March 17, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C

The Last Stand of Ms. Betty J. Washington

By Jenna Leigh Evans
Published: 2015-12-31

In her room, Betty was having trouble finding her money. She had let herself go a little in the organization department. Used to be, she kept things neat as a pin. "A place for everything and everything in its place," she told her reflection; her reflection nodded back.

"This is not the full amount, Betty," complained Vida. "And I'll tell you something, you're hardly paying anything to live here. Because I'm giving you so much more than you can imagine."

Betty felt like a nocturnal animal that Vida was purposefully blinding with a big flashlight. She just wanted to sit down and eat Saltine crackers from the paper sleeve they came in; but here was Vida, not budging. "It was all there this morning," she assured her.

"I have news for you, Betty. You don't notice how much you spend on booze. Anybody that's got eyes could see."

Betty frowned. "I have hardly any time left to live," she told her. "My organs aren't right."

Vida softened. "Aiy, sweetheart, that's terrible. What'd the doctor tell you?"

"My organs," Betty repeated firmly. "Liver and pancreas and so forth and so on. All swollen up and ready to go any time." In truth, this had not been a diagnosis so much as a lecture on probable scenarios; but the notion of being a person whose death was nigh made Betty feel as though she brandished a scepter.

That doctor! She had never been spoken to so rudely in all her life, and that was saying something. Sinking deeper into the sofa Betty muttered, "You don't talk that way to your elders. Wash your mouth with soap."

"Well, don't you worry. I'm a wonderful nurse, that's one of the main things about me."

"I left my cup in the other room," Betty said meaningfully.

But now Vida was pecking at the keyboard of her laptop. "What you need is a good man to take care of you. Don't you ever go online to get a date? They'll give you presents, money, anything. Oh yeah, honey, I love my candy men! All of 'em!"

Betty sat up as straight as she could, given the couch cushions. "You are making a mistake about the kind of person that I am," she informed Vida.

Vida did not look up. On the lenses of her reading glasses were illuminated, oily whorls. "Now, Betty," she reproached, "what you're thinking, that isn't dignified. We're dignified people, we don't have that kind of trashy attitude.

"Look at these stupid motherfuckers," she crowed, scrolling down a page. "Yeah, papi, you think you're God's gift because your cock is like a donkey - so you say. My last husband, may he rest in peace, he was nine inches. Sometimes when he'd put it in I'd scream a little, because my chi-chi is kind of shallow, you know?"

Betty, who had escaped to the kitchen to stab open a box of wine, shouted, "I am a dying woman."

"You told me that already, Betty, but you're not listening. I'm an excellent matchmaker, but you're not going to find a rich man looking like that. I'm sorry, but some things it's good to know."

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