After the dessert the women got up and left. My mother closed the door. The whole thing looked premeditated. Uncle Frank got down to business by lighting his pipe, pushing some dishes out of the way, and leaning toward me. He took the pipe out of his mouth and shook the stem under my nose.
He said, “Look here, you little sonofabitch; I didn’t know you were a thief too. I knew you were lazy, but by God I didn’t know you were a thieving little thief.”
I said, “I’m not a sonofabitch, either.”
“I talked to Romero,” he said. “I know what you did.”
“I warn you,” I said. “In no uncertain terms I warn you to desist from calling me a sonofabitch again.”
“You stole ten dollars from Romero.”
“Your presumption is colossal, unvaunted. I fail to see why you permit yourself the liberty of insulting me by calling me a sonofabitch.”
He said, “Stealing from your employer! That’s a fine thing.”
“I tell you again, and with the utmost candor that, despite your seniority and our blood-relationship, I positively forbid you to use such opprobious names as sonofabitch in reference to me.”
“A loafer and a thief for a nephew! It’s disgusting.”
“Please be advised, my dear uncle, that since you choose to vilify me with sonofabitch I have no alternative but to point out the blood-fact of your own scurrilousness. In short, if I am a sonofabitch it so happens that you’re the brother of a bitch. Laugh that off.”
“Romero could’ve had you arrested. I’m sorry he didn’t.”
“Romero is a monster, a gigantic fraud, a looming lug. His charges of piracy amuse me. I fail to be moved by his sterile accusations. But I must remind you once more to curb the glibness of your obscenities. I am not in the habit of being insulted, even by relatives.”
He said, “Shut up you little fool! I’m talking about something else. What’ll you do now?”
“There are myriad possibilities.”
He sneered, “Myriad possibilities! That’s a good one! What the devil are you talking about? Myriad possibilities!”
I took some puffs on my cigarette and said, “I presume I’ll embark on my literary career now that I have had done with the Romero breed of proletarian.”
“My literary plans. My prose. I shall continue with my literary efforts. I’m a writer, you know.”
“A writer? Since when did you become a writer? This is a new one. Go on, I’ve never heard this one before.”
I told him, “The writing instinct has always lain dormant in me. Now it is in the process of metamorphosis. The era of transition has passed. I am on the threshold of expression.
He said, “Balls.”
I took the new notebook out of my pocket and flipped the pages with my thumb. I flipped them so fast he couldn’t read anything but he could see some writing in it. “These are notes,” I said. “Atmospheric notes. I’m writing a Socratic symposium on Los Angeles Harbor since the days of the Spanish Conquest.”
“Let’s see them,” he said.
“Nothing doing. Not until after publication.”
“After publication! What talk!”
I put the notebook back in my pocket. It smelled of crabs.
“Why don’t you buck up and be a man?” he said. “It would make your father happy up there.”
“Up where?” I said.
I’d been waiting for that.
“There is no afterlife,” I said. “The celestial hypothesis is sheer propaganda formulated by the haves to delude the have-nots. I dispute the immortal soul. It is the persistent delusion of an hoodwinked mankind. I reject in no uncertain terms the hypothesis of God. Religion is the opium of the people. The churches should be converted to hospitals and public works. All we are or ever hope to be we owe to the devil and his bootleg apples. There are 78,000 contradictions in the bible. Is it God’s word? No! I reject God! I denounce him with savage and relentless imprecations! I accept the universe godless… I look forward to the worst persecutions along the way. It’s quite all right.”