Bad Biographies

(*Names changed to spare me yet trouble the wicked. This continues “Crazy Quilt.”)


    The family line descends through the father.

    *Blowhard, my boss and chief of *Mugwump, the family-held company for which I’ve toiled two dozen years, has rapidly deteriorated into decrepitude. A little under two years ago he was a sharp 80-year-old man. Today, enfeebled mentally and physically, he’s a ghostly figure peeking out from tired flesh.

    He’s lost muscle mass. His acuity wanes more than waxes. Despite the obvious infirmities, no family member has yet summoned the compassion to tell him “enough.” Instead of compelling their father to see reason and retire, Blowhard’s surviving daughters *Loca and *Fea, whose management has sapped their patrimony, still let him commute to the office, and defer to him although his mind is shakier than theirs.

    The Mugwumps are not a compassionate bunch. There’s plenty they aren’t and have never bothered being. The Turk needs to come around and collect all their playbooks.

    His daughters, each a childish woman in her tired, worn-out, dried-up 50s, likely hope and pray hard as they probably did during their reckless teens for parental reprieve, his continued health. They should. They really should. Blowhard is Mugwump’s sole invaluable asset. Personal collapse aside, he retains an industry-wide reputation. This company has coasted on that renown far beyond its sell-by date. He must continue breathing because Loca and Fea have zero possibility of picking up and advancing his standard.

    When either or both ought have been learning from the man whom novices cold called, each expended herself on other priorities. Mostly cocaine and alcohol and men more worthless than themselves. To varying degrees all of Blowhard’s five children succumbed to illusory substances. His eldest daughter and youngest son, *Borracha and *Speedball, respectively, were so enthralled they died, while Fea nearly joined them.

    As their father’s descent increases its pitch, Loca and Fea speed Mugwump closer to ruin. How else could it be? He’s relying upon two people who lack competency’s barest minimum for the company’s continuity.

    On those rare occasions I find myself in Blowhard’s office, looking into his watery eyes, seeing translucent patches of skin, watching his trembling fingers leaf through pages of months old industry publications, wondering if today’s the day he avoids spilling coffee on the papers matting his desktop, I speculate whether he has regrets about the fiasco falling around his ears. Ordinarily guessing would be unnecessary. But Blowhard, the Mugwump family, do not inspire contemplation. They’re all surface and soldered synapses.

    So no. Overtly it shouldn’t pain him none of his children attended college, had regressive lives, or that those who’ve taken spouses foundered in those pairings. After siring five of his own, the fact that none of his children issued at least one child hopefully seeps past his obliviousness. Like most neglectful fathers, I bet he would’ve been a doting grandfather. Just the thing to fuel further anger in his own children.

    Just as well. Abortions and provident natural selection kept Blowhard’s brood fruitless, saving the community plenty. No doubt his offspring would’ve been worse parents than he and his wife *Ruta. Cushy as the Gold Coast can be, the prospect of a fourth generation of Mugwumps despoiling affluent Southwestern Connecticut might’ve proven costly.

    Blowhard couldn’t have imagined this as a much younger man. None of his nightmares could’ve birthed the horror stories springing from his loins.

    The boss enjoyed a comfortable Quarropas, New York, childhood. He split growing up between New York’s Westchester and Nassau Counties. In his now sepia boyhood urbanites considered the first locale on the cusp of horse country, the second suitable for Gatsby-esque mansions and potato farms.

    The Mugwumps themselves didn’t have money, though this branch knew wealthy people and traded up on their proximity. As a younger man, Blowhard’s father clerked for J.P. Morgan. Not the institution. The magnate. Jupiter. Pierpont. Morgan. Himself.

    Finagling for Morgan and his successors provided Blowhard a genteel and strenuous boyhood. Autumn through spring, those Mugwumps resided in leafy Westchester.

    Thirty years apart we attended Quarropas High School. The same institution but for me a newer, relocated facility. Despite our age differences we connected because we’d both been athletes. High school and later collegiate glory days signified us as team players. That alone granted me greater closeness to Blowhard than his children, particularly his sons *Skip and Speedball, ever enjoyed with him.

