Thursday, December 27, 2007

Our obituary writer is an extreme, pedantic gossip. He gets things wrong, but he gets them in detail. I had just started working at the paper. He thought I was an alcoholic; he told it to a man on night rewrite, who told it to all the people in the newsroom, who told it to the people at the culture desk. It is not so troubling to be thought an alcoholic; still, I preferred not. When he asked me out to lunch, I gladly went. His parents are from Poland. His name is Standish Hawthorne Smith. We went to a Greek restaurant. When we sat down, he held my hand. He asked whether Will has his divorce. I did not know quite what to say. I asked about his work. He smiled. He asked what I would like to drink. Nothing I thought. Then I remembered that nothing would be the order of an alcoholic on the wagon. My normal Scotch and water would not do. I asked for an ouzo. No alcoholic in his right mind, I thought, would have an ouzo. I had two. Standish walked me home. He said he wrote, and read, a lot of poetry. When we got to my door, he asked whether he might use the phone. He made three phone calls, going to the kitchen now and then, to poor himself another vodka. I sat in the living room, with a glass of wine. I had altogether lost my sense of purpose in the situation. After his hour or two of phone calls, he came to the living room. “Do you know,” he said, “three things are said to be true of every Polish houseguest. First, he raids your icebox. Then he reads your mail. Then he fires the maid.” He walked to a window, pulled the curtains, asked whether I would like him to fire the maid. He finally read some poetry instead. Anyway, Will’s gone.

--Renata Adler
(from Speedboat)

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