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Jul/Aug 2000 spotlight

The Aborted Documentary

by Eric Bosse


A static-filled screen flashes to a head shot of the filmmaker's mother seated on a maroon and gold ottoman. She is medium-plump with short, graying, brown curls and slightly oversized bifocals. She wears a pink sweatshirt under a blue and white checked apron. Her face sports the prominent lower lip and cocked eyebrow of the matron coerced by her progeny, without explanation, into sitting before a video camera.

The filmmaker's voice—resolute and quasi-formal—addresses her from behind the camera. "Ready?" he asks. She shrugs her shoulders. "Here's the deal, Mom. Talk about me as if I died last week. You've got two minutes."

Her eyebrows rumple down on the bridge of her nose. She draws a quick breath, audible over the thrum of the refrigerator in the kitchen and the murmur of the television in another room.

"Go ahead," her son says.

She glances into the lens, then at her lap. "What do you mean?" she asks.

"I mean, I died last week. Just run with it, Mom. There's a, you know, a film crew interviewing you about me."

"You and that damn camcorder," she says.

"So talk about me, not to me."

"Jesus Christ," she mutters. "He was a good boy."

"That's it?"

"What more do you want?"

"Something a bit more interesting."

"Interesting?" She takes a cigarette from her apron pocket and lights it. "I'll give you interesting. He thought he got away with things."

"Like what?"

"Oh, you don't want to know."

"Sure we do."

She raises her chin. "No you don't."

"Mom, my film will be better if you just tell the truth. So, what sorts of things did he think he got away with?"

"This," she says, and waves her cupped hand in the universal gesture for masturbation. "That boy kept naked magazines under his mattress and played with himself three, four, five times a day up until the day he died."

"Mother—"

"No, really, he would do it in his bedroom or the bathroom or even in the TV room when he thought no one knew he was watching the sexy movies."

"O.K., O.K. Stop. Enough." After a long pause in which his mother's face spreads into a ruthless smile, the filmmaker asks, "Did he do anything you'll remember him for?"

"Not really."

"Oh, come on, Mom."

She shrugs again. "Well, he tried acting, music, even writing for the local paper, but he wasn't very good. Not really. Not in a way that anyone would take notice." She gives the camera a wink. "He was mainly just a kid who never appreciated his mother and shot his wad into bath towels which she then had to drag from his bedroom and pile into the washer."

The camera darts toward the floor where, for a split second, it captures a blurry view of the filmmaker's mother's worn, white sneakers and the frayed cuffs of her pant-legs. The screen zips into a white blip at the center and fades into a flurry of black and white snow.

 

"The Aborted Documentary" was previously published in Exquisite Corpse.

 

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