“She’s just so inconsistent,” complained Yolanda, as she scrubbed the enormous stew pot clean. “I just don’t approve of her, Geraldo. I don’t want her hanging around the kids anymore, either, it’s just not natural. She gives me the willies. The willies, Geraldo,” she repeated, attacking the stew pot with a vigor that suggested a desire to scour each offending smudge from the character of their most recently departed guest.
Geraldo watched his wife through the swirling smoke wafting lazily from the end of his Nicaraguan cigar. He hadn’t much liked their guest either, but he had grown accustomed to her visits over the years, and had resigned himself to the fact that they would never quite be rid of her.
“And why she’s got to leave that dreadful child here when she goes, don’t know why we tolerate that strange little thing anymore, eats us out of house and home. There’s another unhealthy influence on the kids,” continued Yolanda, plunging her hands into the steamy washtub to fish out the loaf pan, which she began to clean with a vehemence that splattered the walls and her husband with scalding, soapy water.
Geraldo slowly removed his glasses and wiped them on his handkerchief. “Well, we can’t blame the child,” he said in his slow, gravelly voice. “Can’t help who he’s got for a mother. We’ll look after him as long as we need to.”
“Yes, well,” replied Yolanda irritably, “the least he could do is help with the chores. He just sits there all day, getting in the way, being a bother. Staying there in Matilda’s old room as if he owns the place, the nerve of him, never thought I’d witness such a trespass upon our good hospitality, as though we’ve got the wind to be taking in another child,” Yolanda continued to chunter grumpily under her breath as she turned her soapy rag upon the cutlery.
It was true, Geraldo thought, though he had once again accepted care of the strange child without question. He wished that their guest wouldn’t leave the child each time she departed, but he had, along with her scattered and unpleasant visits, come to expect the child’s unnerving presence in his home for weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years after their guest’s visit.
“But she is just a nightmare. Casts a gloom all over the house, sometimes warns she’s coming over, sometimes doesn’t—always insists on being the center of attention. What a poor houseguest,” sniffed Yolanda disapprovingly. “Jokes in poor taste, terrible conversationalist, awful manners—”
“She brings good company,” Geraldo remarked, in a mild effort to placate his wife, “and she always brings excellent food.” This was also true. Though she was indeed an unwelcome guest, her appearance always heralded the arrival of a seemingly endless stream family, friends, and delicious food.
“I just think they all show up to distract us from her,” grumbled Yolanda. “Or to see who it is she’s claimed this time. Why she’s got to take one of ours away each time she comes over I just can’t understand.”
“Well, it’s her duty, like the tax man,” said Geraldo, not knowing why he was defending the unpleasant guest. “She’s got to make a living somehow, hasn’t she?”
“It’s not my business what she and her wretched relatives do for a living,” Yolanda shot back angrily. “I just wish they’d both keep out of my house.” She turned her soapy weapon on the platter, and uttered the next two words with a ringing disdain, as though they were the unpleasant guest’s ultimate damnation: “She smells.”
“Well, now, you’re perfectly happy when her sister shows up,” Geraldo pointed out. “And her sister’s cousin? And her sister’s child?”
A smile broke, for the first time in weeks, across Yolanda’s face at the thought of their unpleasant guest’s sister. “Well, now,” she countered, “that’s completely different. She brings wonderful gifts, her child buoys the spirit, and who doesn’t appreciate the mailman? Goodness, Geraldo, it’s nearly impossible to find anything wrong with them.”
At that very moment, the door to Matilda’s vacant (and yet not so very vacant) room creaked open and the strange child emerged, darkening the hall as he moved through it. Yolanda’s smile vanished as she caught sight of him, but the child merely walked silently to the front door and left. Yolanda and Geraldo both let out a sigh of relief. The hall brightened. Yolanda’s smile reappeared, this time mischievous, her eyes alight.
“What say you, Geraldo,” she winked, “to inviting over her sister?”
Geraldo chuckled. “Best get going, then,” he said, “it’ll take her nine months, anyway.”