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Labor Dispute or "Oh for a Womb of One's Own" 

4+4 Fiction

GEORGE'S NOSE WAS OUT OF JOINT, there was a bruise over his left eye, and his shoulder still ached from last time.

Who the fuck does she think she is? Ed takes it out on her, so she takes it out on me? What is this, Oliver Twist or something? Crime and Punishment?

She must have the IQ of a chicken nugget! I punch her when she tries to pull that stuff, give her noogies, kick at her hard. For I dunno, like half a year now. Does she learn? No, it just gets worse. Pavlov's dogs would have gotten the point already, his rats, probably. His mice. Planaria, even. I'd call the SRS if I had a phone. And the goddamn Bud, or whatever it is she's drinking to confuse me. It's hard enough to keep things straight without that stuff marinating your damn axons.

It's not all her fault -- I understand, I do. That Ed is also a freakin' maniac. Bipolar, I'd say. One minute it's all smarmy and kissy, and, like, "Let me listen." I figure that's the time to sing him my sweetest songs. "Come To Me, My Melancholy Baby," "The Ballade of Little Foet" -- that sort of stuff. Try hard to make peace. Labor vincet omnia, no?

No. "I can hear it, I can hear it!" he says. So? Is he happy? Is he nice? Appreciative? Huh? Because "I can hear it" is always followed by banging and slamming, and then whop, whop, whop, whop, whop -- like a plunger going at a bolus in a toilet. Except that bolus happens to be me.

I have a theory about these people: They watch too much TV. They don't like their jobs. Their parents were mean to them. But gimme a break, you know? I didn't do it. It's not my fault. You made your beds, now lie in them. Done. Go laugh with the lizards!

No. Too guilt-trippy. It'll backfire. Maybe I should go the other way, the mea culpa route. Just beg forgiveness, like, "It's all my fault, you both are blameless. Exemplary. Paradigmatic." Everybody likes flattery. "Oh, George," they might respond, "No, Georgie, it's not your fault, it's ours. It's you who are blameless and paradigmatic. We repent. We'll be nicer in the future."

Fat chance.

But she's the main problem: Ed just comes and goes, as it were. I need to figure this woman out. I need an accurate diagnosis, before I can plan an effective strategy. Let's try the Think Method. Back to basics:

I think, therefore I am. Who said that? OK. Know thyself. I'm trying, I'm trying. But it's more important to know her, you know? What's eating her and all that. She started out so benign. Maybe it's adolescence -- or pre-menopause. I mean, there are hormone changes, right? They affect the brain, that's known. That is known.

Goddamn! There she goes again. What is this, the wave-machine at Water World? Hang ten, you whacko! You think I like this stuff shloshing me around? And Waaaaah! Again! Will you get off my back, lady? Live and let live, you know? It's a free country and all that, but your freedom, as they say, stops at the end of my nose -- which is already out of joint, swollen, even. I mean, keep that symphysis pubis to yourself. Or at least save it for Ballabuster Ed. Yeowch! Cut it out! Basta! Feral, she is.

Calm down, George, stay cool. Play the moment musical. Don't antagonize your tormenter. Yes, Massa. Me no cut off poor bruisèd nose to spite face. But it would be easy as hell to get back at her, to pay her like for like, fight fire with fire, an eye for an eye, man. I've got these little, sharp nails.


Marc Estrin is the author of Insect Dreams, The Half Life of Gregor Samsa; The Education of Arnold Hitler; and Rehearsing With Gods: Photographs and Essays on the Bread and Puppet Theater (with Ronald Simon, photographer).

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Marc Estrin


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