WeWriWa—Not an ordinary injury

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors, a weekly Sunday hop where writers share 8 sentences from a book or WIP. For the last few weeks, I’ve been sharing from the opening of my old/new WIP, an alternative history called And Aleksey Lived. It’s built on the premise (which almost happened in real life) of the Russian Imperial Family being rescued and 13-year-old Aleksey defying the odds by surviving into adulthood to become the Tsar.

Though Aleksey was frequently plagued by hemophilia attacks as a little boy, he actually became stronger and healthier as he got older, with more time between attacks. He grew up to look a lot healthier than some of his invalid cousins in Spain and Prussia. While in captivity, he had two serious injuries, which might not have happened had he not been under those bestial living conditions. As a result of the second injury, he couldn’t walk for the last 78 days of his life, though he’d slowly been getting better.

This has been tweaked a bit to fit 8 lines.

***

“I couldn’t walk even if I were calm, since I hurt my knee a few months ago, and I haven’t walked since.  It’s gotten a little better recently, but I still can’t walk yet.  My father had to carry me down the stairs.” His voice broke as he thought of his belovèd father carrying him down those stairs only perhaps a few hours ago, when his parents had still been full of life, no idea their lives were about to be snatched from them like they didn’t matter.

“You broke your knee?”

“That’s a long, private story.”

The soldier looked around the blood-stained, bullet-riddled room at the physically unharmed survivors, who were all still violently shaking. “If you insist this isn’t an ordinary injury, I won’t pry into Your Majesty’s personal business, but now that you’re free, you’ll soon have access to excellent doctors, and you’ll be walking again in no time.”

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This actually isn’t the first time I’ve written a hemophiliac character. My Atlantic City character Kit’s firstborn child Philip (born 1958) also has hemophilia, as does Kit’s third child Malvina (born 1960). Women can have the disease too, though it’s very rare. In the early Eighties, town villain Urma Smart tricks Philip into believing he caught AIDS from a blood transfusion, and later intensifies her sick scheme by pretending Philip’s wife Vanilla and their fifth child Livia also caught AIDS. Things aren’t pretty when her lies are finally discovered.

Eventually, Philip’s firstborn child Karyn will have three sons who all have hemophilia. Given how inheritance works, all six of Philip’s daughters are automatic hemophilia carriers, but only Karyn is unlucky enough to pass it on to her future children.

Daphne and Rózsika (Didot)

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Warning: Contains some mature language.

(Quick note: I’ve bolded this post because Didot is a little light on the eyes.)

Font: Didot

Developed: 1784-1811

Chapter: “Daphne and Rózsika”

Book: Cinnimin

Written: 10 June-18 August 2009

Handwritten

This is Part LII (52) of my magnum opus, at least per the current table of contents. (I now strongly suspect I’ll need to add a lot more to Saga I, the Forties, when I finally transcribe and begin editing and rewriting. Now that I’ve permanently shelved the WTCOAC series and will be significantly restructuring some of the earlier Max’s House books, I have much more free reign to show Cinni’s life in the late Forties, and the full development of her romance with Levon in 1942-43. Those things are just WAY too rushed in the original.)

I wrote this in a 100-page college-ruled notebook, and it’s one of the longer Parts of Cinnimin. Some Parts are more like short stories, long episodes, or novelettes, but this is one of the ones I feel could stand on its own as an actual book. It’s from Saga VI, the Nineties, one of my favorite Sagas to write. Though the older characters continue to prominently feature, I’m primarily writing about peers who grew up at the same time I did. I’m not doing historical research, I’m writing about events I actually lived through and remember.

It’s set from 8 March-6 August 1998, and so much happens over those months. It presents two cautionary tales about two teen couples who think they know so much better than everyone else about their respective situations. One story has a happy ending, the other a not so happy ending that only gets worse later on.

Cinni’s 16-year-old granddaughter Rózsika recently began having sex with her longtime boyfriend Walter. They’ve been caught by a number of their cousins and friends, and keep insisting that going unprotected won’t hurt.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Daphne is blazing ahead with her unpopular plans to marry her longtime boyfriend Berus. Even people who used to be on her side turn against her as her behavior gets worse and worse. 

