The Second Generation, Then the Third

The Second Generation, Then the Third

My wife spent a thousand bucks on my birthday present, the first one after we got married. I ain’t big on jewelry—a thousand bucks for a watch!—and I don’t think it’s a knock-off because she never bought knock-off nothin’, plus that ­watch is very thin—which I am too because I watch what I eat—except Sundays, Tuesdays, and Fridays when I shovel down her rice pudding with plenty of cinnamon, raisins, and whipped cream­. She’d make it so she could tell me I shouldn’t eat so much—besides, I never wore a fucking pinky ring let alone a thousand-buck watch. But I’m tellin’ you, Moses, that watch is thin and gold—solid gold—and I ain’t no prince, that’s for sure. It has this leather band, snakeskin, and I hope it’s knock-off leather ’cause snakes deserve to live too, and I ain’t no snake, I’ll tell you that, even though I wanted to knock her off a couple of times, and I never cheated on her, as far as I can recall.

Besides, how do you tell time any different than what it is?

I need a watch for that?

It was sixty years ago we got married.


She got me all kinds of presents, like this fancy wool sweater with sailboats and big yellow buttons. Sailboats?! I ain’t no Christopher Columbus, and look at what he did to the Indians, and do I seem like the kind of fella that goes for big yellow buttons—whatamIaschmuck? And let me tell you, I’m a stand-up guy and I don’t like to hurt no one, so I wore it buttoned all the way up my chest in honor of the last anniversary we’d have—I didn’t know it at the time—and let me tell you my chest is hairy and very firm.


I put that watch away in a drawer under the purple silk boxer shorts she got me for our honeymoon. She wanted me to drag it around on my wrist. Be a big shot, she said.

If I put the watch on, then everything will be alright?

It’ll never be alright.


I said to my wife on our first date, I’m not a nice guy.

She says, Yes you are.

No, really, I’m not.

I’ll make you into a nice guy.

You can’t stuff two pounds of broken bones into a one-pound bag, I said. Some people hurt too much.

I’ll make you into a nice guy.


When my mother asked me what present I wanted for my Bar Mitzvah, I said, I don’t know. Leave me alone. And who’s my father anyhow?

She smacked me in my mouth like she usually did, then she said I was a no-good bum, then she said she was sorry, and she didn’t mean to hit me so hard even though she said she shoulda hit me harder, and she shoulda left me on somebody’s stoop in a basket like baby Moses, and why did she have me in the first place, she said.

Like she had a choice; it was a concentration camp.


Yesterday was our last anniversary. October 28th, 2023. She gave me this kaleidoscope baseball—blue and orange—because she knows I like to watch the Mets. I looked through the peephole, and all the colors were broken. Everything’s broken, I said.

You know what she says? I thought it would make you happy.

I put on my sailboat sweater and sat down on the living room couch, and she sat next to me. I turned the TV on to watch the news about the war and pressed mute. I can’t listen to people screaming, but I had to watch. Crying on both sides of the fence. Both sides. Nobody’s gonna come outta this good.

Then I said, I can’t take this world. You shoulda never married me. I’m too broken.

She stayed quiet, then she got up and went to the kitchen. She poured water into the pot to make rice pudding. She set the pot on the stove, and she says, I’ll make it special with rose water.

I cried, and I’ll tell you right now, I ain’t no baby.

Maybe they deserve it, she says.

Who deserves what? I said.


I was eighteen the last time I saw my mother. She was going back to Germany to find the man who raped her.

I’m gonna kill him, she said.

Then what? I said.


I ain’t no prince, but I never killed no one. Never will.

Hey, Moses. You killed a man once, right?


I never liked that watch—and I told her so—but to make her happy, I wore it to her second cousin’s sweet sixteen at Leonard’s Palazzo in Great Neck fifty-eight years ago.


When you get old, it’s hard to take a crap. My scrotum hangs in the toilet, and when everything from the last twenty-four hours comes out, it hits the water and splashes my balls then my asshole shuts tight. When I was young, it came out smooth and long, so there was no big splash from all the rocks I gotta push out now, sweat’n and grunt’n like I’m having a baby, which I would never bring into this world because of all the shit going on.

You think that’s funny? Holy Moses!


I’ll wear that watch to my funeral tomorrow. She woke up and found me on the toilet. I dropped dead, trying to take a crap—I ate four bowls of her rice pudding with extra whipped cream. Be happy, she says. Have more.

I couldn’t eat enough to turn off the screams.

The first thing she does when she finds me, water dripping off my balls and my fat tongue hanging out, is to put that watch on my wrist.

There, you look handsome.

Then she combed my hair.


Now what, Moses?

When will it end?


About the Author

Joseph Weiner is a psychiatrist, medical educator, and MFA student at Stony Brook/Southampton. His essays and poetry have been published or are forthcoming in the The Journal of American Medical Association, and elsewhere. This is his first published short story.


Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay