‘Aren’t You Happy For Me?’ by Richard Bausch

Aren’t You Happy For Me? by Richard Bausch, 1994

The magic trick:

Jokes but then a feeling of hollowness

In many ways, this story seems to be an excuse to make some jokes. Certainly, the phone call between daughter and father brings out some excellent angry sarcasm in the dad. But there’s a little bit more to it than just jokes.

The daughter has surprised her parents with news of marriage and a baby. And for a brief period in the story, the reader feels like the crisis might have united mom and dad. We learn early on that they are in the process of separating. Maybe this news, unfortunate as it is, will help bring them back together.

So when in the end it doesn’t bring them back together, there is a resounding hollowness. The jokes go from amusing to just kind of sad.

And that’s quite a trick on Bausch’s part.

The selection:

“Don’t be mad at me, Melanie. Give me a few minutes to get used to the idea. Jesus. Is he a professor emeritus?”

“If that means distinguished, yes. But I know what you’re – ”

“No, Melanie. It means retired. You went to college.”

She said nothing.

“I’m sorry. But for God’s sake, it’s a legitimate question.”

“It’s a stupid, mean-spirited thing to ask.” He could tell from her voice that she was fighting back tears.

“Is he there with you now?”

“Yes,” she said, sniffling.

“Oh, Jesus Christ.”

“Daddy, why are you being this way?”

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