I heard it first, I want the royalties
May 18, 2008 5:43 AM   Subscribe

Help me find the origin of the joke/song/story "Missing My Son" as told by Tom Waits.

I first heard this story in 1979. It was told to me almost verbatim the way Waits tells it, only the son had been killed in Viet Nam. My sense is it originally came from a comedy routine but now is definitely in the public domain.

Can anyone help me narrow down the original source?
posted by Xurando to Grab Bag (4 answers total)
For those who don't feel like bothering with an mp3, here are the lyrics:
I was in a line at the supermarket the other day, and uhm... y'know, I had all my things on the little conveyor belt there. And uh... there's a gal in front of me that is uh.. well, she's staring at me and I'm getting a little nervous and uh, she continues to stare at me. And I uh, I keep looking the other way. And then, finally she comes over closer to me and she says: "I apologise for staring, that must have been annoying. I, I... You look so much like my son, who died. I just can't take my eyes off you." And she precedes to go into her purse and she pulls out a photograph of her son who'd died. And uh, he looks absolutely nothing like me. In fact he's... Chinese. Uh... anyway, we chatted a little bit. And uh, she says: "I'm sorry, I have to ask you. Would you mind, as I leave the supermarket here, would you mind saying "Goodbye mom" to me? I, I know it's a strange request but I haven't heard my son saying "Goodbye mom" to me, and "So long" and it would mean so much to me to hear it. And uh, if you don't mind I... " And I said: "Well, you know, okay, yeah, sure. Eh.. uh... I can say that." And, and so, she uh gets her groceries all checked out. And uh, as she's going out the door she waves at me and she hollers across the store: "Goodbye son!" And I look up and I wave and I say: "Goodbye mom!" And then she goes, and uh... So I get my few things there, on the conveyor belt and the checker checks out my things. And uh, and he gives me the total and he says: "That'll be four hundred and seventy nine dollars." Uh... and I said: "Well, how is that possible! I've only got a little tuna fish, and uh some skimmed milk, and uh mustard and a loaf of bread..." He goes: "Well, well you're also paying for the groceries for your mother. She uh, told me you'd take care of the bill for her." And I said: "Well, wait a minute! That's not my mother!" And he says: "Well I distinctly heard her say as she left the store "Bye son!" and you said "Bye mom!" and so what are you trying to say here, uh..." I said: "Well, JESUS!" And I looked out into the parking lot and she was just getting into her car. And I ran out there. And she was just closing the door, and she had a little bit of her leg sticking out of the door and she was pulling away and I grabbed her leg and I started PULLING it! Just the way... I'm pulling yours...
posted by languagehat at 6:55 AM on May 18, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ariel Gordon? Did you see this film? Did it also end with the 'pulling your leg' bit?
posted by farishta at 6:58 AM on May 18, 2008

My dad used to tell us "pulling your leg" stories like that one. Are you looking for the origins of that specific story or the whole "pulling your leg" story twist?
posted by NoraCharles at 7:47 AM on May 18, 2008

Snopes says it appears in the Brunvand books, so that's a start.
posted by dilettante at 7:56 AM on May 18, 2008

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