the Hollywood moguls wanted to keep her a child star as long as they could, so they bound her bust,â Al told me.
âNo kidding?â I said. âThatâs a good idea. Why donât we try that?â
âI thought we already had,â Al said.
We laughed until we both came down with the hiccups.
âHey, look!â I grabbed Alâs arm. âI donât believe it. Twice in one day. Itâs Woody again.â
Al squinted into the distance.
âYou may be right,â she said. âLetâs say hello.â
âHi, Woody,â we said. âLoved your last picture.â
The little man in the big glasses looked startled, then alarmed. Then he pulled up his collar even further and scuttled off, incognito.
Saturday my father and I tossed a coin. He got to do the vacuuming and the marketing and I wound up with the bathrooms. This is not uncommon when we flip a coin. Sometimes I wonder about that coin, about whether itâs on the level.
Teddy was the designated duster.
My grandfather called and said heâd like to take us out to dinner.
My mother said sheâd love to but how about next week.
My motherâs sister, Tess, called from Connecticut. When she found out my mother had been sick, she offered to come and stay to help out.
âIâll send the kids to their father,â Tess said. âServe him right.â
âHowâs things up in Mafia land?â Teddy hollered over the wire to Craig, the know-it-all cousin. When Teddy talks to Connecticut, he acts as if heâs got a bad connection to Istanbul.
âHad any good drug busts lately?â Teddy shouted across the miles. I didnât hear what Craig reported.
Al came over and I made cream-cheese-and-olive sandwiches. On whole-wheat bread. Itâs important to use whole-wheat bread.
âMy mother said to tell your mother that if there was anything she could do, let her know,â Al said.
âKnow something?â I said. âWeâve got the perfect excuse. We call up Sparkyâs mom and tell her we canât come tonight on account of we have to stay home and take care of my mother.â
âSaturday night is the loneliest night in the week,â Al said. âItâs also blind-date night. If I donât do it now, I never will. Itâs a challenge. Itâs practice. Iâve got my outfit all planned. Iâm playing it straight. This nephew strikes me as a straight guy. Iâm wearing my lavender sweater, my plaid skirt, and on my feetâguess!â She let fly with a piercer.
âYour orange hightops?â I guessed.
âMy Sparkyâs-revenge shoes,â she said. She said she wanted to see whether Sparky remembered those shoes, and that if he did and he repeated his barf-pee routine, she was planning on poisoning him and burying him in an unmarked grave.
âIâm planning on wearing my taffeta party dress,â I said.
Slowly, Al shook her head at me. âThatâs being overdressed,â she told me. âWe do not want to go to this fracas overdressed, thereby revealing that we expect great things of it. We want to be underdressed. My mother, who is in fashion, as you know, says itâs always better to underdress than over.â
We thrashed through my limited wardrobe awhile.
âMy taffeta dress is the only garment I have that does anything for me,â I said.
âForget the taffeta dress,â Al commanded me. âItâs the light of intelligence shining from your eyes thatâll get him in the long run. Nothing else matters.â At last, we settled on my denim skirt and my Esprit shirt, which my mother bought from a street vendor on Sixth Avenue. Itâs phony Esprit, but itâs sort of cute. In a trendy way.
âWhere are you two bound for?â my father asked from behind his newspaper.
âWeâre going to meet Sparkyâs momâs nephew,â I told him. He