Chapter 3 ~ What’s Work?
I said, “Father, I don’t know how to work. What’s work?”
Father said, “Honestly, Son. I don’t know. Neither one of us have ever worked. Believe me, Mother and I have thought about it. It’s a vexing problem, that’s for sure. We didn’t want to ask Nicole or Oscar or Victor about work because that would make them think they were smarter than us. I asked Pettibone and he said it had something to do with exertion. He even said some people have told him it is about exerting oneself for a purpose or a cause. Son, we are filthy rich capitalists. For us, work is an abstraction. It’s only a word and nothing to cause you worry. Sure, you’ll have to leave home and go to an office and pretend your working.”
I interrupted, “Will I have a secretary?”
“Of course, Son. She’ll do your work for you.”
I had a flicker of hope. I said, “If the secretary is beautiful, can we have sex and call it work?”
“Martin,” came the voice of the avenging angel across from Father. “Is sex all you think about?”
Mother may be reading my mind. I do think about sex often. Make that, quite often. I read in a men’s magazine it was normal for the male species. If I’m not thinking about sex, I’m thinking about where to go eating or drinking. I turned my head slightly toward Mother and said, “Not all the time, Mother. But it takes up my thoughts about 80 percent of the time.”
“Father,” Mothers said. “Do you think Martin needs hormone therapy?”
“It’s only a stage, Mother. Do you think sending him to a brothel in Las Vegas for a week will help?”
I interjected, “Can I leave this afternoon?”
Father answered immediately, and it burst my balloon. He said, “No, Son. You have to go to work. Now listen to our plan. We created a job based on your education and experience where you won’t have to work. All you have to do is show up each day, tell your secretary what to do, and meet with a few people each day. All you’ll have to do is pretend you’re a psychologist. You’ll have all the props. Certainly you can do that, don’t you think?”
I looked at Father and said, “You mean I’m going to be a head doctor, a shrink?” I asked.
“Now, Martin, watch your language. Mother and I want to know what you thought of using the name Sanderstein instead of Sanderstuff?”
“It sounds Jewish. You’ll be able to charge more and the people will think you’re brilliant.”
“No,” I said. “It will be too hard to spell. It’s a tough learning curve. Don’t make this more difficult than it has to be.”
“Martin makes a good point, Father,” said Mother. “Can we hurry this along, I’m having my Evian bath and Caviar facial this morning.”
“Sorry, Mother. I’ll hurry it along.” Then Father addressed me, “Working as a psychologist ties perfectly into the dissertation Mother wrote for you.”
I turned to Mother, “What was the subject of my dissertation?”
Mother beamed with pride and said, “Using Love Therapy as a Counseling Technique.”
“I love my dissertation. Will I be a sex psychologist?”
“No, Son, your dissertation had nothing to do with sex or the erotic form of love. It focused on the altruistic notions of love.”
I felt a depression beginning to build in me. When this happens I either eat, drink, or have meaningless, nameless sex. My only choice at the moment was eating. I finished the remainder of my Danish and drew my forefinger on the bits of strawberry and frosting on my plate. When the tip of my forefinger was loaded with sugary substances, I put it in my mouth and licked it off with my tongue.
Mother suppressed a dry heave, “Martin, that is so low class. If you want another Danish, I’ll have Victor get you one.”
I suppressed the temptation to lick my plate, turned toward Father and said, “Dad, I mean Father.” I like to throw dad in there every now and then to cause Father a bit of acid reflux. “It sounds like work to me. I’d prefer other four letter words.”
“Martin!” shrieked the wicked witch of the West.
She surprised me. I didn’t know she knew any other four letter words. I better keep a closer eye on Oscar.
Father raised a hand signaling Mother, he was taking the lead, “I’ve already had an agency hire a secretary from a minority class. This will show the world that the Sanderstuffs do not have a biased bone in their body.”
“Is she hot?” I asked.
