It was Mother's Day. I was jobbing, staring at a baby who did not like me. I say she did not like me, of that I cannot be sure. What I can be sure of is the look on her face roughly resembled what one would give a person who had just passed wind in a broken elevator, or who had by accident run them over. It was a look such as I had no idea babies could make: wrinkles and all. For a short while, through the duration of her scowl, I thought I was beholding a very old, very little woman with a serious grudge against having been born, and who thought I may have been the perpetrator so heartless as to have conferred existence upon her.
What was the nature of my error? All I had done was to say hello and smile.
"She does that sometimes," said who I assumed to be the child's mother, wiping the little forehead as if to erase it of all accusatory lines. "I don’t know why. You in a bad mood?"
" I am jobbing, ma’am."
"Yes, ma'am. My own neologism. Jobbing. This is to be distinguished from work, as it does not quite rise to that dignity. And a job is a moment in time, a noun, whereas this is a verb that continues on into perpetuity. Jobbing."
"I don’t get it.”
"And it works on multiple levels."
"So, we'd like some tacos."
"We haven't any."
"I've never been here before."
"Ma'am, you have no idea how lucky you are. I recommend turning around and going back from where you came, so you can still be able to make the enviable claim of having never been here before."
"What do I think is good or what am I tasked to say is good?"
"I don't know. Just what's good? How's the Trailer Park Trashy?"
"Goes well with the Cougar."
"Do you have any hard corn shell, ground beef, that kind of stuff?"
"No, ma'am. That would suggest we are a taco joint. Our business is being a Taco joint."
"A taco place without ground beef? How’s that?”
"It is empirically impossible, I agree. If you like tacos. However, if you like Tacos, it makes perfect sense. If it makes you feel better, we have a fake ground beef. Plant-based."
"Odd, I’ll admit"
"That's the Mo-Fox?"
"Mo-Fo. It's a pun. Faux is French for fake. Also goes well with the Cougar and the Trailer Park Trashy."
"Does it? I'll take one of each."
"Okay. A Mo-Faux, a Trailer Park Trashy, and a Cougar. Would you like corn or flour with those?"
"What's the difference?"
And so forth.
Dear reader, these are my daily discussions, dozens by the hour.
But I had little time to talk. I was due to call The Mother to wish her a happy occupation day. I say that. There was also an ulterior motive. As The Barry Lewis reminded me, before I could so much as sip this morning's coffee, I had a Big 12 Power Rankings to write. And a reputation to uphold. And I say, without fear of judgment at all, there was no one more logical to implore for assistance than The Mother. I sent a telephone communication, watching a line of a few hundred patrons elongate to the door, happy I was so blessed to have such a dear mother to whom I could appeal, giving me the satisfaction of no longer performing the duties of my jobbing, and the double satisfaction of being able to throw those duties on the shoulder of someone else, in this case, The America.
"Hello?" the dearest of ladies said.
“I’m sorry. Who is this?”
“Your favorite son!”
“At any rate, the elder one.”
“Oh,” she said in assent. “Hi.”
"I've never been so thankful to be able to speak with you before now!"
"Oh. Why is that?"
"You are alleviating me the sufferings of my jobbing."
"Is everything okay?"
"No. I just told you."
"Told me what?"
"I am jobbing."
"I wouldn't know. I don't work. I job.”
"What about your Sports Illustrated job or jobbing?"
"Oh that. That's not work or jobbing. That's faking."
"How is it?"
"Need you remind me?"
"I have a Big 12 Power Rankings to write this week, and I don't have any. Last week, we held a wake for my friend, who got crushed between a Hellcat and an Audi, and he came back to life under the name Yeezus . . ."
"That's nice, sweetie."
" . . .and told me what the exact rankings were, on the authority of the Good Lord Himself, but this week there isn't anyone to help and how can I do better than the Good Lord in His infinite wisdom?"
"What did the Good Lord say?"
I gave her last week's rankings.
"Are you sure this was the Good Lord who gave you these?"
"I am veritably certain. Why?"
"He didn't do very well."
"How could it not be He? Have you ever seen a person before your very eyes get crushed between a Hellcat and an Audi and to be verified dead by everyone witness to it, to be lain in his coffin, and at his very own wake, rise up and start speaking? Have you? Have you?"
"Where were you when this occurred?"
"How's that germane to the case!"
"Could explain hallucinations."
"I was at a bar, does that make a difference?"
"Oh sweetie. You've been drinking."
"Not in 48 hours! And anyway, I hardly got to take a sip! My Guinness keeps getting swiped! And beyond that, no man has been so drunk he hallucinated an entire wake!"
"So you need this week's rankings?"
"If it so please The Mother."
"Well, at No. 1, I'd put TCU."
"I love you, Mother! Who's number 2?"
"It doesn't matter after that. Any order at random will do. Only those five matter.”
"Thanks. I love you! Happy Mother’s Day!"
"How are you--"
I proceeded to send a text to the Barry Lewis, with The Mother's rankings, Kansas, Kansas State, and Baylor comprising the next three seats.
Shortly thereafter, the Dear Man sent me a telephone communication: “These are quite good. The Lord sent them to you?”
“Not quite. The Mother did.”
“She’s very good.”
“I cannot in truth deny that.”
“I think you may be the first writer in the history of Sports Illustrated to have consulted his mother for a ranking.”
“At any rate, undoubtedly the worst. Thanks, Barry!”
And then I relaxed. Until The Jason, aka., The Employer, bid me return to my stand, beside The America. I wept. I uttered curses such as no man in the history of motherhood. Opened my eyes and beheld a mother, holding a little girl in a blue gingham dress. I do not know what kind of look my eyes wore to the little lady, but in hers was the glinting crest of a very happy, very gentle, very friendly smile. Though I could not say it was benign.
“Corn or flour, ma’am?”
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