Some of the many highlights (avoiding any spoilers):

Ernestine walked into her brothers’ room to retrieve a book she had lent John. What she didn’t expect to find was Rózsika bouncing up and down on top of Walter, both of them completely naked. Her shriek made both of them abruptly stop and dash under the covers, grabbing for their clothes.

“Are you really into the whole marriage thing, or are you just gung-ho for the fairy princess wedding and the chance to have sex without feeling guilty?” Phoebe asked.

“This isn’t funny,” Walter insisted. “And you two made me lose my erection.”

Daphne could hear their conversation from the airvent upstairs and was boiling. “Who the hell do they think they are? In two months, I’m going to be Mrs. Berus Amichai Roblensky, and they won’t be able to do anything about it then.”

[Spoken by Kit, of course] “The rig ain’t a homing pigeon. You have to guide it in.”

“Ew, Daphne must think all teen girls have the same lousy taste in music as she does.” Phoebe held up a Backstreet Boys CD. “I hope you kept the receipt so I can exchange it for something more to my liking.”

“This is Samuel Roblensky. I’m sorry to disturb your evening, but your granddaughter Daphne and my nephew Berus thought it would be neat to let themselves into my house while Filipa and I were away, help themselves to my food, and throw their dirty towels on my couch after they came back from the beach.”

“I can’t be expected to love him the same way you love Grandpa. I love him the way any girl my age loves her boyfriend, even when he humiliated me in public with that tiny cheap-ass cubic zirconia.”

“I’d recommend the Hitachi,” Juliet smiled. “It’s like ten thousand men at once.”

“Why are we being serenaded by CDs of MTV pop acts?” Kit asked. “If they wanted mixed CDs instead of a band or deejay, at least they could’ve chosen upscale adult wedding music!”

“There are five positions?” Karyn asked. “I thought there were only like two or three.”

[Spoken by Violet about her lifelong rival Kit] “I called her an old slut, not old in general. Anyone who’s this age and still bragging about her sexual exploits, giving X-rated advice, and sharing her entire sexual history is a slut. Damn, I hope I never share blood with that woman.”

Daphne reached for a bottle of alcoholic lemonade in the fridge. “The marriage formula of yore worked perfectly. Do you even care the doctor they gave me was my great-uncle Sammy? I’ll never be able to look him in the face again.”

“It was so humiliating, Grandma! He said I had no hymen or cysts or anything, but he couldn’t even examine me with the smallest instrument! He told me I just needed to drink wine and relax.”

[Describing Daphne’s efficiency apartment] Kit had been right. It was twice the size of that tiny stateroom in A Night at the Opera.

Why I love Kit

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Kit has long been among my favorite of my Atlantic City characters from both my original generation and altogether. She loses none of her vim, vigor, and sex drive as she ages, and her rivalry with Violet is great continuity over the years. If they’d put aside their differences and become pals when they got older, that would’ve been extremely boring and taken away something vital from their relationship, similar to how I was told (some years after I stopped watching soaps) that Jill on The Young and the Restless found out Katherine is her birthmother and they suddenly became all peachy. Seriously, who in his or her right mind makes decades-long rivals best buddies overnight like that? Complete writing fail!

This is from Part XLI of Cinnimin, “Valentine and Ajax,” set between 17 May-23 August 1991. Violet is bemused enough by how her grandkids by Rose are becoming more and more hippie and frugal by the day, but when Kit’s pet grandchild ticks her off, she soon finds a whole new can of worms opening up.

***

Karyn, Perseus, and Crystal got a smaller ceremony for graduating elementary school. Violet wept to see her oldest granddaughter wearing a dress from Goodwill, albeit a very nice dress that didn’t fit the stereotype of used clothes. She was already losing sleep since Rose had announced her plans to have a waterbirth for her seventh child.

“I bet you give this one a nasty hippie name, like Liberty, Fearless, or Remember.”

“Is that any worse than your baby sister’s name?”

“You are! I’m gonna have a grandkid named Freedom!”

Violet was helpless to prevent Crystal from wearing her secondhand dress to Karyn’s bat mitzvah that evening and the next day. All the other girls were wearing expensive designer gowns. She hid her face as Kit proudly introduced everyone to her nine British grandkids and had young Charles show off for the guests with a song and tapdance.

“And this tiny one is Xanthe Marpessa Burgess-Green.”

