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Getting His Goat 

"I gotta tell you; in the back of my mind is the thought that I still love her in some kind of way. But it's over. Papers have been filed."

You're not sure how to feel. Half the time you want to laugh, like you're watching some Rodney Dangerfield riff.

The other half of the time you want to feel bad for everyone who ever has to be even a small part of something like this.

Well, you sure couldn't see it coming. The visitor came in, was offered and accepted a generic beer and started talking with Brady's brother Leon -- with an eye on bugging Brady just a bit.

"Leon, does your brother ever share his stash of Viagra with you, like if you had a new girlfriend you wanted to impress?"

"He better keep the girlfriend he's got," Brady said. "You know what they call a musician who just broke up with his girlfriend, huh? Homeless."

"Listen who's talking," muttered Leon. He was flipping cashews high in the air with his thumb and trying to catch them in his mouth.

"When the boy's right, he's right," Brady said to the visitor. "Me and Donna are over. No more, dude. Papers have been filed."

"Come on," said the visitor. "Where is she?"

"No, she's still here," Brady said. "We're both here. Nuts, huh?"

Nobody said anything for a while. Brady pointed the remote at the TV and pretended to be interested in the images flying by.

"Well, I'm sorry to hear it," the visitor finally said. "Because no matter who causes it, there's plenty of pain to go around."

"The kids, too," Leon said from somewhere deep in the sofa.

"Wanna hear how I heard about it? This'll crack you up," Brady said. He picked up an air telephone and started to talk in it, using a squeaky voice.

"You don't know me but I'm an attorney who's interested in representing you in this upcoming domestic matter ... No sir, trust me, you are going to need good legal representation very soon ..."

Brady lowered the air telephone and dropped the squeaky voice.

"Yeah, this nosewipe goes over to the Gretna Courthouse and sees who's filing for divorce and he phones the spouse from the courthouse, so that's how I find out that Donna's filed for divorce."

The visitor thought about it. Leon didn't seem to be thinking about it.

"What if the creepy lawyer hadn't called?"

"I asked her that! You mean, I was just gonna get served by a process server? Like maybe just before we sit down to eat some lima beans and paneéd meat with the kids, there's gonna be a knock on the door? And you gonna answer and yell, 'It's for you! ... Want dessert?'"

This is the Rodney Dangerfield part. Leon stopped flipping cashews and smiled a big smile. The visitor allowed himself a small one ...

"So she tells me this right after the first of the month and I got nothing left to move out on. Deposits, all that crap. So I tell her, 'You ever seen Sitting Bull? Because I'm gonna be Sitting Bull around here for the next 30 days.' So we still sleeping in the same bed ..."

This too seemed amusing at first and everybody kept smiling their smiles. But then everybody began to think what it would actually be like in that room and the thousands of things people can do to make someone else feel rotten. The closeness of absurdity and sorrow. The smiles started to look forced.

Brady broke into a monologue, a jumble of things that sometimes contradicted each other but hung together as a bleeding whole ...

"She says, well I told you I was gonna. Yeah, that was in November. Before Christmas anyways. But this is it. Maybe I never did love her. Maybe she never loved me either. Eleven years. But this is it. We ain't going in front of no judges, where everyone has to start dragging out W-2's. But I asked her if we shouldn't try one more time, at least 'til the end of the month. 'Cuz it's gonna be tough for me. I ain't lived alone in 11 years. But the girl didn't like the way I disciplined our kids. She didn't like my family or my friends. But I gotta tell you; in the back of my mind is the thought that I still love her in some kind of way. But it's over. Papers have been filed."

There was the sound of the side door slamming shut. In a second, Brady's younger kid Timmy ran into the room. Father and son did some mock sparring and then Brady grabbed Timmy up in a bear hug and said over his head:

"The kids have started to take up sides already."

Donna shuffled defiantly into the room. She reached over and took Timmy by the arm and as she sat on the sofa edge she held Timmy against her lap like a shield. Or a sword ...

"You're looking good, Donna," the visitor said because it was true.

Donna nodded and then seemed to spot the nutty mess Leon had made. "I hope you don't mind eating cashews off the carpet," she said crisply.

"I'd make him vacuum them up if you even knew where the vacuum cleaner was," Brady said right back. She threw him a look that was more of a curse word than most curse words you can think of. Then she shuffled defiantly out of the room.

Nobody said anything. Then Leon picked up from the lamp table one of those packets you see on the counters of convenience stores. He started to read from off the packet with an eye on bugging Brady just a little bit.

"'Goat Weed'," Leon read. "'When You Feel The Need. All Natural. Releases Hidden Testosterone.' What's it hiding from, dude?"

"I won't be needing any of that stuff anytime soon," Brady said with dread. "I'm gonna need me a cheap apartment somewheres."

As was said earlier, half the time you want to laugh. You're not sure how to feel ...

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