Every Advantage, by Nick Taylor
When I was five minutes old, my father gave my umbilical cord to a man in a pinstriped suit, who was waiting in the hall. “He’s going to bank your cord blood, son. It might be useful someday. God knows they want a king’s ransom, but your mother and I want you to have every advantage.”
“Ga,” said I.
My sainted mother fought thrush infections in both her breasts and cracked nipples that bled like open wounds in order to provide me with mother’s milk until I was two years old. “I want to tear my chest off,” she cooed in my ear, “but I can’t imagine not giving you every advantage in life.”
I popped off the breast and gave her a toothless, bloody smile.
My father called in favors, and I was admitted to the top-rated Montessori in the West Eighties. At that elite institution, I ate two pints of paste, tasted the boogers of billionaires’ sons, and peed on three successive headmistresses–all with Columbia Ph.D.’s. “Let’s hope kindergarten is more affordable,” said my father. “Shush, you,” said my mother. “Nothing is more important than education. Think of all the children in the Bronx who can’t afford this opportunity.”
I heard this and thought about Rita from the next cot, whose spitup smelled like orange blossoms.
Kindergarten was not more affordable. My parents endured six rounds of interviews and a comprehensive financial audit to secure my admission to Heathenson, the most highly-regarded day school in Manhattan. In the lower school I learned how to hold girls’ eyelids open with the clasp of a clip-on tie. I also learned the difference between old money and new, as well as the most effective way to lose your nanny in a crowd. “Doesn’t our boy look so grown-up in his jacket and slacks?” said my mother on picture day.
“I poured Drano on your orchids,” said I. “That’s why they’re all dead and withered.”
In upper school I joined the traveling lacrosse team, and my parents drove me to tournaments as far away as New Hampshire and Maine. “Are you sure it’s worth it, all this driving?” my mother said. My parents were whispering; they thought I was asleep in the back of the car. “Never mind,” said my father. “This is the right thing to do. Team sports build character. I wish I’d had this opportunity when I was his age.”
I wasn’t sleeping, of course. I was texting snapshots of my genitals to random numbers in the 212 area code.
The summer after tenth grade, my parents hired a counselor to help me with the college search. “Fill out this survey of your interests,” said he, handing me a number-two pencil and a sheet of empty bubbles. I pretended I was Lennie, from Of Mice and Men, and ripped the Scantron into confetti. “I know he’s a handful,” said my mother when she picked me up. “Patience,” counseled the counselor. “This is the biggest decision of his young life. The fact that you are starting the process early is a huge advantage.”
After my sixth suboptimal performance on the SAT, my parents were nearly in tears. “What did we do wrong?” they asked the counselor. “We enrolled him in Montessori, Heathenson, top-notch summer camps…”
The counselor took my father aside. “There is another way,” he said. “Hear me out before you say no.”
I was admitted to a private college upstate. At orientation, the dean explained it was a girls-only college until the 1970s. “Too bad they didn’t have the Internet back then,” I said. “Why is that?” the dean said, and I was dumbfounded. Really, he didn’t get it? So I grabbed the girl next to me and started dryhumping her butt, with lots of moans so there could be no mistaking what I meant. The dean still didn’t get it, but he had the RA escort me back to the dorm.
I have to admit, the dorm was not too bad. It was brand new at least. Funny coincidence: the building had the same name as me!
I got rushed hard by the Chi Delts, a pretty cool group of guys. The chapter president, Dookie Ames, could burp the alma mater while his girlfriend sang harmony. Her name was Hailey and her father owned one of the Dakotas–North or South, I forget which. She had these lightning-bolt tattoos on her pelvis, pointing down towards her cooch, that she showed me one night when we were drinking on the roof. She started crying and said Dookie didn’t love her. I didn’t know what to say, so I let her blow me.
At the end of freshman year I was arrested for stealing license plates, which is something you do for rush. “Maybe we shouldn’t pay for him to join this fraternity,” said my mother. “The initiation fees are quite steep.” “No,” my father said, “it will be worthwhile in the long run. This is how careers are made. Trust me.”
I hardly ever went to class but graduated, somehow, with C’s. Commencement was held on a sweltering Sunday on the new football field. My parents had seats next to the college president and his wife, whom everyone called Bushy because she had armpit hair. At the end of the ceremony, they called me up to receive something called the School Spirit award, and I gave everybody the finger. None of the parents laughed, but my frat brothers said it was classic.
Another funny coincidence: the new football field had my name, too.
After graduation most kids started working. Even Hailey had a job — on a ranch with beavers or buffaloes or something. I moved home, where there wasn’t much to do but play tricks on our maid, Yolanda. Here’s what I did: I hooked up my computer to the intercom and played a ghost story (in Mexican) at very low volume so that it followed her from room to room. She went home after lunch.
“Where’s Yolanda?” my mother said after her tennis date. “She had a headache,” I said. “Honey, I’ve been meaning to ask,” my mother said, “have you thought about applying for a job somewhere? I’m sure there are alumni who would love to take you under their wing.”
“There are no jobs,” I said. “The economy is in the shitter. Don’t you read the news?”
After dinner, my mother said to my father, “I am worried. He is listless, and I’m afraid also kind of mean.”
“Yes,” my father replied, “he does seem to lack an essential something. I wish there was more we could do. You don’t suppose his cord blood would help, do you?”
“Maybe,” said my mother. “Thank God we banked it. You only get one umbilical cord.”
“Indeed,” said my father. “There is no going back in time — and I would hate to think we hadn’t given him every advantage.”
Nick Taylor is a novelist living in California, where advantage isn’t what it used to be.
The Humor Section features a piece of original humor writing each week. To submit, send an email to Brian Boone.