“Is that a name?” Violet scowled.

“Don’t be mean. My cousin Xanthe is beautiful.” Pete Newmark, Patsy’s boy, kicked Violet in the leg.

“Who is this devil? Don’t you know I am a Hitchcock? I am worth more money than your grandma will ever be!” Violet kicked him back irately.

A moment of stunned silence followed. Then Kit scooped up her cherubic-looking grandson and cuddled and kissed him before storming toward Violet, her enemy since childhood. Her jade eyes flashed in fury. Peter prayed she wouldn’t embarrass herself.

“How dare you hurt my favorite grandchild! You only wish such an angelic-looking kid could spring from your line! This boy is named after the love of my life, Peter Cunningham!”

“You mean it wasn’t Haakon? After he took your virginity?”

“Grandma, you were with someone besides Rob and Grandpa?” Karyn asked in shock.

“Thirty-two sexual partners total. I’ll tell you all the lurid details anytime you want.”

“Hasn’t your feud gone on long enough?”

Kit shot Jesse a look that shut him up instantly.

Mr. Green came into the room carrying an armload of presents. “What’s this commotion?”

“That bitch kicked me,” Pete tattled.

Violet’s jaw dropped. “How the hell old is this kid?”

“Two years, nine months, one week, and five days. He picks up the foul language from his adoring grandma.”

“You are so disgusting. I bet this devil takes after you in everything, like sleeping around, getting venereal diseases, disrespecting everyone—”

“You had a venereal disease, Grandma?” Daphne asked.

“When I was twelve I caught chlamydia. I found out five months later at age thirteen.”

“Has young master Peter gotten himself into trouble again?” Owen laughed as he came downstairs.

“You mean he does this often?” Violet demanded in outrage.

“He was defending baby Xanthe’s honor against this evil bitch here and she up and maliciously kicked him.”

“You psychotic bitch.” Owen took Pete from his mother-in-law. “Never come near him again.”

“That brat kicked me first!”

“You’re sixty years old, bitch. Act like it.” Kit turned back to Xanthe.

Excerpt from Part L

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(Introduction to the excerpt originally written 7 January 2010.)

The second chapter-like episode of Part L of Cinnimin, “‘Don’t Let Me Wait Too Long'” (which derived its title from the song from Living in the Material World, which is also referenced during the course of the story, when Cinnimin’s daughter Anastasia tells her niece Alicia not to keep her friend who wants to be more, Micah, waiting too long because of her fear of having a relationship or being touched by a man after what happened to her when she was 15), introduces a character I originally intended to just be a minor secondary character. Instead granddaughter Karyn’s roommate Kristen Ibbott ended up becoming more of a major secondary character in the Boston scenes. She was just so over the top in her ridiculousness and offensiveness, much like Uncle Ruckus on The Boondocks, which is why she’s funny and unable to be taken seriously. Even though there are people like that, the fact that she’s more like a stereotype than a normal person takes the edge off of her. I got the last name from a graving trip at Evangelical Protestant Church Cemetery (on the corner of Krumkill and Bender in Albany) one afternoon after shul. I saw that name and thought it would be perfect for a character, since it would be mispronounced as Abbott so often, and also has the teasing potential to be turned into the noise a frog makes. This is August 31, 1997:

Karyn was due to set off for her new life at Northeastern U the following day, Sunday. It was going to be a six-hour drive, and her parents had decided on going up in a limo instead of just a car or a private jet. Her seven younger siblings were all going to be going along too, so they could have a chance to say goodbye to her and so they could see some of Boston’s famous sights.

Vanilla ran to get the ringing phone as Philip and the older girls were on their way out to the limo. The voice on the other end did not turn her stomach like it did to most other people.

“This is Rabbi Joshua Brandt. Can you put me on speaker? I have a special invitation for Karyn.”

“Karyn, can you come back in here?” Vanilla called. “Joshua Brandt is wanting to speak to you.”

Karyn also wasn’t offended by Joshua’s often premodern view of the world, and so obediently ran back in. Vanilla pushed the speaker button.

“I heard you were going away to NU, and since you know my family lives in Boston, I’d like to invite you to spend Sabbaths and holidays with us anytime you feel in the mood. I know you’ll be doing things with the student groups more often, but I know they don’t always have services, and you might like to supplement them anyway with my family’s hospitality.”

