Saturday, July 01, 2006

 

The Letter

Mrs. Brenski had been home for only a few minutes when Mrs. Winoski called to her. "Kathy, oh, Kathy."
She continued shouting until Mrs. Brenski threw open the window that faced the neighboring house. "What do you want?" she called out.

"I see you home."

"Yes, I'm home."

"You feeling good?"


"Yes."

"I have some good soup if you hungry."

"No. No, I'm not hungry."

"You look good. Did they take good care of you?" Lots to eat?"

"Yes. Lots to eat. But they not treat you so good." She shook her head sadly.

"Oh, what's the trouble?" Mrs. Winoski asked.

"Oh, everything."

"I have some wine."

"What kind," she asked eagerly, her eyes lighting up.

"That kind you give me once. I buy some more. "What's the name? I forget."

"Margo."

"How you spell that?"

"M-a-r-g-o-t." Mrs. Brenski spelled it out slowly. " Margo."

"That's good wine. You want some?"

"No."

"Well, I must do some work. I see you later."

"Okay." Mrs. Brenski closed the window and went to the kitchen and sat down at the table. she felt lonely now. The house was empty, and she had no one to talk to. It reminded her of the days, before, when she had sat alone. Presently she got up and went to the door and opened it.

A group of children were playing in the playground that ran parallel to the two homes. It was a small playground and had a low fence and a small gate in the corner that was nearest to the Brenski house. It was always crowded with children, shouting and playing games. She watched them for a moment, without ever really seeing them.

But they saw her and made gestures to her. They then began walking to the corner and arriving there they began shouting. she stood in the open doorway, motionless.

"Mrs. Brenski is a hunky, a hunky, a hunky," they shouted.

She remained at the door, quiet.

"Mrs. Brenski is a hunky, a hunky, a hunky."

The words hurt her. She tried to conceal the hurt and the anger that accompanied it by appearing unmoved.

"Mrs. Brenski is a jail-bird, a jail-bird, a jail-bird, " they shouted.

That was all she could take. Anger poured from her. She picked up some stones from the front of the house and threw them at the children. They merely laughed at her.

"Goddamn English," she said. "Don't bother me. Go play on your side."

They ignored her and continued their shouting.

"I have something here, I gonna show you. Then you stop." She went into the house and returned in a few seconds with a large envelope which she waved in the air, over her head. "This gonna stop you."

The children shouted again. She could stand it no longer. She went into the house and closed the door behind her. The children waited for a few moments and then returned to their games.

Mrs. Brenski returned to her seat at the kitchen table, still holding the envelope in her hand. She opened it and took out the letter. It was typewritten and the county seal was stamped in the lower left corner. She smiled as she looked at it, knowing what it said. She replaced it in the envelope and put it in her dress pocket. That would stop them , she said to herself. They would stop calling her names when she showed them the letter. That as the promise she received. And the courthouse was the law of the land.

She felt lonely again. she wanted to talk to someone. the loneliness of the last days were too much for her. She needed to talk. Perhaps Mrs. Winoski was done with her work. She would visit her and the wine.

It was a show walk next door and soon she was knocking on Mrs. Winoski's door. The children had failed to notice her, and she felt relieved. the door open and she went in, Mrs. Winoski was standing by the coal stove.

"Hello," Mrs. Brenski said.

"Hello Kathy, sit down."

Mrs. Brenski took a seat at the kitchen table.

"You hungry now," Mrs. Winoski asked.

"Yes."

"I have some good cabbage soup, I make today. You want some?"

"Okay."

Mrs. Winoski got a bowl and filled it with the soup from the pot on the stove and set it front of Mrs. Brenski. the soup was hot, steam clouds rose from he bowl. Mrs. Brenski began eating the soup, blowing at eat spoonful to cool it off. "You don work?" she asked.

"What was all the noise I hear?"

"It was them English kids again," Mrs. Brenski answered.

"They hollering at you again?"

"Yes. " Mrs. Brenski made noise as she ate.

"Why they no build the playground on their side, only here?" Mrs. Brenski asked.

"I don't know. Maybe they know. They such big shots, they know where to build it." Mrs. Winoski did not know either.

"They should build it on their side, not right next to our houses so the English must come here every day to play."

"They smart. They know where to build it." Mrs. Winoski did not like the playground.

"I no like it here. Only English play there."

"They see you coming over to my house?"

"No." Mrs. Brenski shook her head.

"Why they always holler at you?" Mrs. Winoski asked.

"I gonna stop them. I have something here to stop them. " Mrs. Brenski patted her dress pocket.

"What you got?"

