Trying Hard to be Nice

26 Aug

“That is a beautiful name you’ve picked for your daughter,” the old woman says. She’s on her back in the pool on some body length flotation device with a built in pillow. She’s obese and sports a gigantic visor with sunglasses she’s just broken accidentally, swatting away a wasp.
“And it is Irish,” she says.
“I know ’cause I read it in my books.”
She has a heavy New York City accent, and when she talks the extra skin on her chins vibrates.
“I read it in that one…oh what’s that one by that Irish man…Frank McCourtney!”
“Frank McCourt.”
“Yes, McCourt,” she says. “You know that?”
“Sure. ‘Angela’s Ashes.'”
“Yes, that’s it. I read her name in there. What a good book that ‘Angela’s Ashes,’ isn’t it?”
I make this joke but she doesn’t get it. There’s just dead silence.
“So you…then you like reading?” she says.
“I do.”
“And you said you like Frank McCourtney?”
“Yes, McCourt.”
“I like his first one, yes. I’m not crazy about the follow-up to ‘Angela’s Ashes.'”
“Yes, me neither.”
Only I know she’s never read it because she never got my joke.
She says, “you know apparently he has some brothers, McCourtney does, who also write and sing and dance.”
“Yes, one brother. Malachy McCourt. He’s quite good.”
“McCourt, yes yes. Yes. He is quite good. Malachy you say?”
“Malachy. Yes. He has a couple of books out.”
“Yes. Yes he does,” she says.
She floats there like a defective orca while my little one is taking all of this in; bouncing her big, brown eyes between the two of us.
“Wow, you sure do like to read,” she says. “What others do you read?”
I tell her I usually don’t go beyond WWII with my preference in authors.
“You don’t like World War Two?”
I explain again that I don’t prefer to read authors, in general, who have published after WWII.
“Hm. Interesting.”
I tell her I don’t hold steadfastly to my rule. I explain that I do read Updike and Didion and Chomsky and Hunter Thompson and Hitchens, but compared to the majority of what I like, the post-war authors are few and far between. She dumps herself out into the water and comes at us suddenly: “You think she might like to use this?” My daughter’s face gets a twinge of panic, as this strange-looking woman pushes her weight through the heavy water toward us. She is pushing this floating mattress just in front of her saggy, supersized chest.
“Ah, thank you; it’s ok…I think she’s fine here. Ever since she went under a few weeks ago, she’s been leery of going all the way in.”
“Yes, but she’ll be floating, not going under. Try it. She’ll have fun.”
I ask my daughter if she’d like to play on the floating mattress and she shakes her head vigorously and explains she’d just rather sit on the side of the pool with her legs in the water.
“Well, just try it,” the woman says. “I loved swimming when I was your age, honey.”
I don’t really agree with the attempt to connect with that statement, and I am frankly peeved at people who–in general–don’t listen to what children have to say and instead push their own ideas of what might be fun. “Here, just try it.”
“It’s ok, thank you,” I say, “she’s content to sitting here next to me with our feet in the water.”
“Oh don’t be silly, just try it. Come on honey, try it; it’s so much fun.”
My daughter, sensing something is about to go down, stands and backs off.
“It’s ok, but we do thank you,” I say one last time to the woman who is now a few feet away from us, for some reason insisting on torturing my daughter in the name of fun.
“When I was her age I was a fish,” she says to me, somewhat insulted that I apparently don’t step in to agree with her.
“Oh yea? Well that’s nice.”
“How old is she? Two?”
“Just turned three.”
“Ah, pfft, I was swimming in the ocean at her age.”
“Ah, that’s nice. Really it is. But we’re ok, thank you.”
“All right,” she says, “suit yourselves. I tried…”
It’s at this point that I wish for either of two things. Three fingers of scotch with a side of cold water for a chaser, or an aluminium baseball bat with which to do a bit of damage to a hardened senior citizen head.


4 Responses to “Trying Hard to be Nice”

  1. slyboots2 26/08/2007 at 3:11 PM #

    Ack. I’d opt for the baseball bat. Or a nice 5 iron. There ought to be one of those lying around with the retirees represented…

    Hey- what did you think of the new Hitchens book? I haven’t read, but am really interested in hearing what it’s like before I dive…

  2. Lx 26/08/2007 at 3:27 PM #

    i highly recommend hitchens’ new book.
    get that first before dawkins’

  3. Rachel 27/08/2007 at 6:32 PM #

    A great short short story.

  4. Lx 27/08/2007 at 7:40 PM #

    actually too long of a story, really.
    should’ve been cut off before any dialogue ensued.

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