“Are you sure you wouldn’t be put out by hosting someone you’re not even related to?”

“You’re one of the grandchildren of my aunt Kätchen’s best friend. That’s family enough.”

“I would love to come over to your house, Rabbi Brandt. That’s very generous of you.”

“And as you might have heard, my wife Pauline and I had our sixth child on the twenty-fifth. Her name is Chava Malka and her simchat bat will be on the second of September. You’re invited to that as well. I suppose your cousin Viktoria will be wanting to come as well since she seems to have a crush on my oldest son.”

“You’re too generous, Rabbi Brandt. I’ll make sure to buy a very nice gift for the baby.”

Gwendolyn couldn’t believe Karyn was so receptive to going over to their house on any sort of regular basis. There were only five secular books on the shelves, all four of the boys had been started in cheder at the age of only three, Joshua seemed more like a black hat than merely old-school Conservative most of the time, and he couldn’t stop running his mouth to all of the wrong people. Although at least he seemed more modern in some ways than Karyn. Perhaps he’d be able to influence her away from going to college for nothing but the Mrs. degree. He did seem to have become more tolerant and forgiving since the birth of Yocheved three years ago.

The limo pulled onto the NU campus six hours later, at one in the afternoon. Karyn was going to be rooming in an economy three-person room at Speare Hall, where most of the first-year students lived. She’d wanted a suite, but hadn’t been in any of the special programs where students had first priority for one. Both of the girls already in the room were wearing the same type of clothing Karyn wore. Gwendolyn, Phoebe, and Livia had been secretly hoping she would end up with roommates more like Crystal or Mancika, for a taste of her own medicine. There would be no culture shock just yet, but she still had classes to look forward to.

“I’m Kristen Ibbott,” the one in a fuzzy green sweater and a denim pencil skirt announced. “I’m from the suburb of Cambridge and am here for photography and music literature, though I’m more interested in a Mrs. degree than anything else.”

Gwendolyn, Livia, and Phoebe were stunned. The university had chosen for Karyn a carbon copy for one of her roommates.

“I’m Ebony Williston,” the other one, who had long fine cornrows, a pink spaghetti strap top, and knee-length pin-striped pants, announced. “I’m going to study African-American studies, because I’m one fine proud BAP, and media studies. I’m from the South End of Boston.”

“I’m Karyn Filliard and from Atlantic City. I’m going for education with the concentration in art and English. My minor is French. Not like my first priority is a degree or a career, though. I’m also here for the Mrs. degree.”

Now Philip hung his head in embarassment.

“Are you going to join a sorority too I suppose?” Kristen asked. “Ebony and I are so excited for Rush Week.”

“I already know which one I’ll join,” Ebony said proudly. “Alpha Kappa Alpha, the Iota Gamma chapter. It’s a historically Black sorority, and I’m one fine BAP, as I said.”

“What’s a BAP?” Claudius asked.

“Black-American Princess and don’t you forget it.”

“Did you say your last name is Ibbott?” Benvolio asked Kristen. “That sounds like the sound a frog makes.”

“That’s my main reason for pursuing the Mrs. degree. People either think my name is Abbott or torture me with frog noises.”

“You have a mighty big family,” Ebony commented. “I’m guessing the boys were mistakes.”

“That’s none of anyone’s business but ours,” Vanilla said sternly.

“I bet you were relieved, Mr. Filliard, to get two boys after six girls,” Kristen smiled.

“My name is Green. My wife is Filliard. Only our boys took my family name.”

Kristen was completely horrorstruck. “You mean you let your wife keep her name and then give it to your kids too? I suppose she’s not a full-time homemaker either.”

“I teach high school chemistry.”

“Not a soft feminine subject like art or music?”

“My mother doesn’t need to justify her life decisions to some timewarped WASP snob,” Gwendolyn spoke up. “But hey, I think you’ll be the perfect roommate for our Karyn. An anti-feminist who thinks it’s the Fifties. I’m glad I won’t have to put up with such loony women when I’m at West Point in two years.”

“I want to see the Boston Children’s Museum like you promised us, Daddy.” Benvolio pulled on Philip’s hand. “This is getting boring.”

“And I want to tour the U.S.S. Constitution,” Gwendolyn said. “Let’s leave Karyn to unpack with her new best friends. I hate Miss Ribbitt already.”

