The newlyweds laze on their sectional, watching season eleven of Jewish Drama.
The husband hides marijuana in his shoes, but why, dope is legal.
At Target they buy everything that’s not on their list—guns, because Target doesn’t sell guns, Target doesn’t even sell arrows.
They buy in the former inner-city, a duplex down with a curbside magnolia that blooms at the first whipcrack of spring. They have sacrificed good public schools—because they would never think of sending their missed periods to public schools—for a high walkability score, the revitalized riverwalk just beyond their mezuzah.
Why does soy ice cream melt not at all, and then disappear?
The husband manages an Oakland property gifted from his father-in-law, a crumbling charm he rents to UC-Berkeley professors who want a new microwave.
“If we have to buy the microwave ourselves,” the anarchists threaten, “we’re taking it with us when we leave.”
The husband puts them on speaker, says, “I think you’re forgetting what Marx says about leaving-with-the-microwave at the close of Capital Volume II.”
“You flyover bougie piece of shit.”
“Wow,” the wife says, “bourgeois happiness doesn’t only mean cancer treatments, porn addiction, overfed housecats, and overpriced holiday cards. No new microwave for you.”
When the professors are late with the rent, the wife demands that the husband place a call to the Oakland PD, so that the professors don’t lose their place in the economy they so ravishingly critique.
That’s what her father would do.
The husband seeks an infertility doctor who looks Ukrainian, because the breakup of the Soviet Union coarsened his porn.
The doctor’s office is a maternal, generative space. The lighting conceives a sultry mood: lamps, not overhead fluorescents, shine on the death metal fonts of the diplomas, on the Lemon Zinger Keurig cups. On the walls hang photos of children, and stencils of mothers and their wards singing mélodies at the pianoforte.
The husband scoops up a photo from the desk, triplets dressed in bumblebee costumes.
“Yours, we presume.”
“My sweets,” the doctor says.
“So beautiful,” the wife says with horror.
In a tax year of tremendous gain, the husband shields his stock market winnings by claiming a loss against his rental properties.
Everything is enjoying explosive yet circuitous growth, but that doesn’t mean he feels safe, or anything: a little over a few million doesn’t mean a man’s all set.
The wife keeps her Gold Coast condo, because sometimes she likes to go to there and read essays about how white trans people, too, are aware of their white privilege.
Maybe one day she’d like to conduct a cis het affair, here, in what is now, she realizes, a pied-à-terre, even though that’s so de rigueur.
“Would that make me a cuck?” The husbands asks. “Or would that make us poly?”
“I don’t want to be poly,” the wife says. “That’s for losers on the internet.”
The wife relaxes on a fainting couch that never leaves her shopping cart.
And she looks up from her transphilic essays to gaze upon her condo’s panoramic view of Lake Michigan. Sunlight on the oceanic lake puts her in mind of her first abortionist, and her abortionists thereafter, and how she now yearns for a bumblebee (only one bumblebee) of her own.
But when she gets her period, she has time to think.
And she thinks: what’s wrong with me?
“Well, no,” the doctor says. “Up there in age has gotten older and older these days. Based on your test results, you’re both in a good position to conceive a child naturally.”
“We’re usually try from unnatural positions.”
“Forgive my husband. What did your ex-wife used to call it? My husband has a serious condition. Woody Allen disease.”
“Oh no, no. At least, I don’t think so. I meant not being able to stop cracking jokes. He makes these jokes to deflect from his irrelevancy to our culture. Luckily I am just like him…”
“…it’s a big reason we fell in love…”
“…but I am a beautiful woman with high tits, whereas my husband is just a man.”
“You are striking,” the doctor says.
“Is that it? Do you think we’re not getting enough wholesome animal protein to conceive? Is it the B‑12, doctor?”
“No, it’s not the B‑12.”
“Maybe it’s the alcohol,” the husband suggests to the wife.
“No, no, my mother had no issues with me.”