    Prep sporting studs, their feats highlighting Blowhard’s past, were barely-esteemed legacies during my own schooldays. Of course now those fellows, their deeds, have been severely eclipsed. Today who walking our former high school hallways recalls them, their achievements? I suppose whatever my cohort accomplished will soon suffer likewise erasure.

    So it goes.

    During Nassau summers, the Mugwump family retreated to what Blowhard termed a farm. His mother cultivated a plot while his father made east-west instead of north-south commutes into Manhattan. That acreage was as much a “farm” as George W. Bush’s Crawford, Texas, dust hole was a “ranch.” It served as a seasonal getaway. One where the towheaded boy did chores. These tasks were to balance the softness of his school months as well as instill useful discipline.

    Yeah. His father was that kind of stickler.

    Bereft of livestock and cash crops, chopping, sawing, stacking wood predominated. The family owned a tractor, yes. However, rather than till loam, the machine dragged a lawnmower.

    Into his ninth decade, physical exertion pleased Blowhard. He found simple release in sweating and aching. Recreational toil let him exhaust dilemmas he couldn’t verbalize. And if he could, with whom might he have shared such confessions? No. Clearing rock piles at a friend’s remote Thousand Islands compound dispelled doubts in ways tortured discussion only thickened.

    Yet put-upon asceticism isn’t his greatest flaw. That will be his naivety.

    Blowhard came of age in less intrusive times. Marketers refer to that American era as “innocent.” People sinned as much then as now. How all that perverse behavior can be veiled under “innocence” should bring knowing leers to the faces of all who know better. I prefer to see those long years as bracketed among “willfully ignorant.” Anyway, face value ruled. Virtue welled from deep within the good and God-fearing. Euphemism rendered life’s vices tolerable for decent-folk gossip. So the cynicism underpinning our current age was unimaginable. At least better disguised.

    His wife Ruta introduced Blowhard to modern times. She smeared black on his white.

    After serving honorably during the Korean War, Blowhard traded his fatigues for civvy street flannels. His outlook was already aligned for Eisenhower-years conformity. A thorough company man, he became the fair-haired boy who eagerly assumed the more numbing assignments. Not that he was collecting chits. More he harkened back to his farmhand days and its laborious and monotonous wood chopping.

    A short while ago an airline advertisement ran featuring the one dependable office grind who gladly accepted his department’s least desirable meetings. No matter how godforsaken the destination, he faithfully volunteered. In the end it was revealed he did so only to accrue enough frequent-flyer miles towards vacation travel.

    Were that the motivation which ever possessed Blowhard.

    He was restless, forever seeking … well, I don’t doubt he still doesn’t know. Should he have discovered, he’s likely forgotten.

    Things fascinate him. People not so much. Until months ago he could drone on about hands-on matters. Personal reflections deposit him in fogs and he responds with telegraph terseness.

    His upbringing afforded him flying lessons. Surely that prompted part of his business travel romance. If one needed to secure a contract in East Jabib, why not have done so during an epoch when air flight offered rewards our current dignity-robbing, nickel-and-diming, winged-bus era renders impossible?

    Nothing Blowhard enjoyed better than hanging around cockpits, earnestly jawing about the Constellation’s handling abilities with the demigods who piloted them. A part of him probably knew he ought have been a prop jock himself. But that would’ve meant stepping out on whoever he was and becoming someone different. A risk-taker, someone he wasn’t.

    Aboard one of these turboprops he first met Ruta. She’d gotten sponsored and rescued from now Communist dominated Ruritania. Her European background likely slotted the émigré for those exceptionally foreign flights. No need to unnecessarily expose an American stewardess to Africa or Asia.

    Given Blowhard’s frequency with the long-distance short stick, and Ruta’s continuous transoceanic scheduling, the two became familiar. To the point that trips to Idlewild Airport and beyond were soon anticipated rather than dreaded.

    Before five children and all that came afterwards, Ruta appeared savvy. Not pretty, nor cute, but aware. When seen in the right mood certainly impish. At least the young woman who grinned in five decades old photographs implied it. No one would mistake her for Zsa-Zsa or Dagmar. Yet compared against uniformly taller American colleagues cramming those same frames, viewers still might’ve gotten whiffs of “exotic.” She didn’t bother straining as hard as the corn-fed stews to come across as irresistible. The Americans were taller, curvier. They sparkled. Mystery wafted behind Ruta.

