Friday, September 30, 2011

25 Opening Lines, in 25 Words or Less

A few months ago I wrote 25 opening lines, though I never wrote any of the stories. Instead, I shared these sentences with writing friends at Emma's Writing Center, and today I'm sharing them on my blog. If anything on this list "sparks" a story for you, I hope you'll write it. Or if you feel encouraged to create your own list of opening lines that would also be great. The rule I set for myself was that no sentence could be more than 25 words.

The day the monkey arrived started out like any other, but by evening she could no longer remember her own name.

Everyone knows you can't eat your words, but she was so darn literal, and stubborn.

She hangs strands of glass beads in the window, to catch sunbeams, then she lets them go.

She wasn't comfortable living inside her own skin, but didn't know where else to go. 

Suddenly, all she wants is some good gossip, and someone to share it with while chopping garlic. 

Eventually she grew tired of waiting, but later she wished she'd still been standing on that street corner when it happened.

When she wants to see herself as others do, she doesn't look in the mirror or at photographs, she looks at the clouds, always changing.

There is a certain fictional character, and not the one you think it is, whose company she longs for.

She's afraid people would think less of her if they knew how emotionally attached she is to her stuffed animals.

Did you ever wonder why she avoids that particular shade of purple? 

She'd gone a long while without confessing anything to anyone, but once she began talking she couldn't stop. 

She was awake all night, worrying about the future of postal service in America, and in the morning she decided to train homing pigeons.

She indulges in lengthy monologs while watering her orchid, glad to have finally found her ideal listener.

She ties strands of miniature bells to her wrists and ankles, but even so, she is an oddly humorless woman.

When she realized how much she owed in library fines, she packed up all her belongings and left town.

She feels a certain fondness for people who can remove all their own teeth and then put them back in again.

Her art teacher said to paint a white egg on a white tablecloth, but she painted a polar bear in a blizzard instead.

She's been working on the same scarf for 4 years, knitting and unravelling, her daily meditation practice.

Nearly every day she's fooled by the plastic lilacs in her neighbor's flower-box.

From time to time she spits apple seeds into her palms and waits to see what might grow.

She never looks up, but keeps her eyes focused on the sidewalk, searching for something blue. 

She sends a message to her friend, dragging a long stick across the wet sand, but only the seagulls and crabs see it.

She's tired of her name, Mimi, so greedy and demanding; she decides to call herself Avocado, and hopes it will make her more generous.

She doesn't like polka dots, shoelaces, chopsticks, chewing gum, elephants, lined paper, zippers, the number nineteen, carnations, or girls who wear bangs. 

On days when there is an "ends-with-A" word rumbling around in her brain, she feels especially lucky, like today, with candelabra.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Another Life

I don’t like to speak bad about anybody, especially not family, but sometimes the truth will have its way. This is one of those times. 

I have a niece, my sister Bella’s daughter, her name is Lilian, Lily we call her, she’s a smart lady, went to Hunter College, you’d like her. 

Okay, she’s not the one I’m talking about. It’s her daughter, Ruthie, also a brain in her head, but I’m telling you, that girl is sincere. She comes to visit me here, all the way to Florida she comes. I don’t know why she does it. She doesn’t like the sun, and the ocean makes her nervous. Still, she comes. She’s a good girl, that’s why. Sincere.
She wants to talk to me about my past lives, she says. For an article. In a magazine.  Like somebody will want to read this? What do I know? She says she’s getting paid to do it. Real money yet.
“In a past life,” I say to her, “I was nobody. Who would I be? Cleopatra, maybe?”
“Don’t sell yourself short, Aunt Bessie,” she tells me. 
“Darling, believe me, I wouldn’t sell myself to nobody, tall or short.” It’s a joke. She doesn’t get it.
She’s hockin’ me and hockin’ me with the reincarnation business, it’s very important to her, not just an assignment. She says to me, she herself, in a past life, she was Moses.
“Sweetheart,” I tell her, “you’re a smart girl, a Ph.D. you have, even. But Moses, that I don’t think is possible. Listen to me, you are not a boy.”
She gives me a look, such a look, like maybe I just killed a tree, like maybe I smell bad I should go and take another shower.
She doesn’t give up. Like a pit bull she is, just like her grandmother Bella, two peas in a pot they are. She’s after me, and she’s after me, she wants me I should count backwards from 100 and tell her what I see. 
“Ruthie darling,” I tell her, “I can save us both a little time. If you make me count, I’ll only fall asleep. So I’ll tell you already, in a past life, I was a chicken.”
I want this should be the end of it, but Ruthie, with the kind of cockamamie mind she has, she doesn’t see my humor, she thinks we should investigate further.
“Tell me,” she says, “why exactly do you think you were a chicken?”
This is a normal conversation we’re having? What can I tell her? I say, “I like chickens.”

