Banana Handling Class

The three of us sat around the kitchen table doing our best to ignore each other when Eliot came hobbling in and said, “I’m going to be teaching a banana handling class today.”

My sister, who usually doesn’t say anything until she’s finished her first cup of morning coffee, looked at her middle son and, without a hint of irony, asked, “Is that a euphemism?”

Her husband, who was playing chess on his tablet, snarled and said, “Please!”

Eliot limped over to the refrigerator and took out an alarmingly large bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

He was limping because his foot was broken. The story we got was vague, as are all his stories. The story, as he told it, involved pushing his car onto a soft shoulder after said car quit on the NASA bypass. The break and accompanying bruising gave me an immediate mental image of him kicking the bumper, but who am I to contradict him?

Eliot turned up the Pepto and drank freely from the crusty bottle which had apparently lost its cap. As I watched him take one prolonged swig after another, I felt my own stomach revolting and sending waves of wretchedness that reminded me of nothing less than acid drenched toenail shavings rising in the back of my throat. Yet there I was, unable to look away.

When he was done, he wiped his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt and put the bottle back in the refrigerator. “No,” he said. “It’s a real thing. They’re paying me extra too.”

This elicited a snarf from his father who looked up from the game. “And what do you know about banana handling?”

I said, “Dear God, I’m begging you. Please do not answer that.”

Eliot laughed, grabbed a hat off the coatrack, and limped out the backdoor.

A hush fell over the house again. The only sounds came from the three Doberman who were still asleep and snoring on the whole of a forest green sectional sofa; my brother-in-law, who was still playing chess and maintaining a low-grade, mumbled disagreement with the expert computer opponent; and, from outside, the occasional percussion of a bull who lived across the street in a fenced field, playing with a large blue drum which he was fond of gorging into the air and sometimes smashing against a large tin shed.

It was only after a considerable time had passed that my sister looked up with an expression as if she’d been away with the fairies, “Did he say banana handling?”


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