“Medically,” the doctor interrupts, “I think it’s going to happen for you two. Very soon. But if you want to help it along, these are the steps we could take.”
“Medical steps,” the husband says, making steps with a karate chop.
“Yes, medical steps,” the doctor nods, and she commences diagramming the couple’s options, on a Nexplanon notepad, with a NuvaRing pen.
“Those in power love to say progress isn’t easy,” the wife says at the Target. “But why isn’t progress easy? Progress should be simple for the most powerful person in the world. Why didn’t you do the hard work of progress, Obama, so the rest of us could relax.”
“You realize what you sound like,” the husband says at breakfast, toasting an Up & Up waffle. “Like Obama was our slave? And he should work harder for us?”
“That’s not what I sound like,” the wife says at dinner, uncorking another bottle of burgundy. “Liberals think we can’t be smart. Because we’re Republicans.”
“We’re not Republicans,” the husband says at the car wash, where he pays extra to simonize, extra for the wheel bath. “You mean we’re fiscally conservative, but culturally liberal?”
“Culture,” the wife says, forgetting to tip her pedicurist, “is the only fiscal responsibility.”
“So we have to love Israel now, too?” the husband asks while they’re watching season twelve of Jewish Drama.
“They mean they hate Jews,” the wife says, slathering a pita with hummus. “They don’t like life insurance salesmen arriving at their family slaughterhouses and telling them what to do with their tractor inheritance. They don’t want radical Jewish women teaching their child laborers to be vegetarians; Jewish women who wouldn’t know the first thing about how killing a deer hurts the white hunter more than it hurts the black doe.”
“I saw this article yesterday,” the husband says, Earth Balancing his toast, “about a Jewish woman just like that. It was the first time a liberal vegetarian like her from South Brooklyn…”
“…where is South Brooklyn?”
“…I think Virginia, you know, DC suburbs. Anyway it was the first time she’d killed her own pig, and then she ate the pig and finally understood the Emotional Problems of White Butchers. She’s not sure if she’s going to stop being a vegetarian, but the visceral experience really gave her something to chew on.”
“You know what Emerson wrote,” the wife says, telling the husband he can come up.
“No, what did Emerson write?” the husband asks, hiding more weed in his Birkenstocks. The wife pulls down The History of White People and reads: ‘Race is a controlling influence in the Jew, who, for two millenniums, under every climate, has preserved the same character and employments.’”
“That’s pretty good. That book is called the history of white people, huh. Like those the history of salt books.”
“I’ve read all of these histories,” the wife glances back, disgusted. “Reading books about anti-racism has only made me more racist.”
“This is going to be so great,” the husband says, unwrapping the 30th anniversary edition Blu-Ray.
“Liberals look at me and think I can’t love Carl Nielsen because I’m Republican,” the wife says at the Subaru dealership. “Liberals think you can’t listen to Nielsen’s organ music and be pro-life.”
“You’ve had many abortions, honey,” the husband reminds her, keylessly entering their new hatchback, the perfect transition vehicle from being a happy couple to having one eldest. “Not that I don’t believe in a woman’s right to choose up to and until the bundle of joy enters Montessori.”
“Not from the government’s clamps,” the wife says, powering the romaine hearts through the artificially intelligent salad spinner.
“No, yeah. I see what you mean,” the husband says, trying to force 0.5mm lead into an 0.3mm mechanical pencil.
“Why would we care about the greater society?” the wife asks, writing a check to Puppies in Crisis. “No greater society lives in our home.”
They try as much as the wife can stand it, as much as the husband can stand up. They try twice in one night, like schoolchildren, before second sleep on Sunday mornings, on midweek sick day afternoons, on the steps of Buckingham Fountain and a dive breakfast of High Life chasers and soggy pretzel rods try try like master and slave, barebacked runaways, they try like returning champions.
They try during Mel Gibson’s All Black Othello with Denzel as Othello, Taraji P. Henson as Desdemona, Michael B. Jordan as Iago, a striking Viola Davis as Cassio, Cardi B. as Emilia, and the roles of all first gentlemen played by Ethan Hawk, all second gentleman played by Tom Cruise.