“You identify with chickens?” she asks me.
“What’s there to identify? I know what they are already, I’ve seen them all my life. Chickens are very nice,” I tell her, “chickens, I like to eat.”
That reminds me of a joke I once heard. Not from a comedian, either, from a writer of books. I say to her, “Ruthie, do you know who is Isaac Bashevis Singer?”
She knows, she tells me. “He was a Yiddishe misogynist,” she says. 

Misogynist? Did you ever hear from it? Me either. I make her write it down for me on a piece of napkin. Then I make her say it again so I can remember. Misogynist. So many letters. Ruthie is very good with languages, the bigger the word the more she goes for it. So, okay, misogynist. A person who doesn’t like women, she says. 
“Singer?” I say, “he didn’t like women? That I wouldn’t know, I never met the man. But still, he could write. They gave him a medal even, for his writing.”
Ruthie is not impressed with the medal. I ask her, “Do you want to hear the story or not?”
She shrugs. From a misogynist she doesn’t even want a funny story. 
I tell it to her anyway.  "Somebody asked Isaac Bashevis Singer why he was a vegetarian. He answers, I’m a vegetarian for health reasons. The other man says, Oh, I see, for your health. Mr. Singer, he says, no, not for my health, for the health of the chicken."
It’s a funny story, isn’t it? I think so. Ruthie, she doesn’t laugh.You see, this is what I’m telling you, she is sincere. 
So now it’s like she’s made me a challenge, I have to get a laugh out of her. When I take it into my head I’m going to do something, I do it.
“Ruthie, darling,” I say to her, “let me tell you another story. This is a true story from the Bronx. Remember when I lived by the zoo and you would come to visit?”
She remembers. So I say, “Okay, remember the family what lived on the other side of Bernice Levine? The Walachecks? With all the children, what, maybe 6, 7 children they had.”
Again, she says yes, she remembers. 
“So,” I say, “these Walachecks, nice people I’m sure, but their children were very noisy. And dirty habits they had. When they threw the garbage away in the incinerator room, it would land all over the place. More than once I found chicken bones in the chute, not pushed all the way down. The chicken was picked clean to the bone, but still, it's not the kind of thing you want staring you in the face. You follow me?”
She nods her head, yes, she’s following me.
“So one day I get an idea. I leave a little note on the door of the incinerator room. I say ‘Dear People.’ You see, I don’t want the Walachecks they should feel singled out and be embarrassed, so I make it like it’s to everybody, only of course Bernice, remember her? My good friend, Bernice Levine, she knows I’m not talking about her. Bernice, she was a very neat woman, she was. When she wrapped her garbage, she tied the paper bag with a string, nothing should fall out.
“So I write like to all the tenants, I say: ‘Make sure your chicken bones go down the chute.’ A simple note, to the point, that’s the way I’ve always been. I  didn’t put my name, I signed it just ‘a neighbor.’ 

"But somehow, the Walacheck children, they figured out it was me. And after that, when they saw me in the elevator, they made a little clucking sound in their throats. Clucking like a chicken, they were. They called me Mrs. Chicken Bones. Imagine that, with all the fat I had on me. Now, you don’t see it so much, I’m shrinking in my old age. But then, I was what we called zaftig. You know from zaftig, Ruthie?”
“Oh, Aunt Bessie,”she says to me, “that is a very sad story.”
“It’s not sad, it’s not sad,” I tell her, “it’s funny.”
“They were oppressing you,” she tells me. “Size oppression.”
“No,” I tell her, “it was funny, they were only children. Noisy children, not neat, but in their hearts, they were good children.”
She shakes her head at me, like she knows and I don’t know.
But I don’t give up. Determined, I am, to get at least a smile out of her.
“Ruthie, listen,” I tell her, “I have another story for you. About your grandma Bella. This one you’ll like, I guarantee it. One day I went to visit your grandma, this is when she lived on Belmont Place, you remember, in the walk-up. So, it was the summertime, it was hot, I  had to schlep myself all the way up to the 4th floor. By the time I got there, believe me, I wasn’t whistling no tune. So, your grandma Bella she greets me at the door, she’s got a frozen chicken she’s holding up to her shoulder."

