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101 Layle Silbert Free Union It was Sunday afternoon in the furnished apartment where Berman had come to Uve with Ida four months before. As Berman turned the pages of the Sunday newspaper with wide gestures, sometimes giving it a poke to straighten it out, Ida finished the dishes. She fitted them into the tiny cupboard nailed on the wall over the hot plate, then went to sit down in an easy chair. Berman was holding his newspaper Uke a screen. Ida sighed and jumped up, took the ironing board from behind the clothes in the closet, opened it and began to press clothes. Pressing clothes wasn't so intricate a task that she couldn't watch Berman too. He spoke, laying the paper down on his knees. "On Sunday you should rest." "Like you?" said Ida. "Who wiU iron my dress? I have to wear a dress to work tomorrow." Berman lost interest, went back to the newspaper stretched out before him and let the events of the world stand between him and Ida. "I have to wash the dishes," Ida went on. "But first I cooked Sunday dinner. Tonight I cook supper. Tomorrow night I cook supper." "Is that so?" said Berman. "And before?" he said meaningfuUy. It was the only word they had for their individual conditions before their union. "Before, you cooked. You washed dishes every night too, no?" "And you?" she said. "Usually I went to a restaurant. In fact it was Strulevitz's dairy restaurant. They kept my napkin ready for me. The napkins for the regular customers were on a little table near the kitchen. When I came in, the waiter picked mine up and brought it to me, always at the same table." "Exactly what I mean," said Ida. She knew about the napkin from the first telling. "Your Ufe hasn't changed." "Your Ufe hasn't changed either," said Berman. "You go to work every day and I go to work every day." "Not the same thing. I want my Ufe to change. I want a change. You were my chance for a change, Berman." "A fact. Now we're together. It's a fine change." He let the paper rest on his knees and looked at her with satisfaction. Did he expect her to reflect his satisfaction too? In the freedom of living together, they did not dare risk a full-scale quarrel Uke married people, with shouts and insults. She set down the iron, leaned against the ironing board to look at him. In sudden exasperation she sUd her dress off the ironing board, hung it 102 the minnesota review on the shower rod in the bathroom. "Be careful," she said, "when you go in the bathroom." As she was putting the board away, Berman said, "You know what? There's stiU time. Let's go to Municipal Pier. A nice day." "Sure," said Ida. "What else do we have to do? Who invites us?" This was true. Not once had anybody invited them to an evening's gathering, let alone a dinner on a Friday evening or a Sunday afternoon. Did Berman miss all the fine dinners to meet prospective wives? A month after he'd moved in with Ida, the wife of a member of Branch One of the Paole Zion who had missed hearing the news had come to his office and invited him to a Friday night dinner. "My niece, she's just here from Florida. You'U enjoy meeting her," the member's wife had said. "Thank you very much. I have tickets," Berman said foUowing Ida's advice on how to fend off such invitations. In amazement the member's wife said, "AU right. Some other time." She'd never heard of Berman turning down an invitation. That night when he told Ida, she smiled a triumphant little smile. She'd won over the niece from Florida, over aU the widows, visiting sisters, other nieces, daughters, deserted wives, and unmarried women whom Berman as an outstanding bachelor had been invited to meet. Ida too had been invited to meet widowed and deserted men but not as often. If anybody called her an old...


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