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The Ruling Body  
01:08pm 08/02/2011
 
 
Mister Nihil
 An agent is visited by a family act. A mother, a father, a son and a daughter. They come in, announced, carrying their letters of introduction. He's seen footage of their act, but he pretends otherwise.
"So," he says,"They tell me you think you're pretty entertaining."
The family all nod, looking back and forth. They know, he's seen them. Why is he being so distant?
"Well, let's see it. I need to see you in person, see what kind of act you're doing. I gotta see if you're worth taking out of that fleabag trash-heap Miltons calls a theater, take you on the road. Play some real houses. What you got?"
So, the father and mother look at each other, turn to the kids, and they all count, in unison. Three, four, one two three four-
"So," says Father, taking a cigar out of his right breast pocket and clipping it casually, "Mother, you been to the store yet?"
"I went down there, " says Mother, twirling her hair on her slender left index finger. "They were out of peaches. Can you believe it?"
"I can believe it," says Father, taking an experimental pull on the cigar, testing the airway. He pats down his pockets for a lighter.
"Clean out. They didn't have no fresh or canned." She draws out the syllables in Canned, making the word closer to Kehh-unn'd, a Brooklyn Brogue ingrained through generations of New York life.
"Not even canned, eh? Say, Son, you got a light?"
"Sure, Pop." Sonny pulls out his little, silver butane lighter, a little too ready. Father sends him a mildly disapproving look, then holds the lighter mere inches from the end of his cigar.
"Is it alright, I should have asked. Is it alright if I smoke?" He holds the agent's gaze, then flicks the lighter, puffing and turning the cigar until the end glows bright. "Not even canned, you say," he muses. "So, what did you do, Mother?"
"Oh, I went to go ask a clerk. They got a new inventory manager down at the Food Mart."
"Did you fuck him?"
The room is silent for a long moment.
"I said-"
"I heard you, Father. It ain't right, you talking like that in front of the kids, and this agent. Why, he don't know us. He don't know what kind of people we are. Why, you must think," she began to address the agent, pleading with him, imploring him not to think of her what has clearly invaded his eyes.
"You didn't answer my question, dammit. Did. You."
"No, alright. No, I did not. And it's a lady. The new inventory manager is a lady."
"Why, you tramp."
"Father, why do you have to be like that? This is like Fresno all over again."
"What? Fresno? Who the hell did you-"
"Nobody, but that didn't stop you having a damn nervous breakdown in the middle of the Damn Foley's, Father. Nobody. I never done nothing with nobody, and I don't know why you treat me like such a piece of garbage."
"Maybe if you stopped acting like-"
"Dammit! Stop!" The shriek from the young, blonde daughter sends her gum flying across the room. It lands with a soft pitter on the agent's nose.
The family begins to titter. The laughter slowly grows then dies into an affable quiet. Father puffs slowly on his cigar. Daughter begins to slowly unwrap a fresh piece of gum.
"So," says the agent, "what do you call that one?"
"The Aristocrats," say the family, in unison.
 
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