April 21, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C

The Last Stand of Ms. Betty J. Washington

By Jenna Leigh Evans
Published: 2015-12-31

"That's not sexy, that's vulgar."

Vida laughed. "I love vul-ga-ri-ty," she trilled.

"You're a vulgar woman," Betty said, retreating to the sofa. "A vulgar woman."

The apartment on Butler Street was turning out to be not that great of a place. This thought fully crystallized in Betty's mind the next day while she was at the corner store, waiting to pay for a fifth of Wild Turkey. It was nice that Vida cared, but she was too much; and the way she spoiled her dog rotten made Betty sick. The crooning endearments, the goofy pink barrette.

While the shopkeeper counted out her money, she reviewed options that she'd already scrapped. All she could think of was the wreath of artificial ivy on Clarice's front door, and the doormat with "Welcome" on it. Some welcome!

Outside, a feral kitten was eating from a pile of kibble on the sidewalk. "Maybe you shouldn't have let me borrow your precious car, meant so much to you," Betty advised the kitten. Nobody even answered that number in the Rockaways any more.

•

When she returned that afternoon, toting what remained of the whiskey and an order of fried plantains that the whipping wind had only partly cooled, Vida's face was peering anxiously over the third-floor banister. "The lady downstairs saw you, Betty," she called. "She asked who you are. Why don't you listen when I tell you, be quiet!"

Betty swayed at the foot of the staircase. "According to you, I ought to walk around like I'm ashamed of myself. Don't do anything, Betty! Be like an itty-bitty mouse, Betty! Don't want the landlord to know about me? Hunh! I'm going to go see him right now."

"Betty, don't you do anything."

"You find that man and let's get acquainted," Betty demanded. "I am wearing my best housecoat."

"Aiy yi yi, Betty, come upstairs! You're acting crazy, you vieja loca borracha de mierda. Anyway it's rent day, you better come up and pay me."

A raw draft whistled under the door. Betty, head held high, went upstairs to fulfill her obligation.

However, she was significantly short of cash. What with this and that, she'd let her budget get away from her. An issue to be addressed; but for now she could not think of what to say about it.

"Okay Betty, listen — it's no problem. Rodrigo's coming over tonight, he's the one who gave me the pretty red nightgown? So now I'll tell him to bring a friend. Okay? I'm watching out for you! So go put on some real clothes. And put on some cologne, that Jean Nate from the drug store."

"All right. But no funny business."

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