I look over at Ruthie. Not a smile anywhere on her face. I do not give up.
“So I say to your grandma, 'Bella, what’s with the chicken?' She tells me she hurt her arm so bad. She was trying to move her sofa all by herself, she couldn’t wait for the super to come and help her. When Bella got it into her head to dust, there was no stopping her, like a maniac she was. Anyway, she’s pushing that big sofa, you remember Ruthie, the gray one, and she hears something go pop. In her shoulder it popped. Very painful. So she needs ice, but, lo and behold, she’s all out of ice. Not an ice cube in the apartment. So what does she do? She pulls a frozen chicken from the refrigerator and she makes a bandage from it. Can you picture this, Ruthie? Can you picture it in your mind? It was very comical, I assure you. Your grandma had a good head, to think of something like that. The chicken, the chicken didn’t have a head, but Bella, she had a good head.”
Still, no laugh out of Ruthie. What can I tell you? I started to get a little bit tired from my efforts. 
“Ruthie,” I asked her, “would you like I should make us a little fresh lemonade? Some tea, maybe?”
She’ll make it, she tells me. Lemonade, no sugar. Okay, I don’t argue with her, she’s my guest.
I should sit, she tells me. All I’m doing since she arrived is I sit. She doesn’t want me to exert myself, she says. Exert myself? I’m boring myself to death.
“Ruthie,” I tell her, “I’m like a log here, like a log on the ground. Maybe, darling, in a past life I was a log. Maybe I was a bump on the log.”
She doesn’t hear me, she’s in the kitchen with the lemons. No sugar. Listen, I have to be honest with you, it will be a relief for me when she leaves. Company, company is good, but this kind of company, no laughing, no smiles, it’s taking years off my life.
I’ll tell you something else. I’m not so up on my history, but it occurs to me, maybe Moses, maybe he was like this, too — sincere. He must have been a houseguest they were happy to see the back of him. 

So okay, this I maybe have to learn to live with. If what Ruthie says is true, with all the reincarnation mishagas, then I am the great-aunt of the Big Man. Moses himself. 

I’m telling you, it makes me feel old, just to think about it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Kitchen Sink

Girl Scout Troop 44 met in the basement of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, on the corner of Tremont and Vyse, every Tuesday afternoon at 3:30. We were all desperate for merit badges, but not out of any intrinsically noble motivation like knowledge or accomplishment — we just wanted the reward. 
Some big-shot at scouting headquarters decided that the troop with the most badges would be treated to an outing at Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor — the absolutely best place, in all the five boroughs, to satisfy a serious ice cream craving. The most popular item on their menu was “The Kitchen Sink,” and if  Troop 44 won the Great Badge Race, the sink would be ours. 
When “The Kitchen Sink” was brought to your table it filled your entire table. An enormous silver platter heaped high with scoops of ice cream in every flavor, chewy chunks of brownies with walnuts, at least three peeled bananas slit length-wise, generous handfuls of strawberries and pineapple, drippings of butterscotch and hot fudge and what seemed like an entire can of instant Cool Whip, to say nothing of the jimmies sprinkled all over and oh yes, the cherries on top. We wanted this. We wanted it in a big way. But to get it we needed those badges. 
Alberta Cannelli had her heart set on a Puppetry Badge. She showed up at our scout meeting one Tuesday with green olives speared onto each one of her pudgy fingers. She’d prepared an original play for us with her olive-topped fingers as the characters, a different voice for each olive: a family saga, three generations of the squabbling Machetes, the grandpa and the father represented by her thumbs. 

It was an energetic performance. When it was over, the entire troop applauded, genuinely impressed, and then waited for Alberta to share the olives with us, or at the very least to eat them herself. But she didn’t do this. In fact, when someone suggested it — I think it might have been me — the very thought seemed to repulse her. 

