Happy Labor Day! In honor of the laborers. A favorite post from the Fiction House Archives.
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“…he died at age 52,” reports the network anchor, breaking the news of the death of….“A successful business person, he was known to proudly brag of working 16 hours a day, usually 6 to 7 days a week. Doctors report he died of sudden…
“Associates say, ‘He worked himself to death’. It’s reported his personal net worth exceeds one billion dollars.”
“Jack died doing what he loved most,” says his widow as her face comes on the screen briefly. “Making money.”
“I believe she was smiling just a little, when she said that, don’t you, Raji?” Tenille says playfully, as she comes from the kitchen and turns off the TV. “’He worked himself to death.’ They never say, ‘He took-it-easy’d himself to death,’ hmm Raji.”
I smile. “I knew him.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Not well. But enough to know he never took a break from the money chase. He was always pestering me, trying to buy one of my businesses. Just so he could turn around and sell it. I overheard a conversation at a restaurant between him and his wife. She kept telling him, ‘Slow down, Jack.’ He was on the phone through their entire meal. He obviously didn’t hear her.”
Tenille sits beside me on the couch, brushes her fingers across my cheek, and kisses my mouth. “I’m glad you’re not like that anymore, Raji.”
“Well, I was never quite like Jack. Still, you and the children changed me.”
Tenille’s josh, “They never say, ‘He took-it-easy’d himself to death,” is something I agree with wholeheartedly. It’s a sentiment I’m certain most, maybe all my ancestors here at the Fiction House practiced.
“Fortunately, it does not appear, mine sweet druzhyna husbant Raji, you will be featured in a news story like that anytime soon, eh?” Tenille is mimicking, kindly, my Russian immigrant great grandmother, Shelva Fiction. Tenille knew her very well. (I wish I had known G – Gra’ma Shelva. I didn’t, growing up so far away from her.)
Shelva was always involved, fully, with life every moment of her over 100 years. Her thousands of stories, many of which we’ve been publishing at Fiction House, certainly prove it.
Tenille imitates in a loving way the odd little Muscovite sayings Shelva incorporated into her ‘Amerika talk’.
“I learn English; Russian steppes by steppes. The consonants of North and South Amerika, they are an ocean away from the consonants of Asia and Europe. That distance – it is good. Because, then there is no worry about the Czar’s Cossack butchers disemvoweling you.”
This is what Shelva’s ‘husbant’, her sweet druzhyna, said when George Bernard Shaw published Pygmalion. “My Fair Lady, Shelva. It wasn’t long before she was speaking English as well as Professor Higgins, and writing like Shaw in never-ending journals.”
Shelva and Jack: I wonder if they had anything at all in common. Jack made money, and at age 52 that money made his widow smile, slightly. Shelva at over double that age was still traveling, still helping raise children, still helping fellow Muscovites to freedom, still writing of past, present and yet to come experiences that thousands would come to read. So many ‘stills’ for Shelva. She was always smiling.
I don’t think, of all the times I saw Jack, I ever saw him smile.
©2013 Raji Singh
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Read more about Shelva and meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE, but that’s a different story. It’s available at Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.)