A stepmother, a common law, had a knack for telling
the goddamnest stories about the misery of her life
and everyone she knew. Nobody, as she chose to
say, and she wasn't into singing, knew what troubles
My brother and sister, older, left the room but I sat
there crying like she spoke god's truth, what did I know.
How she got hooked up with my father is no mystery:
when she was with him she was all girlish giggles, and
eyes bright and worry wrinkles gone, she danced to
his singing and, wow, I wondered where were her
Daddy never told a storty that didn't have a happy ending,
and there were horrific parts that caused us kids to hug
one another until he brought the characters out of their
grim predicaments with amazing rescues, all funny and
so believably true that each of even now can't remain
sad for more than a few minutes until a joke leaps out
of a hole, a bark, a fart, a dribble of pee or spit.
When he was making this magic, our stepmother watched
him closely, measuring the effect, noting the segues,
and later, with us alone she retraced the stories reversing
the good with the bad, same characters, same predicaments,
different outcome, different truths, different command
I didn't know then the two were called comedy and tragedy,
and that there was such a thing as tragi-comedy and comedic
tragedy -- black humor -- and lots of permutations of the
best and the worst of being alive, being dead, being half
one half the other, and other hybrids and cons and tricks
of the mind and language and switching roles and mockery
and irony and cruelty and those kinds of good stuff, good
shit, good god man, woman, why you fucking with my
head, you're sick, and so on.
Why one person is obsessed with comedy, another with
tragedy, another black humor, may be due to a cast of the dice,
but I think the truth is, the truth is, shit: I forgot my point.
I wanted to tell you a joke about my mama, when she fell
off the porch laughing at daddy's telling about Raymond's
getting buckshot running bareassed ... shit, that wasn't
Raymond, that was me, I think.
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