Friday Night Clam Bake – #5: The Sudden Revelation of Frankie Wadsworth

At first glance, it appeared that Frankie was merely walking across the kitchen toward the back door. On closer inspection, there were obvious signs he was mobilizing in that overly-relaxed saunter used universally by young men who are trying to appear nonchalant as they attempt to slip away and begin doing something they shouldn’t do. This suspicion was confirmed when his sister, Henrietta, slipped up behind his saunter and began bellowing like a cow with something lodged. “Where are you going!”

Frankie let out a small squeak and a big jump, reaching a height further than one should achieve when non-guilty people squeak and jump. He turned to confront Henrietta, making sure to glare at her in a menacing manner even though said glare hadn’t been particularly effective for at least 15 years. (For the first five years of her life, Henrietta was afflicted with OBW, Older Brother Worship. She had been horrified at the mere thought of her glorious brother, who clearly had been sent directly to her by wise guardian angels, ever being disappointed with her in any way. Then, at the age of six, Little Henri found Frankie’s diary, filled as it was with fevered passages addressing his deepest yearnings that he could complete his Power Rangers collection and bratty Little Henri would get on the first train out of town and not come back. Their relationship took a new course and the glares no longer worked.) “Why are you following me?”

Henrietta: “I’m not following you. I’m stopping you. You’re supposed to be in the living room with Mom and Dad.”

Frankie: “I am? How was I supposed to know that?”

Henrietta sighed and rolled her exasperated eyes in confirmation that Frankie was the stupidest person on the planet. “There’s a note.” She pointed at the fridge with one of her stubby little fingers. Frankie, briefly wandering for the thousandth time if she chewed on them at night, turned to said fridge. There was, indeed, a note, in this case a sheaf of Hello Kitty stationary rather viciously affixed to the corkboard on the freezer door, with a huge thumbtack solidly stabbed between Kitty’s eyes. (There was just so much unexpressed anger in this family.) Kitty: “Frankie, Mom and Dad are in the living room. Go there. Don’t sneak out the back door and go do something you shouldn’t. Love, God.”

Frankie stared at the note: “God?”

Henrietta: “Okay, it was really me that wrote it. But Mom’s always saying I can be anything I want to be, and today I wanted to be God.”

Frankie: “Mom only says that because none of us have any idea what you could possibly be and we’re hoping you can come up with something. And I’ve been here all afternoon. Why didn’t you just come upstairs and get me?”

Henrietta: “Because I didn’t want to climb all those stairs. It was just too much work.”

Frankie: “Yet you walked all the way in here and even took the time to violate a cat that never did anything to you.”

Henrietta: “But at least I got to stay on the same elevation. My knees aren’t what they used to be, you know.”

Frankie: “You’re only twenty years old! You’ve hardly even used them, let alone worn them out.”

Henrietta: “It never hurts to plan ahead. Unlike you, who never plans for anything and then things don’t work out and you end up having to sneak out the back door and-”

Mom, hollering from the living room: “Okay, guys, that’s enough for the opening. Flip the page on your scripts and let’s move on to scene two.”

Sounds of walking and flipping and technical people tripping over cables as they hastily move equipment.

Frankie entered the living room, where he found Mom and Dad perched in the middle of the sofa, the one that no one really liked anymore but they kept it anyway for the security-blanket aspect that it sagged just right for all their various body types. Across the coffee table from the perched duo was a lone chair, one that was not normally in that position and therefore did not exude a security-blanket charm and instead spoke of interrogation techniques. “I don’t like this,” assessed Frankie.

Mom smiled. “Oh, just take a seat, honey. We just wanted to chat a bit.”

Henrietta: “But where am I supposed to sit? Why don’t I have a special chair?”

Dad: “You can sit anywhere that you want as long as it’s not in here. This discussion doesn’t involve you, dumplin.”

Henrietta: “But where am I supposed to go?”

Mom: “Somewhere where you can’t hear us. That’s what makes it a private conversation. If you’d like, I can find you a brochure so you can learn more about privacy when you’re out of range.”

Henrietta made a huffing noise, then turned and stomped into the nearby living room, where she slumped into a chair at the table and poutily stared at the ugly centerpiece that really needed to be replaced but they couldn’t think of anything interesting to put there. She reached out, snapped off a fake apple, and then hurled it into the kitchen where it dinged off Sad Kitty on the fridge and then bounced into oblivion. (In an interesting twist, Henrietta will come across it sixty years later, but her knees will be so bad that she can’t pick it up.)

Mom smiled again and then looked at her husband. “Well, dear, I suppose we should get started. We’re supposed to meet the Fischbeins in an hour for dinner.”

Dad cleared his throat. “Well, son. I suppose I should get right to the point. When are you moving out?”

