Act XII, Scene I
Reputation is an idle and most false imposition; oft got without merit, and lost without deserving. ~ Othello, Act II, Scene III
The aroma of mashed potatoes and gravy, corn on the cob, peas and spicy smoked sausage greeted Homer upon his return from work that evening. The rest of the family, with the addition of their houseguest, had already taken their seats at the dinner table. Homer ambled into the dining room, loosening his tie.
“Smells delish, honey. I hope you made extra, because I – AAAH! SIDESHOW BOB! Oh, right.”
Sitting at the far end of the table, Bob stared at him curiously. Homer took the seat at the opposite end just as Marge entered from the kitchen with a platter of sausages. All looked perfectly delectable except for one: a runty brownish-green vegetarian sausage for Lisa.
“Ew! Mom, the meat sausages are touching my soy sausage!” Lisa complained. “It’s contaminated!”
“And the nerd sausage is contaminating the good stuff!” Bart mocked her.
Marge rolled her eyes. “It’s all good. Eat it or starve.” She set the platter down in the center of the table, between the bowl of peas and the gravy boat. “Everyone dig in!”
The words were barely out of her mouth when Homer stabbed his fork into the plumpest, juiciest sausage on the platter.
“Wow, wouldja look at this bad boy!” he exclaimed, waving it about shamelessly. Unimpressed, the others helped themselves to the rest of the sausages. “Heh-heh, hey Marge, who’s got the biggest sausage at this table? Hm?”
Marge cast a sideways glance at their guest as he helped himself to the last sausage. Without the others stacked on top of it, one could easily see that Homer had spoken too soon: the bragging rights for biggest sausage went to Bob. Marge blushed and Homer’s jaw dropped.
“It doesn’t matter who’s got the biggest anything,” Marge assured Homer before he could complain. “Just make the best of what you’ve got.”
Oblivious to their stares, Bob proceeded to cut the massive slab of meat into bite-sized pieces. He ate silently, eyes on his plate.
“So how’s the English patient today?” Homer asked.
Bob looked up, glancing around the table. All eyes were on him. He placed an index finger on his chest. “Me?”
“You’re the only fancy-talking guy in bandages I see around here.”
“Hmm.” Bob looked at Marge. “Am I from England?”
Marge hesitated. “I want to say yes, but I’m not sure. You could be Welsh.”
“Definitely European,” Homer said through a mouthful of sausage.
“England and Wales are part of the United Kingdom, which is distinctly separate from Europe,” Lisa pointed out.
“Tomayto, tomahto,” Bart chimed in. “Who cares?”
“Obviously YOU don’t, but it could make all the difference in helping Bob regain his identity.”
Bart, who was sitting adjacent to Bob, leaned away from him and closer to Lisa, dropping his voice to a hiss. “If he remembers who he is, he’ll remember who WE are, and he’ll remember what happened in Italy!”
Lisa started to argue but stopped. Suddenly she gasped and her eyes lit up. “What happened in Italy… that’s it! If we can track down Bob’s family, they can help him get his memory back! They must be worried sick about him by now. Dad, you’ve been working with Bob. Has he said anything about his wife and son, or where they’re living now?”
Homer gulped down a mouthful of mashed potatoes. “I don’t think so. He only opens his mouth at work to criticize me or sing one of those God-awful operas. He never has anything funny or interesting to say, so I usually don’t pay attention.”
Lisa rolled her eyes. “Of course. What was I thinking?” She looked at Bob, who had remained silent throughout the discussion. By the curious look he gave her, it was obvious he’d been hanging onto every word. She felt sorry for him.
“Don’t worry, Bob, we’ll help you get your memory back. Somehow.”
He continued to stare at her curiously. “You mentioned a wife and son?” It was much a statement as it was a question.
Lisa nodded. “Yes. The last time we saw you – about a month ago – you were living in Italy. In fact, you were the mayor of a small village, and you had a wife and a little boy who looks just like you.”
“But then… how did I end up here? And where is my family?”
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Lisa replied. “The first thing to do is figure out where you’ve been staying since you returned to Springfield. Can you remember anything at all?”
A distant look clouded Bob’s eyes as he slowly lowered them to his plate of barely touched food. Even his buoyant hair seemed to droop as he shook his head sadly. Lisa felt a pang of guilt. She would have reached out and patted his hand if not for the fact that Bart was sitting between them.
“Well…” Lisa trailed off, then gasped. “Mom! What did you do with the clothes he was wearing last night?”
“I washed them. They’re in the dryer right now.”
“Did you check his pockets? Maybe he has a wallet!”
Sudden understanding caused Marge to smile. “I did, and he does. I put it on the nightstand in the guest room.”
Without waiting to be excused, Lisa bolted from her chair and dashed upstairs. Less than half a minute later she returned to the table, holding up a small leather men’s wallet. She sat down and pushed her plate aside, clearing a space on which to empty out the contents of the wallet: thirty-seven dollars (mostly one-dollar bills and a couple of fives – all tips from the strip club), a credit card, an outdated driver’s license, a travel visa, membership cards for Barnes & Noble and 24 Hour Fitness, an organ donor card, a couple of unvalidated parking tickets, an expired condom, two individually packaged moist towelettes, a Grey Poupon mustard packet, and a key card.
