Saturday 21 January 2023

Saturday Sample: The Memory Keeper by S. Nadja Zajdman, lemonade




            Montreal, Quebec—The autumn of 1971


My name was Sharon, and I lived in the neighbourhood next to where, my daddy liked to say, he could spit on Hampstead.  I hated living in that neighbourhood.  We moved there when my parents got onto their financial feet.  I spent my childhood in a multi-cultural neighbourhood, but after the Six-Day War my mother’s nightmares came back and she felt safer in a ghetto.  My daddy detested ghettos.  In the neighbourhood my daddy called a Golden Ghetto, I felt suffocated. 

       I also hated being called Sharon.  When you called “Sharon” down the halls of Wagar High, half the school came running.  I was called Sharon for my dead grandmother Sarah.  Girls whose name began with an “S” were usually named for their dead grandmother Sarah.  If you had a dead grandmother Sarah you could be called Shirley or Sheryl or Stella or Sophie or Susan—you could be called most anything—except, of course, “Sarah.”  So I changed my name.  I changed my name to Noela, because I was due to be born at Christmas.  But I wasn’t born at Christmas.   In the year of my birth, in early December, my mother’s obstetrician told her he wanted to go on vacation as soon as possible.  I’ve always been accommodating.  We all accommodate doctors.  My mother’s obstetrician gave her a bottle of castor oil, told her to drain its contents and check into hospital in the evening.  The wheels being greased, so to speak, I made my entrance in the wee hours of the morning on St. Nicholas Day.

I had a younger brother called Mark.  He was called Mark for his dead grandfather Marek, though he’d been named Lucian for his dead grandfather Lucian. Our mum was a maverick who broke with tradition. However, Daddy was cursed with a large and forceful family who ignored what my brother was named, and called him what they liked. 

Daddy’s older brother also had a son called Mark.  In his case, he was even named Mark, too.  In an effort to avoid confusion, our older cousin was called Big Mark and my little brother was called Little Mark, but as Little Mark had already grown bigger than Big Mark, you had to be a relative to know who was being talked about.

Big Mark was getting married.  He was getting married to Sarah Aida.  Sarah Aida was named for her dead grandmother, but since any girl named Sarah-for-her-dead-grandmother couldn’t be called Sarah, Sarah Aida amalgamated her monikers, and so became “Serenade.”  Serenade had a younger brother called Eddie who, as far as anyone knew, was named for Eddie Fisher.

Eddie and I were in the same class.  Our lockers stood side by side.  Twice a day Eddie and I turned our combination keys in unison.  We never spoke; the rules of Peer Pressure forbade it.  Eddie was a jock, and subject to the rules.  I was fat, and automatically disqualified.

And so, the Marriage Machine was set in motion.  The invitations were sent and an official announcement of the nuptials, accompanied by graduation photographs, appeared in the municipal daily and the suburban weekly.  Designers were called on the carpet, caterers were chewed up and spit out and seamstresses tiptoed on pins and needles until a co-ordinated menu-and-colour scheme, satisfactory to both mothers-in-law, had been hammered out.  The colour code agreed upon was raspberry-fuchsia.  It would dominate the bridesmaids’ ruffled gowns, the ushers’ ruffled shirts, the drapes, the tablecloths, and the food.  Three of the bridesmaids were friends of Serenade.  The fourth bridesmaid was me.

“Please Mum.  I don’t want to be a bridesmaid.   I don’t need to be a bridesmaid.  Serenade can have them all from her side.  I won’t be hurt if they leave me out, really I won’t!  Please don’t make me wear that dress!”

“You’re the youngest unmarried female on Big Mark’s side.  If you don’t represent the family, people will talk.”

“People will talk anyway.”

      “But people will think there’s something wrong in the family.”

“There is something wrong in the family.  Everybody knows that.  If they don’t talk about us, they’ll find something else to talk about.  Please Mum, I can’t wear that dress!”

“The other bridesmaids are wearing the same dress.”

“The other bridesmaids don’t look the way I do.  Please Mum, all Eddie’s friends from school will be there.  I mean—ruffles, Mum!  Ruffles!”

