My phone was telling me it was Mom calling, which meant it was going to be either my mother or my father, since they live together and still share a landline. They’re so cute. So I accepted the call, only to hear my mother call me a fuckwit-pussytard.
Immediately slipping into out-of-body mode, I heard myself say, “What?”
“I called him a fuckwit-pussytard after he called me a redneck,” she said.
One thing you have to know about my mother. It’s this social trait I’m afraid I must admit I inherited from her, which renders me incapable of small talk on the telephone. I just can’t do it. I feel compelled to get right to the point, and then hang up. Idle talk on the phone makes me jittery, uncomfortable, sick; I find it pointless. With my mother, well, she’s had a lifetime to take it to another level. Phrases that rarely – if ever – pass her lips when starting a phone conversation include, but are not limited to:
“How are you?”
“What are you up to today?”
“Do you have a minute?”
This is not to say that phone calls cannot last so long that one’s ear leaves condensation on one’s smartphone screen. Oh no. It’s just that the essential points one wants to address are brought up, hashed over, and then tossed aside for the next point. What suffers is the lead-in, the introduction, the warm-up. Just replace suffers with doesn’t exist and we can proceed to the next paragraph.
Oddly enough, one thing she usually announces at the get-go – with this morning’s conversation being a notable exception – is, “It’s your mother.” Which is completely unnecessary, since I have come to recognize her voice both in person and over the phone. Typically I’ll reply with, “Really?”
This morning, though, her salutation consisted of “Fuckwit-pussytard” in a louder-than-usual voice. I blame myself for asking her to repeat herself. You know, to clarify the colorful remark. So when she uttered the entire line, “I called him a fuckwit-pussytard after he called me a redneck,” I partially emerged from my shell-shock to recognize a bit of dialogue from Two Birds, which she is reading.
“Oh, Daaaaana,” she said, “the laannnnnguage!”
Now, my mother is not much of a cusser. Over the years, she’s occasionally said shit or her personal fave, asshole. But that’s about it. I knew she might have a problem with the profanity in my novel (and let’s not even mention the sex scene, OK?), and since she is not one of those who finds it difficulty to share an opinion, I knew I’d hear about it. I was not disappointed. I was, in fact, surprised, since after uttering the vile epithet, she laughed. She found it amusing, and even said, “I guess some people talk that way.” In the book, the character who delivers the line takes credit for inventing the foul hyphenate, which I felt comfortable writing since I had never heard the word before.
So my mother is right: some people do talk that way. Or they just make it up.
Where can a phone conversation possibly go after that opening salvo? Frankly, I forget. I’m still reeling from hearing my mother calling me a fuckwit-pussytard.