Frankie did not have an immediate answer for this.

Mom did. “We were hoping it might be tomorrow.”

Frankie: “What? Where am I supposed to go?”

Dad: “Oh, I have a very good suggestion for that.” He turned to the stereo system which was right there at his end of the couch. It was an awkward place to have a stereo system, making navigational decisions a bit complex for those sitting at that end, but the placement suits the purposes of our story so we’ll simply accept and carry on. He began to study the various knobs and buttons, as they seemed out of place, what with the system being out of place as well.

Frankie: “What are you doing?”

Dad: “I’ve decided that we should have a soundtrack for our conversations. It’s something we learned from our friend Margarita de Esparza. He finally selected a button and a CD began to whir. “I think you should move here.”

In the dining room, Henrietta burst into raucous laughter, jiggling the table and causing the fake stem of the missing fake apple to vibrate forlornly.

Mom: “I still don’t know what I did wrong with that one.”

Frankie: “I don’t understand. What’s so funny and why are you playing that song? What’s in San Francisco?”

Mom reached across the coffee table and grasped Frankie’s confused hand. “Your people, sweetie. That’s who.”

Henrietta suddenly appeared in the doorway, her face slightly flushed and her eyes wet. “Holy cow that was funny. Mom, Dad, that was a really cute way to do that, but Frankie is 22, not 52. He’s not gonna get it, so let me help you out.” She worked her way around Frankie’s confessional, shoving him a bit harder than necessary because it was fun, and then squatted down in front of the stereo. (Apparently she had found a miracle cure for her knees at some point, perhaps in the ugly centerpiece.) She popped open a storage cabinet, plucked out a CD, switched it out with McKenzie’s siren call for the people with flowers in their hair, and then hit the play button.

Frankie was stunned. “Oh my God! You think I’m gay!”

Mom smiled sweetly and faux-understandingly, an expression that loses its appeal after you’ve seen it several thousand times. “We don’t think, honey. We know. Moms always know.”

Frankie: “Apparently they don’t, because I’m not gay.”

Henrietta stood up with the limberness of someone who is clearly lying about the status of their knees and/or found a wonderful painkiller next to a Pink Floyd album. “He’s in denial. I told you he would be.”

Frankie: “Wait, you’ve all been talking about this?”

Henrietta: “Of course we have. Grandma is very excited and said she was going to knit you a rainbow scarf. I guess that church she goes to actually has indoor plumbing and progressive pot lucks.”

Frankie was pale: “Who else did you discuss this with?”

Mom turned to Dad. “Dear, show him that email group we created.”

Frankie: “Oh my God!”

Frankie stood up next to Possibly-Addicted Henrietta: “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do.”

Henrietta: “Our makeup?”

Mom: “Put on a variety show in the barn? I understand your people like to do that. We don’t have a barn, but we could build one because we love you and want you to be happy.”

Dad: “I heard something about a Tea Dance once.”

Frankie: “Mom! Dad! Do either of you even know any gay people?”

Dad: “Besides you?”

Mom: “We have some friends who have some friends that might be gay. One of them uses the word ‘tapenade’ a lot. We could introduce you!”

Frankie: “I am NOT gay. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to meet these people, because I love a good tapenade. And I could go for doing a show in a barn, so let’s not rule out building one. I have no problem embracing my artistic side, or my feminine side if you want to call it that, even though I think gender labels enforce stereotypes. I’m not like some straight men who are terrified of someone questioning their masculinity. But I am a straight man. One who strongly supports everyone getting to live their lives in the way they were meant to live them.”

Dad: “Son, that was beautiful, just like Tom Hanks’ speech when he won the Academy Award for The Philadelphia Story.”

Frankie: “Actually, it’s really not the same speech, and that’s definitely not the right movie, but thanks.”

Mom: “I was so looking forward to marching in a Pride Parade with you! I even ordered a t-shirt on eBay that I could wear. ‘I love my gay son even if he won’t move out.’ It has fringe!”

Frankie: “You can still march. We can still march. It’s not just for gay people. It’s for everybody to show their support.”

Henrietta: “Mom, maybe you could have the t-shirt changed from ‘son’ to ‘daughter’.”

Dad: “I did not see that coming. I really should have worked up a spreadsheet before we sat down to do this. I always do better when I have Microsoft products to support me.” (Far off in a processing center in Redmond, Washington, a monitoring machine beeps, signaling payroll to issue a small check for promotional services rendered.)

Mom: “Well, I certainly saw it coming. Moms always know. So you want to work in a zoo? We’ve been waiting so long for you to make a career choice.”

Henrietta: “No, Mom. I’m gay. I’m a lesbian.”

Mom: “Oh, that. I knew that, too.”

Henrietta: “Then why didn’t your order a shirt for me?”