Lisa picked up the key card and flipped it over. Sure enough, there was the logo for the Sleep-Eazy Motel. After a quick phone call to confirm that Bob had not yet checked out, it was decided that Homer and Lisa would go to the motel after dinner to retrieve Bob’s belongings. Although he wanted to go too, Marge insisted that Bob stay home and rest, as he was still a bit woozy from his head injuries.
* * *
The sun was setting goldenly over Springfield as Homer parked his car in front of the decrepit motel. Lisa quickly climbed the rickety staircase to the upper floor, followed slowly by Homer, whose weight roused agonized groans from each and every step.
Lisa walked along the balcony checking the numbers on the doors, looking for 19. “Fourteen, fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen… sixteen? What the - ?” She paused before the wrongly numbered door, confused. The door to the left was clearly room 18, and the one on the right was 20. Had 19 been deliberately omitted? She’d noticed that this motel, like many, had no room 13. Was superstition to blame for 19’s unsettling absence as well?
She laughed out loud when it hit her. The tarnished brass 6 was actually the number 9 turned upside-down. On closer inspection, she could make out the tiny hole where a screw once held the 9 right-side up.
Homer caught up to her as she swiped the key card through the slot and opened the door. It was dark inside with the curtains drawn, but the onslaught of smells that wafted out painted a vivid picture of the room before Lisa could even locate the light switch: dirty socks, spoiled food and alcohol.
If the motel had a single maid in its employment, this room failed to testify to her existence. The bed was unmade, the sheets and covers twisted by a restless occupant. Some soiled clothes were piled in a corner, used towels covered the bathroom floor, and an open takeout box from a nearby Mexican restaurant sat on the little table, its contents beginning to reek with age.
Two nearly empty bottles, one bourbon, one vodka, stood on the nightstand. Beside these were various medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, including Alka-Seltzer, Benadryl, Vicodin, lithium and nitroglycerin. Lisa dumped all of the medications into an empty plastic grocery bag she found on the floor, then proceeded to collect the toiletries scattered around the bathroom sink.
“Check all the drawers,” she instructed. “We have to make sure we don’t leave anything important behind.”
Homer paused in the middle of sampling the three-day-old half-eaten fajita and reluctantly began the task of emptying the dresser drawers. When he spotted the alcohol bottles, he immediately reached for the nearest one.
“No, Dad,” Lisa muttered with her back to him. “Leave it.”
Homer groaned. “Why? It’s not like this is a crime scene… is it?”
Lisa shrugged as she knelt beside the bed. “With Sideshow Bob, we can’t be too careful.” She lifted the bed skirt and peered underneath, making sure she hadn’t missed anything down there.
Meanwhile Homer took to rifling through an underwear drawer. A few pairs of extra-extra-extra large socks, some boxer shorts… nothing of interest until he reached into the back of the drawer and fished out a maroon-colored thong.
“Ooh!” Naturally such a provocative article of clothing warranted closer inspection, even though Homer had no idea where the skimpy piece of cloth had been prior to his eager hands.
“Aha!” Lisa exclaimed as she pulled a briefcase out from under the bed and set it atop the mattress. “Let’s see what he’s hiding in here.”
Inside were a few books; worn copies of David Copperfield, Pride and Prejudice, Les Misérables, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, and The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. Also inside the briefcase were various documents, such as a copy of Bob’s birth certificate, a résumé, a printout of his criminal record, and a 1040 income tax return form.
Lisa went through everything, even flipping through each of the books in hopes of finding something useful. Something to either jog Bob’s memory or reunite him with his family. But there was nothing. Nothing about Italy, nothing about being a mayor, nothing about a wife or son. Except for two small things that were found at the bottom of the pocket on the inside of the briefcase lid: a folded piece of paper and a photo.
The photo was of a small boy with short, black, slightly wavy hair. He looked nothing like Bob’s son. Or did he? Lisa squinted her eyes and peered closer. Her thumb, gripping the edge of the photo, moved up to cover the top of the boy’s head. Without his hair visible, she thought she could see a strong resemblance to Gino. Lisa shook her head and set the photo aside. It had to be some other little boy.
She unfolded the sheet of paper next and found herself staring at a child’s drawing. It was a portrait of a gray and yellow figure, rendered in crayon. The figure was holding what appeared to be a wine glass up in the air, and all around its exaggeratedly large feet were purple dots and circles, apparently representing grapes. The explosive use of the color red on top of the figure’s head made its identity obvious. In the top left corner, it was signed TO BOB FROM GINO.
Lisa frowned. Why on earth would a boy call his father by his name? Well, aside from boys like Bart, of course. During her brief time in Italy, she’d never heard Gino call Bob anything other than Papa. She looked at the drawing again, focusing on the signature. There was no doubt in her mind that whoever had drawn it had signed it as well. But how could a child his age even know how to write? She picked up the photo, staring at it even harder. It DID look like Gino, minus the hair, but something else wasn’t right – something Lisa couldn’t put her finger on.
She tried to recall Bob’s son in greater detail, but it was difficult since she’d never really interacted with him. Maggie had, though. She remembered the two of them dancing in the village square, how all the adults went “Awww!” over them. For a boy who was several months younger than Maggie, he was oddly taller than her. His coordination was better too, which he proved with his admirable dance skills and relentless pursuit of revenge. And although Maggie wasn’t much of a talker, Gino’s bilingual vocabulary was certainly impressive for his age. Too impressive.
Lisa gasped. Suddenly everything made sense.
ACT XIII: [link]