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SABBATH NIGHT IN THE CHURCH OF THE FlRANHAJEdward Falco MATT AND CHRIS PENROSE leaned against the wall on either side of their living room's towering windows and peeked down the sunlit driveway, where Matt's mother struggled to get out of her car seat. His mother was heavy, always had been, all the long years of his childhood and adolescence, which he remembered as one unending moment of yearning for escape. His father was short and muscular from daily workouts at the YMCA gym. Anyone else watching a powerfully built little man straining to help a heavy woman out of her bucket seat—almost anyone else—would have found the sight amusing . Matt, however, didn't. Nor did his fifteen-year-old son, Chris. "Penrose," Chris said, "you told them to quit popping in like this." He stepped back from the window and crossed his arms over his chest like a schoolmaster addressing an undisciplined child. "Now she's going to demand to see my room again; I'm going to say no again; she's going to look at me with disgust again, like how could I possibly have the audacity not to allow her to inspect my room like some kind of Marine sergeant; then she's going to look at you with contempt for not being tougher with me, and I'm going to tell her off again; then she's going to—" "Well, perhaps," Matt interrupted, "perhaps some of that can be avoided, Chris? Do you think?" Chris paused pregnantly, his face a mask of indignation. "Master," he said. "I'm not calling you Master. Forget it. M is the best I can manage." "I can live with M." "Fine, M," Matt said. "While we're on the subject of names, perhaps you could manage to call me Dad once in a while. You used to call me Dad. Now I'm Penrose." "When was the last time I called you Dad?" "You always used to." "Since I moved in?" "That's the point. Since you moved in I've been Penrose." Chris stared at his father in silence, as if waiting for Matt to comprehend the absurdity of his argument. He was a tall, muscular kid with sandy blond hair that he wore longish, partly covering his ears. A silver Egyptian ankh dangled from his right earlobe. The Missouri Review · 7 "Okay," Matt said. "So you weren't caUing me anything the last couple of years with your mother." "I didn't talk to you for two years." "But before that you caUed me Dad." Chris continued with the schoolmaster stare. "How about this?" Matt said. He touched the fingertips of his right hand to his right temple, paused and then formaUy offered his request. "M," he said. "I'd appreciate it if you would call me Dad, rather than Penrose." "I'm not calling you Dad," Chris said. "Forget it. Best I can do is Penrose." "Forever?" Matt said. "That's it? I'm Penrose forever?" "Maybe if you'd refer to me as I've requested," Chris said, "I'd be more inclined to refer to you—" "You want me to call you Master1. That's not fair." "Why is it not fair? It's not Master like I'm your master. It's a title, like Professor or Doctor. Besides," he added, "caUing you Dad puts me in exactly the kind of subordinate role—" "Don't start with the lectures!" "Exactly the kind of subordinate role that you're afraid calling me Master will put you in." Matt counted to ten. "You are m a subordinate role," he said. "I'm the father. I'm the old guy with the wrinkles; you're the young guy with the muscles. I get the authority; you get the sexy girlfriends. That's the way it is." Chris shrugged. Matt wentback to the window. His mother had gotten herself turned around so that her legs were out of the car and her weight was balanced on the outer edge of the seat. His father was crouched beside her with his arms around his knees. Chris said, "What are they doing here anyway?" "Another surprise...


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