“And now she wants to fucking sit Shiva!” Maxine says, slamming her tumbler down on the counter, the ice cubes still retaining their right angles, the scotch having been drained.
“My fucking sister!” Maxine pulls on yellow latex gloves to scrub the dishes, which look ridiculous relative to the pima of her Peruvian dress.
Maxine balls these dresses up in lingerie wash bags, then hangs them up still wrinkled to dry off the back porch. The back porch, despite Maxine’s best efforts, is overrun with morning glory and brugmansia. Poison blossoms, she remarks—“Like a fun tea!” (She was at Woodstock after all).
“Shiva! My goy sister!”
And Maxine furiously scrubs a dish, which is barely tainted by her lunch. A faux scampi, and sesame-crumbed seitan. Clean food, clean plates. Maxine, regardless, will later die of a sticky and indelible cancer.
I hold her cat while across the room and glance at a bulletin board Maxine has constructed. It details what birds she’s seen, and where. That sapsucker in Slovakia, the ravens in DC.
“The fucking nerve!”
Maxine scrubs her ashtray, even after two cigarettes, and places every clean plate in the dish holder beneath the kitchen window.
“My mutha never worried about me, goddammit. And now I’m supposed to sit in a goddamn room with towels over the fucking mirrors, because now my goddamn sister—my fucked up oldah sister wants Shiva for the mom…for my mom…” She slumps at the kitchen counter.
Despite everything, the cat purrs. He’s a Norwegian Forest Tabby and prefers clutching your shoulder versus remaining curled in your lap.
“It’s ok, Mags.”
“I’m just tired of being the responsible one, Thawm,” she cries, “Look what happens when you’re the one who was supposed to be ok.”
“’S’alright Mags. I love you. Want me to water your plants?”
I put the cat down, his padded feet thudding on the hardwood floor. He walks away pretendingly nonplussed, the way cats do with ears still held back.
Watering the plants will only encourage the morning glory, but the offer stands. Maxine sobs, not for the first time or last, while I unravel the hose from beneath the back stoop and make sure the door is closed so that only I, not the cat nor anything else, gets out.