This Monday – 9-12-11 – I, Roy Garde, am taking on the role of Editor in that my oldest fan sent in this week’s story – he’s seventy-eight years old and so, although I’d never heard of him before he e-mailed me several months ago, his age, with little doubt, qualifies him for that title – and he wanted me to use the name, “A. N. O. Namoss,” as its author and although I understand why he wanted me to do that (as will you when you’ve read the story) I told him that it was preposterous so he e-mailed me back a few hours later and asked me if “Tom Dooley” was acceptable. When I asked why he’d picked that name he told me that his wife had come up with it as being highly appropriate because, she’d told him, “Your head has been hanging down for years.”
Please take note of the dates that he used – it must be catching!
I annoyed ‘Tom’ further when I rejected his preferred title – “MAMA! Are you shitting me?” – because, as I told him, blatant scatology in a title is off-putting.
So, I’m going to call it:
MAMA, ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THIS? 10-10-10
I’ve forgotten her surname entirely and I’m not sure about her given name. It was something unlikely like “Ariaxantana” (with a few more ‘X’s’ in it maybe). A name that everyone tried to avoid using by saying “Excuse me, Ma’am . . .” or “Dear,” or “Miss.”
She was an attractive woman with long black hair and an ivory complexion and she had a good figure and had been over here for nine years by then. Her English was close to being perfect because she’d attended an American school in Athens.
She was the secretary/gofer of the Vice President who headed up our Sales Department and I’ve since found out that her gofer duties included going for sex in a motel with him twice a week instead of having lunch. It was hard to believe that he – married and over-weight and bald and twenty years older than she was – could get that lucky but I eventually found out that he got her to go along because she’d once confessed to him at a party, when she’d lost control of her tongue and her common sense after far too much whiskey, that she’d come over to the States on a student visa and had ‘over-stayed’ and had paid five hundred dollars for her green card.
I remember seeing her come into the building some mornings so wracked with a hangover that she could barely make it to the Sales Office, which was up one flight of stairs from mine. If any brave soul asked her where she’d been the night before she’d say only, “Partying, of course. How come I didn’t see you there?”
One year, at the office Christmas Party, some of us stole a march on the rest of the staff by going into the conference room and tapping a keg. There was plenty of liquor
there too but it was only eleven o’clock in the AM so we left that unopened.
After we’d drunk a glass or two she, (Ma’am, Dear, Miss, Hey You,) came in and she said, “Ah ha! I thought I heard a party starting up,” and she walked over to the table
and opened a bottle of Scotch and then poured herself a healthy shot.
Suddenly our beer seemed to get very weak and so we put down our glasses and opened a bottle of Vodka.
She was the only woman there and, as I said already, she was very attractive and so she got to be the center of attention PDQ and all of our comments were directed at her but she fielded them adroitly. She obviously enjoyed her role and no matter how ribald it got she continued to handle herself very well.
Someone asked her who(m) she was dating lately – she had a history of changing boyfriends frequently – and she said that it didn’t matter much to her as long as he was an American-American or any-other-kind-of-American as long as it wasn’t a Greek-American!
We’d often heard her off-hand deprecatory remarks about her countrymen before and had let them go because such talk can easily get out of hand and a bit sticky but that time we were in the correct environment to take it further and so we wouldn’t let her side-step the issue again and eventually she explained her position on the matter.
She said that they were all raised by their mothers to never do a hand’s turn around the house, “ever.” That included cooking or washing-up or minding babies or even taking out
the garbage! Nothing! Also, they always kept their circle of long-time male friends and will blithely drop everything to go off with them at all hours. It was a given that they never told their wives how much money they earned and they doled out an allowance for food and clothes and exact amounts to pay the day-to-day bills that the wives were expected to deal with.
The list of short-comings went on and on she finished it up by saying, “All of that and then having to put up with – uh – doing the other thing for them all through your life – few people know it but they get a liking for it and want to do it that way nearly always after a baby has come along – and so you can see why I won’t ever so much as think about dating one of them.”
“What other thing?”
“What do you mean by, ‘the other thing’?”
“Come on, you’ve got to tell us now.”
“Aw, come on guys. You know what I’m talking about. Why do you think it’s
called, “The Greek way?”
We knew that of course but she had said, “all through your life” and that seemed a bit much so we wouldn’t let up.
Finally it stopped being funny for her and so she cut and ran saying some nonsense about having to finish typing a letter.
After she’d left we agreed that we must have somehow misinterpreted what she’d said. But still!
Because we were all conjecturing madly, inwardly, it took the edge off our good spirits and so we went back to our desks and we dug out some work that we’d shelved, or rather, had ‘saved’ hoping to never see it again until the New Year.
Even when we were well into March I couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d told us so I thought up a way to get to be alone with her for long enough to be able to pump her for more information.
Our office was located in Long Island City and thus it bordered on Asturias, which, some say, has the best Greek restaurants outside Athens. Well, knowing that, what I did was to ask her to have lunch with me one day and, as an inducement, I told her that she could pick both the restaurant, as long as it was Greek, and the meal and I went further with it by telling her that I thought it was stupid of me to not know anything about Greek food when we were so close to all of those prime providers of it.
She nodded in agreement – maybe with my confession about being stupid but certainly with my suggestion that we go to lunch together because she picked a day that was three days ahead.
We both agreed to use the old trick of, ‘early lunch/late lunch,’ which would give us two hours to enjoy the meal properly.
The restaurant of her choice was only three blocks north and two blocks west from our office but the weather was bad so I drove her there and I dropped her off outside and then parked the car.
When I walked in a few minutes later I found her surrounded by the whole staff, including the chefs, and the air was thick with their language and they seemed to be all
talking at the same time and also laughing at the same time, which is a bit weird.
