a man transformed
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A Visit From My Brother Jake
by Martin Green



After One Week


”What’s he doing in there?” whispered my wife Amy.

She was referring to my older brother Jake, who was visiting us from New York.   I’d called Jake a few weeks before to mend our relationship after Paul Lerner, a friend of mine in our Northern California retirement community, had told me that this would help restore harmony to the universe.    Jake, who was a widower, had told me he had the flu, was still coughing and couldn’t take the cold New York winters any more.   I’d somehow found myself inviting him to visit us in sunny California.    I never thought he’d accept because Jake never went anywhere.    So here he was, in our bathroom, where he’d promptly gone after we’d returned from the retirement community pool room.

“I don’t know,” I whispered back. “He spends more time in our bathroom than that Stella, in “Streetcar Named Desire.” And he always come out looking the same, terrible.” It was true.   When I’d picked up Jake at the airport I’d hardly recognized him. He was thin and gray-looking with a scraggly beard. He looked like a homeless guy.

“It wasn’t Stella. She was Marlon Brando’s wife. It was Stella’s sister,” Amy whispered.

“Why are we whispering?” I asked.

“Shh, he might hear us.”

“I doubt it. I think he’s gotten deaf. You know how loud we have to turn up the TV for him.

“I know. So, how was your pool game?”

“Not too good. We have a friendly game and kid around a lot.    Jake took it seriously and had something to say every time someone missed a shot. I think he managed to insult everyone.  After, the guys asked me how long he was staying.”

“So, how long is he staying?”

“He’s only been here for a week

“That’s long enough.”

At this point Jake came out of the bathroom, still looking like a homeless guy. “So, what’s for lunch?” he said to Amy.


After Two Weeks


“He’s got to leave,” whispered Amy.

We’d just returned from another pool room session in which Jake had managed to disrupt our game by claiming a ball in hand that nobody else had seen. There’d been a big argument and I didn’t know what would happen next week. Now he was in the bathroom and Amy and I were whispering again. “I know. The thing is it’s still cold and snowing in New York.”

Just then our doorbell rang. It was our neighbor, Myra Stern. “I wanted to tell you,” she said. “You left your garage door open.”

“Oh,” I said. “I’ll take care of it.” I must have been so distracted by Jake that I’d forgotten.

“I thought I heard another voice.” It was Jake. “Who is this lovely lady?” he said, smiling for perhaps the first time since he’d been with us.

Amy performed the introductions. Myra wasn’t exactly a lovely lady but she was still attractive if you consider she was seventy. She was petite, with a round pleasant face, reddish hair (dyed, Amy said) and bright green eyes. “Ah, you’re the brother from New York,” said Amy.

“That’s right. The Big Apple. And where are you from?”

“I’m from Sacramento. I’m actually a California native. So, how do you like it out here?”

“It’s a lot warmer than New York, but not much to do.”

“So, tell me what you do in the Big Apple.”

“Lots of things. There’s the theater, museums, Central Park, the symphony, opera.”

What? I never knew Jake did any of these things.

Jake continued to regale Myra with the many wonders of New York until she said, ”Oh, I have to go. I have to get my hair done. Well, it was nice meeting you, Jake.”

“It was nice meeting you.” Another smile.


After Three Weeks


This time when Jake emerged from the bathroom he was transformed. Gone was the scraggly beard; his skin had lost its gray tinge; he actually looked pretty good.

“So, where are you going,” I asked him

“Myra is taking me to the mall.”

“We offered to take you to the mall,” said Amy, “but you said you hated shopping.”

“Yeah, this is different. I’m treating Myra to lunch and then she’s going to help me buy a new suit.”

“A new suit?”

“Sure, what’s wrong with that?” He looked at his watch.   “Gotta get going. I don’t want to be late.”

After he’d gone, Amy looked at me. “So, now we’ll never be rid of him.”

“Maybe he’ll move in with Myra.”

“Has he said anything?”

“Well, no.”

“So we’re stuck with him.”

“Maybe not,” I said. “I’m taking him to meet Paul Lerner tomorrow.”

“Your harmony of the universe friend. He was the one who got us into this mess, wasn’t he?”

“Hmmm, in a way. But we’ll see.”

“He’ll be here forever.”


After Four Weeks


“We have an announcement,” said Jake.

We were in our living room, the four of us. Jake and Myra had just returned from wherever it was they’d been this day.

“What?” I said

“Myra and I are getting married. There’s going to be a wedding. And you thought I was crazy to buy a new suit.”

“Congratulations,” said Amy.

“Isn’t this sudden?” I said.

“Well, it was what your friend Paul Lerner said. I’m really a New Yorker. I don’t belong in California. And Myra is a Californian but has always wanted to go to New York. So it’s settled. She’ll sell her house; we’ll have a wedding; then we’re going to live in the Big Apple.”

“All because of what Paul Lerner told you?” said Amy.

“Well, we might have done it anyway, but that clinched it. It’s warmed up there, too. No more snow and ice.”

“I can’t wait to get to New York,” said Myra. “Jake is taking me out to dinner tonight to celebrate. I have to get back to change.”

“I have to get into my new suit,” said Jake.

They were gone. Amy and I looked at each other. “You didn’t talk to your friend Paul, did you?” said Amy.

“I might have had a word or two.”

“Hmmm. I think I’ll get out that steak tonight, and we’ll have some wine.”


That Night


That night Amy and I had our own quiet celebration.
Houses in our community were selling quickly so I figured that in a few weeks Jake would be gone and we’d have our home back to ourselves.
I don’t know about the universe but in our lives harmony would be restored.




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