“Martin,” shrieked Mother. I wonder if she had problems being potty trained as a child. It was not a good time to raise the topic. I noticed she was beginning to develop an eye twitch. I wonder what is causing the reaction.
“Father? Father?” I said as I raised both hands up over my head my palms toward Father, he was tossing some serious stuff my way and I needed to understand it.
“What is it, Son? Mother and I don’t have all morning. Mother has her day at the spa and I’m playing golf with Senator Pratt. He’ll hit me up for the usual donation. I’ll pledge the usual donation after he renews his vows to vote for the rich every time there is conflict between the rich and poor.”
“I really don’t know anything about being a psychologist. I know how to mix drinks. I know how to play golf. I know how to play tennis. I know how to dance,” I said thinking of all the things I could do well.
“Son, be serious for a moment. Mother and I thought you will make an excellent psychologist. It’s a lot like being a bartender. Attorney Pettibone filled out all the papers. He paid off the appropriate approving agencies, and best of all you are set you up in an office in the swanky Loomis Building with a view of the ocean. All you’ll have to do is sit and listen to people having problems and give them some advice. You don’t have to study. Think of it as sitting at a bar with one of your friends.”
“This qualifies as work, Father?” I asked.
“I cleared it all with Pettibone. One other slight problem, but Pettibone will clear it up, nothing to worry about. You’ll just have to sign a few papers, no work involved.”
Father said this as if he were knocking a flake of dust off his silk cuffs. Alarms sounded in my brain. I asked, “What exactly is Petty balloon clearing up?”
“Son, it’s Pettibone. I know your fondness of playing with his name, but Mother is present. It’s nothing. Want to know how the stock market is doing?”
There was only one way to deal with Father. I said, “If you don’t tell me, I’m going to tell Mother what Helen and I did on Saturday.”
“Harold. Just tell him. For God’s sake it’s not all that important. He’ll find out sooner or later. He may as well start getting used to it,” Mother said with icicles laced on each word.”
“Okay, okay, Mother. Be careful of your blood pressure. I can see the red blotches beginning to appear on your neck,” said Father.
I watched Mother and Father and wondered if they’d have makeup sex. Nah. It won’t even come to mind. I said, “Will both of you act grown up and stop squabbling.” I like acting the grown up in the room every once in a while. Not too often, though. “What is it? You’re not trying to slip a power of attorney passed me. That’s it, isn’t it. You want to send me to a clinic for six months. No way I’m signing anything.”
“Son,” said Father. “It is nothing so drastic. We’re only changing your first name from Martin to Artin. Before you say anything, let me explain. In Internet searches for psychologists the results will be reported alphabetically. Martin will be stuck in the middle with all the run of mill psychologists. Mother and I want you to stand out from the crowd. It’s what a Sanderstuff does.”
“Artin? Artin? What’s an Artin? I don’t want to be an Artin,” I said almost pathetically. I need a life. I really need a life. I know they’ll win, they always do. My backbone … what backbone. I have a hard time standing up to my image in the mirror. Why don’t they just change my middle name to Samual from Milgram and my initials will be ASS, Artin Samuel Sanderstuff. I said what I always say in these situations, “Whatever, but will I still have my BMW and allowance, right?”
“Of course, Son. That’s the old spirit. Grandmother Houston is probably looking down on your from her gorgeous palace and estate in Heaven with her servants gathered around her feet and smiling.”
I thought for a second, Grandmother Houston is looking up at me from the hottest furnace in hell. I hope hell has reserved seating for Mother and Father.
Father continued, “Just show up to work for five years. Think of your experience as doing hard time like they say on the television. When you’re finished with serving your sentence, Mother and I promise to set you up in your own estate with a cast of lower class people to cater to your every need. You may even want to write a book on how to survive work.”
“It’ll be tough, Father. Do you think I can do it?” I asked.
“Son, you’re a Sanderstuff. You can do anything.”