I took my mom to dinner for her birthday recently. It was a grand time, filled with zauberflutes, glockenspiels, and weinerschnitzels. I got her a nice pair of lebenhosen. Then she reminded me it was her birthday not Oktoberfest.
"It's not?" I said, schreudenplappen.
"No," Mom said, dropping the hosen in disgust. "And I really don't appreciate how your brothers can't even be bothered to come to my dinner."
I cupped my chin in my hands. "They just don't love you like I do, Mom."
"Oh, shut up," Mom said. She wore a conical Snoopy hat, the string biting into her chin flesh. "So is that all you're giving me for my seventieth birthday? Panty hose?"
"Lebenshosen, Mom. Jeez."
"And that's it? Well?"
"I got you something else."
Mom sat up, radiated rosily. "That's a good boy."
I covered my mouth, and then opened my fingers. "Ta-da!"
"My mustache! I'm growing a little mustache. You know, like Hitler."
"Check. Yes, can you bring our check, please?"
"Aw, come on, Mom. I'm just kidding around with all the Nazi stuff. Come on, finish your fuhrertort."
Mom sighed, her face saggy with sadness and anxious alliteration. "I've never had anything good in my life. It's like the gods have frowned down at me ever since I was born."
"Your brother wants to come over tomorrow night for my birthday, but I don't have anywhere for him to sit. It would be nice if I just had a nice place with a table, and some chairs. Is that so much to ask? But apparently it is. I've never really had anything nice in my life."
I extended my fork across the table. "Are you going to finish that swastika...?"
Mom pulled the hat off her head. Tears formed in the crevices of her finely wrinkled face flesh. "I don't have anything, and I never will." She heaved a sigh so tragically that the other Denny's patrons looked around. "I suppose I never will. That's just my lot in life."
"It's your birthday, Mom. Cheer up."
"Just to have a dishwasher would be nice. And a shower. My whole house is falling apart. But just to have a table... just to have..." Sobs choked her. "For my little granddaughter... Just to have one nice thing..."
"Today is the first day of the rest of your life."
Mom sneered balefully. "Oh, thanks a lot."
"I mean it. You don't have to live in that house. You can sell it. I know a real estate agent who--"
"Be honest with me, Greg." Mom took up her pancake knife and aimed it at her tomato-red, pumpkin-round, zucchini-sobbing face. "Should I kill myself?"
"Mom, put the knife down. If anything, I should be the one plunging a knife into my face. I'm serious. I have nothing. I'm divorced, I'm broke, I can't even get Dad to give me money for one measly prostitute."
"My knee hurts me. I have difficulty breathing. I dig shit out of an old woman's ass."
"But everything is my fault. I deserve everything I get."
"I'm alone in the world. No one loves me."
"I've screwed up everything I've ever tried to do in my life. My wife left me for a reason. Dad's right: I suck. And I've never published a word for the simple reason that I suck at that too."
"I don't know what I did, but I must have done something wrong to deserve all this..."
"I lie awake at night and stare at the ceiling and wonder when I'll die. I can only hope it's soon."
"My children are strangers to me. I suppose I deserve that too."
"No one reads my blog. Not even I read it. I type this shit with my eyes closed. Is it possible to have negative readers?"
"Greg, when I die, I want you to promise that you.... that you... put on my grave, 'SHE TRIED.'"
Bawling, I reached across the table and squeezed Mom's hand. "It'll be all right, Mom," I said. "Don't worry about me. I'll find love someday. I just have to keep my chin up."
Just then Steven Schwartz, who curiously resembles a young Albert Brooks, floated down from the sky with a polka-dot umbrella and crashed through the roof of Denny's. Mom screamed, emitting bits of fuhrertort, and ran for cover.
"Greetings and salutations," Steven said. He brushed the concrete dust from his tweed-green suit. "I'd like it if you stopped using me to end your vignettes or bagatelles, or whatever this is."
"But what do you think? A nice carthasis at the end? A grave stone that makes us all laugh?"
"You're writing cartoons here. I want to see you do some serious writing."
"Wait for it..."
"Cee minus minus.... minus."