“These are my friends,” she said, as though she’d been asked to nibble away on her pet parakeet. And then she got all twitchy and Miss Betty, our troop leader, asked her if she wanted to go home. And she did. Taking her olives with her. 
By the following week the incident was forgotten. Until Alberta appeared, her fingertips once more adorned with green olives, and clearly they were not fresh. These were the same olives from the previous Tuesday. The entire Machete family was back, from Grandpa Joseph down to baby Peg. We knew this for a fact because baby Peg had a slight indentation near her base where her brother, Evil Eddie, had punched her during last week’s puppet show.
It was at this point that I started having a bad feeling about Alberta Cannelli. I had pretty good radar when it came to noticing signs of derangement and it seemed to me that Miss Betty should have taken Alberta off to one side and given her a good talking to, using phrases my own mother liked to introduce into our conversations, like “this is not appropriate” and “cut the nonsense right now.” But Miss Betty did no such thing. She only asked if anyone else had something to present to the group.
Phyllis Berkowitz raised her hand and announced she was working on a badge called Collecting, even though that was not one of the officially sanctioned badge categories in our Girl Scout handbook. She explained that the theme of her collection was shoelaces. 

Then she opened a large cardboard box that had been dragged down to the basement of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow, undoubtedly breaking every imaginable sanitary code the city of New York had ever thought up, and started pulling out one shoelace after another. They looked and smelled like something you’d pick out of the garbage. Which she probably did. “I have three more boxes at home,” Phyllis announced proudly. “When I counted them last night there were 6,429 shoelaces, I’m going by ones, not pairs — not everything in life has to come in pairs.” 
Phyllis’s parents had gotten divorced that winter and Mr. Berkowitz moved away, he wasn’t even living in the neighborhood anymore, he moved all the way to Queens. Phyllis and her two sisters were now called "the product of a broken home," (by some people's mothers, not mine). 

When Phyllis finished her shoelace presentation, Rosie Sweet pretend-sneezed into her Girl Scout handkerchief, only it was just an excuse to cover her face and say DIVORCE. And then Antoinette Feeney pretended to say “God bless you” but she said it real fast, under her breath, and the way she pronounced it was DIVORCE. 

Miss Betty, who was the scout leader after all, should have done something. But she didn’t. And that wasn't right. So I told my mother. I told her everything: about Alberta Cannelli and the olive puppets, and Phyllis and the cartons of shoelaces, and Rosie and Antoinette and the phony nose blowing incident, including a question about why some people say “God bless you” and others say “gesundheit.” And my mother decided to give Miss Betty a call.
If Miss Betty had been someone she knew, like the mom or aunt or even the neighbor of a girl in the troop, my mother might not have phoned her up. But Miss Betty was a stranger to us, she was just someone the Scouting authorities assigned to Troop 44 because there were no moms or aunts or neighbors who volunteered to do the job. In other words, Miss Betty was an Unknown Entity. 
In case you’re curious, I was working on my Observation Skills badge and I had made Miss Betty the subject of my private investigation. I was convinced our leader had a shady past, I just hadn’t figured out what it was. There was a good chance she was a bloody murderess on the lam. The other possibility was that she was a former Rockette, which would have been preferable but, for a Girl Scout leader, not really “appropriate.” 
My mother called Miss Betty on the phone and laid it all out for her. But Miss Betty wasn’t worried about the direction our quest for badges was going in. She told my mother just how much worse it could have been. She had a friend, she said, who was the leader for Troop 12,  near Pelham Parkway, and they had a girl over there who was experimenting with poison — the genuine article baked into chocolate cupcakes. One of the scouts had already been rushed to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. 

Miss Betty said the goings on at Troop 44 were mild by comparison. She told my mother there was nothing to be concerned about. She, Miss Betty, had it all under control. She called herself Miss Betty. That was her fatal error. If there's one thing my mother hated it was people who talked about themselves in the third person.
When she hung up the phone my mother said I didn’t have to go back to the basement of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow ever again. She explained that Miss Betty was seriously inclined toward the unbalanced side of life. 

