After One Week
Whats he doing in there? whispered my wife Amy.
She was referring to my older brother Jake, who was visiting us from New
York. Id 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 couldnt take the cold New York winters any
more. Id somehow found myself inviting him to visit us in
sunny California. I never thought hed accept because
Jake never went anywhere. So here he was, in our bathroom,
where hed promptly gone after wed returned from the retirement
community pool room.
I dont 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 Id picked up Jake at the
airport Id hardly recognized him. He was thin and gray-looking with a
scraggly beard. He looked like a homeless guy.
It wasnt Stella. She was Marlon Brandos wife. It was
Stellas sister, Amy whispered.
Why are we whispering? I asked.
Shh, he might hear us.
I doubt it. I think hes 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?
Hes only been here for a
Thats long enough.
At this point Jake came out of the bathroom, still looking like a homeless guy.
So, whats for lunch? he said to Amy.
After Two Weeks
Hes got to leave, whispered Amy.
Wed 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. Thered been a big argument and I didnt know what would happen
next week. Now he was in the bathroom and Amy and I were whispering again.
I know. The thing is its still cold and snowing in New
Just then our doorbell rang. It was our neighbor, Myra Stern. I wanted to
tell you, she said. You left your garage door
Oh, I said. Ill take care of it. I must have been
so distracted by Jake that Id forgotten.
I thought I heard another voice. It was Jake. Who is this
lovely lady? he said, smiling for perhaps the first time since hed
been with us.
Amy performed the introductions. Myra wasnt 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, youre the brother from New York, said Amy.
Thats right. The Big Apple. And where are you
Im from Sacramento. Im actually a California native. So, how
do you like it out here?
Its a lot warmer than New York, but not much to
So, tell me what you do in the Big Apple.
Lots of things. Theres the theater, museums, Central Park, the
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
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
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. Im treating Myra to lunch and then
shes going to help me buy a new suit.
A new suit?
Sure, whats wrong with that? He looked at his
watch. Gotta get going. I dont want to be
After hed gone, Amy looked at me. So, now well never be rid
Maybe hell move in with Myra.
Has he said anything?
So were stuck with him.
Maybe not, I said. Im taking him to meet Paul Lerner
Your harmony of the universe friend. He was the one who got us into this
mess, wasnt he?
Hmmm, in a way. But well see.
Hell 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 theyd been this day.
What? I said
Myra and I are getting married. Theres going to be a wedding. And
you thought I was crazy to buy a new suit.
Congratulations, said Amy.
Isnt this sudden? I said.
Well, it was what your friend Paul Lerner said. Im really a New
Yorker. I dont belong in California. And Myra is a Californian but has
always wanted to go to New York. So its settled. Shell sell her
house; well have a wedding; then were going to live in the Big
All because of what Paul Lerner told you? said Amy.
Well, we might have done it anyway, but that clinched it. Its
warmed up there, too. No more snow and ice.
I cant wait to get to New York, said Myra. Jake is
taking me out to dinner tonight to celebrate. I have to get back to
I have to get into my new
suit, said Jake.
They were gone. Amy and I looked at each other. You didnt talk to
your friend Paul, did you? said Amy.
I might have had a word or two.
Hmmm. I think Ill get out that steak tonight, and well have
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
wed have our home back to ourselves.
I dont know about the
universe but in our lives harmony would be restored.