For once Vanilla wasn’t angry over one of Gwendolyn’s tirades. She took Philip by the arm and led him and their remaining children out of there.

Part LIV Excerpt

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When I originally created WASP princess character Kristen Ibbott as one of Karyn Filliard’s suite mates at Northeastern U in Boston, I hadn’t planned on her becoming such a big secondary character. But she was so much fun, providing such unintentional comic relief with how she’s a walking stereotype of the girl who only goes to college to find a husband (with her parents’ knowledge and encouragement!), who thinks real life is still like the 1950s, and who obediently laps up all the late Nineties pop culture being marketed to her (our) generation, I couldn’t help but make her more important. I also love the interactions between Karyn and Kristen and the four sons of Rabbi Joshua Brandt, who deliberately push all their buttons in addition to having a much different worldview from both Karyn and Kristen and their somewhat reactionary father, who’s also great comic relief in how over the top he can get. I got the name Ibbott during one of my cemetery explorations, and had the bright idea to use that name for a character, with the comedy coming from how she’s frequently mistakenly called Abbott, or, on purpose to piss her off, Ribbitt.

This is from Part LIV of Cinnimin, “Sunny’s Last Dance,” set during September 1998 and written between 18 November 2009 and 6 April 2010. (The title is in reference to a pet monkey who’s been getting more out of control for awhile now, and finally crosses the point of no return.) That January, Kristen was dumped by her grad school boyfriend Justin in front of Karyn and all her sorority sisters, and is now bragging about how her latest boyfriend is even better, since he’s older and has already been married. The boys, their mother Pauline (one of the children of the Shoah surviving Roblensky siblings), and even usually conservative Joshua are all aghast the more they learn of this situation, but that doesn’t stop Karyn and Kristen from insisting it’s all kosher.

Joshua and Pauline’s boys were very annoyed both Karyn and Kristen were going to be spending the weekend at their house. When they got home from their walk after school, the smell of beauty products overwhelmed them in place of the usual aroma of their mother’s chicken soup and stuffed mushrooms. Kristen gave all four of them a very annoyed look when they approached her.

“I’m on the phone with my great new boyfriend, little boys. Over dinner, I’ll rub it in your faces how accomplished he is. I bet none of you will ever be as successful as he is. No one hires unmanly men and cemetery-crawlers.”

“I love old cemeteries,” Avraham David retorted. “Do you even care about anything more than a year old?”

Kristen stalked upstairs to finish her phone conversation. Karyn lay on the sofa, reading a fashion magazine.

“Depressed your desperate husband hunt is still in vain as your sophomore year begins?” Reuven asked.

“It’ll happen. At least I didn’t waste months of my time like Kristen did with a guy she thought was her victory prize.”

“No one thinks a college relationship of three months is serious business,” Avraham David scoffed. “He never told her he wanted a serious relationship or that he was dating for marriage. She just assumed they’d marry.”

“Then why do you think my cousin Vikki is your future wife after less than a month and her being long-distance?”

“We don’t know for sure, but it can come to be, since we’ve crushed on each other for years and both want more out of a relationship than some meaningless good time for a few weeks or months. Modern Western dating is horrible preparation for marriage anyway.”

“Is the boycrazy WASP staying here?” Avner asked. “Why isn’t she off with her latest supposed future husband?”

“He spends this weekend with his kid.”

“She’s dating a dude with a kid?” Reuven asked.

“Like she said. More successful than any of you will ever be.”

“I don’t intend to have a kid when I’m in college,” Reuven retorted. “That just makes it harder to study and graduate.”

“He’s not our age. He’s older. You really thought Kristen would date some nineteen-year-old little boy who couldn’t keep his pants on? She’ll tell you details over dinner.”

“Ooh, I’m on such pins and needles,” Avner said sarcastically.

“Does she have any protection?” Reuven asked bluntly. “She can’t honestly expect to date a dude with a kid and never be pressured for sex. I’m surprised she’d even consider someone who wasn’t some clueless virgin like she is. Don’t most colleges these days give you free condoms? Kristen couldn’t handle having a baby before marriage.”

“Whatever, I’m going to look for candidates myself tonight at services. My parents are paying good money for my Mrs. degree.”

