The schviga

“The first two letters are the same as in the word ‘screw,’” she said, twirling her drink with a plastic swizzle stick.

“What word, Audrey?” the other woman asked.

“Schviga.”

“Mother-in-law?”

“Exactly.”

“Some people might say that that’s Kaballastic.”

“You into Kaballah now, Rita, are you?”

“Oh, it’s the rage, everyone is studying it, going to classes.”

“What for?”

“They want to get touch with their inner selves.”

“And that’s a good thing?”

“Audrey, you’ve had enough!”

She pushed her bangs off her forehead, then patted them back into place.

“I don’t understand the connection,” Audrey said.

“What do you mean?” Rita asked.

“Between what I said and Kaballah.”

“It has something to do with mysticism. It means that nothing is there by accident.”

“I could have told you that.”

“But you didn’t. That’s also mystical. ”

“Rita. Stay on track.”

“I am. You can’t follow me.”

“I was talking about my mother-in-law.”

“Yes?”

“My schviga.”

“Uh-huh.”

“You know, my mother-in-law?”

“Mathilda.”

“Her.”

“You said that screw…. something about screws.”

“I said that the first two letters in ‘screw’ and the first two letters in ‘schivga’ are the same.”

“So?”

“Don’t you get it?”

Rita smiled and shook her head.

“You could have said ‘ shrew’.”

“‘Shrew’ is not the same as ‘screw’.”

“It sounds more like ‘screw’ than ‘schviga’.”

“Not when you spell it!” Audrey said.

“But that’s apples and pears.”

“Oranges.”

“What?”

“That’s apples and oranges.”

“Oranges. Apples. What’s the difference?”

“Don’t you know? One’s a citrus.”

“I know what citrus are. Is.”

“It makes a big difference.”

“I suppose. If you are an apple.”

“One a ssh sound and one’s a ssh… Well, forget the sound and focus on the spelling.”

The women sipped their drinks.

“Do you know Mathilda?”

“Not really.”

“Well, when they do open heart surgery on her, if they ever do,” Audrey whispered, leaning over the table, “they are going to find a large cavity.”

“Is she sick?”

“Not yet.”

“She’s in great shape,” Rita volunteered.

“I know,” Audrey said, sitting back in her chair, “not a hair out of place.”

Rita smiled. “My mother-in-law invites us to dinner all the time. She’s a great cook.”

“Mathilda’s refrigerator is empty.”

“It can’t be empty.”

“It’s empty. I looked.”

“Nothing?”

“A jar of herring. A small one. In wine sauce.”

“Maybe that’s how she stays so slim.”

Audrey shrugged. “I guess in he r day, they didn’t know anything about you know…”

Rita’s eyes widened. “Do you do that?”

“And ruin these veneers? Waiter!” Audrey said, pointing to her drink.

“Do you think that’s a good idea?”

“Do you have a better one?”

“You have to drive!”

“I’m far from drunk. That waiter is one of the best-looking things I’ve ever seen. Those blue eyes. I wonder why he is a waiter.”

“Probably to make money.”

“How old do you think he is?”

Rita turned in her chair.

“Don’t look!”

“How can I tell if I don’t look?”

“I can’t believe it.”

Rita tossed her hair. She lowered her chin and turned. “It’s hard to tell. He’s running around.”

“Look in t he mirror!” Audrey commanded.

“My compact?”

“No! The mirrored wall!”

“Oh.”

Audrey placed her finger against her cheek and stared at the ceiling. Rita glanced at her reflection. “I’d say about twenty-seven.”

“How did you fix on twenty-seven?”

“I don’t know. I’m kind of psychic.

“Said who?”

“No one tells you. You just know.”

“Have you ever had a psychic experience?”

“Well, yes. I just had one this morning. I called my cousin and she said that she had been on a cruise and I told her that I had just been on a cruise.”

“That’s all?”

“No. I told her that I had seen a certain gemstone that is very popular and she told me that she had just bought a six carat ring.”

“So?”

“I guessed it! It was on her mind and I guessed it.”

“That makes you psychic?”

“Sure. What else is it?”

“Being psychic involves a little more. Like helping the police find a body.”

“That’s a criminal psychic. I just do simple things.”

“Like jewelry?”

“And dishes. My cousin and I have the same stoneware. Can you believe it? We picked it out separately and I saw it in her house.”

“Small world.”

“I think so.”

“Have you ever had a vision about violence?”

Rita stiffened. “No, why should I?”

“Ever think about a body lying undiscovered for days?”

“Not really.”

“Never?”

“No. Anyway, you don’t need a psychic for that. The body and the apartment would start to stink after a few days.”

“Not if there’s nothing in the refrigerator and no internal organs.”

The women sat silently.

“Y ou can’t live without internal organs,” Rita said softly.

“Precisely my point.”

“What are you saying, Audrey?”

“Doesn’t Kaballah say something about people living who are not living?”

“You have that confused with voodoo.”

“I do not. Aren’t there demons in Judaism?”

“I don’t know. I’m not a rabbi.”

“Well there are. And my mother-in-law is one of them.”

The waiter placed a tall, frosted glass on the table.

“Thank you,” Audrey said, smiling.

“She’s a demon?”

“I have never seen such a cute waiter. What a body. Do you think he works out?”

“You are hoping that he works it out on you.”

“Rita! I didn’t think that you had it in you!”

“There are a lot of things about me that you don’t know.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Nothing.”

“Have you ever cheated on Marvin?”

“Why would I jeopardize a good thing just for a screw?”

Audrey shrieked.

“Ssh. Keep your voice down.”

“Oh, they’re used to me here. A screw! I’ve never heard you talk like that. I’ve known you for years and you always seemed so …”

“Ditzy?”

“Rita, I never knew…”

“Waiter,” Rita said, waiving. “Check, please . We have to go.”

Audrey began to gather her belongings. “I have to pick up my contacts from the optician.”

“Are you sure that you’re going to be all right?”

“Oh, I’m fine. Tell me more about this psychic stuff.”

“What do you want to know?”

“If my mother-in-law was, say, dumped in the county landfill, would they be able to find her?”

 

The Schviga first appeared in upthestaircase.org.

About the Author
Elaine Rosenberg Miller writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous print publications and online sites, domestically and abroad, including JUDISCHE RUNDSCHAU, THE BANGALORE REVIEW, THE FORWARD, THE HUFFINGTON POST and THE JEWISH PRESS. Her book. FISHING IN THE INTERCOASTAL AND OTHER SHORT STORIES will be published by Adelaide Books in 2019.
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