"I tell you later." she felt superior having the letter and was reluctant to show it to her.

"You want some wine?" Mrs. Winoski finally asked.

"Yes. I take a glass. " Mrs. Brenski had finished the soup. "That was good soup, " she said pushing the bowl away from her.

Mrs. Winoski got a bottle of wine from the cupboard and two glasses. She filled the glass for Mrs. Brenski, but poured just a small amount for herself. She sat across the table from Mrs. Brenski. They both began drinking, She taking a sip, while Mrs. Brenski took a large swallow.

"They treat you good in jail, Kathy?" she asked.

"Yhoy. All you can do is sit all day. There was nothing to do. I like it better at home."

"How are you going to stop the English?" Mrs. Winoski's curiosity was high.

"I have a letter form the judge."

"What kind of letter?"

"I tell the judge about how they always bother me. He was such a nice man. He have a nice mustache. So he wrote this letter for me. " She pushed the envelope toward Mrs. Winoski. "And he say to show it to the kids and they will let me alone."

"You show them yet?"

"No."

"Why?" She took the letter form the envelope and unfolded it and looked at the letter. It's written so nice. The paper is so clean.

"I gonna show them soon. Next time they bother me."

"How you get the judge to write this letter?"

"I tell the man in the jail how I no like names and everything and he send me to the judge."

"And he write the letter right away?" Mrs. Winoski was anxious to find out all she could.

"No. But I cry a little and he said no cry lady, I write the letter for you. "

"There was lots of ladies in the jail?" Mrs. Winoski asked.

"No." she put the letter in her dress pocket, patting it as she did.

"You should not do that next time. It's not nice for a lady to get drunk like that in town."

"I no get drunk next time," she gulped the last of the wine and licked her lips.

"What you gonna do with the letter?"

"I show it to the English next time."

"I no like the English either," Mrs. Winoski added. "They no like us. They think they better than us. But they're not, they're just lazy."

"Yes, they always call me names. But now I have this letter from the judge. I like the judge. He help me. And I have to promise him not to get drunk again in town. I like his mustache." She smiled.

"What's the judges name?" Mrs. Winoski asked for no particular reason.

"I forget. But he have this nice mustache. I like him. And he help me with this letter." She poured herself another full glass of wine and drank it quickly. She was felling a little lightheaded now, for she had not had any wine for the thirty days she had spent in the jail. but she didn't care. she became silent, feeling the security of the letter and she patted it again. It was her savior from the kids who tormented her. They knew about her drinking and the time she spent in jail. But she didn't like them or the words they called her, like Hunky or drunk. She wondered why they bothered her. But the judge had been kind.

"You want more wine?" Mrs. Winoski asked.

"No, I must go home. I have work to do."

"Okay, " Mrs. Winoski said replacing the nearly empty wine bottle back in the cupboard. "I see you later." Mrs. Brenski left and began the short walk home. She was within ten steps of her door when the children noticed her again and ran to the corner of the playground. She patted her dress pocket.

"Mrs. Brenski is a hunky, a hunky, a hunky, " they began chanting.
She picked up some stones which she threw at them and they only laughed louder.. She grew angry and began cursing them. The wine had made her brave, but the children did not scare easily.

"Goddamn English," she screamed. "Why you bother an old lady like me?"
The merely continued their chants.

"Come here. I show you something." She took the letter from her dress pocket and waved it at them. "The judge say he will arrest all of you if you call me names. I tell him who you are. I know everyone of you,." She waved her fist at them.

The children laughed.

"You don't believe the letter. Why you no let me alone. I no bother you."

"You're a hunky, a hunky, a hunky."

"You don't listen to the letter?" she asked in disbelief.

"No, " one of the braver ones said.

"Come here, I show you. You read what it says. What the judge say. He stop you from calling me names. Here , I put the letter here for you to read." She put the letter on the fence and walked away.

One of the children, one of the biggest came forward and picked up the letter. He read it aloud to the rest of them.

"To whom it may concern. The court forbids anyone from calling the bearer of this letter any names under penalty of law."

The boy laughed and the other children joined in laughing.

"You don't believe what it say?" She asked.

"No, the judge can't stop us," the children began chanting again.

"Goddamn Chorthi. I stop you."

The boy just dropped the letter and walked away. She watched him and felt sick. She picked up the letter and went into her house, shutting the door behind her. She put the letter on the table and went to the cupboard and got a small box. She opened the box at the table. It was full of papers and envelopes and official documents. The letter was a little dirty and she dusted it off and placed it in the box. Lots of papers she thought, the box is almost full. Chorti, she mumbled to herself.

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