    Hers was just the sort of strange perfume that would’ve intrigued, entangled, then misled Blowhard.

    Ruta’s back story alone should’ve been sufficient beguilement. While Blowhard spent his early teens following the Second World War’s progress through radio and newsreels, his future wife actually ran, hid, and when necessary, bartered with the enemy. Unlike his war years, fought vicariously through comic books, hers were on the razor’s edge. Black market purchases leavened the Mugwumps’ rationing hardships. Many prosperous years later, Ruta’s wartime deprivations, her degradations, maintained their fresh stings.

    A displaced person at war’s end, Ruta entered the United States as walking devastation.

    I bet those instances Ruta related real life during wartime to her husband he never bothered wondering how he might’ve fared. Never having been without, no way he could’ve fit his imagination around the abject absence of plenty. I know the concept even farther beyond their children.

    What undoubtedly sealed the attraction between Blowhard and Ruta was the promise and delivery of glorious, blessed sex. Thanks to Fea, who never let allusion suffice where a graphic description can jar, reluctant listeners won’t need contemplating any of her parents’ or siblings’ more intimate or embarrassing episodes. She has the “talent” of vividly presenting second- or third-hand hearsay as if she’d soberly witnessed those escapades.

    Having observed Blowhard these last 24 years, I’m aware which topics discomfort him. Male-female carnal conduct tops that pile. Babbling about the subject that disturbs her father most is Fea’s second favorite pastime. Actually wrestling in it is her first. I wonder how hearing her adventures makes Blowhard feel.

    Emerging from straitlaced America as he has, it takes nothing to see him as having been a select audience for straight-faced homilies on virtue and morality. Ma and Pa Mugwump probably double-teamed the boy regarding strictures against sex. I can hear both thundering only married (married, not simply monogamous!) couples engaged in its, ah, secretive necessities; and they did so to procreate. Surely his parents summoned whatever torments available to disabuse the boy from ever considering the act’s other fulfilling aspects.

    Convincing as his parents may’ve been, hormones speak louder.

    Perhaps sometime in high school, certainly during college, Blowhard did the human thing and ignored a lot of fleshy prohibitions. Greater joy probably would’ve been his if gratification weren’t shackled to guilt. Ruta did not have that problem. To an extent she freed him.

    At the same time her future husband sat in high school daydreaming about jerking Marine or Navy Corsair fighter joysticks on sorties against the Japs, she foraged for sustenance. Or evaded hostile patrols. Or hoped whatever rough trade the particular dilemma demanded spared her worse. So by the time she met the large, broad-shouldered, unscathed American who would become her husband, the idea of sanctifying sex seemed laughable. An American quirk, maybe.

    Blowhard must’ve appreciated that Ruta, unlike previous girls with whom he’d fooled around and entered furtive consummation, lacked what even he must have realized were inhibitions. His, which further contributed to his own distress despite the opportunities availed.

    Better than a natural, Ruta reveled in their joined flesh. Of course being so in the moment, did it ever occur to Blowhard to ask himself how she arrived at such easy liberties?

    One imagines akin to Wallis Simpson’s “Singapore Grip,” Ruta performed what might be termed the “Ruritanian Rub.” Either procedure assured survival and eventual higher standards of living.

    Here was the difference between the Mugwump boys and girls: The three sisters received womanly lessons from their mother; the father may’ve intended raising two gentlemen. Unfortunately, fatherhood failed curtailing Blowhard’s travel bug. The hours he ought have been guiding his boys he instead left transitory impressions upon greasy garlicky foreign clients in Eye Chart or Tongue-Tied countries. Which possibly explains why Speedball, and to a lesser extent, Skip, grew into men weakened by substance abuse. Whereas the girls got details galore and workable tips from their mother’s experiences.

    Although necessary techniques for thriving in Ruritanian bandit country, too bad Ruta never adjusted her curriculum for the bounty of Gold Coast Connecticut. Then, in those precincts the only reactionaries needed fearing were Birchers.

    Ruta must’ve been surprised when her girls topped Amazonian measurements. Runty ruled her family. Their links back to peasantry didn’t extend far.

