40 Pounds of Flesh

My Grandmother said she wouldn’t trade me for any other grandson in the world, so I wrote this.

40 Pounds of Flesh

    The swap meet is on the corner of 13th and Lincoln. Weeds grow waist high through cracks in the asphalt, and the sign reads, “La Familial.” You’ve seen it.
     A mother bargains with a father, each with a son, for a son.
    “He’s a sissy,” says the father, holding his boy.
    The mother, holding hers, says, “How are his grades?”
    He shows her the report cards, and she nods. “What’s your favorite thing to do?” she asks the boy.
    He looks fearfully at his father, who nods.
    Hesitantly, “I like building model robots.”
    “Is he sensitive?” asks the mother.
    “Very,” says the father, regretfully. Then asks the other boy, “You play football?”
    “Hockey.” The man’s expression darkens, so boy B adds. “Checking is a lot like tackling. I could switch.”
    “You cry when you watch cartoons or see a bird die?”
    “No. That’s gay.”
    Boy A wants to know if he can attend band camp and science camp in the same summer. His prospective mother says he can go to computer camp too.
    The parents shake, and both boys say, “Yipee!”
    Wife A trades stolid dependable husband for ravishing, romantic layabout. Or perhaps the husbands trade the wives; it’s often hard to tell. A nicer grandma is traded for one who has more in her IRA and bakes better cookies. A politician looks for children who will be duller and look better standing behind him, and finds a ready supply.
    Mother A tries to trade daughters with Mother B. Her daughter would be the superior if she hadn’t dropped her on the head as a child, but that’s how the fortune cookie crumbles. Mother A has to throw in a hundred thousand dollars and her hair to swing the deal.
    Parts are often exchanged. A teen swaps his long arms to a jock for the jock’s clear skin. Both leave happy. Among the teenage girls there’s a steady back and forth of looks for intelligence, but the sum of it is always smaller at the end of the day, as the store takes its cut. Various talents can be bought wholesale at the counter for the low low price of one pound of flesh.
    Did your mother seem so very different one day? Did your brother came back with a new lease on life? Did the damn dog suddenly learn to behave? Ha, Ha Ha ha, ha. People don’t change. They just get changed out.

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