Pauline came into the room. “You’ve got your parents confused with the Abbotts. Your parents are paying for your bachelor’s degree in education. Kristen’s parents are the ones knowingly throwing their money away on her husband hunt.”

“Will you turn into a pumpkin on midnight the night you graduate if you don’t have a husband yet?” Avner asked. “Unlike Kristen, you actually seem to have a decent brain hiding in there somewhere.”

“Kristen had a big disappointment this summer.” Karyn tuned out the criticism. “She was dating a guy in Chatham, but when we had to return to NU, he refused to move to Boston. He claims she knew it was just a summer romance and didn’t even want to continue things long-distance.”

“And this is why you always level with someone as early as possible, before one party can develop unrealistic expectations or get too attached,” Pauline said. “Does she even tell these guys she wants marriage only and feels short-term casual relationships are a waste of her time?”

“She shouldn’t have to! They should want marriage too!”

“Most people nowadays aren’t thinking marriage when they ask someone out. Maybe in my parents’ day it wasn’t unreasonable to expect to marry the first person you ever dated, but today it’s a lot different.”

“Because of ball-crushing feminists who devalued marriage, motherhood, and housewifery!”

“Thanks to feminists, you can get a higher education, vote, own property, be identified as yourself and not through a man, retain custody of children if you divorce, not have to be pregnant your entire reproductive life, take a rapist, domestic abuser, or sexual harasser to court and win, and work at something other than a teacher, secretary, or nurse.”

“You’re a full-time mom yourself!”

“And I used to be a teacher. After Josh and I have our last baby in a few years, and it’s in school, I’ll return to teaching. Because of feminism, I was able to choose being a stay-at-home mom. It wasn’t my only option.”

“You’re talking to a wall, Mom,” Avner said.

“Somehow I keep hoping she’ll see sense.”

“Kristen is going to marry her new boyfriend. They’ll have a wonderfully traditional marriage and be happier than modern couples who don’t know who’s who anymore.”

“I bet this latest husband prospect doesn’t outlast the school year,” Reuven predicted. “Dr. Justin didn’t.”

“Justin was a loser. Brandon’s already been married.”

Pauline almost choked on her gum. “What! Where does a nineteen-year-old new sophomore find a divorced man!”

“He has a kid too, Mom,” Moshe said.

“I think I’m going to be sick if I hear more.”

“She promised to tell us all about him over dinner,” Avraham David said. “The WASP princess seriously thinks this guy is more successful than we’ll ever be.”

“True success and the worth of one’s life are measured not by material gains and social reputation, but by your good deeds, righteousness, and the descendants you leave behind,” Avner said. “We learnt that last week in Talmud class.”

“Brandon’s a lawyer,” Karyn went on. “He’s back at school now to get additional certification in photography. You know that’s one of Kristen’s concentrations.”

“Don’t you have to go to school for like ten years to be a real lawyer?” Avner asked.

“You’re pre-law as an undergrad, and then do official law school. When you pass the Bar Exam, you’re in.”

“Oh, so he’s Justin’s age?” Pauline asked.

“Even better! Brandon is twenty-seven!”

“What is he, a pervert?” Reuven asked. “He’s a grownup dating a teenager!”

“Oh, boy, I can tell our dinner conversation will be very interesting,” Avner smiled.

While Karyn and the Brandts were at services, Kristen amused herself by doing the quizzes in the latest issues of YM and Seventeen and watching MTV. She was reading Titanic fanfiction online when they returned.

“How come Miss Ribbitt gets to use her computer?” Yocheved asked.

“She’s a goy and isn’t bound by our rules,” Joshua said as he headed for the table.

“Wow, you used the marginally less offensive term goy in lieu of shiksa,” Avraham David marvelled.

“Even I woke up and realized shiksa is offensive. Not to mention a lot of self-hating, assimilated, secular men publicly profess they want a so-called shiksa instead of a good observant woman to marry.”

“Am I breaking any rules if I read over her shoulder?” Reuven asked. “I know some observant people in shared housing watch a communal TV if it’s already on.”

“She’s probably at some website with a name like How to Find a Husband Before You’re Old Enough to Drink,” Avraham David said.

“I’m reading fanfiction for the greatest movie ever, you insolent little morons.”

