She looks down at the screen and sees a message that is not from Brianna, not from a horny stranger, but from Don. Maybe he’s stuck in traffic or forgot his son had a Little League game.
Only it isn’t Don. It can’t be. Someone else must have his phone, someone with a bad sense of humor. Someone who has texted, My husband passed this weekend.
Don’s wife is named Monica or Mona or maybe even Mandy. She and Don haven’t made love since their daughter was born, and to add insult to that injury, she’s had affairs. She won’t let him get a divorce because she likes his money. Don told Elkie a month in. He took her to dinner at a TGI Fridays a block from the Rad-isson, an impossibly slow walk for Elkie, who insisted on wearing her regulation heels from the Pussycat Club. Over dinner, he handed her a black box containing a Tiffany watch, then he burst into tears.
“Five kinds of hors d’oeuvres, max, and remember we’re underage. No Dom Perignon, none of your finest aged Glenlivet. I mean it.” Elkie puts her hands on her hips and wags a finger at her mother.
“You sure know booze, considering how underage you are,” her mother says. She pulls a bag of popcorn from the microwave. “How about this and a veggie platter with ranch? And how was your day?”
Don—that’s how Elkie knows booze. Don bought a bottle of Perignon and a lap dance from Elkie when they met at the Pussycat, with its rusted billboard advertising GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS. Don’s the one who poured Glenlivet into a bulb-shaped glass on her last birthday. But Elkie’s mother doesn’t know about Don, and Elkie herself is reciting a pack of lies. She stands by the counter and says she’s getting good at espresso art, the customers tip well, and she’s learned to enjoy the smell of coffee grounds at the campus cafe where she’s a barista. Then she goes back to the living room and plops down on the couch next to Brianna, who’s watching Bob’s Burgers.
Elkie’s grandmother croaks from her easy chair in the corner,
.דו װאַקסט אַזױ שײן, קײן עין-הרע
“I love you too, Grandma,” says Elkie. One of the underwires on her bustier is pinching. She tries to adjust it through her shirt.