except he didn’t say that. He would not admit that to us.) He went on: “Mother always said, Be gracious no matter what. She said, Keep your decorum. She said, Kill ‘em with kindness. She said, Treat the Help with dignity.”
“In our house,” the man with the pinkie rings said, “It was Mother who was patronizing. Father took his lumps, was granted false nobility. His meagre academic interests no match for the force of Mother’s blue blood, Mother’s grand dowry, Mother’s many names, carefully placed one after another, each singularly important and when collected stood sentry against the philistines she perceived to be gaining ground with every year that passed since the Jamestown landing.”
The pinkie ring man said, “Mother used to tell me that it doesn’t matter your decision one way or another, what matters is your confidence in your decision. She’d say, The only difference between people in this world is their degree of self-confidence.” He squinted into the distance. He wiped his palm across his brow. “I had the last great American childhood!” he cried. “We would drive the length of the East Coast stopping at college libraries along the way and I would wait for hours in the car while dad did his . . . research.”
The light was going down now over the rolling hills of the estate of an esteemed American family. Under a cream-colored circus tent, we listened to him because we had to. He wore mismatched clothes and grew his fingernails long. He loved a performance more than anything. An orchestrator by necessity (that house full of brothers!), he slipped you into a role without your consent. He liked people who aimed to please.
The man shook his head as the bugs started to bash themselves brutishly against the hot lights. “Ah mother, but where did that confidence come from?”
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Elizabeth Bevilacqua’s work has been published in MONKEYBICYCLE, JUKED, SLICE, and BODEGA. She received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Florida.
Photo: Klaus Hausmann