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Cousins | By Flossie Lewis

JOSHUA EMERGED from his quicksilver Prius, with tennis racket, violin case, and in his backpack a box of kosher chocolate for his grandmother. His cousins were waiting on the porch, Shanna, 8, Becca, 16.

“Awesome.”

“Shut up. He’s going to be a rabbi.”

“He can’t look like a god?”

“Not in tennis shoes.”

“Hi. Remember me?” Joshua removed his gear. He didn’t remember who was which.

“You’re awesome, I mean it,” said Shanna.

“I’m Becca. She thinks she’s Jackie Estancha.”

“Who?”

“Evancho,” said Shanna. “She always gets the name wrong.”

“Joshua,” came a cry of joy from the kitchen, “you’re here.”

“You have the guest room,” said Shanna. “We’re sleeping on the porch, near the bathroom. Can I carry your violin case?”

“What do you play?” from Becca.

“Extreme klezmer.”

“Grandma, I’m coming. I have to change,” Joshua called to the kitchen.

Shanna accompanied him, carrying the violin case.

In tennis shorts and T-shirt, unadorned except for a towel around his neck, Joshua Berenson, six foot two, eyes of blue, auburn hair and muscles, too, caused his grandmother to crow with delight: “You’re gorgeous. Your mother didn’t tell me.” She embraced him furiously.

“I got accepted into Brandeis, on scholarship.”

“And he’s really going to be a rabbi. He told me while he was changing. He was wearing shorts underneath.”

Becca blushed.

“Can first cousins get married?” Shanna had no shame.

Becca turned deep purple. “Will you stop that?”

Joshua now presented the kosher chocolates to his grandmother. “A Sephardic community in Brazil makes them.”

Grandma opened the box at once.

“They taste like Barton’s. Remember?”

“I have to meet Grandpa on the tennis court.” Joshua took his leave. “You wanna come?” he asked both his cousins. “I remember playing with you, Rebecca.”

“I have to help Grandma with dinner,” Becca lied.

“I guess I wasn’t born yet, or something,” said Shanna as she skipped out with Joshua.

Becca wanted to die.

“Peel the cucumbers; it will make you feel better,” said Grandma.

“They’re organic.”

“So slice the onions. It will help you cry.”

“What am I going to do with Shanna? She can’t shut up! Who’s thinking about getting married?”

“Who said anything?”

“All this stuff about he’s so good-looking.”

“Like a god,” sighed Grandma.

“What god?”

“Like the god with wings on his hat.”

“You mean Mercury?’”

“Quicksilver, we used to call him. He made the thermometers go up and down, when you had fever. He has another name, like Herman.”

“How long is my cousin staying? It’s Hermes, not Herman.”

“A week. To study Talmud with Grandpa.”

“Grandpa is an atheist.”

“He also plays tennis.”

“What am I gonna do with Shanna, Grandma?”

“Because she says what’s in your head?”

“Because she turns silver to lead.”

“Not if it’s gold.”

“Grandma, I don’t even like him.”

“So you’ll get over it.”

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A resident of the Piedmont Gardens senior living community in Oakland, Flossie Lewis earned a Ph.D. in English at age 70 and contributes regularly to The Monthly.

 

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