On a TV in a stone house in Mendecino, in one of the first memories of
my disappointing youth, on some vacation that was like all our
vacations, simply a new setting for the dumb and minor violence passed
between my brothers and me, Nixon cries, or almost does.
He's sitting at his desk, a seller of vacuums, a comptroller with stale
breath, putty nose and grey jowls, his huge pitiful peanut of a head.
And as he almost cries, my mother rises to her feet, my mother shorter
than anyone in the room, with her small sharp beautiful face, her brown
eyes and her young mother's mottled body, and steps toward the
television and says, in a tone that stuns me with its rage, Here come the tears.
She's standing near the other adults, in their severe Nixon-hating
faces, like witnesses at the scene of a ritual beating. I've never
heard her speak like this, my mother, who whispers to herself as she
chauffeurs her sons along the sealed streets of Palo
Alto to swimming pools and shopping malls, my mother home from work
with dinner still ahead and the murmured blandishments and migraines of
her husband, which she bears without complaint, loyal, determined to
love him, to love us, her coiled angry boys, who hurt each other
constantly, every moment a new possible injury, who refuse to grant her
even an admission of our fears, who sit instead in silence as she
unloads the dishwasher and sets the table and serves us food.
So that there, in Mendocino, in that stone house, as we watch Nixon
battle that last threshold of shame with what seems his entire spirit,
what she says, my mother, is this: We got him. We finally
got the bastard.
Steve Almond is the author of a bunch of books, some of which he makes himself. (This Won't Take But a Minute,
Honey—a collection of shorts which contains a sort of companion story, "Nixon Swims"—is
available via the
Harvard Book Store.)
To link to this story directly: http://wigleaf.com/201103nixon.htm
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