Having confidence in the persuasive power of
a Belgian chocolatier,
a gift-wrapped box from whom he holds in hand, Dad makes the acquaintance of
Ester Harriet Blumenthal:
her bones like plastic wrap hugging a turkey carcass
fragile voice, the chords a trifle frayed
parchment-thin, sucked colorless
—the one she extends to be clasped by her visitor,
a rabbit’s foot.
a present! Is that for me? I do believe it’s candy. Sweets to sweeten me up; is
that the tactic? Old-fashioned. Hope it works. I don’t get gentlemen callers
married? Does your wife know who you’re plying with... let me see what we have
here... truffles? My! Imported truffles. Pricy ones, too. And yet we’ve
never met. I have an elephant’s memory for faces—yours is unforgettably
handsome—meaning something I don’t know about makes me worthy of pursuit. I
trust you’ll clue me in, unless my advancing years suggest some subterfuge might be
better used to extract I know not what. My guess is money. No one ever
seeks out women “of a certain age” if they don’t want cash, jewels, property, or
her inheritance. We’re not related, are we? Odds are not;
O’Rourke sounds none too Kosher. Tut, tut, tut; I’d rather guess, if you don’t
mind; respect your elders. We may mix our mental metaphors, now and again, and
again, and again, but to indulge a 'sweetened' old lady can win ones wings,
don't you know. In Heaven?
Ester points, as if to indicate 'up' augments her meaning.
in Heaven, certainly. Names with O at the start needs must—though we Blumenthals
have faith in a slightly different territory, same general
vicinity, rules for getting in or sent to the other place much the same, holy wars notwithstanding; jihads or crusades, killing is killing—hardly
a 'holy' enterprise; forgive my digression. Why you’ve come-a-calling is the
topic on tap. Or should that be “the matter at hand”? Idioms are so numerous
it’s hard to know which to choose. In my, well, in my daughters’
era, we always could make do with a vague "whatever." Nowadays, I don’t know; this Home for the
Ancient is out-of-the-loop. Without Mediadrome, our brains would have fossilized
already. Though twenty-four-seven entertainment, to ones wits, can be terminally
numbing, too. But there I go again, wandering from the point. Minds put out to
pasture sometimes stray clear into the next county. My Solomon, rest his soul,
was like that after he retired. Halley’s Comet, I called him, forever in orbit.
Reeling his mind back to anything germane was a total waste of energy; you simply had to wait for his thoughts to come around.
if this statement were intended as a joke, Ester beams a smile.
Of course I
haven’t yet deduced why it is you’ve come, so the point is moot.
Now you’ve done
it; spoiled my little game, presumed that my self-centeredness would
string you along indefinitely. Really, Mr. O’Rourke, I knew your interest
was not in me. So out with it; what has my darling daughter done to warrant Sinn
Nothing, as far
as I know; I’m simply trying to find her.
actually trying to locate her husband.
Daniel? What do
you want with him? And why not look in the phone book? I believe you’ll find
them listed. Come, come, this circuitous route seems highly irregular—if a
delicious waste of time.
gobbles another truffle.
We didn’t know
your daughter’s maiden name.
"We"? Who are
produces a card from the pocket of his billfold. As Ester squints to read it, he
spells out his task.
Odd that you
should mention an inheritance; one is involved. Your daughter’s
father-in-law left a small fortune, the existence of which has come to light
only recently. Your daughter’s husband, your son-in-law, is named as the
father-in-law," I’ll have you know, is very much alive. Off with you, Mr.
O’Rourke; I suspect you’re a swindler!
Ester, reaching for a control panel by her orthopedic bed, buzzes for an
attendant. Dad, his cover blown (or seeming so), prepares to take his leave, pausing
at the door to hazard a hopeful question.
discussing Juliana Blumenthal, are we not?
Ester, chin tucked accordion-fashion against her bird-cage sternum, levels Dad a look.
daughter. Sorry. I assumed you meant Louise. My mistake; I take it back; you’re
probably not a crook. You may, nonetheless, depart, because I will not lift a
finger, if doing so might benefit in any way, shape,
or form my wayward
is Dad who now beams Ester a please-bear-with-me smile; such blatant animosity
is a button he can press.