Inside the Rotten Apple
by Marina J. Neary
|part 1 of 3|
Told by Josh Kaufmann
The character Rinnie Griff previously appeared in The Scarlet Mantle Goes to Goodwill.
My Micro-Dictionary of Derogatory Terms
“What do you mean it was a hate crime?”
The first thing I saw when I opened my eyes at the hospital was a giant bag with a Prada label. It was a cheap knockoff of a knockoff. I could tell that right away, even in my semi-delirious state.
I had to blink to get that stomach-wrenching image out of my head. When I opened my eyes again, the label was still there. That atrocious excuse for an accessory could only belong to one creature: Rinnie Griff.
I hesitate to even call her a woman. Yes, technically she has a uterus capable of producing healthy children, but she can neither dress nor accessorize. And don’t even get me started on her grooming habits! Those broken nails with chronically inflamed cuticles, coffee-stained teeth and stress-induced zits that she squeezes and powders in a hurry are all staples of a nightmare.
Rinnie offers the worst of both worlds — all the female cattiness combined with all the male boorishness. And the most horrifying part is that I used to sleep with her. Yes, guilty as charged. Back in the day, when I thought I could fool myself, we spent a few nights together.
I knew it was over when I noticed that the hair on her legs grew back at a faster rate than mine, and her snore was louder than mine. I slipped from her ursine embrace in the middle of the night and escaped into the darkness of the city, my heart racing up and down my esophagus.
To her credit, Rinnie harbored no resentment towards me for my escape. She must’ve been used to men running away from her in the middle of the night. I probably was not the only man who gave up on women after spending a night with her. I just hope for the sake of her son that Bailey does not turn gay. Boys need fathers. Otherwise, they end up like me. My Dad had a heart attack from working eighty-hour weeks, and now my mom blames my sexual digressions on his premature death. I don’t want little Allen to be left without a dad, especially with a mom like Rinnie.
“What do you mean, it was a hate crime?” she repeated, rummaging through an assortment of pharmacy-bought lipstick, the kind that even the lowest ranks of drag queens would consider beneath themselves. “Gay-bashing is so 1990s. Ever since that episode with Matthew... What was his last name?”
“Thank you! Matthew Shepherd. How could I forget? The media raised such stink. Those two guys who killed him both got life sentences, didn’t they? Anyway, I thought that attacking gays went out of fashion.”
Fashion? Like she even had the right to utter that word!
“They didn’t attack me because I’m gay,” I explained to her, trying to be as patient as I could. “They attacked me because I’m Jewish.”
I’m pretty sure what words I’d heard them say. Peculiar circumstances keep me updated on derogatory terminology.
A half-open lipstick tube froze in Rinnie’s hand. “You’re Jewish?” she asked, squinting incredulously. “Wait a minute... You never told me you were Jewish.”
“What about that time I took you to my cousin’s Bar-Mitzvah?”
“That was your cousin? I mean, you are related? Sorry, I guess, my mind is trying to block that memory. The food was disgusting. My brain is trying to forget, but my stomach remembers the cramps. I still can’t believe that the family got served good food, and the rest of the guests got served junk. It tasted like week-old chili reheated in a microwave and drizzled with some melted cheese product. As I was trying to force it down my throat, I saw the birthday boy wink at me smugly, eating salmon steak with capers on the side.”
That’s classical Rinnie for you right there! She goes to formal events mainly for food. She doesn’t go there to meet new people or exchange business cards. She goes to stuff her face for free, even if the food is allegedly bad.
But then, maybe I shouldn’t judge her too harshly. Compulsive gluttony is something I’ll never understand, because I’m not an immigrant. I didn’t spend my childhood in a third-world country, standing in food lines in the middle of winter. The first eighteen years of my life were spent on a golf course in the Hamptons.
Here comes the shocker: Rinnie never discovered how much money I actually inherited from my dad. When we first met, eighty percent of the American population was wealthier than she. She was a sophomore in college, working as an editorial assistant, and so many things went over her frizzy little head.
