Sometime after midnight, after the TV proved itself to be utterly useless once again—we didn’t really need
anything for $19.95—I leaned back and tugged on my lower lip, lost in idiotic thought. My wife was stretched
out beside me, lovely, at peace, book in hand, cat in lap, irretrievably immersed in the South Pacific musings
of some guy named Horwitz.
I don’t know what made me think of him, but I found myself saying out loud, “I wonder whatever happened to
Weaner.” My lovely wife, drawn to the surface by this statement, asked softly, “Who?”
“Weaner; Peter’s cousin. I never told you about Weaner before?”
She looked up from the book. Good wife that she is, she preferred my mindless musings to the published
award-winning nautical prose of Horwitz. The cat stirred and looked up at me disapprovingly; he demanded
an explanation for this uncalled-for disturbance. I ignored him (if a theatrical exaggerated sneer can be
interpreted as ignoring someone).
“Weaner showed up out here from Wisconsin a couple years after Peter moved out…” I began.
“Why do you call him Weaner?” she asked.
“They called him Weaner. I don’t know if I ever called him anything. If I did it was by his name, which I forget.
Jerry, I think. Anyway, I seem to recall Peter telling me that a weaner is the runt in a litter of pigs. The little
guy’s a weaner. I’m sure there’s more to it than that.”
“But, a wiener is a sausage, isn’t it?”
My wife is French, well educated, well traveled, well read, impressively informed on a wide range of topics. In
stark contrast I provide the dull background by which her brilliance is all the more keenly revealed. But, when
opportunity presents itself we add to each other’s universality. For example, I know something about the
price of common lumber (specifically soft woods) in the 1980’s in the San Francisco Bay Area, and my
expertise concerning the flattest bicycle route between the 5700 block of Geary Boulevard and Golden Gate
Park cannot be challenged. So, she dove into an explanation on the derivation of the word “wiener” which
encompassed, as I recall it; Vienna, veal, and vandalism in its purest puerile form—in this case the apparent
intentional bastardized pronunciation of the Germanic tongues.
“Well, but…” I interrupted, “I don’t think Weaner being called weaner has anything to do with sausage
directly. I think Weaner was called Weaner because he was so small. You know, Peter comes from a family
of giants. Standing on a crate, Weaner might get a good view of the underside of Peter’s jaw.”
She closed the book (which I considered a compliment), but kept her thumb in place (a slight which I did not
overlook). The cat continued to stare at me, awaiting an end to the disruption. From experience I knew I had,
maybe, three minutes.
So, I summarized.
“So, Weaner came out here, raised on a milk farm in Wisconsin, and declared that he was going to go into
the real estate business and make a lot of money. Peter, always good-natured, and with genuine affection
for his young cousin, laughed at such naiveté and said, ‘How are you going to get into real estate?’ Weaner
didn’t have a penny, that anyone knew of; he didn’t know anybody out here, he knew absolutely nothing
about business, and even less about real estate, but that wouldn’t stop him.
‘Couple months later, we’re all invited over to Weaner’s place in Oakland for some kind of Sunday brunch. I’
m thinking, ‘Poor Weaner, man, prolly livin’ in some old run down slum in the sleaziest part of Oakland.’ But
when we get to the place it’s in a nice part of town. VERY nice. And good old Weaner is living on the top floor
of this big apartment building. When we pull into the driveway, Peter comes dashing out to the truck, leans
into the window and says, “This is Weaner’s place!”
I say, “It looks like Weaner found himself a nice place.”
Peter says “No. Weaner OWNS this place. He owns this entire building!’ He’s got a big grin on his face like
someone who’s just been slapped silly. Without lookin’ I realize that I have a stunned look on my own face,
like someone who’s just been slapped silly. “He OWNS this place?” I look at Mary and she has a stunned
look on her face like…
Maybe a year later, not more, and NOW Weaner owns several buildings in Oakland. He’s driving whatever
car he wants, and apparently, he wants a big flashy one; he’s putting in about three hours each day in his
thirty-third floor downtown office; he has gold rings on every finger and he’s wearing fine Italian wool suits;
his shoes are custom made. Somewhere along in there he’s also married some ice-cold, semi-ugly,
reasonably foreboding foreign chick. In the blink of an eye they have a kid and they’re working on another.
That’s the last I ever heard of Weaner.”
My wife returned quietly to her book and the cat returned quietly to licking his whiskers, and I got up and
walked out of the room. When I returned, after tearing off a little 20 minute, ad-lib, bathtub-style blues on my
ukulele, my wife looked up and said, “Maybe the wife had something to do with it.”
“Something?!” I said. “She had EVERYTHING to do with it. As far as I can figure it, Weaner married into the
But, you know it really doesn’t matter, however he did it, you gotta give Weaner credit. He came out here,
said he was going to get rich in the real estate business, and he did.
Me, I always wanted to write a bunch of books that nobody ever reads, an' I’m still workin’ on it.
Real American Writin' for Real American Readin'
by HENRY EDWARD FOOL