looking down at the flower, I explain, half-
musing, "I used to. I don't
Edna looks at the flower.
right," she concedes graciously. "You used
to." Now she holds
the flower under Danny Tan-
nenbaum's chin. "You pee in bed now."
Danny, red, reluctantly nods. "Only sometimes."
take the flower from Edna's hand and hold it un-
der her chin. "You pee
"I used to," she says, laughing.
Mrs. Tannenbaum's voice precedes her. Carrying a
bag, she cascades large and gruesome
on to us. "Danny! I told you not
to go near that dirty
whore! She'll give you a disease!" She pulls her
A minute ago the sun shone. Now this fat
raining her poison on us.
Edna is infuriated.
"Your mouth could give him a
anger and disgust Mrs. Tannenbaum retorts,
"Whores and horse shit! What
a neighborhood! She
has to move to this street! Naturally! Mrs. Founder!
Your boy is playing with the whore!"
A window opens.
A woman's head. "Come in the
voice calls out, "Marie. Come m the
the children scatter, except for Cleo and me.
tailor shop has a small room off the front
room. One wall is completely lined
with books. On a
workbench is a pants press. Mr. Baumgarten is iron-
a jacket and talking to Mr. Elias, my zaideh. Mr.
Elias sips lemoned tea from
a glass. The hot iron
sizzles steam from new damp garments. The tailor
pats the cloth, and asks, "Who was it that said, "What
is the bigger
crime? To rob a bank or to open a
sips his tea. "Probably Jeremiah."
is amused. He puts aside the hot
and goes to look for a book, to track down the
quotation. Despite his amusement
he comments dry-
ly that the author of the quote was more probably
Grandpa's eyes follow the tailor over to the book-
shelves. In his opinion, Karl Marx only repeated what
the ancient prophets
"Not quite. Not quite." Mr. Baumgarten's
reads the titles on the bookshelf. He finds the book
removes it, and sits down to find the quota-
holding his tea, eyes the German, Rus-
sian, and English books.
you read all of these books?"
The tailor peers up,
looking at his books lovingly.
All the great and pertinent political thoughts
day are housed on these shelves. "All of them," he an-
swers. "And I still read them."
Grandpa nods with
respect. "I've read only one
book... and I'm still reading it."
Mr. Baumgarten nods his respect for the ancient
ancient prophets were wise, Mr. Elias. I
don't deny that. But they couldn't
foresee the rise of
capitalism, nor did they understand the class nature of
Mr. Baumgarten's eyes scan his row of books,
Grandpa answers for the prophets, saying, "They
when the Messiah came, all injustice
Baumgarten, the tailor muses, "The working
class is today's messiah,
The room, light enough to sew in, is still
ter the sun. I enter, searching for Grandpa. I'm car-
Edna's buttercup, and show Grandpa. "Why is
Edna dirty, Grandpa? Doesn't
she like to wash?"
Grandpa looks to Mr. Baumgarten
for help with
the explanation, and then looks back at me. "She
like everybody else. But she sells lies."
a lot about Grandpa's answer. At first
it surprised me. "She tells lies
and sells them?"
Mr. Baumgarten tries to help. "You'd
how many people sell and how many people buy lies."
Grandpa's eyes fly to the window, chasing some
in the courtyard. Wisps of commotion
outside obtrude into the tailor's room.
and hatred. Edna and Tannenbaum are arguing. Their
swelling. The old men exchange a look and
start to leave the shop to go and
see what is happen-
ing, while I'm thinking of Edna's "lies," and
Grandpa, "I bet Papa buys from her."
doesn't have to buy from her," scorns Zaideh.
Edna is standing in the court, shouting up
at Mrs. Tannenbaum.
Tannenbaum is on her balcony, hurling insults
back. Mrs. Tannenbaum is in
a terrible temper. "Get
out of the yard! You don't belong here! I'lI
Edna stands with her hands on
her hips. "I'll stand
here and show my ass if I want to!"
should be stoned! We should stone you! You
hear me? We should stuff her filthy
Edna, belligerently, turns and lifts her skirt,
ing her bloomers to Mrs. Tannenbaum. "Kiss my royal
This brings the courtyard audience some merriment.
Edna proudly leaves.
should stone her! Stone her! The police won't
do anything! We should stone
Grandpa, looking at his friend Baumgarten, lectures
the courtyard. "Stone her? Once before people stoned
such a girl as Edna,
and this great rabbi came along
and protected her, and said, 'He who is without
amongst you, let him cast the first stone.' Nobody
threw another stone.
Everyone had sinned."
Mr. Baumgarten looks surprised.
"A great rabbi,
was he, if not a great rabbi, Mr.
a full, full day, and not even a Sunday!
A taxi pulls up
to the gate of the courtyard and
stops. A beaming, triumphant Harry emerges,
many packages. Paying the cabbie, he calls out to
Come and give me a hand."
I go and help my father with
Harry strides past Grandpa, crowing. "The
loan came through."
Grandpa simply nods. He
and Mr. Baumgarten re-
turn to the shade of the tailor's shop, as we parcel
Cleo holds the buttercup under her dog's
tells the world inexplicably. "My feet are clean, 'cause
my mamma washes them."
Evening comes, and we are frantic-merry.
pa, Annie, Harry, Uncle Benny, and me in the living
room. I love
the noise and confusion of the celebra-
tion, at least from the safety of
Grandpa watches silently.
Benny gloat, bloated with success.
Annie dances, swirling
the new shawl Harry has
her. The phonograph is playing, and Annie
sings in accompaniment. "I'm
just wild about Harry,
and Harry's wild about me..."
music slows, slurs, and I run over to the gram-
ophone to rewind it. Excited.
I enjoy my mother sing-
ing. I rush to join her dancing. I clutter-scamper
around her feet. She turns to Grandpa to say, "You'll
have to admit.
Papa, that he finally did it."
She resumes her song,
and sings a particularly love-
ly note. "I'd love to take up singing
"Why did you stop?"
asks Grandpa. "I was willing
dances in front of Harry. Still humming
how she's wild about him, she throws
her answer side-
ways to Grandpa, "I got married."
reclines on the sofa, legs crossed, feeling ex-
pansive, smoking a cigar.
Uncle Benny's sitting by the table, feeling awkward,
outside the excitement, reannounces to the room
and all who care to listen:
"I told the bank manager
it would revolutionize the men's clothing business.
He'd have never recommended the loan if I hadn't
presented it the way I did."
Harry throws him a small nod, kingly acknowl-
on his cigar, he gives Grandpa a
long, knowing look, and says, proud, "In
you'll be able to retire."
Annie renders another beautiful phrase, another
fine sweet note, and comments, "Not bad, eh?"
looks up at Annie, who is just in front of
bad for a pregnant lady," he says.
Grandpa smiles at
his Annie's happy face, but falls
short of full warmth, caught with mixed
feeling that the sunny spell can't last long. Now he
heart and concentration into his smile and
summons the faith to say to his
daughter, "It's not
too late. You can still study."
reply, Annie holds her big belly, indication of
her fate and status, and laughs
and dances and sings
again. "Too late... too late... too late."
Benny, chewing on his cigar, looks around, be-
"What's too late?"
And I'm winding up the gramophone.