Pity the Fool

Pity The Fool charcoal drawing
Pity The Fool short story illustration. Charcoal drawing by author.

Pity the Fool

The boy is fourteen now. He walks into the house and sees that the A-Team is on TV and he can’t believe it. Mr. T is shouting “I pity the fool” at some effeminate white man.  The boy’s two little cousins are sitting on the floor of the living room watching the A-Team and laughing. They are sitting on the floor only a few feet from the screen.  The boy knows his father will go ape shit.

He looks at his mother and starts to say something, but realizes she probably doesn’t even care. No, he knows she doesn’t care.  His mother wants a fight.

Then the boy’s father comes in from the welding shop. He throws off his boots just outside the glass door of the carport and sees that the glass panes in the door are smeared with greasy little handprints. He is cussing under his breath about the smeared glass and the way his wife has parked crooked in the carport:  “I tole them damn kids not to be pushin on this glass.  Gone blame me when they push the damn glass out and wind up at the goddamn emergency room.”

He is drunk and he is loud and he knows she can hear him.  He wants her to hear him.

He bangs through the flimsy storm door into the kitchen and glares at the boy’s mother, but she only stares straight ahead like she could care less about anything he has to say.  Immediately he starts to lay into her, but his face is drawn to the noise of the TV. It is blasting with gunshots and the squeals of car tires.  The boy’s mother has let the little kids turn the volume up ridiculously loud.

Mr. T is shouting “I pity the fool” again as if right on cue.

His father clenches his fists, which go white except for the scabs on the knuckles.

“Shut that TV off!” he screams.  “All that goddamn thing does is stir up the niggers.”

“You let them babies watch that TV if they want to,” she screams back.  “It’s one of their shows they watch.”

“Naw, not that son of a bitch.  If you gonna watch a nigger, you watch George Jefferson, but not that son of a bitch.”

His mother yells at him to watch his mouth in front of the babies, and this makes him silent for a moment.  The anger in his face starts to crack a little, and he just looks sad and tired.

Then his mother makes her voice as sarcastic as possible, “You could pretend like you have some sense sometimes.”

His father ignores this as best he can, so she tries again.  She makes an extravagant wave in the direction of the children, who are doing their best to pretend they are invisible. “Look around you sometime, thickhead.  Are you that thick in the head?”

He grits his teeth and starts to yell again, but then he thinks better.  He stomps past her and snatches another beer out of the refrigerator.  He opens it, and the can starts spewing wet foam.  It is dripping all over the floor, and when he tries to toss the can into the kitchen sink, it slips and rolls down the counter top soaking all the receipts and mail that have been dumped there.

That is when the boy’s mother jumps up off the stool and starts shaking her finger and yelling at his father, and from here on out the fighting gets really loud.  The fight goes on and on for several hours and neither leaves the kitchen or stops yelling the entire time, except for a brief pause to send the cousins out to Aunt Joanie’s car when it is time for them to go home.

In the boy’s opinion, the fight isn’t any worse than usual, but it is a couple of weeks before Aunt Joanie lets his mother babysit the cousins again.

short story by Joe Riverson Smith