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[John:] At least twice a week we'd meet for a telephone marathon. Wednesday afternoons we'd have it at Dennis' house because his mother goes shopping at the supermarket and his father doesn't get home from work until after six P.M., even when he's sober. And on Sundays we'd do it at Norton's because his father plays golf and his mother is so retarded she doesn't know what's coming off anyway, but at least they didn't mind if their kids used the house. Mine and Lorraine's we can't even go to. We couldn't use the phone at Lorraine's anyway because her mother doesn't have unlimited service, and at my house my mother is a disinfectant fanatic. She would have gotten too nervous over all of us using her purified instrument. Another difficulty there is that my father, whom I warmly refer to as Bore, put a lock on our phone—one of those round locks you put in the first dialhole so you can't dial. He put it on because of a little exchange we had when he called from work. (3)
These are homes in which parents are absent or ineffective. John describes parents as shopping, working, drinking, playing golf, "retarded," or obsessively cleaning. These parents don't interact with their children in any meaningful way, and don't even know what the kids are doing.
[John:] "No, no, no," she [his mother] said in her best grating voice, all the while shining the coffee table in our sparkling living room, which sparkles because nobody's allowed to live in it. She's got plastic covers on everything. I mean, I like my Mom and all that, but she runs around like a chicken with its head cut off. (5)
John describes a living room, which, ironically, no one is allowed to live in. It would be interesting to have more information about John's mother and how she became so obsessed with cleaning. We have some of Lorraine's mother's history, but none of John's mothers.
[John:] The house [Mr. Pignati's] had a nice warm smell to it. We had to walk through a hall that had a lot of old junk stored in it, and then we went into this living room that had all that old kind of stuffed furniture with lace things that cover the arms so you don't wear them out. (5)
Mr. Pignati's house is a sharp contrast to John's. It has a nice warm smell, not a disinfectant smell; it is cluttered with old junk, not obsessively neat; and it has a comfortable living room with comfortable furniture, not covered with plastic.