“What are you reading on your phone? Is it the same thing you sent to my tablet?”
“Just an article about how the socialists of the Snapchat generation want free high speed rail, but aren’t ready to admit Karl Marx was an accomplished Victorian gardener.”
“Marx was born into a wealthy family, you know. Like the rest of the communists. Did you know Maryland is named after a virgin?”
“Uh-huh. Virginia, too, means virgin.”
“Oh that’s right. ‘Come out, Virginia’ … of course.”
They try before the finale of season thirteen of Jewish Drama.
“Oh my God,” the wife says to the TV. “Get off me. It’s happening.”
America’s favorite Jews have driven in separate Audis to those near-city recreational areas that are such a draw for Americans who can afford a west coast lifestyle. And now they stand atop a stunning Sierra peak, applying SPF50 to their olive-skinned faces.
“I bet you Nate uses under eye serum. For that tender part of his gaze.”
“Quiet. I’ve been waiting for this.”
“Can you finish me off while we watch it?”
“There are a million Ukrainian teens in your phone, ask them to finish you off.”
“Remind me what happened last episode.”
“Nate explained to Josh M. how his numbers were directionally correct. Later that night, Josh C. and Nate had dinner at a WeHo bistro that Josh C. got to pick.”
“Oh yeah, yeah. And they wrestled over whether Nate should reimburse Josh B. via cash app or with cash. ‘I think that’s right,’ Josh M. had said. ‘Nobody uses cash anymore.’ And Nate wondered if that was true. He was going to put a poll in the field. Now I remember.”
The white American Jews climb the Indian mountain. Our Ashkenazi recreators wear moisture-wicking base layers designed in California, sewn in Vietnam; Italian-made polarized sunglasses framed in China. Just a few minutes before the ascent they’d gotten stoned on legal Gorilla Glue, purchased from a lean-to dope pharmacy in the foothills, and named after Joan Didion’s late daughter.
Gabi tells everyone to hush and take in the no-filter scenery.
Jess, who has just gone through her fourth round of IVF because Gabi’s personal trainer turned out to be infertile, asks a rando white Christian man to take a leaping photo of the whole gang.
The Christian man says, I’d love to, but when I take photos for Jews, I charge by the person.
Isaac M. says, what is your per-person fee, maybe we can work something out the benefits all parties.
The white Christian guy says, I’m only kidding, dude, I’m not going to charge you to take a photograph with yourcamera. I’ll snap a few and then you guys let me know how they came out, okay? And if you need me to, I can take a few more.
Rebecca, who is waiting to hear back if she got the Chief Giving Officer post at Amazon, says, great, that sounds good, but we would’ve been happy to negotiate with you if you did, indeed, charge a fee.
Bashful Aaron gives the white Christian his camera.
America’s favorite Jews leap for the photo.
And while they’re in mid-air, the finale happens: the white Christian man with Aaron’s camera is actually the White Christian Terrorist with Emotional Problems who has been following the gang since season four.
Instead of taking the picture, we hear a boom.
The credits roll up the mountain, with a familiar sounding indie rock tune that nobody can quite place.
“That was so good,” the wife says. “I can’t believe Josh C., Josh M., and Josh B. are gone.”
“They can’t be gone. Josh C. and Josh M. and Josh B. are the whole show. Nate can die, but not the Joshes. The writers have their work cut out for them but the writers will figure it out because the writers have nothing better to do than make up bullshit like this.”
“Refill, please,” the wife says, swinging her glass.