“We’ll talk to the dressmaker.  We’ll see what she can do.”

The dressmaker could do little except use more material on me.  A riotous design of fuchsia flowers seemed to be growing on my hips and my behind.  My waist, or rather the location of my hidden waist, was trapped in lavender, and my breasts, ankles and wrists were rimmed with raspberry ruffles.

Auntie Henia was the only sister-in-law on talking terms with Mum.  She sighed. “Maybe we can do something with her hair.”

At this suggestion, and because of it, I was sent to a beauty salon.  My thick, hip-length hair was too lovely to be left alone.  The Romantic Look was in, that season, and my wavy mane was crimped into ringlets.  I stared at my reflection as if into a Victorian nightmare.  The stylist sprayed the springing coils and pronounced, “You look superb, darling, simply ravishing!”  I fingered the hideous ringlets.  I was miserable.  Why did he do this to me?  Does he hate girls that much?

The hair rehearsal over, I snuck out of the salon, pressing a scarf over my head.  All I need is a yarmulke, I thought, and I could pass for a Hasid.

I hurried home and threw myself under the shower.  Tears streamed down my cheeks as the rushing water drenched my scalp.  They ran and the water ran down them, each commingling with the other.

The wedding day arrived at last.  It was a glorious afternoon in mid-autumn.  The air sparkled, the sun beamed, and patches of blue flashed through marmalade leaves.  No matter.  The Marriage Machine wasn’t taking chances.  Its operators had ordered a plastic tree and artificial grass and had them planted in the synagogue lobby. Dead leaves were raked into garbage bags and sprinkled over a green mat. Two photographers in black tuxedos, purple yarmulkes, and raspberry-coloured shirts—with ruffles—positioned Serenade and her bridesmaids around the tree. 

The photographers didn’t know what to do with me.  I was taller than the others, my bulk broke the composition’s symmetry, and the silver of my braces attracted the camera’s flash.  The photographers pushed me, each in opposing directions, back and forth around the tree.  Finally, I was parked behind Serenade.  “Don’t step on my train!” hissed the bride.

“Oops!  I’m sorry!”  I stepped back.

“Hey you!  Why’d ya move?  We’re trying to fit you into the picture!”  I removed my glasses, hoping it would help.

 “O.K. girls.  Now smiiile!---ahh—except you, the big one in the back—you understand.”

When the photo shoot was over, I crumpled into a corner and watched the procession of florists, caterers and musicians parade past.  Vases of violets and pink carnations were laid on lilac-and-fuchsia tablecloths on the round tables spaced throughout the banquet hall.  Borscht and pink salmon, red cabbage and radish rosettes, raspberry sherbet and plum compote were wheeled into the synagogue kitchen.  Strawberry shortcake, mousse and juice and Jello were lined up on the sweets table flanking a heart-and-cupid centrepiece carved out of cut ice.

A microphone was being tested at the rectangular table of honour.  Night Rider and His Knights were climbing onto the bandstand.

“Hey Sharon!”  Little Mark sprinted in from god-knows-where.  “Sharon!”  My brother insisted on calling me by my original given name.  It was his form of rebellion.  “Have you seen Daddy?”

“No, I haven’t seen Daddy.”

“Well I need to find him.  I don’t know how to tie this tie!”  Little Mark sprinted out again.  A moment later, he darted back.

“Hey Sharon!  Auntie Stalin’s coming!”

 Auntie Stalin was The Big Sister and Queen Bee of the clan.  Daddy dubbed her “Auntie Stalin” because she ruled with a dictator’s fist. 

“You know what I heard Auntie Henia say?  She said Auntie Stalin had a special dress made.  It’s so special, nobody’s allowed to see it.  You should’ve heard her going on to Mum.  She said it was so fantastic, it was a  ‘Drop Dead’ dress.  What’s a ‘Drop Dead’ dress?”

“It sounds like it’s supposed to be a dress that’s so stunning that when you see it, you could drop dead.”

“Yeech.  Women are weird.  I mean, who cares, anyway?”

Auntie Stalin entered.  Solemnly she waddled across the hall, her small and stocky body balancing a constipated face.  Her beady eyes focused on Little Mark, and ignored me.

 “Marek. Dear Marek.  Come to Auntie.  Come to me.”

 My brother obeyed.  Didn’t everybody?  Auntie Stalin stroked Mark’s cheek.  “Marek.  Dear Marek.”  I stared.  Auntie Stalin stared back.  She bristled.  She turned away.

“Sharon!  What’s wrong with me?!”

“What do you mean?”

“She likes me!  I don’t get it!  Auntie Stalin doesn’t like anybody but she likes me!  What’s wrong with me?”

Our dad had avoided the proceedings for as long as our mum allowed.  Now he came in to check on us. 

Nu, mein two little samples?  Hasn’t this funeral started yet?”

“Daddy!  I need you!  I don’t know how to tie this tie!”

“So?  Big deal.  You want to look suffocated like everybody else?”

“But Daddy, this is fancy stuff! I have to wear a tie--and I have to wear it tied!”

Oysh.  Go to your mother.  She likes fancy-schmancy.  She likes tying ties.”

“Daaaaaaddy!”  Little Mark shook his head.  Daddy didn’t get it.  Except that he did.  Little Mark skipped out.

“Daddy, where’s your tie?”

“I put it in mein pocket.”

“Aren’t you going to wear it?”

“Not until I have to.  So, shepsaleh, you think we will survive this funeral?”

“Daddy, why do you call wedding funerals?”

“You are right.  I shouldn’t do that.  Weddings are not funerals.  At funerals you bury one—at weddings you bury TWO!”

I was used to my daddy’s schticks.  I smiled.  “I saw Auntie Stalin’s dress.”

“You saw The Dress?  The famous Dress?  Och mein gott!  And you are still alive?!”

“You won’t believe it, Daddy.”

“About mein sister, I believe anything.”

“The pattern and material are exactly like our chairs in the living room.  Mum’s going to plutz.  Auntie Stalin is wearing our chairs!”

“You don’t say?  Well, we should sit on her!  Ha!  Ha!  Ha!”  Daddy laughed and laughed.  My daddy laughed at everyone and everything, and he did it all the time.

 “Noela!  We’re starting!  Get up here!”  A ruffled-and tuxedoed teenaged usher shouted from the top of the stairs.  At least he got my name right.                         

“Well well!  Look on this!  The circus is coming to town!  Hey, you little momzer!  Where did you get that monkey suit?!  Ooooo hooo hoooo!”  Daddy jutted out his lip, scratched his sides, and hopped around the hall.  The shocked boy vanished.

“Don’t worry, shepsaleh, it will be over soon.  And don’t let any junky people bug you.  They’re air.  You don’t see them.  They’re just air.”  Daddy waved his arm like a wand, and in so doing, dismissed every undesirable.               “Thank you, Daddy.”  Quickly, I kissed him.  Then I plodded up the stairs and took my place in line.  Auntie Henia’s son-in-law sidled up to me.

“Hey Noela.  Haven’t seen you for a while.  You’re lookin’ good, ya know.”

“Saulie, please.  Don’t make fun of me.”

“Naaaw, hey!  I mean it.  You’re growin’ up, know what I mean?”

“Saaaaulie.”  I blushed the colour of my dress.

“Naaaaw, really.  I like Big Mamas.  Something to hang on to.  These scarecrows here, they’re so skinny, you could cut yourself on them.”  Saulie smirked.

“Ahhh, is Sophie around?”

“She’s with the kids.  Susie’s one of the flower girls.  They’ve stuck so many petticoats on her, she looks like a potted plant.   Waddaya say?  Ya gonna be sittin’ with us at supper, sweetheart?”

 My cousin’s husband grinned lasciviously.  I was mesmerized by the movements of his tongue.  A narrow pink sliver, it darted in and out of his mouth like a reptile’s tongue.

“Hey Sharon!”  Little Mark sprinted in from god-knows-where.  I snapped out of my trance.  “What is it, Mark?”

“I figured out why Auntie Stalin likes me but she doesn’t like you.  It’s because you’re ‘Mum’s Daughter’ and I’m ‘Daddy’s Son!’”  Little Mark pronounced, proud of his powers of deduction. 


“Yeah Sharon?”

“Get lost.”  I was ticking like a bomb about to explode.  That much, Mark understood.

“O.K.”  Mercifully, for both our sakes, my little brother sprinted off and out of my sight.

The wedding march started.  The procession paced in time, as we had been drilled to do.  I somnambulated down the aisle.  When I reached my designated position, my right ankle began to itch.  Surreptitiously I scratched it with my left foot under the folds of my ruffled gown.  I gazed at the canopy, at the backs of my cousin and his bride.  I felt the collective breath of the congregation, witness to this ritual, as they had been throughout the course of time.  I looked at my cousins and classmates, frozen as though in a portrait of still life.  I listened to the rabbi’s sepulchral tones echoing through the temple, and sensed the eternal question being inwardly asked.  Did they, or didn’t they?  Saulie was standing, protective and paternal, behind his little girl.  Did they, or didn’t they?  I vowed then and there that I wouldn’t be a virgin when I married. No one was going to wonder about me. 

Big Mark smashed the glass placed under his foot, and the stillness was shattered.  The mothers-in-law cried, and the fathers-in-law sighed.  The younger children snickered, and the older ones cheered.


Supper was being served.  The guests were finding their seats.  Place cards had been set on the tables.  Trying to find my place, I discovered that I was relegated to the side with Auntie Stalin’s grandchildren and their nanny.  I took my seat beside them, dutifully keeping the place relatives assigned to me.

“Where is mein daughter?”  I heard Daddy’s shout of concern.  “Why is she not sitting with her cousins?”  Daddy quickly found me.  Shepsaleh!  Vot are you doing here?”

“Looks like they put me in the sandbox, Daddy.”

“VOT?!”  Daddy glared at Auntie Stalin, who was safely entrenched behind the table of honour.  “Noela!  Get up.  Get out from there.  Psiakrew cholera!”  Daddy tossed his head like a woman showing off a thick mane of hair.  “I’m insulted!”

You fight me, you fight my gang, and Daddy was my gang.  He pulled me behind him and bowed before the table of honour.

 Diekuje, Pani Stalinka!  And a bon appetite to you!”

He turned on his heel, snapped his fingers, and summoned a waiter.  Garçon!  I want another table!  Two chairs, and a table.”

The waiter stood dumbfounded.

 “Step on it, step on it!  You got no more tables in this tavern?  I want a private table and you can put it near the kitchen.  I like food, I’ll get it faster!”

 The startled waiter stared at Daddy, and then looked to Auntie Stalin for help.  There was no help coming.  The hapless waiter was trapped.

  “I don’t want we should sit in the middle.”  Daddy pressed on.  “Put the table against the wall.  In the back, in the corner, where I can watch everybody making fools from themselves!”

 The dumbfounded waiter stood paralysed.

 “Come on come on come on!”  Daddy didn’t have all day. “I haven’t got all day.  MOOOOVE!”

 Daddy’s command gave new meaning to the term “jumpstart.”  The waiter jumped.  A table and two chairs materialized.

“Noela, sit down.”  Daddy ordered.  “Sit down with your back to the wall.  Always remember and never forget; first rule in a fight, find yourself a wall.  This way, nobody can attack you from the behind!”

Auntie Stalin fumed, yet she knew it was dangerous interfering with Daddy.  Auntie Stalin and Daddy often locked horns, like bulls.  Though they didn’t realize it and would never have admitted it, even if they did, Auntie Stalin and Daddy were much alike, except that Daddy played fair, and Auntie Stalin didn’t.  


My older cousins were seated together.  “Uh oh!  Uncle Abram’s up to something.  There’s gonna be fireworks!  Come on guys, let’s go where the action is!”  My cousins converged upon us.  “Uncle Abram, can we sit with you?”

“No!”  Daddy dismissed them instantly, and irrevocably.  “Go back from where you came.”  It was a phrase Daddy had heard too often, under different and dire circumstances.

“Vot’s the matter with you?”  My cousins weren’t taking Daddy seriously.  They didn’t yet recognize that he was in dead earnest.  “Can’t you see that this is the head-table?  That other table with the idiots behind it—that’s a imitation head-table.  Where I sit is the head-table, and only the best people can sit on this table, which means nobody except me and mein daughter.  Beat it!”  My cousins backed off, pronto.

Mum was trapped with Little Mark at a round table occupied by outraged relatives.  Little Mark chomped away at the food set before him, clueless, as usual.  Mum knew that no matter what kind of stunt Daddy pulled, she would be blamed for it.  Yet she wiped her hand over her mouth, hoping to hide her smile, anyway. 

Once we were ensconced at Daddy’s self-designated table of honour, he ordered dinner for us as if we were in the most elegant restaurant, and he and I the only couple in the room.  Then the moment Daddy wished would never come, came.  Big Mark’s father rose to make a speech.  As president of their landsmanschaft, he made a speech at every landsman’s simcha.  It was common knowledge that each time Big Mark’s father rose to make a speech, Daddy rose to leave.  Big Mark’s father approached the microphone.  All eyes were on my daddy.

Big Mark’s father opened his mouth.  Daddy rose from his seat.

“Hey, Abram!  Just because he’s your brother, you think you can take off while we have to sit here and take it?”            Daddy spun around.  “Listen Yacov, I have to go to the bathroom, because if I listen to that laughing-stock I’m going to make in mein pants.  I have to go to the bathroom, and mein daughter has to go to the bathroom.  We BOAT have to go to the bathroom, and when ya gotta go, ya gotta go!”  Daddy bolted.  I followed, wiping my hand over my mouth, hoping to hide my smile.

 Fuiu!  Let’s get out of this tavern.  I need air!”  Daddy ripped off his tie and stuffed it into his pocket.  We walked out of the synagogue and into the crisp evening breeze, strolling arm-in-arm along the tree-lined avenue.

“In nineteen-hundred forty-four I carried that boy on the steppes from Siberia.  They said he wouldn’t live, but I didn’t believe them.  I carried that little baby twenty kilometres to the nearest hospital.  He needed a transfusion, and I was the only one healthy enough to give it to him.”  Daddy recalled Big Mark’s inauspicious beginnings in the autumn of 1944.  “I gave him mein blood!”  Daddy almost spit. “And for vot!  For vot?!”  Daddy answered his own question.  “So that twenty-seven years later I should live to see him getting married—in a pink shirt—with ruffles!—to a girl who wipes the floor with her dress?!”  The man was incredulous.

“It’s called a train, Daddy.”

“Vot you talking?”  Daddy spoke my language, but no one seemed to be speaking his.  “I know vot is a train!  A train—goes to Toronto!  It doesn’t wipe the floor!  Huh!  One day she will wipe the floor with that joker she just married.”

 Daddy was on a roll.  One didn’t dare interfere, nor interrupt Daddy when he was on a roll.  “She should wipe the floor with him!”  Daddy lined up his pins, picked up his bowling ball, and took aim.   ”He’s the BROOM!”  His punchline delivered, Daddy felt better, but not for long. “Psiakrew!  I should’ve left him on the steppes!  Big Mark has mein blood and I want it back!”  Daddy then expressed his greatest regret.  “Vot for I came to this country?  Ach poo!”  Now Daddy really did spit.  “I should’ve gone to a kibbutz!”

“Daddy.”  I was beginning to wonder.  “Are you disappointed in me too?”

“Vot?!”  If Daddy was incredulous before, he was astounded, now.  Och mein shepsaleh, with your smart dark eyes and such a clever punim?  Disappointed in you?  NEVER!”  Daddy laid to rest all doubts for all time.

“But I’m not slim and pretty like everybody else.”

“Listen lemeleh.”  Daddy’s tone softened.  You was a beautiful baby, and you was a beautiful little girl.  Now you are going through an adjusting time.  You will be beautiful again.”  Daddy asserted.

If my daddy said so, then it must be so.   Still, in this case, I wasn’t sure. 

“Other people don’t see me that way.”

“Other people are stupid!”  Daddy was on the verge of spitting again.

“Daddy, would you rather I be fat and smart, or slim and stupid?”

Daddy was amazed that I would raise such a question.  For him, it was a no-brainer.  “Fat and smart, of course.  Because if you are smart, you will be enough smart to lose weight, and then you will be slim and smart, but the other people will still be stupid.”

“Ahhh Daddy.”  I leaned my head on his shoulder.

      “Look, shepsaleh.  Give a look on the moon.  Tonight the moon is full, but it is not always full.”  Daddy shifted into bedtime story mode.  When I was a toddler Daddy put me to sleep inventing bedtime stories.  Sometimes he put himself to sleep inventing these stories, and I would climb out of my bed, cover my daddy with my blanket, then toddle off in search of my mummy and warn her not to make noise.  Now, on this fresh fall evening Daddy narrated, or invented, “Did you know that once upon the time the moon, he went to his tailor because he wanted the tailor should make for him a new suit from clothes?  Well, the tailor, he took the measurements from the moon, and he told him that he should come back on the next week.  So the moon, he came back on the second week, and in the meantime, he put on weight.  The tailor, he said, ‘I can’t make for you a new suit from clothes because you are heavier then the last week.  Go home and we try again next week.’  So the moon he went away, and then came back on the third week, and he was even heavier then he was on the week before.  Now the tailor, he was starting to get really frustrated, so he said to his client, ‘Now listen Mr. Moon, how do you expect I should make for you a new suit from clothes if you are putting on weight all the time?!  Now go home again and I give you one more week, and that’s final!’  So the moon went away again and when he came back on the fourth week he had taken off all his weight, and then he was just as slim as he was when he went to see the tailor on the first time.  Well, by now, the tailor, he was sahitst-samitst.  He could never fit the moon because the moon was always changing, and so it came out that the moon could never have a new suit from clothes.”  End of story.

My daddy and I wandered along the darkened shadows of the avenue a little while longer.  “If we don’t go back,” Daddy sighed, “your mother will catch the hell, and if your mother will catch the hell,” Daddy was grimly conscious of the consequences, “then I will catch the hell.  I am spending so much time with mein moon that your mother, she will say, ‘How’s about you should spend time with your ‘sun’ too?’”  So, reluctantly, we returned to the temple.

Dinner was over. The band was playing.  I began to tap my feet, to snap my fingers, to twitch.  Mum noticed.  Silently, she signalled Daddy.  Daddy had noticed, too.  He winked at Mum. He nodded. “Come on shepsaleh, let’s dance!”

“Oh Daddy, you can’t dance.  Everything you do is either a fast hora or a slow hora.”

“Well, so teach me!”

“O.K.  But the first thing you have to learn is that there’s no touching.”

“Vot?  No touching?  Then where’s the fun?”

“Daaaaddy!  You have to feeeeeel the music.  You just have to feel it, that’s all!”

“HOK KAY!  So I feel it!”  Daddy thrust out an arm and kicked out a foot.  “Och, I am feeling it!”  My daddy valiantly attempted to get into the groove, though funk was neither Daddy’s bag, his thing, his inclination, nor his groove.

 “I am getting hot!  I am getting hotter!  I am getting so hot that I am catching the fever!  It’s Saturday night,” Daddy added impishly, “So I am catching the Saturday Night Fever!”

Daddy overestimated his hotness, if not his coolness.  He posed no threat to John Travolta (and the disco king was no match for my daddy).  “Daddy.”  I tried to dampen his enthusiasm, as though I could.  “You look like you’re doing karate.”

      “I do?  You mean like Elvis?”  Daddy was like a buoy on the water, constantly bobbing to its surface, no matter what nor who tried to push him down.   Och boy!  I am dancing like Elvis!”  Daddy had entered The Zone.  “Hey Stalinka, look on me!”  Daddy jutted a hip at his disgusted sister.  “I am ‘Elvis the Pelvis!’”  Flailing his hands, he smashed imaginary bricks in the air.  “Karate!  Karate!  Chop!  Chop!  Chop!”  Daddy not only entered The Zone; he entered the zeitgeist. 

“Abram!  At your age?  You’ll get a heart attack!”

“Yacov, you alte koker!  Get outta here!”

