Man of Inconsequence

Spark Boon is a New York art critic.

Image of Short Story
I have a trove of photographs from when the kids were small. I keep them in an old Hush Puppies box in the den underneath the cramped shelf where our old unused turntable sits.

It's a sad corner of the house so no one cares to tamper with it. I should have taken the turntable and all the old Peter Paul and Mary LPs to the Goodwill a long time ago. Instead they lay there ignored or more precisely, baring witness to the sad fact that we take this god forsaken trivial life of ours for granted.

I once read - don't ask me where - that the writer Henry James (and don't ask me what he wrote either) described the artist as "someone upon whom nothing is lost."


To think of all that I've lost simply because I wasn't paying enough attention. And in retrospect, how could I have done it any differently? You work, you raise kids, you eat, you sleep and from time to time you take a little vacation.
The other day I found one of those little photo albums you used to be able to get for a quarter at the dry goods store. Stuck within its pages were pictures of my sons, Will and Clem Jr, and my daughter Irene when they were still in grade school. Will, like his name, is stubborn and determined and was a hard kid to raise. Clem was my splitting image which was sort of cute when he was young but now is rather unfortunate. Irene, well, what can I say... Irene was and still is annoyingly perfect.

Anyway, I'm leafing through this thing, which for some reason carried a faint smell of vomit, and I start balling like a child. I mean, I'm weeping and shaking and gasping for air and it was some time before I was able to regain something even remotely resembling composure.

It dawned on me with a brutal, unambiguous clarity that forty years ago when the kids were growing up, I barely found the time to even kiss them goodnight.

Was I too busy?


But I made myself busy and I can see now that my preoccupations were nothing short of an evasion of the intimacies required to form a bonding and lasting relationship with my family. Sure, my job had its demands but who told me to become a deacon at St Eusebius?

It took me four years to get through all 11 steps and by the time I was done Bobby Kennedy was killed and I stopped believing in god overnight.

And the bowling league... what was that all about!? I'm a lousy bowler, beer gives me gas and half the guys I played with were from work. Didn't I see enough of them during the day?

And the volunteer Fire Department crap!

Wasn't I paying taxes so that the town's fires could be attended by paid professionals?

Poor Betty.

My wife is a veritable saint and to this day I have no idea how she put up with me. The kids all turned out fine and if they lived closer to Elmira I would make up for my idiotic evasions and spend gobs of time with my seven grandkids.

Maybe there's a reason why all my kids moved so far away.

Will, Clem, Irene... I know it's too late but for what it's worth...

I'm sorry...