Rinnie didn’t understand the difference between a simple millionaire and, say, a mega-multimillionaire. To her anyone who made more than ten dollars an hour was rich and therefore an automatic enemy. Her unmitigated universal hostility intrigued me. This creature was so unlike anything I would remotely consider touching that I found myself strangely attracted to her. I wanted to kiss her just to find out if she really tasted like stale bagels and burned coffee. I also knew that if I introduced Rinnie to my relatives, they would have a massive heart attack, just like my father, and I would be the star of my cousin’s Bar-Mitzvah.
Basically, I’ve used Rinnie as freakish bait, a novelty accessory, and now I was starting to feel vague pangs of guilt over it. Her fuzzy, fidgety presence by my bedside was getting to be a burden. Or maybe the painkillers were starting to wear off.
“Why are you even here?” I asked her all of a sudden.
“I don’t know,” she mumbled, depositing a strip of mint gum under her tongue. “I guess I still care.”
“But why do you care? You have every reason to hate me. I’ve treated you like dirt. Besides, my bad guys killed your husband’s good guy.”
“What are you talking about? Who are the bad guys? Your dad’s law firm partners?”
“You know what I’m talking about! World Religion for Idiots 101. Jews killed your husband’s savior.”
She did not respond right away. First she tried to blow a bubble, but the gum was still too lumpy. “He can be your savior too, you know,” she said, trying to rub the minty green goo off her lips. “If you want to... If you let him into your heart.”
I couldn’t believe it... Was she serious? So that’s why she came to see me — to preach the gospel of her imaginary God! I bet she had been watching me for all these years, hoping something would happen to me, so she could latch on and exact her revenge in the sickest way possible. As I was lying here helpless, with an IV in my arm and a cast over my nose, she was plotting a double exorcism — to cure me of my gayness and my Jewishness. I kept waiting for her to pull out one of those pocket-size mini-Bibles.
Suddenly, I heard myself calling for a nurse.
A buxom Haitian queen rolled in leisurely. “Mistah Kaufmann, any problem ’ere?”
“Yes!” I shouted, pointing my finger at Rinnie. “Please escort Mrs. Griff out of my room. She snuck in here to oppress me and spread religious intolerance. Whatever happened to your security? Don’t you check people’s ID’s before you let them in?”
The nurse looked capable enough. I fully expected her to get rid of the pest. Imagine my surprise when her broad face suddenly beamed.
“Missus Griff?” she asked. “Good Lord! Is that you?”
Rinnie jumped to her feet, scattering the content of her Prada bastard all over the tiled floor. “Josie? Josie Honoree? No way!”
And the two women began prancing, hugging and giggling, their soggy breasts bouncing in unison. They did not hear my indignant cries. For the next five minutes I had to listen to the two immigrant women, from two opposite parts of the world, trading their war stories.
“Has it really been eight years, Missus Griff? Your big boy—”
“Finishing up second grade.”
“God bless ’im! I saw ’im when they cut ’im outta your belly. And your baby girl?”
“Died in the uterus — twenty-two weeks. Still boggles my mind.”
“God rest ’er soul!” The nurse crossed herself with her black fist, though her facial expression didn’t change.
“I’m perfectly fine with that outcome,” Rinnie continued with that affected humility that her newly found religion mandated. “She’s in heaven now. I don’t have to pay daycare tuition in heaven. See? There’s an upside to everything.”
“Amen to that! But you look good, Missus Griff?”
“I had a nose job. How’s your mom, Josie?”
“She moved in with me after the earthquake.”
“The whole block was flattened. But the Lord has been merciful.”
“He certainly has been, Josie — to all of us. Well, let me know if your mom needs a nanny job. My boss just had twins. They are looking for a live-in.”
“Oh, you so kind, Missus Griff! You still practice your French?”
Rinnie made a mysterious, flirtatious grimace, which made her unskillfully made-up face look even more homely, and started chattering in broken French. The nurse clasped her big black hands under her chin, as if she had never heard anything more beautiful in her life. Having totally forgotten about me, they walked out into the hall side by side. I overheard them mentioning the names of Balzac, Zola and Hugo. Sure! Hospital is a perfect place for discussing French literature.
Copyright © 2011 by Marina J. Neary