She introduced me all around and we were looked after really well. A bottle of Retsina was opened and poured before we’d even sat down and the whole meal was up beat like that.
When we read the menus we got suggestions from all around and I was content to let her do all of the ordering but she insisted that I pick my entree. I decided on ‘Leg of
Lamb’ to protect myself from the too exotic and I expected to get some slices from a leg of lamb as is done at home and in other restaurants.
I got a leg of lamb!
Sure, it had come from a small lamb but even so there was enough meat on my plate to feed four people. To further illustrate the truth of that the accompanying vegetables had to be served on a separate plate.
It, and everything else we were served, was delicious.
When we were given Ouzo, on the house with our coffee, the place had filled up and so her friends were busy elsewhere and I at last got her alone long enough to ask her about her extraordinary statement at the Christmas party.
She had downed quite a lot of wine, at least one and a half bottles of it, and some spirits and she probably felt content and safe in her own environment and because of, or perhaps, in spite of being surrounded by fellow Greeks, and besides that she’d gauged my interest and was also, maybe, delighted with my naïveté and the chance to see my eyes opened up and so she told all.
It took the best part of an hour and when she’d finished – the restaurant was beginning to empty out again by then – while I was forced to believe the general premise I couldn’t accept the whole of it, not for the life of me.
I did, however, know for sure why she didn’t date her countrymen.
That lunch took place months ago and I wrote that first part back then and I’ve now built up enough courage to tackle the writing of the conclusion of the story although I must admit that, now that we’re down to basics, I’m doing it somewhat hesitantly – So, here we go –
MAMA, ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THIS? 1-1-11
It seems hard to believe for us foreigners but she – “Ma’am,” “Dear,” “Miss” – told me in that restaurant that it is the mothers of Greek youths, when they show signs of becoming interested in girls, who are the ones who tell them that their future girl friends have the perfect answer for successfully dealing with the, shared, problem of birth control and with their – that is, their sons’ – urgent and natural needs while, at the same time, keeping themselves – that is, the girl friends – intact for their, eventual, marriage bed which won’t necessarily be shared with their first lovers. “Indeed,” their mothers tell them nowadays, “because of the outlet that I’m going to tell you about and knowing modern day practices it is most unlikely that it will be shared with their first lovers.”
Their sons, naturally, want to know what the ‘answer’ is and she tells them that when the time comes their first girl friend will know what it is and she’ll, “direct operations to that end, as it were,” and then, when they’ve found out, they’ll know how to proceed with future girlfriends.
When it’s time to tell their daughters they have to be explicit, of course, and so they explain it like this, or in a similar fashion: “Wonder of wonders and the Gods be praised for Their perspicacity,” – that is what my informer swore that her mother said to her before allowing her to go out on her first serious date – “for having given us a marvelous alternative, which is already built-in to all girls and women and is always ready for use and requires little maintenance and zero adornments or cosmetics.
“I am, of course, referring to our . . . .
Uh . . . . Well . . . Uh . . No. Sorry. I just can’t bring myself to write it all out. Really. No way. Sorry. Maybe later.
(Editor’s note. Lamentably ‘Tom Dooley’ died of a heart attack when he was cleaning up his back yard after a storm early this summer. I found out about that when I e-mailed him for a progress report and his widow sent me the sad news. I waited a month, or so, and then I e-mailed her again and asked her to be kind enough to see if the document was in the archives of his word processor and she told me that her ability with computers was already stretched thin by sending and receiving e-mails but she promised to ask her son, on his next visit, to do what I’d asked. After another month had gone by either she or, more probably, her son sent me the following attached to an e-mail.)
Well now, nearly six more months have gone by so I’ll try again –
MAMA, ARE YOU SURE ABOUT THIS? 6-6-11
SECOND PART – SECOND ATTEMPT.
It seems hard to believe for us Barbarians – Greeks seem to think that all foreigners, especially Albanians and Serbs because of the Macedonia problem, can be lumped together as being natives of a country that’s called ‘Barbaria’ – but it is the mothers of Greek youths who – when the boys show signs of becoming interested in girls and the girls start checking themselves in every mirror – are the ones who tell their children, separately of course, that their son’s future girl friends have – as do they themselves and as do their daughters – the perfect answer for successfully dealing with the shared problem of birth control and with their – that is, males – urgent and natural needs while, at the same time, keeping themselves – that is, the girl friends and their daughters – intact for their, eventual, marriage bed which won’t necessarily be shared – “Indeed, it is unlikely that it will ever be shared seeing the way things are going!” – with their first lovers.
“Well, listen up,” they say to their daughters when the time comes. “Wonder of wonders and The Gods be praised for Their perspicacity,” – that was how my informant’s mother began the big revelatory speech on her twelfth birthday, or at least, that’s what she told me she’d said – “for giving us this marvelous alternative that is already built-in to every girl and woman and is always ready for use and requires little maintenance and zero adornments or cosmetics and which is located . . . . .
Whoops! That was lightening and thunder. Very close together. There’s an electrical storm approaching rapidly, if it’s not directly overhead already, so I have to switch my computer off right now and there’s no ink left in my pen and I can’t find a pencil that works.
Sorry! Really. I promise to try to finish this later.
(Editor’s note – I’d like to point out that this is a work of fiction. Strictly fiction and the author is no longer around to accept your protests so please don’t send them to me. Better yet, stop thinking about it and delete it from your mind and go and read something wholesome like, for instance, the three short Short Stories on Page 71 in the Archives that appear over to the left of your screen.
Really. I’d like you to do that right this minute. Please?)
Well? I sincerely hope that you’re not still on this page pondering and mulling and brooding and girding.
If you are, GO! NOW! Page 71. Enjoy.