Geez, Louise. I mean, I would say something more, you know, blatant, or something, but I’m trying to be polite. I always have a hard time with polite.
Take the luncheon I went to the other day. Please. Yes, please take it. There we were, the Thursday Club, having our luncheon on the first–you guessed it–Thursday of the month. We were at Lucky Joe’s, a decent but not an overwhelming choice. But remember, I’m talking about Ashleyville Ohio, and it’s not as if we’re sophisticated and trendy and who knows what else.
Here’s the thing about the Thursday Club. We’re all old women, we’re all reasonably affluent, and we’re a bunch of gossips. And, besides that, a certain woman in our group always dominates the conversation. And it’s not me, though it should be. So why do I keep going back? I guess because I have nothing else to do on the first Thursday of every month. And I like to eat. In addition, I am very good at doing lunch, because I have had so much practice.
When I saw that Agnes was going to be part of this month’s affair, I decided I needed a drink. “Manhattan!” I just about shouted, while the rest of them settled for iced tea (no lemon, since people poison lemons or something) or water or coffee. And by the way, I just about never order coffee when I’m away from home. You call that watered-down, old, anemic brew coffee? Please.
It took an excruciatingly long time for these old ladies to decide on their orders. Please, again. Then, we were finally set, each one with an order and a salad that would soon appear. I dreaded what would happen next. It happened.
“I suppose you’re all wondering about how my family is doing,” Agnes said. I muttered something incomprehensible, but the others nodded. They weren’t smiling. They looked subdued and maybe even frightened. Far be it from them to contradict Agnes. My Manhattan arrived, just in time.
“Little Marybeth has just been toilet trained.”
“Amazing!” I said.
“She’s only two, and you know how hard it is to toilet-train children these days, what with all the new theories about child raising. Why, I’m told that some children don’t get toilet-trained until they’re ready to start kindergarten!”
It was time for me to start drinking my Manhattan. I wanted so much to interrupt this stupid conversation. How to do it?
Agnes opened her mouth again. “My Harriet, Marybeth’s mother, has just completed a million-dollar real estate sale. I’m sure you will agree that’s quite an accomplishment.”
They all nodded. I decided to get into the act.
“My nephew lost his job.” They all stared at me.
Agnes continued. “Harriet’s husband Jeff has just been hired by a major investment firm on Wall Street.”
“My nephew used to work on Wall Street, but he lost his job.” I took another slug of my Manhattan.
Agnes continued. “We had the loveliest vacation in Aruba. I’m sure the rest of you have not been to Aruba, so let me tell you about it.”
“Let me tell you about the mean streets of Brooklyn, where I grew up.” That was me talking. I actually grew up in Queens, but Brooklyn sounds tougher.
“Aruba is just delightful. But so are Cannes and Venice and Lake Como and Paris and ….”
“And Coney Island,” I said, interrupting her. “Nothing like a long trip on the subway and a Nathan’s hot dog at the end of the trip. Nothing like swimming with hundreds of strangers on a hot day. Nothing like not knowing what to do with your valuables when you leave your blanket on the hot sand to go into the water. Nothing like worrying about contracting polio while swimming in polluted water.”
Agnes stared at me. “So, Rosie, do you think that somehow your déclassé references to life in the big city are more interesting than my high-end excursions? Ladies, what do you think?”
The group looked frightened, frightened at a confrontation between the snob and the rough-edged upstart from Queens. Suddenly, I had pity on all of them. Why, I’m not sure. But I decided to be nice. Nice is what usually happens in Ashleyville.
“No, dear Agnes,” I said, while I took another gulp of my Manhattan. “Go ahead. I’m sure the ladies want to hear more about your charmed life among the muckety-mucks.”
The others continued to look frightened as they looked from Agnes to yours truly. After a minute, Agnes had the last word. “Ah, yes. I am sure they do.”
The others did not look happy at this pronouncement, and I was pleased. I took another swig. At some point Agnes would wear herself or the others out, and I’d be back to talking about Coney Island, or whatever. I ordered another drink.