Comic Stripped (P.3)

Meeting the awful ‘rents

Max Pine had his face buried in a magazine about the puppetry industry as Christine LaBrush gazed out the smeary dreary window as the world rushed by in BUS No. 13 on its way to the edge of the big, big city among the lakes.

“Mother is making Swedish meatballs for dinner. I told her that you like them,” Christine said as she leaned into him.

Max looked up from his magazine, perturbed. “I hope she knows how to make them. It’s not an easy dish to prepare. I don’t want to be puking all over the place.”

“Mother is a wonderful cook and daddy hates people who vomit,” Christine huffed.

“People can’t help puking. That’s like hating someone who has nervous tics,” Max said in the defense of people who puke.

“It doesn’t matter to daddy. Once he hates something, he hates it for life.”

“Well, then he’ll hate me for sure,” Max pointed out. “I didn’t tell you this before, but I puke a lot.”

“What? Why?”

“I have stomach trouble. I have since I was a kid. My Chinese mother made too much spicy shit.”

“That’s disgusting.”

“I can’t help it. You of all people should understand the uncontrollable.”

Christine gave him a puzzled look and went back to looking out the window at nothing. “Well, just try to control yourself tonight, that’s all I ask.”

“I’ll do my best, but my guts have a mind of their own,” Max told her.


The bus pulled into the station and Christine started waving frantically through the window when she saw her plump ma and pa standing there in the glowing parking lot with big, stupid grins on their faces.

Max and Christine deboarded the bus and went over to where her parents were waiting. Christine’s mother embraced her, but her father gave her only a minimal hug.

“Hello Chris,” he said.

“Daddy, it’s Christine now.”

“Sorry, but you’ll always be Chris to me.”

She was disappointed but avoided an immediate confrontation. She grabbed Max by the shoulders and twisted him a bit to show him off to her parents. “Mom. Daddy. I want you both to meet my serious boyfriend, Max.”

Christine’s mother had a ghoulish, wrinkled face and she wore too much makeup, and the color palette was all wrong for her — too much orange and green and she looked like a sickly Irish flag. She was round like a beach ball and her clothes strained against her billowy flesh and her orangey, brassy hair was thinning and whimsical in the wind.

“Hello Max,” she said, and she got really close to his face; she smelled of cigs and booze and her teeth were nauseatingly misshapen and yellow.

“Hello Mrs. LaBrush,” Max said as politely as he could. “I understand you’re making Swedish meatballs for dinner. That’s my favorite.”

“Oh yes, Christine told me on the phone right off that you enjoyed them. And I do hope you enjoy them. I just love to give people joy.” She got uncomfortably close to Max and fluttered her sticky eyelashes at him. “I want you to feel so good inside, Max.”

Christine’s father was just as round as his wife with a big balding head that displayed an ever present and sour scowl on the face part. His hand felt wet to Max as he grasped it and shook it.

“Hello Max,” he began. “Chris hasn’t told us much about you; we’ll have to talk in the car. I must be honest with you, but this is quite a shock to us… I mean, we never thought someone, anyone would want this.” He motioned toward Christine with two open hands in a gesture of disappointed showing off.

“Daddy,” Christine moaned. “Could you be kind for just one evening.”

He gave her a disgruntled look and then sighed in avoidance. “Gather your things and we’ll get going,” Mr. LaBrush ordered.


Max sat up front in the big, oddly smelling car with Mr. LaBrush as Christine and her mother quietly chattered like annoying jungle birds in the backseat.

“So,” Mr. LaBrush began. “Christine said something about you working in an art gallery?”

“That’s right. I manage it. One of my good friends is the actual owner, but I’m in charge of the day-to-day operations.”

“Huh,” Mr. LaBrush grunted. “Operations. That’s a sore word for me. Makes my stomach hurt.” He glanced into the backseat via the rear-view mirror.

“Sir?” Max wondered aloud.

“Never mind… I never cared too much for foo foo galleries and all that nude stuff they call art. Art? I call it filthy pornography straight from the devil himself.”

“I don’t have much nude art in my gallery,” Max said. “It’s not that kind of gallery. And I find it offensive, as well. Not because it’s evil, it’s just that I have some issues with my own body and…”

“Really?” Mr. LaBrush interrupted. “And you don’t find it offensive that my son now has lady parts?”

“Daddy!” Christine bellowed from behind. “I heard that.”

Max surprisingly began to sing loudly and with a dash of spicy vocal irritant:

“People are people so why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully. So we’re different colors and we’re different creeds and different people have different needs. It’s obvious you hate me though I’ve done nothing wrong. I just now met you at the bus station so what could I have done? I can’t understand what makes a man hate another man, help me understand.”

“What the hell was that all about?” Mr. LaBrush demanded to know.

“It’s part of a song,” Max replied. “Do you like Depeche Mode?”

“Depeche a what?”

“It’s a band Mr. LaBrush. It’s music. Groovy music.”

“Sounds like crap to me! I can’t believe you were singing a devil song in my car. I find that quite disrespectful. And it is quite daring of you to bring my morality into question here. My morality is the right morality, and I won’t stand for someone else to cast doubt over it.”

“But Mr. LaBrush. I was simply making a statement about the love for all people and accepting Christine for who she is via the spirit of a shirtless Dave Gahan.”

“Boy, what in the name of super-duper Jesus are you talking about? And may I remind you his name is Chris and he’s got mental problems and we’re going to see a doctor and get his head and balls all fixed up right and make him a man again!”

“Herbert!” Mrs. LaBrush barked from the back. “This is no time to discuss this. Max is our guest, and we are going to have a pleasant evening whether you like it or not! I’m sorry Max, but my husband can be a bit of an insensitive gorilla at times.”

“And my wife can be a cackling bitch most of the time!” Herbert LaBrush snapped.

“Please, sir,” Max broke in. “I’m very sorry I spoke out. You’re right. I overstepped my boundaries and I apologize to you both. I’ll try to do better, but let’s not resort to horrible name calling.”

Mr. LaBrush sighed with deep annoyance and drove the rest of the way to the house without saying another word.

TO BE CONTINUED


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