Nixon Cries
Steve Almond

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.)

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