By Michael Propsom
I’m sitting at Allen’s kitchen table while he assembles ingredients for a fiber-laden bread guaranteed to optimize intestinal motility. My brother’s kitchen, like the rest of his house, is as orderly as his financial portfolio. In fact, I’m the only clutter he’s ever tolerated in his home.
“There’s nothing wrong with being proactive and methodical,” he says. “Remember what happened to the grasshopper.”
“I’d rather fiddle, dance, and die in the sunlight than merely exist underground,” I counter. “Besides, I’ve always depended on the kindness of ants.”
“The odds are in your favor on that count, Blanche.” I’m impressed that he caught my oblique homage to A Streetcar. And shocked that he composed a clever rejoinder.
While he concentrates on rationing out flour, I spin his laptop around and check the browsing history: Filiponowomen.com—DateVietGals.net—ChinaDolls.net—Russianbride.com—SingleCowgals.com. I have to fight back a laugh at the last site. The only horse my brother’s ever ridden was a peeling, painted nag bolted to the deck of a carnival carousel.
Allen looks up from his culinary/gastrointestinal fusion project. “What are you doing?”
“Checking out your love life,” I answer. “Instead of cruising these latter-day mail order bride sites, just dive into the dating world. Don your coolest leisure suit, hit a bar, hammer down a margarita, and slide onto the dance floor. Take a chance.”
“Take a chance?” Allen pours salt into a measuring spoon, then strikes it off level with the back of a knife. He follows recipes with a fundamentalist fanaticism. “Like you took with Stephanie? And Marla, and Sheila, and–”
“Point taken. But ordering a wife online like she’s a piece of oriental porcelain?” I know he’s seen those couples out in public; young Asian women, done up from toenails to topknot, sashaying arm-in-arm in supermarkets with older men. Geezers so ugly they couldn’t get a woman to follow them home without laying a trail of Krugerrands leading up to their front door.
“At least a woman like that will stay faithful to me.” The grim working of his jaw muscles tells me pursuing the topic makes no sense.
I’ve never possessed a surplus of sense. “But six grand or more to procure a wife? You could lease two incarnations’ worth of escorts for that much green.”
Allen doesn’t even acknowledge my jibe with a smile. He consumes joy in miserly proportions, as though it were an overpowering spice. “If you repaid half of the money I loaned you, I could ‘procure’ two wives.”
It’s hopeless to argue further. “Well, whatever model you get, I hope she comes with a lifetime warranty.”
Allen stamps on the floor and issues a low curse.
“Ants. Fucking red ants. They’re everywhere.” He hurls the ingredients into his trash compactor, then begins stomping around like a finalist in a clogging competition. One little red renegade carrying a Rice Krispy—God knows where she found it in this immaculate setting—scurries toward the shelter of the cabinet toe kick. I root for her, but in vain. Allen’s size 10 wingtip flattens the creature within inches of her goal.
I drain the last of my coffee. “Well, brother ant, I believe this grasshopper is going to head out and search for his next future, former mate for life.” I start for the door as my brother pulls a can of bug spray from under the sink and begins to commit mass sororicide.