Oh, hi, hon! Come on in! When did you and Harry get back? Come in and sit down — the coffee's all ready, see? A fresh pot on the stove. Funny I didn't hear your car come in next door last night. I must've been busy with Timmy — honestly, he's been driving me crazy lately. I wish he could hear, at least, so I could get through to him.
So tell me all about it — where'd you go on vacation? How long's it been, now? Only two weeks? Seems it's at least a month. I didn't have anybody to talk to. Jim's no company at all — he's either watching TV or at a bar, or out bowling with the guys or fishing — but I don't have to tell you. Lucky you! You had Harry all to yourself for two whole weeks! Oh, well, sure, to yourself and the kids. I bet they were out in the woods all the time while you stayed with the camper, right? Oh, sure, you and the girls. Still, I bet it was nice.
What'd I do? Not much, let me tell you. But you know, I saw something on TV the other night that just made my eyes open up like a can of cat food. Oh, ignore him, that's just Timmy again. I give up trying to figure out what ails him. Let him cry. It's all he does all the time anyway. I'm about at the end of my rope. Maybe Jim's right — it's probably time to put him in a home or something. I can't cope any more.
What was I saying? Oh, yeah, the TV. I was watching a rerun of "Sixty Minutes" the other night. We never watch that show, but we saw everything else that was on last fall, all reruns, so I watched it. Jim wasn't home, just me and Timmy. Honestly, hon, let me tell you, it was the most amazing thing I ever saw in my life — no, really, the most amazing. It was all about these retarded people, so of course, on account of Timmy, I was interested. But you never saw such retards in your life!
There was three of them, and they were special, because each one was a genius somehow, besides being dummies. Don't look at me like that! I'm telling you the truth. Write CBS if you don't believe me. They called them "idiot servants," or something like that. You heard of that? Really? Well, I never did.
The first one was really stupid-looking. He had this big moron grin, and his eyes looked empty — like Timmy's. But what he could do with his hands! See, he took wax — canning wax, it looked like, and he molded it into little statues of animals — horses mostly, but other things too. My eyes nearly fell out of my head! They were perfect — I mean, really perfect! Somehow, they took these perfect statues and made a mold out of them, I guess, and then poured metal into the mold and made statues, so he had help, but they were selling these things for hundreds of dollars! God, I wish Timmy could do something like that! Could we use the money.
So, anyway, when the announcer asked this dummy how he did it, he answered, "I 'member," and pointed at his head! And when the announcer asked how he could remember, he said, "I smart." Imagine that, "I Smart!" About as smart as a bedpost.
The next one wasn't as good — all he could do was remember dates. What's so great about that? Well, he could remember any date in the entire history of the world, and as far forward as you wanted to go! No, I don't mean he knew history, or what happened on a certain day, but I do mean the day of the week — Monday or Tuesday or whatever, and the date.
But if he was alive on a certain day, he could tell you the weather of that day! Besides having this little calculator in his head, he had a perfect memory! Excuse me just a sec, hon — I'm gonna go give Timmy a bottle and change his diapers so I can have a little peace. Imagine that, a bottle and diapers, and he's seven years old! It's like having a baby forever. I'll be right back.
There, that didn't take long, did it? He's quiet at last. What a relief. Look, I'm sweating under the arms and on my forehead, and it's barely seventy degrees in here.
So, anyway, he just sits there and answers these questions the announcer throws at him. But when he asks the dummy to multiply two times three, he can't do it! This retard looked more or less normal, not like the other one, with his mouth gaping open and slobbering down his chin. But still, not normal, you know what I mean? And when they ask him how come he can do all these things with dates, this one says he's smart, too.! I had to laugh, or I would have if I wasn't so damn mad. Here I am, sitting there looking at these dummies on TV! On TV! Dummies! Jesus. I got to wondering who was dumber, them or me for watching them. God knows I ought to be an expert at it.
But it was the third one that was the most amazing of all. This one wasn't just a dummy! Oh, no. He was more like Timmy, only even worse. Not only was he a moron, but he was blind, too. Timmy's deaf, but it's close. But that's not all — he's retarded, he's blind, and he's got cerebral palsy! Born with it.
Now, you're not going to believe what I tell you, but it's true anyhow. I swear, it's the most amazing thing I ever saw in my life — saw with my own eyes, and heard with my own ears.
They interviewed the lady who took care of this vegetable, and that's just what he was at first, a vegetable. He just laid there on his bed, she said, and he didn't do anything. Not a thing. But one day this old lady — she's old now, I don't know how long she was taking care of the dummy — gets it into her head that if she buys a piano — a piano! — and puts it beside his bed, maybe something will happen.
