Written by Bernard Cooper
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The Bill From My Father, 2006
My mother relished telling people her son had become the "swimming instructor to the stars." Technically, he was the swimming instructor to the children of the stars, but I wasn’t about to point this out and spoil her pleasure. I spent my Saturdays roaming over famous names engraved in the pink terrazzo of Hollywood Boulevard, and stars meant something entirely different to me than to my mother. Stars meant a walkable constellation strewn with crushed cigarette butts and wads of chewing gum. Stars were steppingstones that led to the novelty shops where I spent my allowance on puddles of rubber vomit and sticks of trick gum that blackened the chewer’s tongue and teeth. Stars decorated the pavement onto which lushes staggered from the Frolic Room, rumpled men and women disgusted by the sunlight. But if I took my mother to mean the lights pulsing in the night sky, if I convinced myself for even a second that my brother had instructed those stars to swim across the cosmos, then I understood how splendid a claim she was able to make, and why she made it as often as she did.
© 2006 Bernard Cooper; New York: Simon & Schuster