“But ultimately,” the husband says, taking a CD out of a jewel case and looking at it like it once did something useful, “the cause of living in the Jewish past is dying right in front of us. Who cares if Rebecca and Aaron can have a baby? I want to puke spending just five minutes with Becca and Aaron. Try as they might to stay hip, the contemporary references flowing out of their mouths already sound like ancient history. And that’s not even because of the mighty collective text being written on the internet, I mean, even without that, these people would still blow. Who cares if they find American history inconceivable. The inconceivability of American history is its leading feature. Maybe they’ll have their baby, maybe they won’t, we’ll still root for their divorce. Can you imagine how nauseating it will be in season fourteen to see them petting little Ben? We’ll have to suffer the episode where they agree circumcision is cruel. And then we’ll have to suffer the episode where they join the insanely liberal temple so they can perform a metaphorical bris before having an afterparty at an average Italian-Chinese fusion restaurant, and Samuel will be back from Brown, where he took an entire 300-level course about how American Chinese food is racist, and he’ll tell everybody about it, and Nana will say oh quiet Samuel eat your snow peas, remember, when you were a nice little boy with no opinions, you didn’t used to like snow peas … our tastes can change … oh my God I have only one question for the Caitlyn, Nate, Becca, Gabi and Jess…”
“…Gabi and Jess will surely adopt now.”
“…Aaron and little Ben. What does it feel like to be yet another impairment upon the timeline of supremacy and oppression?”
“Would it bother you,” the wife asks, “if I answer your question with a question?”
“No, of course not. Our people expect nothing less.”
“Is season fourteen out yet?”
The husband visits his former rabbi, and confesses that during wedding pictures at Trump International, he had to do a double take, because the letters T R U M P turned into E G Y P T. What is that, again, how Egypt means emotional straitjackets, and does this have anything to do with the strategic importance of the strait of Hormuz?
The rabbi says, “in some ultimate sense, every place is Egypt. How are the linens?”
“Luxurious. And they have a hidden vegan menu.”
“I imagine it’s very heavy,” the rabbi says.
“Well,” the husband blushes, “it’s ketchup.”
American soil riots flood their phones and they even sometimes hear the rioting in their own streets, a few blocks beyond their gold mezuzah.
“We should buy guns here,” the wife says at Home Depot.
“Absolutely not,” the husband says at Loews. “We are people of the book.”
“That’s just what we tell the Palestinians. This is why I was scared about living on the first floor. Let’s put out one of those signs out front so they pass over us.”
The couple stake a Black Lives Matter sign below their magnolia.
In their duplex down bedroom, they see the sign when they wake up.
Upstairs, they see only their racially-charged tree.
Chicago’s #1 Storm Team reminds Chicagoans across Chicagoland that we did get an early snow last year, and we did get a late snow last year, too.
The snow comes down over the socialized medicine Canadians, across the prosperity gospel plains.
The couple keep watching, supporting local business.
The snow coverage has gotten really good.
“Can you just tell us which steps would work for us?” the wife asks the patient doctor. “I’m not a visual thinker.”
“Any of them might work.”
“It has to be me,” the husband says.
“No, it doesn’t have to be you. It doesn’t have to be anyone. You’re both perfectly fine.”
“You sure I’m fine?”
“You passed,” the doctor pauses, “eight sperm tests.”
“He thinks he was ovulating on the fifth, and it skewered all the results.”
“More than even that,” the husband flares up, “I think I might be too woke to inseminate anyone. I’ve seen footage. Read articles. My brain is one tremendous essay about why the world doesn’t need more people like me. For that reason, if no other, Judah has a right to defend itself. I know all about the mysterious decline in White America’s sperm counts, due to the non-mysterious use of plastics by white and non-white Americans alike. I’ve read exquisite Jewish novels about glum transpersonal professors who transform Dolores Haze into a plated octopus they want to screw more than their friend, who is a girl, but not their girlfriend.”
“It’s a beautiful book,” the wife says. “Hopefully in treatment.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” the doctor says.
“Haven’t Jewish novels,” the husband continues, “ruined my potency more than plastics? Because the collapse of the Soviet Union has certainty ruined my porn. No offense.”
“I mean, we all know you’re Ukrainian.”