“What movie might that be? Your memory doesn’t extend to anything in black and white, let alone before your lifetime.”

“What’s fanfiction?” Moshe asked.

“You write a story about some show, movie, band, comic strip, or whatever, and insert yourself as a main character, or you just make up a story that continues the movie or show,” Reuven explained. “Last week in Hebrew class, some girl got in trouble for writing a very R-rated and horribly-written fanfiction about that ugly new MTV group In Stink.”

“They’re called N’Sync, you dumb-ass,” Kristen said.

“Whatever. One of them looks like a cross between Harpo Marx and a Chia pet, and he sings like he hasn’t hit puberty yet. He looks as unmanly as the ugly lead in that horrible movie you were all over.”

“It’s Titanic stories,” Avner reported from over her shoulder.

“Almost two thousand people, mainly poor immigrants, died in that tragedy,” Avraham David said. “It’s beyond understanding how you can turn that into a minor backdrop for an unrealistic MTV-era ‘love story’ set in 1912. My girlfriend’s brother wrote a great report exposing that movie for the inaccurate garbage it is.”

Kristen sat testily while waiting for the first course to be served. She and Karyn were last to have anything passed to them, by which time everyone else had taken most of the salads. As another jeer, Reuven dumped a huge uncut chunk of gefilte fish on Kristen’s plate.

“So Avi has a girlfriend now?” she asked patronizingly. “I assume it’s Karyn’s radical cousin Vikki.”

“Vikki’s not that radical, you twit. She has dreams beyond being a wife at eighteen, wants a real career, and is involved in important causes, not fashion clubs and Backdoor Boy fan clubs.”

She asked him to be her boyfriend,” Joshua said. “In my day, boys asked girls on dates. Even people who already liked one another didn’t presume to ask for an actual relationship before they’d even had one date.”

“And it was in my favorite place, Granary. Don’t worry, Miss Stereotype, I asked her for a kiss.”

“You’re a freak. Real men don’t even ask. And you had your first kiss and apparently first date in a cemetery.”

“Nice guys ask. It’s just a common courtesy the first time around. Not everyone wants to kiss on the first date.”

“Those people are losers. But meanwhile, I have a hot to trot new man. I met him in line at D’Angelo’s in the food court of the Curry Student Center. I was ordering a salad, and he was getting a nice meaty sub. It was a bit under two weeks ago, right after I got back on campus.”

“Karyn said he’s twenty-seven,” Pauline said in concern. “Did he know your age when you met?”

“I love older men. I know he’s serious about marriage, since he’s already been married and has a three-year-old son. When I told him I’m nineteen, he said I was younger than he wanted to date, but went for it since I wowed him so much.”

“Why would any adult man want to date a teenager?” Joshua asked. “He’s twenty-seven. It’s not like he’s twenty-three, which would be a peer.”

“We’re peers! We’re both at NU!”

“At least Justin was in the same college environment, albeit as a grad student. But this is a fellow going back to school for an additional degree or certification after I presume a number of years of working and living independently.”

“More proof he’s marriage material!”

“He’ll be twenty-eight in January,” Karyn nodded. “Very mature.”

“Ew, that’s nine years of difference,” Reuven said. “That’s like if I were dating a three-year-old. He was old enough to drink when you were in junior high.”

“Well, we’re equal now!”

“Tell me how a nineteen-year-old college sophomore is anywhere near the same level as a man who’s closer to thirty than twenty and who has adult experiences under his belt,” Joshua said as he cut a piece of chicken. “And he’s been married, so we can rule out his dating you because he’s inexperienced for his age.”

“Lawyers make mad money. He could easily spend five months’ salary on the ring.”

“Did you know that most people didn’t use diamond rings till the 1948 DeBeers ad campaign ‘A Diamond Is Forever’?” Avraham David asked. “This lovely monopolistic company is also the entity who made up the so-called ‘two months’ salary’ rule. Do you even know what goes on in Africa to harvest these overpriced refined hunks of coal?”

“You’re crazy if you’re planning marriage after less than two weeks,” Avner said. “Has he even said he wants a second marriage?”

“Why is he divorced?” Moshe asked.

“Mr. and Mrs. Brandon P. Davis, Esquire,” Kristen sighed dreamily. “My lovely future title.”

Everyone but Karyn rolled their eyes.