kvetch ; noun - a person who complains a great deal
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by Martin Green


I was calling my brother Jacob in New York. I hadn’t spoken to him in three years. I got his voice mail. “This is Jacob Schacter. I’m not here right now. Leave a message. You can always send money.” This was typical of my brother. He fancied himself a comedian.

Why was I calling Jake after three years? It all had to do with my friend here at our California retirement community, Paul Lerner, who’s a writer, and so an odd duck. Somehow, after seeing the Swedish actor Max Von Sydow in a movie which he told me was about atonement he said this was meant to remind him to call his cousin and apologize for some misdeed in the past. This in turn reminded me about my fight with my brother. I wasn’t calling to apologize exactly but more to make up. None of us was getting any younger. Paul had said that the rupture between him and his cousin was disturbing the harmony of the universe. I didn’t think the rupture between me and Jake had anything to do with the universe but I decided to call anyway.

I’d left a message for Jake to call me. As always happens in my experience when you’re waiting for a call your phone rings all day. Every time I picked up I expected it to be Jake but it was always someone else, usually a computer voice, wanting to sell me something or donate to something. My wife and I were in our living room watching television at night when, at a crucial moment in the show, the phone rang. Needless to say, it was Jake. Just like him to pick the worst possible time to call.

I told my wife I had to take this call and went into the bedroom. My brother’s first words were, “It’s been a bad year. I can’t lend you any money.”

“I don’t need any money,” I said.

“Oh, then how come you called me?”

“It’s been three years,” I said. “Since we had that argument. I don’t even remember what it was about. I thought we could let bygones be bygones.”

“I remember,” Jake said. “It was about Hetty, may she rest in peace.” Hetty was Jake’s late wife. “You called her a kvetch.”

“You told me yourself she was a kvetch.”

“Okay, she was. But it was disrespectful of you to say so.”

“I meant no disrespect.”

“She was a lovely woman, may she rest in peace. Aside from being a kvetch”

“Yes, she was.”

“How are you doing?”

“How should I be doing? My bones are aching. I can’t take these New York winters any more. How are things in sunny California?”

“Too sunny. We have a drought. Soon they’ll ration water. So how are you otherwise?”

“I had the flu. I coughed like a maniac. I’m still coughing. I’m full of aches and pains. Otherwise, fit as a fiddle. You?”

“I had a hip replacement last year. I’m still recovering. Otherwise, ready to go.”

“Ready to go to the handball courts. Hey, we were pretty good when we were kids, huh?”

“Not bad. All that handball; that’s probably why I needed a new hip.”

“Yeah, I remember how you twisted around when you served, like a corkscrew. So you want let bygones be bygones.”

“That’s why I called.”

“Sure. We’re not getting any younger, right? Foolish for brothers not to talk.”

“So we’re good.” I was ready to hang up and go back to the TV show. I hoped my wife Amy had put it on pause.

“Sure. How’s Amy?”

“She’s fine.”

“Talk about being a kvetch.”


“Well, if anybody’s a kvetch that’s her.”

“Don’t you insult my wife.”

“If it’s true how is it an insult?”

“That’s enough. Good-bye.”

I banged down the phone and went back to the living room. “Did you pause the show?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t know when you were coming back.”

“So how did it end?”

“The terrorists’ bomb went off. We won’t know who was killed and who wasn’t until next week. Who were you talking to?”

“My brother Jake.”

"Oh. Well, did you hang up the phone. You know you have a habit of leaving it off the hook.”

“I hung it up.”

“While you’re standing, put your coffee cup away. I don’t like to have things standing around.”

I said, “I have to make another call.”

“Don’t forget to hang up the phone.”

I went back into the bedroom and called Jake.

“Who’s this?” he said.

“You’re right; she is a kvetch.”

“But otherwise a lovely woman.”

“Agreed. Silly for us to fight over that.”

“Yes. After all, we’re brothers.”

“Hey, why don’t you come out here for a week or so, when you get over the flu, get away from the snow and get some sun.”

“Is that an invite?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Okay, I’ll think about it. Good talking to you.”

“Good talking to you. The harmony of the universe is restored.”


“Never mind. Good-bye.”

I went back into the living room. “My brother Jake may be coming out for a visit,” I said to Amy.

“What?” she said, half raising from her chair. But that’s another story.



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