“For months I’ve been this charming ejaculating man, nutting Coenzyme-q10-fortified seed into her folate-fortified womb, pills I then crush into her powdered magnesium…”
“…pulpy, the way I like it…”
“…late into the evening I rewatch Season 1 of Law & Order. A baby-cheeked Cynthia Nixon is read her Miranda rights by a baby-cheeked Chris Noth. I understand all of those references, doctor. Hasn’t that ruined my potency? I mean, I am obsessed with American slavery movies. I watch them every Passover, right after The Ten Commandments. I fast-forward to the historical white-on-black violence. And I frequently masturbate into no-show socks.”
“What my husband is trying to say, doctor, is that it’s snowed so much this winter, our Black Lives Matter sign only says Black.”
“What my wife is trying to say, doctor, is that aren’t we the real mystery?”
“No,” the doctor says scientifically. “You are not the mystery.”
In order to keep fighting the computer, they keep reading the computer, because the computer keeps writing.
The computer isn’t scared of riots.
The computer fears nothing.
The computer is an electronic fireplace.
The computer doesn’t have infertility issues, oh, quite the contrary.
The computer knows they’ve never been to Coachella.
The computer has never declined a cookie.
The computer knows it snowed this early last year.
The computer is an obsolete word.
“Did you fill out the survey for the poor service we got at Banana?”
“No, I don’t want to get anyone fired.”
“I’ll do it, then. I won’t tolerate that kind of tongue-clicking when I’m at Banana. She should take that sass to Old Navy.”
“Then delay treatment. And if you don’t mind me putting it this way, fall in love with each other again. Renew your vows. Or do something out of the ordinary. Take a trip.”
“We’ve taken so many trips.”
“Take another. Bön voyage. A cruise to Japan! Go where you’ve never gone before.”
“No I don’t want to go to Nepal.”
“Who says no to Bhutan? Blue sheep, rhododendrons, yaks.”
“I’d rather switch to dogs than go to Bhutan. But doctor,” the wife continues, with insurance-claim-seriousness, “should we go visit friends with babies, to see what we’re missing? Treat ourselves to an epiphany?”
“Absolutely not,” the husband says. “We don’t have any friends. So it’s impossible for us to learn something about ourselves.”
They try in Rome, Athens, Barcelona, and Miami in the rain. They try during the jump cuts of a sold-out Godard retrospective, at the investment opportunity in the Smokies, the Breck ski-in, ski-out, on the heated floors of an Appalachian glamper, in the candlelit cabanas of a private Mexican beach.
“Take me to Tokyo,” the wife says.
“My God, babe, what are we running away from? Let’s staycation.”
They climb into their childless hatchback and drive through the nature preserves across the western suburbs. They skate the snowy bogs, seek sexual cover in the savannah, brush their sore genitals against the tall and prickly prairie grass. They drive a little bit farther and stay in the hick villas beyond the border towns that once carted slaves from Kentucky to work the salt mines near Equality, Illinois. They try on a meandering road trip through the driftless area of Wisconsin, an area of deep green hills only minutes from the side hustles of the Mississippi.
The husband reads from his iPhone that the German-ish settlers who arrived here after Black Hawk’s defeat brought their cows with them, rebranding Wisconsin America’s Dairy Land. And Wisconsin kept on innovating, embracing more and more pitiful sides of its natural wealth. For example, in this decade, the state has rebranded for fracking. There’s no oil in Wisconsin, not even close, but white Wisconsin sand gets freighted to Texas, to be used in fracking operations down there in the fiercely independent Lone Star state. And this is the insanity of the American desert, carting sand for the making of oil to a place that already has its own sand, to bury your strikes in the sand over there, as Moses buried the Egyptian.
“Does it say that last part on Wikipedia?” the wife asks.
“No but I bet it’s in the suggestions for further reading,” the husband says, and the couple discuss all of this and even more as they drive over the blind hills and down the sighted hills, seeing cows grazing the roadside like lolling cubicle drones spending their idyllic free range days awaiting death on Slaughterhouse Road, awaiting death by stuffing themselves with corn chips grown to feed the cows they are Wisconsin’s pride, these cows grown to feed the city people who will eat any old cow to prove to themselves that even though they have high-speed internet, which they don’t have out here on rural Twitter, they are still men.