    Only Fea had her mother’s curly rust hair. Borracha’s and Loca’s lanks fell plumb straight. The latter inherited Blowhard’s blondness, while her sister sprouted raven-black.

    None of the Mugwump sisters carried their mother’s intrigue. Instead, their eyes burned with her hard fevered suspicion. Ruta’s foraging and survival years informed the girls’ development more than proper etiquette. She was ill-equipped for Gold Coast Connecticut motherhood.

    Despite overwhelming safety and affluence, fear about “them” somehow infiltrating suburbia and whipsawing her back to an earlier Manichean level never really lessened until 1989. She lacked the relative easy-going confidence of a native-born citizen. And apparently no amount of abundant cushy materialism eased the discrepancy.

    Since Blowhard spent much of his children’s adolescence and teens on the road, also known as the Sixties and Seventies, Ruta also served as chief disciplinarian. At this she utterly failed. According to *Esme, a woman who resided near the Mugwumps as well as having been our former office manager and last retainer of profitable business sense, termed those days in their home an “Indian camp.” Anything went. And did. Particularly after puberty cascaded.

    Blowhard’s kids liberated themselves from his behavioral reticence. Why, I’ve heard stories from that period which would’ve made a sybarite regret his or her absence. Don’t the police list such places as “bawdy” or “unruly” houses?

    Funny enough, when Blowhard managed finding their split-level ranch, he somehow expected the orderly and mannered suburban life seen on hotel room TV screens to greet him. Not quite. Ever. I could see Ruta in pearls, A-line dress, and heels, though unlike Barbara Billingsley she’d be swigging from a pitcher of cocktails instead of vacuuming.

    Ruta did right by teaching her girls how properly applied feminine wiles could lower male intelligence by a species. Since she was such a literal woman, one easily imagines how otherwise boring after school afternoons became lively sessions in basic man manipulation.

    Unfortunately for the girls, Ruta’s lessons skimped on birth control. Perhaps being a five-time mother contraception got short shrift. Borracha, Loca, and Fea could’ve used those pointers. Until preventative measures finally crammed their leaky brain pans, the trio underwent over a dozen abortions. The final number and breakdowns hazy, often just like which close friend or absolute stranger left the problem.

    Were these therapeutic abortions who could complain? Other than some man who will never ovulate, menstruate or gestate? But whatever the numbers they should offended even the most ardent pro-choice proponent. It’s unseemly how casually the Mugwump girls resorted to the procedure. Yet between drink and drugs, usually in some nearly narcoleptic-inducing combination, they randomly indulged in heaving congress.

    While her sisters eventually grew beyond habitually lending themselves indiscriminately, Fea actually increased her share of mindless promiscuity. Not only bold in the Hamptons party scene, she was a big party favor everywhere. If asked, she blithely states she took lovers while affianced and resumed after her honeymoon.

    Spontaneity is enough for Fea to blurt. See her as a sourball machine which dispenses without coin insertion or knob twisting. The treats just roll around and plop out on their own.

    Sometimes when quiet settles across a room she mentions a past incident, its who, where, how, minus prompting. Not to shock, just to have words tumble from her mouth. Add she owns a megaphone voice roughened by decades of nonstop legal and illegal substance usage and shock becomes her audience’s mortification.

    When Esme first started working at Mugwump, she gave me glimpses of the family’s home life. One of the bits she dropped left me laughably envisioning the whole bunch as front-pew congregants. That pious display ended when the cuteness eroded and the youngsters’ rambunctious antics became too distracting.

    I thought of a young and scrubbed Fea sitting in church, nothing between her and the preacher except Gospel verses. If she ever looked angelic, these were the moments. I had an easier time seeing Fea with ankles pinned behind her ears. Much older now, she remains the kind of girl who spotlights the obvious.

    Naturally Skip and Speedball disappointed Blowhard. His genes blessed both with athletic builds. But less to spite Blowhard, initially, and more because of his excellent road attendance, he wasn’t home enough to kindle their sporting interests. There’s much good to be said about fathers who nudge their sons into sports. Rare are the dominant male figures who don’t toss or kick balls around with their sons. Busy as many fathers are, they rightly insist on making time for so elemental an activity.

