Sunday, November 25

I knew an Effi when I was a child, and though she was as different from Effi Briest as anyone could possibly be, she too suffered from lonliness and boredom. She was a solid, ruddy Austrian divorcee with a deep voice and a deeper tan. If her son Hans Eric wasn’t home by dinnertime, she’d set the neighborhood dogs barking by standing on her driveway and bellowing, "Haaaannnnn Zzzzaaaaahhhhhhrrrrrrrick!" with that special Bavarian r-roll. For a long time I thought his name was spelled Han Zehrick, or something. Her perpetual summer wardrobe consisted of a faded lavender tube top or faded blue bikini top, white terrycloth short-shorts three sizes too small, and some rather menacing-looking gardening gloves. I remember this disco hit man uniform well.

Effi’s house lay at the corner of a major neighborhood intersection, and the yard contained a mound with a rock garden of sorts, strategically placed to be visible to as many motorists as possible. Effi spent Saturdays and Sundays weeding and planting in this garden, her butt rising ostentatiously into the air whenever she sensed the presence of a male, like a cat in heat. I’m pretty sure it operated of its own accord, like it was equipped with testosterone-sensing radar. You could be in the middle of a conversation with her, and she’d suddenly bend down, forcing you to crouch to continue your tete a tete. Thirty seconds later, the guy across the street would come out of his house to get his mail. It was amazing. The ass never went up if it was a woman or a kid heading for the mailbox. It was the same with cars; the butt could sense a male driving a vehicle from several blocks away. The intersection she lived on was so busy, however, that on Saturdays, Sundays, and holiday Mondays she basically had to spend the whole day bent over. I don’t know if this ploy ever lured any men or not.

I remember one winter day Hans Eric and I decided to sled down the little hill in the front yard. I toppled off the sled and onto a snow-covered clutch of cactus, and the needles went through my mittens and stuck in my palms and in between my fingers. Effi had little sympathy and mostly scolded me for potentially damaging her cactus garden.

No comments: