Wednesday, July 12, 2006

there's no there there

My great-grandmother would talk to - proselytize, actually - the fish in the aquarium at the nursing home near our house where she spent her last days. Damn fish just wouldn't listen to reason, either. Infuriating as it was, Nana's kidneys gave out before her missionary zeal did. She used her last breath trying to convert the insolent little boogers.

My grandmother would wear a pair of dead foxes, joined at the hip, on her shoulders in the dog days of summer. On special occasions. She also learned to swear colorfully from the mah-jongg crowd she ran with for so many years. She spent the twilight of her life praying the rosary, cursing in Sicilian and Yiddish and out-guessing the contestants on The Price is Right.

My mother, well, where to start? The cats... the benign spiritism... the stuff in the freezer.
Don't make me go there.

This background information is merely to highlight my qualifications in dealing with unusual old ladies. I am not without experience in this highly specialized and gratifying field. I have the skillz. I have the credentialz.

So when la señora Nélida dropped in on me at the rectory yesterday I handled it quite professionally.

"I was going to throw it all in the river. But then I thought, the padre he is a man of God. So I bring it to you."

Both garbage bags were full, although the weight was unevenly distributed. Her eyes sparkled victoriously.

What is this stuff?

"Orange. It must be removed. Maybe for someone else to use."

Clothes, toys, jello molds. Crayons, a plastic lamp cover. A bath mat that honestly could have passed for yellow, but one learns early on not to haggle over trifles with a woman on a misson.

You're sure this is all of it. Nothing orange remains in the house?

She hesitated nervously. Her eyes fluttered and her mouth twitched. The man of God, he is testing me maybe? Has he seen?

"This is everything. I am sure. When I was in Cuba I saw many things. I ask myself, 'Where does the sun go when it sets?' It rises in the oriente and then disappears in darkness. So I quickly take the orange things out of my house. You will help me, no?"

Not a problem, Nelly.
Leave your troubles here, whatever color they are.