    Wasting a spacious, babied, suburban backyard, Blowhard was that one father who didn’t stir his sons’ hand/eye coordination nor improve their agility. Neither did he herd his boys down to the nearest court and shoot hoops. I don’t know whether he or his sons skated, but if so they never imitated their favorite Rangers hockey players’ moves on ice.

    Nonetheless he expected Skip and Speedball to at least be high school football, basketball, track & field or baseball lettermen. Osmosis? The worst kind of wishful thinking?

    He was “father,” never “daddy.”

    Without guidance the boys obeyed their own instincts. Which were bad. And at times larcenous.

    Fishing is the one activity all Mugwump men have in common. Figures. Blowhard fished with his father, so too did his sons accompany him starting in their early teens. Why not? It’s a perfect Mugwump pastime. They’re floating on Long Island Sound, soaking up rays, getting plastered, and maybe even catching a few fish! Bonding while blotto!

    Surprisingly, Loca was the only one of the brood who participated in an event remotely sporting. More of an exhibition, she competed in dressage. Not very well, apparently, but she looked fetching turned out in tack.

    To this day Loca maintains ramrod posture. Standing beside her slouchy siblings, it seems an affectation. Before boozing and snorting exacerbated aging’s indignities, Loca shone in all eyes as an exemplar of long-legged vitality. Already blessed by nature with the basics, with primping Loca could’ve approached becoming a classic blonde beauty.

    Brightened by Blowhard’s fair complexion, his wheat hair, thrown-back shoulders which naturally exaggerated her chest, board-flat belly, and a high rump one instinctively knew would be firm under wandering palms, she indeed enhanced riding crops and boots.

    But she was a lousy horsewoman who never put in the effort required to excel. Seems nobody pushed her either.

    Light adored Loca to the detriment of her twisted sisters. In proximity Borracha shrunk, while Fea seethed. Entwined in a lifelong no-holds barred sibling struggle, Borracha fell and stayed back early whereas Fea spared no quarter harrying the golden Mugwump girl. Into middle age the surviving pair sniped, bit and undermined another with the energy of eternal 17-year-old rivals.

    By every right Fea should’ve been perpetual also-ran in their girl-grudge. But Fea had tenacity. Although a bully, Loca lacked Fea’s fight. The big blonde’s bark whimpered quickly. Superior physical attributes and bluster aside, Fea artfully picked at the insecurities tripping Loca. Nonetheless sheer dint of being the naturally favored sister always rewarded Loca the upper hand in the end.

    Borracha’s been dead over 12 years. With the demise of Mugwump, the company, seemingly imminent, she’s becoming a lengthier footnote. Intuiting though not fully understanding perhaps the most prosperous phases of their lives ending, her sisters, at least, summon her into the present. Usually her shade crosses their paths by accident.

    One will be rummaging, or the other will be rifling files, and unearth some personal relic or pertinent record. Shortly after Borracha’s death and before her embezzlement-through-cocaine dismissal, Loca purged the company files of her sister’s presence. Could a Stalinist apparatchik have done a more thorough erasure of a newly declared unperson? Not hardly likely! And Loca scrubbed with gusto.

    So when these reminders of her deceased sister emerge from the most hidden recesses, Loca, like all the girls bearing Ruta’s peasant superstitions, regards them as omens. These women get spooked so easily, I’m surprised they don’t grow wolfbane.

    Although once Loca did make a voodoo doll in order to torment Fea. But thinking it over that might’ve been the cocaine shrieking in her head.

    I’ve forgotten whether Borracha had a novio. I mean a real boyfriend, not just some walking, talking, running sore who leached off her because she could reliably score good shit. Towards her end there were plenty of those.

    She died single, alone, and unloved. Which is one bad epitaph.

    Passing too soon spared her the Mugwump pitiful spouse curse. Blowhard’s and Ruta’s long-lived fidelity didn’t extend to their surviving children.

    Let’s see. Who’s coupled the worst?

    It’s not a toss-up between Fea and Speedball, but whose circumstances occupied lower circles of Hell. I can’t decide.

    Here in the East, Speedball went with a woman who stood by him closer and longer than his own family. How she wasted her youth, energy and charms on him mystifies me. Had he been right-minded, he would’ve recognized the treasure she offered and straightened out, then gone on to lead as full and rewarding a life as possible. Yeah. That’s how good she was.

