"Did you get the questionnaire?" She's still breathing hard, as if the future of the planet depends upon my answer. "The questionnaire," she repeats, louder, like I'm deaf instead of only dumb.
"Oh, Mimi!" she wails in a way that tells me I've failed, yet again, to meet her standards of behavior and intelligence. "You've got a mind like a sieve."
"Do not." I picture one of those utensils, full of little holes, with a scalding liquidsoup, saypouring through and the big chunks getting stuck. "It's just a senior moment. I'm entitled."
"Next thing you know, your senior moments will be stretching into days and you'll end up like Aunt Lillian. Anyway, you know darn well what I'm talking about, Aunt Patty's questionnaire. For the family history. The genealogy, a gift to our children. She sent it out last week."
Right, right. It comes back to me. My sister Patty, egged on by one of her grandsons, a gifted little princeher wordscame up with a plan to write our family history. Patty, of all people, who can't even write a postcard from Disney World.
"Oh, sure, the questionnaire," I say, though I haven't actually seen it. Most likely it's in the basket of mail on the table by my front door. With the ads for lube jobs and commemorative coins from the Franklin Mint, and solicitations from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
I've got a system: At about four each afternoon, I walk out to the foyer of my building and pick up my mail from its locked cubby. Back in my apartment, in my own little foyer, I drop it all into a basket, a pretty basket with apples printed on it. Unless I have an overwhelming urge to open something, which I rarely ever do, it goes into the trash bag on Monday night when I'm on my way out to the Dumpster. Cuts down on clutter and wasted time. The system works, as long as you remember to look for your rebates and Social Security check.
"Look in that pile by your front door." Cassie, bossy as always. She's like my ex, thinking that she, and she alone, can make the world run smoothly. "It's probably in there."
"OK, sure. If it's there, I'll call you back."
I hang up and finish my coffee and have another smoke before checking the mail. I'm in no hurry, in no mood to obey Cassandra's commands. I've got to take her in small doses, like bitter medicine for a chronic, low-grade pain. Besides, the last thing on my to-do list is Patty's genealogy. No interest in it whatsoever. I'm not the type to get all hot and bothered about the past. I look ahead, pride myself on it. Whatever might befall you, get over it, move on. That's how I've lived my life and raised my girls. Or, rather, how I've tried to raise them despite the constant undermining influence of John Francis Xavier Malloy, aka Jack, said ex.
The basket's on a table in the hallway with a mirror hanging over it, both the table and mirror left behind by the previous tenants when I moved in here fifteen years ago. I finger through the mail. A flyer for Senior Fun Day at a local wellness center, another for golden-age tai chi classes at the Y. Lubricate your joints! Improve your balance! Find serenity! Oh, and that damned brochure for Squantum River Warehouse for People Past Their Use-By Date. No questionnaire. Typical Pattya day late, a dollar short.
That's when I catch sight of myself in the mirror. Is that woman really me? A fading brunette, well padded, and well past her prime. When I flip on the hallway light, it's worse. Mimi, all alone. Mimi Malloy by herself. Then, behind the old me, I see the shapely brunette I used to be, the one with the tiny waist and the dimpled smile, the one Jack Malloy fell in love with oh so long ago. Maire Sheehan, aka Mimi. Little Mimi, I love you so.
Copyright © 2014 by Julia MacDonnell
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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