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Fate and Ms. FortuneA Novel
By Saralee Rosenberg
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Saralee Rosenberg
All right reserved.
"Something is wrong with Mom and Dad," Phillip whispered.
"What?" I hollered over the blaring music and the din of a hundred kids running wild.
No matter that my older brother was an in-demand attorney who earned more in a billable hour than I did in a week, to me he was still a putz. Therefore, family bar mitzvahs were the perfect venue for conversation, as it was near impossible to engage in anything other than short, superficial chatter over an ear-pounding "Everybody dance now . . ."
Yet Phillip insisted we talk. He pointed to our parents, Harvey and Sheila Holtz, who were seated across our table, but obscured by a massive centerpiece. "Look at them." He leaned in. "Don't you think they're acting strange?"
"For about thirty years now."
"Don't joke, Robyn. They haven't said two words to each other all night."
I peered around the foam board cutout of hockey great Bobby Orr, and sure enough, they had turned their chairs to literally face the music. An unusual gesture for two people who wouldn't know Ashlee Simpson from Homer Simpson.
"Mom, how's your salad?" I yelled. "Great raspberry vinaigrette."
Everybody dance now . . . yeah . . . yeah . . . yeah . . .
"Daddy, how about those Mets?" I yelled louder. "Could be our year."
Come on let's sweat, baby. Let the music take control . . .
"You guys want anything from the bar?" our server asked. "It's free." "What?" I cupped my ear.
"The drinks are free. What can I get you?"
Free drinks? Really? Because we are having such a blast at Brandon's Hall of Fame, we thought we were at Madison Square Garden, not a sixty-thousand-dollar reception hosted by our cousin Barry and his wife, Rhonda, in honor of their thirteen-year-old son, who learned to read from the Torah in between ice hockey clinics. "Diet Coke, please."
"I'll take an Absolut," my brother said to our white-gloved waiter, who seemed to care as much about French service as Paris Hilton. "And bring my wife another cosmo. Thanks, buddy." He leaned closer so I could hear. "I'm just saying I've never seen Mom this well behaved. She didn't even do her usual take-the-bread-off-Dad's-plate-and-hand-it-to-the-busboy stunt."
"Don't worry. She's still up to her old tricks. I heard her go up to the Connecticut cousins and ask if they're all so rich, why can't the men afford socks? . . . Uh oh. Possible host alert. Look happy for Rhonda. Remember. Everything is beautiful."
Phillip faked a laugh. "Then yesterday I called the house to remind Dad not to write a big check today because Barry and Rhonda stiffed us for Marissa's bat mitzvah. I think they gave seventy-five a plate, or some ridiculous number . . . like they didn't know what a Saturday night black-tie affair on Long Island costs . . . Anyway, Mom picks up and says Dad's busy, so I said, Where is he? And she says, How the hell should I know? Am I his parole officer?"
"Ten bucks says he was in the basement studying a map of the former Czech Republic."
"He never called me back."
"Oh, so that's where it comes from? You never call me back either."
"Funny. Then this morning at the temple I said to Dad, Why didn't you call me back yesterday? and he looks at me. So I said, Mom told you I called, right? No answer."
"Well I'm glad they're too busy to talk. Otherwise they'd be killing each other."
"They took two cars here."
"I know their license plates, okay? They both drove."
"But Dad would go by mule before he'd fill up two cars going to the same place."
Phillip's wife, Patti the Whip, slid into her seat reeking of nicotine, certain her spearmint gum would baffle even us CSI fans. Like we'd never have guessed that she'd just spent the last ten minutes outside with her sisters in smoke.
"I need another, hon." The former cheerleader pointed to her glass. "Where are the kids?"
"I'm on it . . . Em found a friend from camp, and Max is hanging with some boy whose father owns three homes . . . He asked Max where we winter."
"Love it." I laughed. "Kids comparing vacation destinations . . . We bought in Arizona. Mel and I don't mind the dry heat . . . Dry shmy. A hundred and ten is an oven."
Patti ignored me as usual and turned to her husband. "Where's Mariss?"
"Oh. She just called from the Mario Lemieux table to say Evan is picking her up now, so I said like hell you're leaving early. This is a family bar mitzvah. We're here till the bitter end."
"I thought her cell died."
"Apparently it's born again, but that didn't stop her from bitching she needs a new one."
"I'll take her after school on Monday." She held up a soup spoon to dab on lip gloss.
"It is a new one, remember? You replaced the one she left at the mall without asking me."
"Fine. I'll bring it back to see if they can fix it."
"It's not broken, Patti. She never gets off long enough to charge it."
"She's fifteen. What do you want her to do? Play house?"
I found out the other day that my brother and sister-in-law have signs of Holtz Disease. It's a degenerative disorder in my family in which every conversation ends in an argument. My parents are carriers, so of course the odds were that an offspring would inherit the gene. Fortunately, they just came out with a new pill called Damn-it-all . . . You take it, and everyone around you goes to hell for eight hours. . . . Side effects may vary.
Thank God for the wet-kiss intermission from Aunt Lil and Uncle Sol. How was I doing since . . .
Excerpted from Fate and Ms. Fortune by Saralee Rosenberg Copyright © 2006 by Saralee Rosenberg. Excerpted by permission.
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