I spent 14 hours treating desperate patients at my Burbank acupuncture office today. I've got plenty of work, what with post-Toronto-New York-Helsinki-Film-Festival depression being so rampant. It's the West Coast version of Lyme disease, but without the rash.
Tonight, as I walked up the front porch, a tall, hulking figure leaped from the shadows and pushed me backwards off the step, flat into the flowerbed. It was Miss Feather, my daughter Meryl’s kindergarten teacher. A bosomy Mr. Clean in an apron, Miss Feather towered over me, hands on hips, glaring down with disgust, like I was a porcelain convenience in need of a scrub.
“Soooo!” she taunted, pushing her foot into my chest. A smile as thin as razor wire twisted across her doughy face.
“Soooo what?” I said, wondering if I should grab her ankle, throw her off-balance, spring to my feet and give her a roundhouse kick to the cerebellum. But since I hadn’t so much as plugged in my treadmill for five years I gave her a nice, little smile instead.
“Something I can do for you?” I asked.
“Soooo,” she hissed, “what happened to you last Friday? I waited. Where were you, huh? What's your excuse this time?”
“What do you mean, what happened to me?”
A withering sneer from Mrs. Clean. “Don’t get smart with me, little man. You missed our parent-teacher conference last week. That’s 11 times this year you’ve failed to show, 11 unexcused absences. Your daughter’s behavior is getting out of control and it’s time we had a cozy little chat.”
“Oh yeah?” I said. “And what’s she done now?”
“Today at show-and-tell, after the other kids had shown their Arctic fossils and pictures of endangered rain forests, your little Meryl got up and lip-synched Shirley Bassey’s ‘Hey Big Spender.’ She said it was one of her audition pieces for Yale Drama School.”
“You didn’t like her Medea either,” I said. “Maybe the problem is you.”
Miss Feather clicked her tongue. “A 5-year-old girl should not be wiggling around with a feather boa and sequined headband.”
“Well, not with her father’s boa and sequined headband, anyway."
She pressed her foot deeper into my chest and pushed me from side to side, like she was rolling a cannoli. “Sooo, a smart aleck, are you?” she said. “Well, tell me this: how am I supposed to explain Meryl’s behavior to the children's parents? Or the administration? It’s time you started thinking about somebody besides yourself.”
“Are you kidding?“ I said. “That’s all I ever do.” And I launched into a heart-rending description of my passion for my work and how the people who come to me are broken, misguided souls to whom I give new hope and direction. By the time I was finished talking, Miss Feather was wiping tears from her eyes.
“That’s the most touching story I’ve ever heard,” she sobbed, shuffling down the walkway toward her black SUV.
I thought so too. It’s a monologue from "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," and if I ever audition for Yale Drama School, I’m gonna use it.