“That’s because Chicago is a real city – almost.”  Mrs Grollman thought only New York was a real city.  “But Mineralwasser,” she pronounced the w like a v.


“What kind of a cockamamie name is that?”

“I don’t know.”  It was clear that she was winning.

“No matter, I arrive a week from today on American flight 232 at 2:32 PM.  I can take a cab.  Give me directions.”

War would ensue if he let her take a cab.  “I’ll meet you,” he said.

“Good.  You want me to bring some lox and bagels?  How about some chocolate bit pie?”  He was appalled by the idea of her schlepping a ton of food on the plane with her, but lox and bagels and chocolate bit pie sounded good.  And he knew she’d do it regardless of what he said.  So he said nothing.  “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” she asked.  Again he said nothing.  “Do you love me?”

The second iteration of that question was the signal that the conversation was over.  He bit his lip and said, rather softly, “I love you.”


“What son doesn’t love his mother?”

“That’s an answer?” She hung up.

When his pulse had fallen to less than 100, he decided that the putative inactivity of her bursitis would substitute for the absence of arthritis.

Now that he thought he had all the information necessary to calculate the corrected osmolality from his raw data, he sat by the glass table with an umbrella in its center that served as his dining room table. On it he placed 12 colored pencils, two bubble gum erasers, a compass, a protractor, a slide rule, two reams of multicolored paper, a large box of Goobers, a package of petite-sized Kleenex, a Waterman fountain pen that had been a Bar Mitzvah gift and which had mysteriously surfaced for the first time in 16 years that morning, an unopened bottle of Mineralwater generic ink which he had filched from the Department of Medicine’s supply cabinet, a 12 inch wooden ruler, a pad of graph paper also filched from the well stocked cabinet, the libretto to I Masnadieri, a magnifying glass, a jar of Vaseline, 16 pennies, a comb lacking two teeth, a pencil sharpener, and a note that read “American flight 232, 2:32 PM.  Next Wednesday.”  Next to it was a skull and crossbones.