Mom, resorting to diversionary tactics, as this is a default protocol for all Moms everywhere when presented with unexpected evidence from the defense attorney: “So, Frankie, can you still move out tomorrow?”

Frankie: “Oh. I was hoping that might get overlooked, what with all the surprise developments and coming outs. We can’t table this for another intervention session?”

Dad: “Son, it’s really past due. Some guys your age already have three kids and a low-paying job that they will never escape until the end of time or Congress finally does something about a decent minimum wage. Don’t you want to be a part of that dream?”

Mom: “It’s time to push our oldest birdie out of the nest and let him learn to fly. Or something like that. I can’t remember everything Oprah said because I had to freshen my cocktail while she was still babbling.”

Henrietta: “Of course, little birdie might fall to his death and I get to have his bedroom which is way bigger than mine, don’t think I didn’t notice that for the last twenty years.”

Dad: “What is it with you and bad things happening to animals?”

Frankie: “She lobotomized Hello Kitty in the kitchen just before we came in here!”

Mom: “Frankie, that’s enough. You’re avoiding the issue again. Can you at least promise me that you will move out before I need a hip replacement?”

Frankie: “I guess I could work on that. I suppose it would do me good to have a fresh start.”

Dad: “It would do us all some good. Said with love, of course.”

Mom: “And Henrietta? Once Frankie goes, you’re next. Run free and find a lovely girl who is just as neurotic as you are.”

Henrietta: “Why are you in such a hurry to get us out of here?”

Mom: “Because both of you have passed your expiration dates. We’ve done our job. It’s time for you to do yours. Besides, Mommy and Daddy are ready to walk around naked whenever we want and make love on every piece of furniture in the house, once again. Except the dining table. It just won’t feel the same now that you’ve nicked the apple out of the centerpiece.”

Henrietta: “How did you…”

Mom: “Because moms always know. Some of the time. And now that I see a golden vision of an empty nest on the horizon, it’s time for me to cue my own song.” She leaned over her husband and hit a button on the stereo console.

As Mom continued to lay across Dad in a suddenly sexually-charged manner inspired by future liberation and the potential release of a few decades of subjugated natural urges, Frankie and Henrietta wisely chose to scurry into the kitchen. Lobotomy Kitty numbly gazed upon them whilst they wrapped up this edition of the Clam Bake.

Frankie: “Well, that was interesting. I had no idea they were so ready for us to leave.”

Henrietta: “Yes, you did. We both did. We’ve been dragging our feet too long. It’s time for us to get out of here and hack our own path.”

Frankie: “I guess it’s just hard to leave what you know.”

Henrietta: “Of course it is. But there are more things to know, and we can’t find them unless we seek them out. And it’s not forever. There will come a day when they need us just as much as we need them now. And hopefully a life outside of here will teach us the compassion we need when it comes time for us to be the Moms who always know.”

Frankie: “You were always smarter than me.”

Henrietta: “Not according to your diary when you were eight.”

Frankie: “You read that?”

Henrietta: “Oh, please. You wrote on the cover ‘Keep Out Everybody and That Means You Henrietta’. I was all over that thing with an intensity. I almost broke a tooth chewing the lock off.”

Frankie: “Wow. I don’t know what to say.”

Henrietta: “Say that you’ll give me the scarf that Grandma is making for you. I think I’d look better in it.”

Frankie: “It’s yours, Little Henri. Wear it well.”


14 replies »

    • What? Oh no, that won’t do. Personally, I essentially moved out at the age of 16, although the homestead remained my “official” residence until I was 18. My parents never issued any firm proclamations, but it was understood that when I graduated from high school I would also be graduating from the nest. I just took the express lane…

      Liked by 1 person

    • And yet, sometimes it even takes the siblings years to figure it out. One of my sisters and I had constant mental slugfests during our formative years, but we have grown incredibly close since then…


  1. LOL, oh you had me laughing out loud again Brian. And as a parent, I really liked the “passed your expiration dates” – I wished I could have used that phrase. Happy Weekend. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Perhaps I can use the Journey opus in the next segment, as Frankie tries finding affordable housing with no income. As for “Little Britain”, that show is one crazy mess. Naturally, I think it’s pretty swell…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Little Britain is sort of a standard for tasteless funny mess. They work out on everything, everybody…And the really funny part? The tall guy is the omnipotent voice for “Sarah and Duck,” a pretty amazing, outside, everyday imagination kid’s show. Quack. Just a small town boy. livin’ in a lonely world…I did a great MIDI file version of that with a vocoder one time for a demo. Robo Perry. Aside. King Harvest, the “Dancing in the Moonlight” guys? Ugliest band ever. A few of them moved on to Orleans where they wrote more close harmony songs about dancing and took “Moonlight” with them.

        Liked by 1 person

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