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by David Westheimer


I am into jewelry but Erin is into cosmetics.  Erin is very, very young and will probably outgrow it.  She is only five, three years younger than I am.  I have two wristwatches, one that really tells time with Mickey Mouse hands and one that just looks like a watch but has numbers and stuff on the front; three silver rings, one that looks like a snake with little red eyes and one made of a bent demi tasse spoon (a demi tasse is a little bitty cup of coffee) and one from Tijuana with turquoise; a bracelet with turquoise, also from Tijuana that is always slipping off so I have to adhesive tape it and it looks gross; a pendant made out of a silver Kennedy half-dollar (he was a President that got shot in the olden time and they dont make his half-dollar out of silver anymore) on a silver chain, and a pin made out of faux (that means fake) diamonds shaped like a feather. 
      My grandma, shes Erins grandma too, gave me all that except the Kennedy half-dollar, my grandpa gave me that and told me not to spend it all in one place or anyplace at  all because it was worth more than half a dollar, and the pin.  I found that on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills and thought I was rich until Grandma told me it was faux, only she said fake because she doesnt use words like faux.  I keep them all in a real jewelry box my grandma gave me, what I am not wearing.
      Anyhow.  Erin has about a million lipsticks, powder, powder puffs, mascara, nail polish, polish remover and other stuff I dont know what for.  Our grandma gave her most of it on account of Erins mother doesnt use make-up much.  Except for the mascara.  My mother gave that.  She keeps it all in a ziplock plastic bag.  Tacky.  But all she is is five.
     When she is older, if she doesnt switch to jewelry, maybe she will have a make-up kit.  Ill bet Grandma would get her one.  Grandpa offered her a cigar box but she said she didnt want her make-up to smell like cigars, like Grandpa does a lot of time. Grandma likes for him to smell like that except not too strong.  So she says.
      I remember the time Grandpa said, If there is anything I want you ladies to remember that I told you in my superior wisdom, thats the way he talked to me and Erin, is that when you get old enough to smoke cigars, like in another four or five years, always remember to take off the band because it is very low class to smoke a cigar with the band still on.  Can you imagine?
      Anyhow.  We were up in Santa Barbara where Erin and her mama and daddy live playing in the sandbox in her backyard.  I am getting a little too old for that kind of thing, playing in a sand box, but Erin likes to and I cater to her because of that accident she had that time but she cant remember it which her daddy, Uncle Eric, says is a good thing because he says he wishes he couldnt remember it, either.  And Erin says, Wasnt Grandpa silly last night when we watched ice skating on TV?
      What happened is, this guy was spinning this girl around holding on to her ankle and wrist with her nose almost touching the ice and grandpa said, Grandma and I used to do like that.
      And Erins mouth fell open and she looked at grandma and said, You did? and Grandma said, How do you think I got this bump on my nose? and I said. What bump? because Grandma has a nice nose and she said, Hes just teasing.  I couldnt even skate.
      So when Erin said that in the sandbox, I said, Kind of.
      Grandpa was sitting right over there in a lawn chair smoking a cigar with the band off and looked up and saw us looking at him and he said, Can I bring you ladies some ice tea and a couple of worm sandwiches?
      And Erin made a big face and said, Ugh!  And she said to me, See?  He talks so silly.  And she looked at him and said, We think youre silly, Grandpa, and were talking about you.
      Grandpa did his mouth like he was trying to make a smoke ring but all that came out was just regular smoke and said, You ladies have excellent taste in subject matter.
      Anyhow. So we went back to the river we were digging in the sand and Erin said, I wish I could go back to Tizuvthe.
       And I said, Tizuvthe? and she said, Where I was when I went away that time when I was little.
      Im not supposed to talk about it because they didnt want her to start remembering about the time the car hit her but I had to tell her, Where you went was the hospital.  You were in a coma for eleven days.
      It was like she didnt even hear me.
      In Tizuvthe the children have their own houses.  Just kids.  No grown-ups.
      I asked her, What about Aunt Karen and Uncle Eric?  Where do they live?
      And Grandma?  Where was she?
      She was always there.  At night, when I was asleep.
       And then she said. And if I wanted, I could have a clown ice cream cone for breakfast.  Or a cheese enchilada any time I wanted.
      When she was in her coma and Grandma and Grandpa came up from Los Angeles to see her, Grandma would whisper in her ear, When you wake up Im going to bring you a clown ice cream cone, and Grandpa said he would bring her a cheese enchilada any time she wanted one.  I couldnt go to see Erin because kids werent allowed but they told me
about it.
      I said, I think youre making that up.  Youre just like Grandpa.
      And she said, And in the kitchen we had three faucets.  Hot, Cold and  Koolaid.
      I said, Oh, yeah?  What flavor?
      All of em.  You just thought of the one you wanted and thats what came out.
      Uh huh.  And who picked up, and washed the dishes and took you to picture shows.?
      We had the picture shows on television.  Whatever was at the movies the bigs went to?
      The bigs?
       You know.  Mama and Daddy and them.
       But what about the other stuff?  Like picking up and making the beds and that?
      Erin just shurged her shoulders, or is it shrugged, like this was the first time she had thought about it.
      I dont know.  Somebody.  It just got done.  And we had paints and crayons and all the paper we wanted and picture books and every house had three cats and two dogs.
      What kind of dogs?
      Regular dogs.  And they could talk.  A little.  And play dead and roll over and sit.  And the birds.  You know, singing in the trees?  If we wanted we could just fly up and sit with them.  They didnt care.
      It sounded so nice and I said, Oh, yeah, and where was I?
      I dont know.  I called you and called you but you never answered me.  Until I came back here.  When I go back, youll have to come.
      I said, Well, I dont know.  I have to go to school and everything.  And I dont like Koolaid.
      Just then grandpa looked over at us and said, What are you ladies talking about now?
       And Erin said, My country, Tizuvthe.  Sweet land of liberty.


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