The Old Bagel Biddy

In Fiction, Writing on May 8, 2012 at 3:39 pm
Im Café

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If there was anything she hated worse than backtalk it was sass, and these little bastards today were full of both, right up to their baby teeth.

The boy kicked his fat little legs against the booster seat.

Pbbfth,” he said.


“You’re sure you don’t mind, Batia?”

“Goodness, no, dear. You go ahead — we’ll be fine.”

“Thank you so much.”  Mrs. Dierbach leaned down and kissed her son. “Five minutes, I promise.”

“Take your time.”

Batia settled back into her chair and looked the boy over. He was patting his hands on the table, a line of drool marching unchecked down his chin.

“So your name is Nathan?”

The boy went on patting the table. The driblet fell and disappeared beneath a smearing palm.


Batia sighed. She checked her watch – 9:32 a.m. – and looked up; the shop was empty except for two teens at a corner table, obviously playing hooky. They kissed (the little truant bastards) and she checked her watch again as the minute turned over. Finally a man arrived with a brown plastic tray and set it before her.

“He yours?” the man asked, looking at the boy.

It was a joke. Batia despised jokes. The server smiled uncomfortably at her silence, nodded, and then stepped away.

Batia uncapped the water bottle. Nathan – the boy – was looking at her.

“What?” she asked. “He’s an idiot. A shmeggegie.

The boy sputtered, maybe a laugh.

Shmeh-geh-gee,” Batia said again.

Laugh confirmed. Batia nodded.

She reached down into a bag on the floor by her chair and pulled out a long plastic pill box. It rattled as she set it on the table and Nathan’s eyes were immediately fixated.

“Give it eighty years and you won’t be so excited,” Batia said. She opened the compartment for Tuesday and tossed back the first of three enormous pills.

The pill on her tongue, she spoke out of the corner of her mouth the way John Wayne had done in the old movies, the way he did when he was smoking a cigarette.

‘If you’re not dead by then,” she said. “Men don’t live as long, you know.”

She took a drink and downed the pill.

“Consider yourself lucky.”

The boy blinked once and then twice. His eyelashes were longer than hers were. His pupils were big and black. Another trail of drool had started down his chin.

“Oh for God’s sake,” Batia said. She grabbed a napkin and brushed it across his face, as if trying to sweep up a crumb. Nathan’s squeezed his eyes shut and smiled. “I forgot how leaky you things are. Thank God Bertram was sterile.”

She stopped wiping and Nathan’s eyes opened. He stared.

Sterile,” Batia repeated. “His schmeckle was no good. Come here.”

Batia dragged Nathan’s chair around to the side of the table. He made fists of his hands and thumped them on the table, on the newspaper. Batia unfolded it and took her second pill.

“I know it’s from Sunday, but the puzzles are harder – I like to give myself a little more time,” she said.

She scanned the puzzle. Thirty-eight across.

Without company. Six letters. starts with ‘L’.”

Nathan sputtered, but otherwise he was silent.

“What good are you?” Batia asked and she looked up. The boy’s entire fist was in his mouth.

“That’s quite a look,” Batia said, and she reached for her last pill, but the compartment was empty.

She grunted, tipping the organizer on its side to be sure. She checked under the paper and under the edge of the tray. Then she looked at Nathan. His fist sank deeper into his mouth.

“Oh Jesus,” Batia said, and she yanked the slobbery limb from his maw. She unfolded his fingers – lines of spit ran from tip to palm, tip to palm like some viscous spider’s web – and found it empty. She pried open his mouth and peered inside, but there was nothing, not even a tooth.

“Oh Jesus,” she said again. What was the last one? she thought. Her sertraline? What would that do to him?

She stood up and clasped her hands together, coating them both in spit. Her heart was racing and she felt suddenly light headed. Where was his mother? Where was his God da—

But there, down by the baseboard, she spotted the big blue pill. She leaned down, scooped it up, and collapsed in her chair once more.

Nathan cooed and blew a bubble. He patted the table and rested his slimy little fist on her bent and spotted hand. She left it there, feeling the flush of cool relief rushing under her skin. She closed her eyes a moment, and when she opened them Nathan was looking at her, smiling mischievously.

Just then Mrs. Dierbach pushed through the door, a pile of dry cleaning draped over her arm.

“Such a line,” she said, exasperated, scooping the boy up in her other arm. “And Greg’s suit wasn’t done, so I’ll have to come back tomorrow.”

Batia leaned back in her chair. She reached for a napkin and wiped her hand.

“Don’t worry,” Mrs. Dierbach said. “I have a sitter for Nathan in the morning, so we won’t have to bother you.”

Mrs. Dierbach stepped away and Batia nodded slowly. The air conditioning hummed. The teens giggled in the corner. Mrs. Dierbach was at the door.

“Bring him anyway,” Batia said.


This is the second post in the series of writing challenges that I’m calling Stolen Identities Week. (Today’s story was considerably harder to write than yesterday’s). Check back for a new story each day this week, and maybe even write one of your own!


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