The telephone rings. My roommate, Lorry, answers it. “Thank you. Merry Christmas to you, too, Madam Anush. Yes, she is here.”
Lorry hands me the cordless phone and grabs the newspaper which she will only pretend to read.
My aunt’s unmistakably shrill laughter greets me.
“Hi, Auntie, I was just thinking about you,” I say.
“Hello, Paboochik!” My aunt has called me this since I was a little girl. “Uncle Victor is leaving now to come get you from your dormitory. Do you need help packing?”
“No. It’s okay, Aunt Anush. The drive is too long for him.” Looking over at the sea of clothing on my bed, I add, “Besides, I’m already packed, I don’t have a lot left to do tonight. First thing tomorrow, I’ll just catch a ride there on the bus.”
I hear my aunt relay what I’ve said to Uncle Vic. “She says she’s really stacked and has a lot left to do tonight, but tomorrow she can get a ride here with Gus.” And then she asks me, “Who’s Gus?”
I move away from the door so no one can hear my increased decibels. “No, no, I said, ‘I’ll take the bus!’”
Apparently my aunt still hasn’t gotten hearing aids.
Speaking slowly and clearly, I continue. “The bus station is a block from your house. I’ll walk straight over and get right to helping you polish the silver.”
Then, for good measure, I add, “and afterwards, I’m moving into the kitchen to see if there’s anything good there. You know I can’t help myself--I love to eat and I’m a born cook.”
Aunt Anush sighs and says, “Well, my dear, I made a promise to your mother---God rest her soul---that I would take care of you as my own daughter. You know you can have anything you want here. My silver is your silver, so you’re not a crook at all.”
I abandon my jokes and any concerted effort toward normal conversation, and am instantly reduced to a pile of shouting rubble. “NO, I AM NOT A CROOK! I AM NOT A CROOK! I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE YOUR SILVER!”
Undaunted, my aunt reassures me, “You can have my silver.”
By this time, one of my suite-mates swings open the door and slides in like Seinfeld’s Kramer to break up a fight, presumably between Lorry and Me. A few others gather at the doorway, mouths agape.
I know this is not an argument I’m likely to win without holding a hearing aid to my aunt’s head, so I give it my last heave-ho. “AUNT ANUSH! I WILL SEE YOU TO-MOR-ROW!” Swiftly, I hang up the phone.
I pull out my laminated bus schedule and hold it up for display like a whippersnapper attorney boasting her case-breaking exhibit. “The first bus is leaving at 7:30 a.m., I announce. I grab my credit card and pick up the phone to call 1-800-Greyhound. The phone is dead. I click the button several times and still, no dial tone. Just as a couple of people take out their cell phones for me to use, I hear someone at the other end of the line.
“Hello! Hello! Are you there, Paboochik?” Now it’s Uncle Vic on the phone. With razor sharpness, my eyes follow the phone line to its place on the wall. I’m ready to pull the plug on my Uncle. As I’m on my hands and knees, I can still hear his tin voice rising from the recumbent telephone on the floor. But, at this point, I am a heartless human being. I disconnect the line.
Just then, several of the students standing in the doorway turn around. Out from among them emerges my Uncle Victor, lowering a cell phone from his ear and balancing a stack of boxes.
“We are here, we are here!” he announces. My aunt’s laughter follows behind him. Everyone floats in as if being drawn by an unstoppable force, following the irresistible smell of meatballs, roasted potatoes and fresh baked bread. There are now seven students and two half-baked relatives in my 12x12 dorm room.
My aunt and uncle can’t stop laughing. Aunt Anush cups my shocked face and gives me a big kiss. I notice two tanned devices in her ears. Hearing aids.
They have brought a feast for my suite-mates and “crooked” their way into my heart. I am going home.
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