He watched her as she quickly moved her head toward him. His mother said that you could get a stroke from moving like that. No, a stroke would happen if you talk on a cell with your head bent while moving your neck. No, it would just automatically happen if you talk on any cordless phone with your head bent.
His mother would call at least three times a day with the newest surefire ways to get a stroke, heart attack or what calamity awaits if you do this, that….
He found it sad that he always remembered what his mother said, and would yell at Nell if she did something his mother found wrong.
Nell had been talking. He wished that he had been listening rather than ruminating on the world according to Gert Adler.
“You look a zillion miles away. Did you hear one thing that I just said?”
“You said that tomorrow…” He was trying to think.
“No darling. I said that I’m going to leave you tonight for Rick.”
“No you didn’t.”
Nell laughed. When she laughed, you couldn’t help laughing with her. It was one of many things that had endeared her to him that long ago summer, when they were share mates, in a house, on Fire Island.
“I might have said that for all the attention you have been giving me recently. I’m a bit tired of talking to myself.”
“It’s your mother. She has you thinking about every potential calamity. It wasn’t cute 20 years ago. It’s even less cute now that you have a teen age daughter, you’re imparting your fears to.”
“That’s not fair. I try to always act fearless when I’m with Lainey.”
“You don’t get it. It’s not just what you say but the expression on your face or how you move.”
They had had this conversation at least twice a month for fifteen years. He had been in counseling, had hypnotherapy, went to mediation, yoga, and once had pins stuck all over his ears. He couldn’t remember what that was called.
Oh god, he was becoming prematurely demented. His mother had warned him about that. She claimed that since Nell three years older than him, dementia was a sure bet. He had heard his mother say that Nell was as bad a shiksa, (non Jew) and only married him because he was successful.
Nell’s father had bought their house for them, so that was absurd, but Gert could never be convinced that he hadn’t really bought it. He had no idea what money she thought he had then.
Had he married any of the girls his mother had tried to set him up with he would live a life free from problems.
She still mentioned Beth Rosen who had married his cousin David. Beth was perfect. She had even given David a son.
Not that Gert would complain, but if you were only going to have one child, it should be a son.
That was never a complaint, but stated as fact. His mother knew that you could determine a child’s sex by using certain positions and/or drinking certain juices.
“Acupuncture,” that was the word he was looking for. When Gert had moved to Florida, he thought she wouldn’t call so much, but she called more often. His sister would cut Gert off immediately. He never could. Nell was talking. Right, he should listen.
“In two years Lainey will leave for college. We don’t want her to fear her own shadow.”
“Lainey’s tough. She’s bright, funny, has many friends, does much volunteer work, is in every school activity it seems. How much more well adjusted do you want her to be?”
“I want her to be able to take a shower in a lightening storm.”
“Nell that’s really pushing it to the limits. Anything else…”
His office phone rang. He let the machine pick it up.
“Dr. Adler. This is Jenna Fein. At the stoke of midnight, I’m going to leave this world. I just wanted you to know that my life will be over before summer this year.”
He fidgeted. Nell moved restlessly on the bed and put her arm over him. She mummered:
“The usual. You and I arguing over Lainey. A patient I don’t really have calling to tell me that she will kill herself.”
Nell kissed him.
“Gert has a long reach, but you never let it affect Lainey. I think you’re wonderful.”
“I’m a psychiatrist. I know psychiatrists are just as screwed up as the rest of the world, but….”
I think I might have once worked with somebody who had a mother named Gertrude Adler. I’m not sure and don’t really care. The name Beth Rosen is familiar also, but it might just be that kind of name.
I’m not going to begin Googling names. You would think Pia Savage would be singular. You would be wrong. There is a librarian in New Zealand with the same name.
I didn’t ask her for permission to use a name my parents gave me. They gave me three first names, in case I became a writer, actress, or something else.
I use the name they meant in case I became an actress. My middle name is Tani and that’s the name they meant for a writer. So did I, but….I share the many names thing, and being called different names by different people at various stages in my life with Cooper who will be 22 tomorrow. I can’t think of a better person to share an embarrassment of name riches with than Cooper.
This was a pure exercise. No detail, no garnishing, no big story. The ending was lazy. I wanted to finish quickly and there’s nothing quicker than a dream. But I admit that I got the idea at the beginning of the story, for him to be a psychiatrist, and it just seemed like a good way to introduce it. Okay a psychiatrist having a bad dream isn’t lazy. But it was quick. Or something.