I said I wanted to go back, since I was so close to earning my Observation Skills badge and I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity for “The Kitchen Sink.” 
My mother said I already observed too much and she would take me to Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor herself. Just her and dad and my sister and me. We could order “The Kitchen Sink” and there’d only be four people to share it with, instead of the fifteen in Troop 44. 
My mother had amazing powers of persuasion. I quit Girl Scouts then and there, and took up Creative Expression at the Y, to be sure I wouldn't be bored on Tuesday afternoons at 3:30.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Mom Tells a Joke

My mother cannot tell a joke. People tell her jokes all the time and she writes them down so she won’t forget, but somehow, between the writing and the telling, a whole world is lost. 
Yesterday, we were talking on the phone and she said she had a great joke for me. “I wrote it on a piece of paper but the paper’s in my pocketbook and my pocketbook’s in the bedroom and your father’s in there, he’s sleeping, he has the radio on but I looked in before and he was asleep. I don’t want to wake him.” 

“No problem, Ma, you can read it to me another time.” 

“But it’s a good one, sweetheart, you’ll like it. Let me see what I can do from memory. There are two rabbis in a taxi. One is a young man, the other one is an old man. You heard this already?” 

“I don’t know, give me a little more.” 

“Okay. There are these two rabbis, they’re sitting in a taxi. One rabbi is young, the other one, he’s old. Oh, and the young one, he’s from Israel. He’s Israeli. That reminds me, Sippy’s husband, Arnold, he lost his job.”  

“Why does that remind you? Arnold’s not Israeli.” 

“Of course he’s not, he’s from Brooklyn. Joyce’s husband is Israeli.” 


“So? Joyce, Sippy, they’re cousins, it’s a connection. Don’t distract me. Like I said, Arnold got fired.” 

“That’s too bad.” 

“Yes, it’s a real shame. They just got married, they’re fixing up the apartment, and right away he loses his job. But we can’t blame the boss. Arnold has a temper on him. Plus, according to Marilyn, he has very poor judgment.” 

“Ma, you can’t trust Marilyn, she’s his mother-in-law and she hates him.” 

“But facts are facts, sweetheart. He does have a bad temper. I saw it once. And furthermore, the day he got fired, instead of going out and looking for another job, he shaved his head. That's poor judgment. And by the way, Marilyn does not hate him, she only wants to kill him. So now the big question is, how will Arnold keep his yarmulke on his head? You know, he’s observant.” 

“I know, Ma.” 

“Very religious, that one. But no hair? Where’s he going to put the bobby pins?” 

“I think we could call this a dilemma.”   

“Exactly. A dilemma. Thank God it’s none of our business.” 

“So, Ma, about the two rabbis?” 

“What rabbis? What about them?” 

“The ones in the taxi. The young one and the old one. It’s a joke.” 

“Oh, you know that joke? It’s a good joke.” 

“No Ma, I don’t know it, you didn’t tell me yet.”  

“Sweetheart, next time I talk to you, I’ll have it all written down in front of me, I’ll just read it to you. It’s funnier that way.”

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mom and the Wackadoos

My mother has a friend, Brenda Glickstein, who collects miniature dolls. 

“They live on her bed,” my mother tells me. “Thirteen, fourteen, maybe even more. Every morning she has to line them up there by the pillows and every night she has to take them and put them someplace else.” 

“Maybe she sleeps with them,” I say. 

“No, she doesn’t. I asked her. She said that she would, but Wally’s afraid. So she has to move them twice a day." 

“Wally’s afraid of the dolls?”  

“It's more like he's concerned. He doesn't want to crush them. He's actually very fond of them. In fact, Wally's the one who names them.” 

“No, Ma, don’t tell me the dolls all have names.” 

“Of course they do, they came with names when they arrived, in their tiny boxes. But Wally didn’t like those names so he gave them new ones. First and middle.” 

“All the dolls have two names?” 

“They have three names. They have a first name, a middle name, and a last name.” 

“What’s their last name?” 

“Glickstein. What do you think? Like Brenda and Wally. They’re all Glicksteins.” 

"Does Brenda buy them stuff?"

"What kind of stuff do dolls need?"

"I don't know, clothes maybe?"

"Sweetheart, they came dressed, they are respectable dolls."

"Furniture, then. I've seen it in antique stores, itsy bitsy furniture for itsy bitsy dolls."

