Comic Stripped (P.4)

Disturbing dinner conversation

Once at the modest brick and vinyl Midwest bungalow, Max Pine took a seat in an uncomfortable chair near an unlit fireplace. The mantel above was littered with framed photos of Christine as Chris, images of another time that Max scanned with wild sick eyes. An old clock quietly ticked away in the middle.

Mr. LaBrush was fixing drinks at a small wet bar on the other side of the room. Max could hear ice being dropped into a glass.

“You drink whiskey, Max? Or does your kind prefer a wine spritzer?”

“My kind, sir?”

“Well, you’re porking my son so technically that makes you queer, right?”

“I don’t think you know me well enough to make such a brash and insensitive statement, Mr. LaBrush. And what makes you so certain that Christine and I have had any sexual relations? I mean, we haven’t known each other that long. I’m not a pig… And I’ll have a whiskey.”

Mr. LaBrush dropped another round of ice and poured whiskey in a glass. He walked across the room and roughly handed it to Max.

“I wasn’t born yesterday, Max. I spent over 30 years in the military, and I know a thing or two about human behavior. I’m not accepting of any of this at all. It’s wrong. It’s ungodly. I’m not going to cave in and be nice about it either.”

Mr. LaBrush took a deep gulp of his drink, picked up one of the photos on the mantel and studied it with disappointment in his aching eyes. “Just look at what my son used to be. When I think of all he could have become, all he could have accomplished. He’s destroyed his life and soul. It hurts my heart. It truly does.”

“But Christine is still your…”

“I demand you refer to my son as Chris in my house!”

Max sighed with frustration. “Chris is still your child regardless of what he or she accomplishes or doesn’t accomplish in life. If I could be so blunt, sir, you talk as if she has absolutely no value anymore. It’s untrue and sad.”

Mr. LaBrush chuckled as he took another gulp of his drink. “Wow. You certainly are bold. Maybe you could lend some of your balls to my son.” He came closer to Max and hovered over him in a threatening manner almost. “But let me just make one thing nice and sparkling clear, Max. Once you leave this house tonight, I don’t ever want to see you again. I don’t want you back in my home and I definitely do not want you screwing my son. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll just walk away. Walk away, Max.”

Max gulped down his drink, held up the empty glass to Mr. LaBrush and smiled. “May I have another?” he asked.

Mr. LaBrush snatched the glass away, set it on a nearby table and disappeared into the dining room.


The dining room hummed with an uncomfortable quiet as they gathered at the table to eat Swedish meatballs.

“Max,” Mr. LaBrush began. “It’s customary in our household for the guest to lead us in prayer before we eat our meal.”

“Actually, I’m not religious,” Max let it be known to those gathered. “I’m afraid I don’t know anything about praying.”

Mr. LaBrush shook his head in disbelief and dismay.

“What do you mean you’re not religious? Everyone is religious. Don’t you believe in God or his little friend, Jesus?”

“No sir, I don’t.”

Mr. LaBrush slapped the tabletop with a meaty hand and the dishes jangled. “Well god damn it! I never thought I’d have a real live pagan sitting here at my supper table. I’m really at a loss here, people. Seems everything is going to hell in a hand basket. The problem is, you young people have no standards or religious morals anymore. You young people just think you can go off and do anything you want. If it feels good, you just go and do it no matter the consequences to your body, mind or soul.”

Mr. LaBrush glared at Christine. “Take my son, for example. He didn’t want to be a man anymore because it didn’t feel right to him… So, what does he do? He decides to turn himself into a girl. Well, I call all that bullshit! Now look at him — he’s got manufactured body parts. He’s defiled God’s own work. It makes me sick.”

Christine started to whimper within the cloud of his berating. She dabbed at her tears with a napkin.

“Herbert!” Mrs. LaBrush screamed. “You stop that right now or I swear I will leave you! This is our child! No matter what, this is our child!”

Mr. LaBrush snorted.

“You’re going to leave me? Hah! That’s a laugh. You wouldn’t survive one day out in that crazy world without me you silly bitch! Those pagans and hippie liberal assholes would eat you up like a bowl of dog food.”

Max started to get up from the table. “I think we should leave, Christine. I feel very unwelcome.”

“Sit down!” Mr. LaBrush barked. “My wife went to a lot of trouble to cook you this meal and you’re going to eat it!”

Max grudgingly sat back down and plunged his fork into the plate of the worst Swedish meatballs he ever had. He looked around the table at the startled, dying eyes as the people there ate the food without any hint of real purpose in life.

“By the way, Max,” Herbert LaBrush started up again, slushily talking with his mouth full of food. “What kind of a person are you?”

“What do you mean what kind of person am I?”

“I mean your background, your ethnicity. Your skin seems a little… Off.”

“Daddy, stop it!” Christine cried out. “You’re being awful.”

“Zip it, girly boy! I want to hear what he’s got to say.”

“Well, if you must know, my father was black, and my mother is Chinese.”

“Holy dog shit!” Mr. LaBrush bellowed. “God damn, this just gets better and better! But it explains a lot.”

“What the hell do you mean by that!?” Max asked, his blood boiling to the point of overspill.

“I’m talking about consequences, Max. Consequences.”

“Consequences?”

“Yes. You’re the unfortunate consequence of the sinful mixing of skin types.”

Max slammed his napkin down on the table. “You know, Mr. LaBrush, for a man who constantly spews talk of God and righteousness, you sure are one hell of a hateful bigot!”

“Don’t you dare talk to me that way in my own house you little son of a bitch!”

Mrs. LaBrush suddenly shot up from the table, her arms raised above her head, hands violently shaking in the air. “Just stop it, stop it, stop it right now!” she wildly screamed and stomped. “No more! I’ve had enough of this ugliness! Now, we are going to act like civilized human beings or there will be no dessert for anyone. And I’m serious. I’ll go throw it in the garbage!”

“Don’t you dare touch my schaum torte!” Mr. LaBrush warned. “I’ll stick a fork in your face!”

“Oh, shut it, Herbert!” she said, breathing hard as she looked around the table at them. “Understood?”

Mr. LaBrush grumbled under his breath. Christine hung her head in embarrassment and shame and pain.

“Yes, mam,” Max said. “I agree we should try to be a bit nicer to each other. And I apologize for the role I may have played in the disruption.”

“Thank you, Max,” Mrs. LaBrush said. “I’m glad you are willing to make this evening work… Herbert?”

“What?”

“Don’t you feel you owe us all an apology for your cruel antics?” his wife asked.

Mr. LaBrush sucked on his teeth for a bit as his eyes went from Max to Christine and then up to his trembling wife. He scooted away from the table, got up and walked off into the other room and poured himself another drink.

TO BE CONTINUED


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