    Instead, he worked hard squandering all she presented, and nearly sunk her with him. The last straw, the force that flung her from his orbit, was his final Connecticut drug bust. It’s profundity actually roused Blowhard from lifelong neglect of his children. They sat down and had one father-son talk. This confab sent Speedball into rehab, then banished him to the Front Range.

    The woman who would’ve made him a better man remained here. Her life improved by leaps and bounds.

    Remaining on the Gold Coast would’ve gotten Speedball killed on the street or killed in jail. He stood on the wrong side against some bad local actors. The kind of miscreants who made “Purple” resemble a scofflaw.

    “Purple” will sound alarms with certain-aged readers who may’ve dipped toes into the region’s shady milieu during the 80s. No doubt there are still undiscovered bodies beneath parkway land between the road’s embankments and residential property lines bearing his signature. “Purple” was that kind of guy. Speedball ran from worse.

    Out in Colorado he gave all the signs of having learned his lesson (self-preservation) and foreswore the habits (excessive drinking and drugging) which had jammed him up here. Well, that was according to his family. Between Speedball telling and them believing there was doubtlessly lying all around.

    For an instant it appeared he had cleaned up. Several years before living caught up with him, Speedball made a rare visit East. He came to introduce his fiancee. Speaking as a straight, red-blooded American male, I can state she was one fine piece of … pulchritude.

    As the cliche goes, you couldn’t take your eyes off her. Nor would she let you. She even stirred Blowhard, which is akin to a long dormant volcano suddenly erupting.

    They’d met seedy. Speedball was out drinking a beer or six in a club and she happened to be stripping there. It was an erection at first sight. The rush of blood from one head to another convinced him she was as close as his sorry ass would ever get to meaningful love. Somewhere between jacking Speedball’s roll and listening to his previous Gold Coast Connecticut incarnation a “for sale” sign must’ve glowed dimly above her head.

    She saved the immediate payday for a later bigger score. However, she did not tarry playing on his deluded beliefs.

    They quickly entered a Western marriage. It was brief. And Speedball resumed the decline begun in Connecticut. Though now out of sight. Results would’ve been the same had he been here, only it would’ve lingered. (See, higher taxes benefit in superior services.) Shredded as his support system might’ve been in the East, tractor-trailer sized holes gaped out West. The haul between divorce and death was short in Colorado.

    Ironically, the only Mugwump passably concerned about him was Fea. I guess surviving a brush with having dirt tossed on her face sensitized Fea uniquely.

    Didn’t matter. Even the gift of a new truck from his father failed rallying Speedball. He, like Borracha, died as if he’d never lived among the Mugwumps.

    Maybe the height for the Mugwumps happened upon Fea’s wedding. As a cosmic joke the bride wore white. Off-color white, though white nonetheless.

    Years before cocaine abuse absolutely ruined her, Fea caught eyes and teased them. Except her teasing often led to having her back pressed against some convenient surface.

    One conceded the family looks to Loca. Yet Fea exhibited a man-devouring voracity nearly pathological. It is one thing to screw from enjoyment derived and pleasure given. It is another to commingle at the drop of the merest suggestion as validation of being ravenously desired by all.

    The jealousy between Loca and Fea was and remains crazy. One-sided, too. Loca never has regarded her sister as a sensual rival. Plenty of other things, but not a preferable receptacle of lust. Loca’s never seen Fea this way. The vision consumes Fea. Especially today given her corroded looks. Fea could be the poster girl for “50 going on 75.”

    Back in the early 90s such a funhouse mirror image would’ve been difficult to predict. Tan, lean and lively, Fea skipped randy winks for ready willingness. She didn’t flirt. She put out almost after “hello.” The luckiest men heard “hello” after consummation.

    Her marriage melded two economically and socially equal families. The groom almost could’ve been considered a brother. Sure. He was as big a dope as either Skip or Speedball. Any hope attending their reception ran to the bar, ordered a big tumbler of something strong, then gulped it down. If hope came wishing for a miracle, it left damned.

    Here’s how Fea’s married life began: the newlyweds got busted for drug possession on their honeymoon.

