The Gurdling Menagerie

Good evening and welcome to America’s Worst Mother&#153 Theatre . As our play opens we find Mummy, played with great gusto by Meghan Gurdon, has finally sobered up and has whisked the children (Ann-Aphasia, Peaseblossom, Lughassadh, and Hud) off to a magic fairyland where the sky is blue, there’s rich cake for everyone, and Mr. Meghan can’t slip off to be with his mistress. Let’s peek in:

Everyone beams as Paris messes up his face and sends eight precise blasts across the lumpy surface of his birthday cake. There are no candles. I forgot them, as I did the toothbrushes. Furthermore, I had tried to keep the whipped cream pristine by sticking plastic spoons along the edges to hold up the tin foil, but traveling for five hours in a large storage container on top of a car does not enhance the appearance of any dessert, spoons or no.


It is a sunny day in every sense. Our family is “away for the weekend,” an airy phrase which here means, “has avoided giving a birthday party for a classful of eight-year-old boys by taking our children to the seaside instead.” I booked the room months ago, partly to avoid another grueling birthday party and partly on the understanding that if our side lost the election we might want to get out of Washington to clear our heads. As it happens, things went our way, and all is heady and giddy and very, very cheerful.

Which is to say, John Kerry didn’t win and the girls aren’t being forced to have abortions before they can attend brother Hud’s wedding to that cute boy with the musical laugh who lives down the street . No, the Gurdon’s are ensconced at the Rehoboth Beach Golden Tiki Motel to celebrate Hud’s eight birthday by forcing the children to stay indoors on a beautiful day and play with action figures purchased from Ye Olde Boringe Toyye Shoppe:

The children drop to the floor brandishing the plastic medieval figurines they received at breakfast. Molly opens a small case and begins arranging a selection of old figures inside a glass case that holds the motel DVD player. Out come a swan, an otter, a donkey, a dog, a wolf, Maid Marian, Robin Hood, a girl pirate, a mandrill, a bear cub, a tiger, two cavaliers, four princesses, Robin Hood (again), and most of a family of fuzzy cats with jointed limbs from a different species of toy.

“And they threw their swords away, jumped off their horses, and began to wrestle,” Paris tells his sisters, beginning mid-Game. He entangles two new plastic knights and twists them around, all wrestly-like.


“What a terrible sight,” Violet remarks blandly, wafting a princess in a sparkly blue dress over to the field of battle.

As we can see, it is only Peaseblossom who recognizes the overt homoerotic play of Hud who puts the errant in “knight errant”. But Meghan (as usual) doesn’t notice Hud’s gay-play as she is transfixed by daughter Lughassadh’s absorbtion with her figurines:

I glance at Molly, who is arranging figurines in a kind of trance. These imaginary games used to absorb her utterly; she and her brother could play for hours, literally, with nothing more than, say, a bottle top and a bit of plastic scrounged from the park and maybe a Playmobil pirate or two. It wasn’t cheeseparing on our part that accounted for the paucity of playthings, they didn’t need anything much to spark an epic. These days, however, it is harder for her to disappear into childish narratives, and Paris knows it.

“You shouldn’t put yourself forward like that,” our eldest murmurs finally, manipulating two argumentative princesses, a blonde in white and a brunette in red.

Apparently, in Lughassadh’s slowly collapsing world, the two princesses (one of whom is obviously some kind of slut…probably the one in red) are vying for the attention of a gentleman caller, someone who is the “expected something that we live for.” I sense definite figurine tension in the air. Meanwhile:

“May I ride on your unicorn?” Paris asks politely.

“No,” says Phoebe.

“That is actually my unicorn,” Molly interjects, suddenly no longer playing. “That is my unicorn.”

“Why not let her use it?”

Molly’s face flushes red. “Because then she pretends it’s hers, and she’ll keep playing with it, and the grownups will say, ‘Aw, let her play with it,’ and it’s mine!”

“Wow, okay. Phoebs, Molly is asking nicely. You must give back the unicorn.”

“She’s mine!”

“No, she’s not,” says Molly, grimly sotto voce. “Hey, don’t you hit me!”

Ah, yes. The unicorn. Son Hud wants to “ride” it (let’s not go there), while the two sisters fight over it, which can only lead to the unicorn having it’s horn snapped off which is symbolic of what Meghan has done to Mr. Meghan for the weekend considering that his mistress recently laid in a large supply of that warming lube that he’s so fond of.

Next we find that the Gurdons, who really spend way too much time with each other, have some kind of super-secret language that only they can understand:

“They’re all raxals,” my husband says with infinite satisfaction, settling back on the motel bed having echoes Violet’s long-ago inversion of c’s and s’s. When she was two, birds flew through the xsy, children went to xsool, and those fluffy things you see hoarding nuts were xswillers. Naturally, we still use these terms, along with yodit (a dairy product eaten at brekiss and bekfrist), franditches (a conventional luncheon item), and wahdooin (an enquiry into one’s activities).

Doesn’t that make you just want to xshit?

That’s all for this week. Next week: Mr. Meghan figures out where Scott Peterson slipped up…

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