"What do they want with itsy bitsy furniture? They use the Glickstein's furniture. A very nice bed, I'm sure. If they want to sit in a chair, or on the couch, Brenda and Wally wouldn't say no. If they're hungry, all they have to do is ask, the refrigerator's well-stocked."

"You're kidding me. Right?"

"What do you think, sweetheart?"

“I think this is all so weird.” 

“Wait, it gets weirder. Remember their dog, Fudgie?” 

“Of course I remember him, Fudgie the Hideous.” 

“Don’t even say that as a joke. They thought their dog was beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, remember that.” 

“Fudgie’s dead, Ma, we can speak the truth, just between us.” 

“Who knows who might be listening? Anyway, in case you’re interested, Fudgie has Perpetual Care.” 

“What care?” 

“In the cemetery, where he’s buried, he has Perpetual Care. You know what that means?” 

“I don’t, Ma, I don't have a clue.”  

“It means that somebody will put flowers on his grave every year, on the anniversary of his death, until the planet is no more. That’s Perpetual Care. Grandma and Grandpa don’t have that. Daddy and I aren’t going to have that. But Fudgie, he has that.” 

"Do the little dolls have Perpetual Care?"

"I never thought to ask. But it wouldn't surprise me if they do."

“The Glicksteins are wackodoos, Ma.” 

“Let’s just say they develop strong emotional attachments to things. And really, when it comes right down to it, who are we to judge? We’re just fortunate to be normal.” 

“Yes, we are.” 

“Well, actually, I was talking more about myself. You  still have room for improvement. I’m not criticizing, you know I never criticize. I’m just giving you some constructive feedback.”

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Mom and the Bozo

My mother has never tasted alcohol. Once, when she was in college, she went to a party, and it almost happened, but it didn’t. My father, who’d been her steady boyfriend since they were both 15, had to work late that night. He didn’t like the idea of Eve going alone. “What can happen to me Morty, I’m not a china doll,” she said. So what could he do? He went to work, but he worried. And he had good reason to worry.  
Some bozo, not to name names but it was Warren Nussbaum, sees my mother standing in a corner, no Morty hovering protectively at her side. Warren approaches. He asks Eve if he can get her a drink. She says, “No thank you, Warren.” It’s not exactly a brush-off, she doesn’t mean to hurt his feelings, but she doesn’t want a drink. Warren isn’t used to the word no. Especially not from a woman. He’s never heard it from his mother.  So when Eve says no, he doesn’t get it. 
“Wait right there,” he says, “I’ll be back in a second with a rum and coke.” He returns with two glasses, one for him and one for her. He pushes a glass right into her hand, so she holds it. But she doesn’t drink from it. Warren notices. “Bottoms up,” he says, and Eve, who has never heard the expression before, but who assumes it’s something dirty, blushes. The room is dark, Warren doesn’t see the blush, he’s just set on one thing: Get this girl drunk. 

But he doesn’t know my mother very well. She’s innocent as a lambchop and she would never do anything rude or, God forbid, inappropriate. But also she will never do anything she does not want to do. So she says, “Good night, Warren,” and she walks off in search of her friend Big Bella. 
Big Bella is not big. She is, in fact, tiny; not even five feet tall and barely 100 pounds. But she was born three days before her cousin who was, quite naturally, called Little Bella. That’s the way things were done in those days. Anyway, Eve finds a coaster to put her drink on, so it won’t leave a water ring, and spends the rest of the night hanging out with Big Bella. Just to be on the safe side. Because she knows that when you’re a good girl it pays to have a friend with a mouth on her. Big Bella has a mouth. And while you and I would never consider her bodyguard material, she did okay by my mom that night. 
Warren Nussbaum eventually discovered Natalie Klein, (who he did not end up marrying, he married Barbara Glassman, who wasn’t even at that party), but still, Warren and Natalie hit it off great for an hour or two. She was very fond of rum and coke. 

Years later Warren and his second wife, Elaine, shared a table with my mom and dad, and a few other old friends, at somebody’s son’s bar mitzvah party, and the whole story about the drink-that-was-not-drunk came out. 

It was the first time my father heard it. He didn't like it one bit. He almost stabbed Warren Nussbaum with a herring fork. Big Bella had to restrain him. 

My mother was not pleased. “No bloodshed, Morty,” she said. “This is a white tablecloth. Show some respect.”