“Oh Daddy!  That’s not how you do it!”  To keep my daddy from embarrassing himself, I had no choice but to show him how to dance the way my generation danced. “You do it like this!”  I whipped off my glasses.  “Here.  Hold these for me.”

My amused dad held my glasses, while I launched into a demonstration.  The Godfather of Soul had nothing on me. “I feeeeel good!”  Night Rider shouted out, as a wailing saxophone nodded in assent.  In response, I shimmied and shook.  I sailed across the floor feeling weightless and free.  “We knew that we would now.”  Night Rider’s Knights bopped in unison.  “I feeeel good!”  Night Rider reiterated, as I thrust a fuchsia-flowered hip at my delighted daddy.  (He knew that I would now.)  “So good!”  Night Rider was becoming redundant.  “So good!”  I swivelled my hot pink hips and aimed both index fingers, like popguns, at my beaming daddy.  “I got YOU!”

The music stopped on a dime, and so did I.  Parents applauded.  Children roared.  “Wayda go Noela, wayda go!”

I grew disoriented.  Having discarded my glasses, the crowd became an innocuous blur.  Now I sensed them closing in on me.  The music started up again.  I felt empowered and joyful in rhythmic movement.  I performed in the center of an admiring circle.  Then I was asked to dance.  By everyone.  Even Serenade’s jock brother Eddie. 

“Boy, Little Mark, your sister’s really talented.  Is there anything you can do?”  My brother was leaning belligerently against the counter of the bar, tippling at a bottle of Seven-Up.

 “Me?  Huh!”  Little Mark sniffed.  “I don’t have to.”  He was unsettled by the attention I was getting.  He wasn’t used to it.  Neither was I.  Little Mark got his bearings before I did. 

“All I gotta do,” my little brother blustered, “is stand here and look good!”

Daddy strutted over to Mum.  “Hullo Beautiful.  Wanna dance?”

 Mum jabbed Daddy a left to the lower ribs.  “Abram!  Usokuj sie!  Abram!  Behave yourself!”

“Abram, that’s a helluva live wire you got there.  A real apple from the old block!”

Oysh, Yacov.  Tell me, baby, about it.  Now THAT one has mein blood!”  Daddy wrapped his arms around Mum and hugged her hard. 

 “Abram!  Your sister is looking!”  Mum blushed the colours of my dress.

“So?  Let her look!  Let them all look!”  Then he signalled Night Rider.  Maestro!  Daddy hailed the leader of the band.  The band members perked up.  Maestro!  Am I allowed to make a request?”

Night Rider nodded.  “Certainly sir, you’re allowed to make a request.” 

“Hok kay.  So I request you should play the first thing that you played when you got here.  You know, when only the bride and the broom was dancing?  Do you remember it?”

“I hope so.”

“Well I hope so too!”

“It’s called ‘The Wedding Waltz”

“Votever.  Me and mein wife, we never got no wedding—all we got was supper in mein sister’s house.”

 Behind the imitation head-table, Auntie Stalin sniffed.

 “So I request,” Daddy registered his sister’s sniff, but chose to ignore it, “that what you played before, you should play now.  I want to dance with mein lovely bride.”

The congregation laughed.  Auntie Stalin seethed.  Mum made a break for the door but Daddy was faster, and dragged her back.  “Just like the way we got married, eh, mein former girlfriend?  You made me chase you until you caught me!”

“I did not!”

“Oh yes you did.”  Daddy leered at Mum, as if he were Groucho Marx.  “I knew you really wanted me—you was just saving your face!”

Daddy led Mum onto the dance floor.  Some sentimental electrician dimmed the lights, and ‘The Wedding Waltz’ was played once more.

I cuddled up to Little Mark as our parents glided together across the hall.  I kissed him.  He punched me.  “Mark?!  What did you do that for?!”

“I dunno.”  Little Mark pursed his lips.  He looked up from under lowered lashes, and suddenly offered, “Wanna sip of my Seven-Up?”

“I don’t drink Seven-Up—but if you really mean it,” Magnanimously, I allowed Little Mark to make amends, “I’ll let you get me a Perrier.” 

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