    Years later when their marriage ended in crushed shards, Esme dragooned a few of us to ride up and help Fea remove her belongings from the beach house. They’d had the reception there and I’d attended. Comparatively speaking, the years had been kinder to the property. But only if one compared it against Fea. Otherwise condemnation proceedings lagged. On both.

    Another development one couldn’t have predicted. I should’ve asked how she had gotten so low. If I’d still written for a newspaper I would’ve done so reflexively. But I didn’t, and noticed none of her family broached the question. They worked incredibly hard to shy away from it. Therefore, unlike Esme, it stayed beyond me.

    Esme’s rescue of Fea from the heap is commendable. Did she act out of kindness or by seeing an opportunity? I prefer the first because with as much dissention as Fea has sown and reaped in our office it’s proof positive that no good deed goes unpunished. I hate to think Esme did it as possible kiss-off sabotage. Which it has become.

    Although he’s purposely absented himself, Skip needs mention. Especially in light of the above paragraph.

    He should be running Mugwump today. He has the aptitude. For whatever reason he always lacked interest. Then again he’s openly contemptuous of his parents and surviving siblings. I understand his reaction, yet his folks have reached stages where they need help. Perhaps he sees denial of his presence as reciprocation for the past.

    No. That doesn’t make him right.

    There was a moment I thought he’d deviated from his family’s vacuousness. See, he married his childhood sweetheart, *Glynis. Long before they took the stroll, both knew and accepted one potential deal-breaker: a congenital condition rendered Glynis incapable of having children. And that’s despite petri dishes, rancid love potions, and Dr. Frankenstein moonlighting as her OB-GYN.

    While future adoption possibly availed, knowing from the outset his line would be cut must’ve hurt Skip. Or so it seemed to me. Nevertheless Glynis was grateful and he performed dutifully. They’ve spent together for the longest.

    Leaving the story there makes it sweet. Unfortunately, real life intrudes.

    Glynis shared the same circle with the Mugwumps. Upper-middle class with aspirations toward excess. Comfort insulated but wasn’t so thick to muffle them.

    Well, that was just to fit in. Her father, a widower, recently passed away. Come to find out he sat on a Croesus-sized pile. Glynis and her brother inherited and split millions. Suddenly Skip’s generosity appears calculated.

    He’s still viable while her shelf life expired a long time ago. Who was it said “Biology is destiny”? Napoleon?

    Of them all Loca’s disappointed me most. Aside from succumbing to cocaine and falling victim to its increasingly abrupt mood jolts, what saddens me is the future she tossed away.

    Back when she could’ve rightly been considered luminous (many was the time clients inquired about her — not in the polite chat manner but with lascivious intent) she tormented a young man who would’ve done Augean tasks to satisfy and gain her. *Hitch worked mule hard, steadily accrued which propelled him up the ladder, and kowtowed before her until the precipice of humiliation. A place where he would’ve gone had it gotten him over.

    Though not as dismissive as Mugwump towards his children, Loca never gauged the depth of Hitch’s hunger. She toyed with that poor fellow. Not out of malice, though she was quite capable of such cruelty. From blithe inability to recognize and prize his ardor. Impressive as Hitch was, Loca failed grasping how he cherished her.

    I’ve stopped being surprised by women’s fatal ignorance.

    Instead of a go-getter who could’ve dropped her in ever plusher laps of luxury, she chose *Bray. Ten years her senior, Bray’s a genial fellow. He’s reputed to have a commercial acumen. I’ve even heard he’s smart. He’s yet to demonstrate these qualities. Neither has anybody I know seen them.

    What he’s excelled at these years beside Loca is sponging. If Bray depended on his own wits to advance, he’d be a past-tense subject. Loca supports him. In turn he submits to her. Fully. She dominates their relationship. No need to raise her voice nor crack a whip. Merely insinuating about crooking her pinky bends Bray. He’s so compliant in a previous life he might’ve been a eunich. Or steer.

    Two ties bind them: unquenchable thirsts which without fail daily transform each into sodden, ruddy, loud, maudlin Happy Hour drunks; both know she’s the boss.

Loca has roped her dying star to the crap wagon of a cuddly, unthreatening, hapless boob. Bray. Better known as a lazy white man.

    The Mugwumps lead dreadful lives. At heart they are awful people. I work for these people. I work for them!?