“Almond milk threatens the livelihoods of these Americans,” the husband says.
“I want to hand all of these cows a carton of almond milk,” the wife says, her high-arched foot twinkling on the dash. “Tell them we’ve discovered a better way.”
“You want to stir up the labor force,” the husband says, as he turns onto a sort-of-main-road and reads a billboard that says 83% of drivers look at billboards.
“Take my hand, not my life,” the wife reads off the next billboard, which shows two newborns reaching their hands out into the road. “At this point I’d be happy to be in a position to choose an abortion.”
“I told you, I’ve gotten women pregnant before.”
“Not this woman. I think you should have your sperm tested again.”
“Children are children, they aren’t choices. If you want choices, Cracker Barrel’s just down the road.”
“What would you have me say?” the doctor begins.
“That I’ve laid out all the options.
You could have procedures, you could not.
What else do you need to hear?
That you two deserve each other.
That you are unbelievable, yet all too real.
That you are both the flesh equivalents of unlikeable characters.
That you two are no longer charming, not nearly as offensive as you think you are, racists, and irrelevant to our culture.
But you know what’s funny?
I mean, do you know what’s dead serious?
You’ve got all the bombs.
And you, after you are a mother, will begin a juice fast and return to your fabulous pre-baby weight in no time at all.
And you, after you are a father, will quickly realize you need to reduce your childrearing responsibilities, and you will suddenly care very much about whatever high-paying corporate welfare job you care so little for now.
But it won’t be all bad.
It can never be all bad for people like the two of you.
As the world burns around you, the two of you, and your beautiful child, the three of you, will be fireproof.
Perhaps tonight, you will go home, and conceive your fortunate child.
And when you have this child, the both of you will smile more, laugh more, your jaws will hurt from smiling, your shoulders ache from lifting.
Even though the both of you will find a way to remain purposeless.
Because without purposelessness, you have no reason to live.”
The wi-fi is super slow in the updated yet rustic cabin.
The couple leave the cabin and stand in front of the owner’s house, screaming, “more power, more power, more power!”
The caretaker steps out of her house, the wind sweeping her rust-colored hair and the rust-covered windchimes. “I got your emails and your text messages,” she says. “If you could just show a little patience and try restarting the router.”
“Fuck that,” the husband says. “I know the wi-fi is faster in your house.”
“It says in the rental agreement, the rental agreement you e‑signed, that we aren’t responsible for the speed of the wi-fi.”
“Look, lady, I’m not a political creature by nature, I just want your alt password. I see the network, I see the lock, you’ve even got an extender, I know it’s there.”
The caretaker’s son appears with a shotgun.
“The city folks want their wi-fi, huh. No wi-fi, no tweets, no life!”
“I told you we should’ve bought arrows at Target!”
The son pulls the shotgun, says, “Harvard swine!”
“Come on,” the husband says. “I was educated in the city schools and I will never let you forget it!”
“I went to Bard,” the wife says, “and it wasn’t a big deal! Please don’t hurt us.”
The caretaker pats her son’s butt inside, and the husband resumes his pleas. “I am a patient man, I am an ally, but I swear to you, there is something wrong with the wi-fi. My contacts won’t load.”
The caretaker places her hands on her hips and says, “maybe nobody’s trying to contact you.”
“If you tip this creep, we’re through. When I give a ‘hello’ to my airport valet, I want to receive an ‘hello’ back. If everyone gives everyone five stars, the ratings mean nothing.”
The husband lies to his wife, and leaves, through the buggy third-party app, an accurate tip.
And the difference spreads, through its microfinancing surveyors, into the immigrant advocacy fund.
Stuart M. Ross is the author of the novel Jenny in Corona (Tortoise Books, 2019) — follow his work @myskypager.