"That's not good enough!"
It fell to me to see to the needs of Aunt Myrtle in her last years. I didn’t know her well since, until recently, she and her husband had lived out of town. Now her husband had passed on, her siblings had died and the last of her nephews and nieces but one (the writer) had emigrated. I was given the questionable honour of being authorised to draw cash from Myrtle's bank account and do financial transactions on her behalf.
I stepped up to the plate graciously, not realising what I had let myself in for. At first Myrtle would phone me several times a day to add an item or two to her shopping list. Within a week I politely asked her to phone me only once a day with her order. "Hmph! Is that so! And tell me, Gita, why do you bring me my things so late every time? I can’t wait all day, you know!"
"Aunt Myrtle, I have a full-time job. I do the shopping after work. It isn't possible for me to get to you any earlier."
I was shopping for her and delivering the goods to her almost daily. Before the first month was up, knowing how much more unpopular I was making myself, I insisted on receiving one complete order per week on an appointed day. I would shop and deliver the following day. I shall spare the reader the barrage of rudeness rained down on me by Myrtle, but the new rhythm appeared to work.
All went well until my aunt demanded larger and larger amounts of cash. “The more the better!” she exclaimed.
It was strange to me that she should suddenly need so much more cash and I ventured to ask her why.
“I have expenses!” I couldn't fathom what sort of expenses she had, since she never ventured out of her apartment without me or my husband. I saw to it that she had a good supply of clean and respectable clothing and replaced any article that looked less than presentable. I paid her monthly pharmacy, telephone and utility bills. She was healthy and, as far as I knew, had not had any medical intervention.
Soon I had given her more than four thousand dollars, and noticed that she was placing cash in various drawers in her bedroom, in nooks and crannies in the living room, and among the books in the spare room. When I questioned my aunt on the wisdom of this practice, her reply was, "Who would steal from me?” She had a helper come in twice a week to clean the flat, but I kept quiet.
The Holy Days were upon us, so I advised Aunt Myrtle that I wouldn’t be able to keep to "our" shopping and delivery routines during this time. She was of the same faith and understood well. We put our heads together and made a long list of items to buy to cover her for the days on which I wouldn’t be available.
According to the Jewish calendar a day begins with the appearance of the first star in the night skies (or the equivalent time calculated by astronomers) and ends with the appearance of the first star about twenty-four hours later. My husband, Elliot, ate early on the eve of The Day of Atonement, finishing his meal with a cup of tea at half past five. He then left to go to the synagogue. He would have be no food nor anything at all to drink until the first star appeared in the sky the following night.
But for worshipers, the fast was always longer than twenty-four hours as they had to be seated in the synagogue before the appearance of the first star, waiting for the service to begin. The following day the evening service ended after the appearance of the first star and it took time to greet the Rabbi and friends before leaving. My husband, having fasted for more than twenty-five hours, arrived home pale and weary.
He had just had his first sip of water, when the phone rang. We looked at each other warily. Elliot reached for the phone.
“The fast is over and I need something from the Quick Shop.” (Quick Shops are open all day and all night.)
Elliot's face went from pale to more pale, then to almost purple. I thought he might explode! Instead, my good man took a deep breath and told Myrtle that he had just begun to break his fast, and that I would talk to her the following morning.
“That’s not good enough! Where’s Gita?” I took the phone.
“Gita, I need some finger biscuits tonight. The fast is over, so I’m entitled to them."
Elliot forbade me to do her bidding that night, and I delivered Myrtle’s biscuits the following evening, together with her order for the day.
I was greeted with, “I didn’t know your husband was such a horrible man!”
A few days later all my aunt’s cash had disappeared from her apartment. I was the only suspect. "I knew it; I knew it was you when I couldn't find it!" screeched the shrew.
How fortunate I was to be fired from my job on the spot!