Smitty hesitates on the concrete steps in front of the Marek’s house. “Please, please, don’t let Ida answer the door,” she wishes before ringing the bell.
Of course Ida answers the door.
“Stan’s not home,” she rasps in her 3 pack a day voice. 43 and she sounds like she’s a 75 year-old harpy. She’s a 43 year-old harpy in a duster, faded pink fuzzy slippers and whatever she’s done to her hair it looks like she picked her head out of a bucket of live crabs and they’re hanging on for dear life.
“I need to talk to Marek. It’s important.”
Nobody calls Marek by his first name except his sister, Ida and his parents, who were ancient and moved like ghosts in their own home. Ida runs the show.
Ida leans on the open screen door, scuffing her slipper on the stoop and lighting up another Lucky.
“Last I heard, yis were on the outs,” she wheezes, blowing an enormous cloud of smoke Smitty’s way.
“We are. I just. It’s important, ok. Can you tell Marek to phone me?”
“He might be back any time. Come on in, have a coffee.”
It was because Smitty really needed to see Marek, to speak to Marek that she followed his sister inside.
Marek’s ancient mother sat zombied in front of the TV and raised a withered claw in greeting. “Stan’s not home.”
“She knows, Mother. She’s comin’ in for a coffee to wait ’til he gets back.”
“Oh alright. Buy a vowel! Buy a vowel for goodness sake you ijit!” said Marek’s mother as she slipped back into VHS oblivion.
Smitty follows Ida into the kitchen, which is in the same state of chaos she’s come to expect at Marek’s. She sits down at the place that has become “her spot” and shoves a pile of Marek’s books out of the way.
“Yis sure yis want coffee?” asks Ida, “might not be good for you.”
All the blood rushes from Smitty’s body down to her feet.
Ida sits down really close to Smitty and lowers her voice to a hiss.
“I seen yis comin’ out the clinic the other day,” continued Ida, “so this is the plan, is it? Not even out of college and a bun in the oven. Gonna tell Stan it’s his, are yis?
Let me tell yis something, Missy, no way my baby brother is going to take the rap for this. Yis a slut and I knew it the day yis walked in the door despite yis fancy clothes and put-on airs. Yis thinks yis too good for us, but yis rut with my brother like a pair of animals. It’s a sin! And he’s a fool because he knows yis go out on him behind his back and it don’t matter. Yis and that Jackson from the Eastside, I seen yis. I never told Stan, but I seen yis. “
Ida leans back on her chair, gloats at Smitty who has turned as white as milk, and lights up another Lucky. Ida’s thin lips form a venomous travesty of a smile, then she takes a nice long drag.
At that moment, something in Ida’s eyes, her anger struck Smitty like a restorative smack in the face and she sees with a clarity that had eluded her since she met Marek’s family.
Smitty regains her color, gets up from her chair and goes to stand behind Ida. She wraps her arms around Ida’s neck as though she is going to hug her, then jerks Ida’s ear close to her mouth.
“Listen good, Ida Marek. I am not pregnant and if I were, it would be Marek’s and Marek’s alone, and I wouldn’t go away on a trip and let my mother pretend to have a change-of-life baby like you did.”
She did not wait to see Ida’s reaction. Smitty pushed Ida away from her,flew through the livingroom and out of the house. The screen door bangs behind. Smitty is in her car and down the street before Ida ever gets up from the table.
“Have a nice visit with Stan’s girl?” asked Mother Marek from the livingroom, because it was a commercial break.