the museum of americana

a literary review

John Cheever Revises Reunion—Parody by Evan Allgood

The last time I saw my father was in Grand Central Penn Station in the summer of 2029. I was going from my grandmother’s in the Adirondacks Wharton to a cottage on the Cape in the Hamptons that my mother had rented, and I wrote texted my father that I would be in New York between trains for an hour and a half, and asked if we could have lunch together. His secretary wrote called, a “Jane Barron” who sounded suspiciously like my father, to say that he would meet me at the information booth at noon, and at twelve o’clock sharp twelve forty-five I saw him coming through the crowd down the escalator, grinning in his mindless way. Two Secret Service agents trailed behind, their faces shrouded in shame.

He was a stranger to me—my mother divorced him three years ago and I hadn’t seen him since—but as soon as I saw him I felt that he was my father, my flesh and blood, my future and my doom. He was a big, good-looking man, and I was terribly happy to see him again. He struck me on the back and shook my hand. My father was a big rotten pumpkin of a man, decayed even by ex-presidents’ standards, and I was terribly unhappy to see him. He struck me on the back, and in doing so dislodged his hairpiece, which he no longer glued to his head for fear the glue would seep into his brain.

“Hi, Charlie Son,” he said. “Hi, boy. I’d like to take you up to my club, but it’s in the Sixties, and if you have to catch an early train I guess we’d better get something to eat around here.” He put his arm around me, and I smelled my father the way my mother sniffs a rose the help. It was a rich compound of whiskey, after-shave lotion, shoe polish, woolens, and the rankness of the mature male french fries, Purell, Jergens Instant Sun, and the rankness of a male who has lived far longer than nature intended. I hoped that someone no one would see us together. I wanted some no record of our having been together.

We went out of the station and up a side street to a restaurant McDonald’s. It was still early, and the place was empty. We sat down, and my father hailed the waiter person behind the counter in a loud voice. “Kellner!“ “Hombre!” he shouted. “Carbon! Cameriere! Amigo! You!” His boisterousness in the empty restaurant seemed out of place. “Could we have a little service here!” he shouted. “Chop-chop.” Then he clapped his tiny hands. This caught the waiter’s cashier’s attention, and he shuffled strode over to our table.

“Were you clapping your hands at me?” he asked.

“Calm down, calm down, sommelier muchacho,” my father said. “If it isn’t too much to ask of you, if it wouldn’t be above and beyond the call of duty for you and the rest of MS-13, we would like a couple of Beefeater Gibsons Diet Cokes.”

“I don’t like to be clapped at,” the waiter cashier said. “And we don’t have table service here. This is a McDonald’s.”

“I should have brought my whistle button,” my father said. “I have a whistle that is audible only to the ears of old waiters. Now, take out your little pad and your little pencil and see if you can get this straight: two Beefeater Gibsons. Repeat after me: two Beefeater Gibsons.” “I used to have a button, and whenever I pushed it, a butler would appear with a tray of Diet Coke. Now, take your little iPad and see if you can get this straight, Amigo: two Diet Cokes. Repeat after me, in American: two Diet Cokes.”

“I think you’d better go somewhere else,” the waiter cashier said quietly.

“That,” said my father, “is one of the most brilliant suggestions I have ever heard. Come on, Charlie Son, let’s get the hell out of here.”

I followed my father out of that restaurant into another. He was not so boisterous this time, not at first. But after a few minutes he pulled his Galaxy S3 from his pocket and entered into a loud, ostensible conversation with a member of his club. “A lifetime achievement award?” he shouted. “Tonight? Terrific. That’s just terrific. Thank you.” He hung up the phone, which had never rung. “Oh, if only there were time to go up to my club,” my father said. “They’re giving me a huge award tonight.”

A server approached us. She asked my father to please keep the noise to a minimum.

“What’s that, Miss Applebee?” my father said.

“Excuse me?” the server said.

“Are you deaf or just stupid?” my father shouted. “You work for Applebee’s, so your last name must be—”

“I’m sorry, sir,” the server said, “but you’re cut off from the Diet Cokes.”

“Well, I have some news for you,” my father said. “I have some very interesting news for you. This doesn’t happen to be the only awful restaurant in New York. They’ve opened another on the corner. Come on, Charlie Son.”

He I paid the bill, and I followed him out of the restaurant into another. Here the waiters wore pink jackets like hunting coats, and there was a lot of horse tack on the walls. We sat down, and my father began to shout again. “Master of the hounds! Tallyhoo and all that sort of thing. We’d like a little something in the way of a stirrup cup. Namely, two Bibson Geefeaters Diet Covfefes.”

“Two Bibson Geefeaters Diet Covfefes?” the waiter asked, smiling.

“You know damned well what I want,” my father said angrily. “I want two Beefeater Gibsons Diet Cokes, and make it snappy. Things have changed in jolly old England. So my friend the duke queen tells me. We’re very good friends. She calls me all the time.

“This isn’t England,” the waiter said.

“Don’t argue with me,” my father said. “Just do as you’re told.”

“I just thought you might like to know where you are,” the waiter said.

“If there is one thing I cannot tolerate,” my father said, “it is an impudent domestic a rude servant. Come on, Charlie.”

The fourth place we went to was Italian, a Sbarro. “Buon giorno. Eetsa me, El President-a,” my father said. “Per favore, possiamo avere due cocktail americani, forti, forti. Molto gin, poco vermut, due Diet Cokes.”

“I don’t understand Italian,” the waiter said.

“Oh, come off it,” my father said. “You understand Italian, and you know damned well you do. Vogliamo due cocktail Americani. Subito.”

“What?” the server said.

“We want some fucking Diet Coke,” my father said. “Diet-a Coke-a!” He kissed his tiny fingers in a nightmarish rendition of a chef.

The waiter server left us and spoke with the captain manager, who came over to our table and said, “I’m sorry, sir, but this table is reserved.”

“All right,” my father said. “Get us another table.” “We’ll sit there,” he said, pointing at another table.

“All the tables are reserved,” the captain manager said.

“What about there?” my father said, pointing at a third table. “That one looks extremely empty.”

“I have to get my train,” I said.

“I’m sorry, son,” my father said. “I’ll walk you back to the station. If there had only been time to go up to my club.”

“That’s all right, Daddy,” I said.

“I’ll get you a paper,” he said. “I’ll get you a paper to read on the train.”

Then he went up to a news stand and said, “Kind sir, will you be good enough to favour me with one of your God-damned, no-good, ten-cent afternoon papers?” “Hey loser, could you sell me one of your failing, totally corrupt newspapers?” The clerk turned away from him and stared at a magazine cover featuring my mother. “Is it asking too much, kind sir you enemy of the people,” my father said, “is it asking too much for you to sell me one of your disgusting specimens of yellow journalism fake news?”

“I have to go, Daddy,” I said. “It’s late.”

“Now, just wait a second, sonny,” he said. “Just wait a second. I want to get a rise out of this chap loser.”

“Goodbye, Daddy,” I said, and I went down the stairs and got my train, and that was the last time I saw my father. Except, of course, for all those advertisements where he endorses erectile dysfunction medication. Those things are everywhere.

~~~

Evan Allgood has written for The New Yorker, Vulture, McSweeney’s, The Millions, Paste, Los Angeles Review of Books, and 3:AM Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn with his rescue dog, Petey. Follow and maybe later unfollow him on Twitter @evoooooooooooo.