I love Bobby with all my heart. He is the most precious thing in my life. Every night before we go to bed I read him a Shel Silverstein poem. Last night he asked if we could do a Dr. Seuss book. This only confirmed my suspicions. He was definitely not my son.
When I was eight my parents brought me to Disney world in Florida. We were by a pool at the hotel. My mom was sun-bathing with sunglasses while reading the New Yorker, and my dad was swimming. At the far end of the pool I saw a man putting a pH tester in the water, but I didn’t know it was a pH tester.
“Mom! What’s that man doing”
“I don’t know honey.” she said.
“That thing he has. It was yellow before. Now it has blue water in it.” I replied.
“Oh. He testing how much chlorine is in the water.”
Then my dad came to the side of the pool.
“Hey Jerry. Stop bothering your mom and play Marco Polo with me.”
“No I always win. What is that man doing.”
“That man there? He’s testing acidity.”
“Oh, what’s that.”
“I don’t know, it bad though. You know if you pee in the pool there will be lots of acidity, and that tester there will turn purple or dark green. I think that’s a bad thing.”
“Ewe!” I exclaimed.
We went back to the Hotel and Mom decided to read me a Dr. before saying goodnight. As a child I thought Green Eggs and Ham sounded disgusting. The color green was to be associated with sickness. The place where one would consume green eggs, be it train, bus, in a house, or on a mouse was a separate issue from this aversion. Thus at the end of the book when the protagonist gives in and eats the green eggs I felt there ought to be a sequel. Years later I grew to understand the basics of storytelling, and the cost structure of large-scale publication. I understood why 20 pages of Dr Seuss’s creature on a toilet was not a worthy investment for Random House.
Ten years later I was a college dropout working as an NYU Security guard. Everyday I would leave my apartment in Jamaica (that’s in Queens) and walk towards the subway station. On the way was a Bodega that served ham and egg biscuits for a dollar. I would buy two, and this would be my breakfast. A winter morning the Bodega started serving steamed red cabbage. The owner said he had a surplus from a friend with connections, but had to use it as fast as possible, so he made borscht and slaw. He also said it went great with the biscuits. I asked him to cook it with the eggs and not serve is on top. He did this, wrapped it, bagged it, and charged me two dollars. I went to the subway and decided to eat my breakfast at the security desk and not on the subway.
One hour later I was at my post in the chemistry department. I took the paper wrapped biscuits out of the bag and unwrapped them to find that the eggs were dark green. I felt a little sick, and the lightly sulfurous smell of overcooked warm eggs contributed to this immensely. Then Professor Hopkins passed by.
“Hey Donald.” I replied.
“Jerry, what’s that smell. Smells good.”
I showed Donald the sandwich.
“Oh… that doesn’t look as good.”
“I don’t know what the guy did. I’m gonna toss it and stop by a food cart or somthin.”
“Is that cabbage in there?”
“Yes it is. How did you know that?”
“Red cabbage has anthocynanins. They change color with pH, like those kits you use to test for Chlorine in the pool.”
“So it changes my eggs green.”
“Yeah. But no biggy. It’s just cabbage and eggs.” said Donald.
I started to think of urine. I decided to find a homeless person during the lunch break and give the sandwich to him.
“What are you trying to make me sick!” said the homeless man.
“No. They are normal eggs. They just have food coloring. And red cabbage.”
“I don’t trust it man. Thanks for the offer, but no thanks man.” he said as be pushed away the open wrapper.
He was the only homeless person I could find on the streets. They tend to stay in the shelters during New York winters. So I threw the biscuits in the garbage and vowed not to return to that bodega until they exhausted the surplus of cabbage they stumbled upon. Instead I had pizza for breakfast at a place across the West 4th st subway stop before taking my post.
In the fall I decided to give the Bodega in Jamaica another shot.
“Hey Jerry! Long time no see.”
“Yeah. Do you guys still have that cabbage.”
“Naw man. Nobody seemed to like it too much and we couldn’t get rid of it fast enough. Even for free.”
“To be honest, I didn’t like it too much either. Don’t do that again.”
He laughed. “So you want your two biscuits as usual?”
“Yes that would be good.”
“Coming right up.”
He wrapped them, bagged them, and charged me two dollars. Never again did I allow red cabbage near any of my food.
The following year I received a call. Apparently I had a son named Bobby and the mother who I briefly met at a party last summer needed help. Having stabilized my career as an NYU security guard during a down economy I felt guilty yet capable enough to meet the challenge and so decided not to run away. I refused to marry the strange girl, but I agreed to help raise Bobby, or at least pay some of the expenses.
One weekend I brought him to the public pool.
“Daddy! watch this.”
I got up from my chair and put down my magazine to see what he had to show me. He swam to the middle of the pool and a purple cloud grew around him. The other kids started screaming and within about 8 seconds the pool was evacuated. I then began to suspect that this was not my child. That strange lady who gave birth to Bobby had met a lot of men in the summer of 2004.
When Bobby asked for me to read him Dr. Seuss I replied:
“I’m not a big fan of that guy Bobby. Is there somebody else?”
“No. I just like the pictures.”
“Okay fine. Well is there a particular book you want me to read.”
“I want to do Green eggs and Ham.”
Of course he would choose this book. He presented a challenge I had turned down once, but couldn’t turn down twice. There was no escape. Out of options I would make it work. I hate that stupid book though.