What's the chances of that, do you suppose? I mean, chances of getting an idea like that, first of all, and then, second, something happening? Don't look at me like that! I'm not making this up. Call up CBS and ask them, or ask around the neighborhood — somebody else must've saw the show. So anyway, she buys this little piano and puts it beside this bed, and it sits there for I don't know how long.
Then, one night, when her and her husband are in bed, she wakes up because she hears this beautiful music coming from somewhere. So help me. Come on, don't look at me like that, I swear to God — cross my heart! She rolls over and she says to her hubby, "Did you leave the radio on?" "No," he says, so she gets up to see what's going on — I guess he does too — and they go trailing off up the hall to this vegetable's room, and they open the door and turn on the light — there he sits, on the edge of his bed, I guess, with these fingers all floppy on the keys, playing something. I don't mean one note at a time, either, I mean playing something like Liberace plays!
The rest of the show is about this idiot servant giving concerts. He even begins to talk, which he never used to do. And he says he can do these things because he's got a good mind, too. A good mind! Never had a lesson in his life, and he plays like Liberace. Oh, Jesus, I thought, wouldn't it be nice if Timmy could do something like that? Maybe it would be worth it, then, all the agony.
Don't touch me, okay? I'm sorry. I'll be all right. I'll just use a napkin. There. Well, anyhow, when Jim comes home, I tell him all about it. He's half in the bag, and he thinks I've been hitting the juice! At first he laughs, and then, when I keep on, he slugs me — gives me a slap that throws me half across the room! And I know I'm gonna have to do this all by myself.
Just wait, I'm getting there. I'll tell you what I did. The next day I left Timmy by himself in his crib for a couple hours — what's he going to do? He's not going anywhere. All he can do is cry, and if there's nobody around to hear him, then there's nobody, because he can't even hear himself. I took the bus down to the mall. I was just about to go into the music store to get Timmy a guitar or something — I know, I know, it was stupid — probably turning into a retard myself by now, but all I could think about was that damn piano. Anyway, like I said, I was just about to go into the music store when I realize what I'm doing and stop dead in my tracks.
"How's he going to hear to play a guitar?" I ask myself. "That's even worse than cerebral palsy." And I can't think of what to do at first. But then my eye happens to catch a sign across the hall — "Art Supplies," it says. It's a hobby store. That's when I get my bright idea. Maybe I'm a servant too. I go in, and I buy a little easel and some paper and some watercolors and brushes.
Well, I'll cut it short. I brought it all home and set it up beside Timmy's crib. I sat there for a while, showing him how to do it — making stick people and so on. No, it didn't work. It's still in there beside the crib. — I keep hoping. I had to patch it together after Jim saw it and got mad, and I had to Scotch-tape some of the paper where it got torn, but it's still in there and nothing's happened. Nothing's going to happen, either, except....
I can't tell you, but I got to tell somebody. Jim never looks into Timmy's room, but he finally did last night. He saw it and got mad and said he was tired of coming home and finding out that I been wasting his money again. And he was getting tired of coming home at all to that kid in there, that retarded squash laying around in a crib forever. Who needs it? Who needs a wife that all she can do is give a man a thing like that? And she won't even get rid of it, give it away to a hospital — no, all she can do is sit around and watch it drain money out of his wallet.
And then he beat me again — a good one this time — that's why I'm wearing these dark glasses for breakfast. Yeah, I know you knew, but now it's said I feel better. And I hope I'm going to feel better yet, but it's hard.
So when he's through with me, and he goes out again, I drag myself into Timmy's room, and I lift him up to his feet in the crib, and I hit him. Gimme that napkin. I beat him as hard as Jim beat me. No, you can't see him. I don't want you to see him. That was last night — that's why Timmy's crying all the time this morning. Jim's not been home yet, not since he took off around midnight, and I'm afraid of what he's going to do when he sees the TV — that goddam TV, and all the glass laying around the living room floor.
Originally published in The Sucarnochee Review, Vol. vi, 1988, pp. 19-21reprinted in The Book of Dialogue, How to Write Effective Conversation in Fiction, Screenplays, Drama, and Poetry, Lebanon NH: University Press of New England, 2004, copyright © 1989, 2004 by Lewis Turco, and collected in The Museum of Ordinary People and Other Stories, www.StarCloudPress.com, 2008 , ISBN 978-1-932842-16-6, trade paperback, 196 pp., $19.95. ORDER FROM AMAZON all rights reserved.