As Magda sat on one of the two chairs that were always placed by the card table, Nadia walked to the mantle and picked up the tarot cards. They were wrapped in their usual red silk. Then she sat in the chair opposite Magda. “I thought you were going to be at the shuffleboard tournament all day, Aunt Magda.”

“Oh, I went there. Beanie was eliminated very early in the tournament, poor dear.” She pulled a handkerchief from her purse and started twisting its edge. “As soon as Beanie was eliminated, I saw Jackie and I asked her to bring me here right away.”

“Well, whenever you’re in this kind of mad rush, I always assume your question involves a man.”



Magda didn’t look at Nadia, she just murmured, “How did you know that?”

“Because this is normally how you act when you have a man-problem.”

“Yes, well,” Magda tried to sound a little indignant, but failed. “As it happens, you’re correct. It all started two days ago.”

Magda twisted in her chair and glared at Zizi, who was still standing by the front door. “Are you tittering behind my back?”

Turning back to Nadia, she said, “Zizi was twittering, wasn’t she? Twittering and twattling at me back there!” Again she swiveled around to look at Zizi. “Come over here,” she said, pointing to the sofa. “Sit right there, in front of me, where I can keep my eye on you. And no tiddering.”

Facing Nadia once again, she laid her forearms on the table so that her body slumped forward, her face closer to Nadia’s. “I’m afraid this is very serious business, Nadia.”

Nadia smiled. “Aunt Magda, you can be sure I understand the urgency, since you came all the way over here just for a reading.”

“You’d think life would be a little less complicated at my age, wouldn’t you?” She took a deep breath. “Well, it isn’t. There he was, on my doorstep, collecting for March of Dimes, or United Fund, or American Vets, or one of those charities. He does all the collections on our block. I’m not exactly sure what he was collecting for anymore. I’m too flustered.”

“Who was collecting?’ Nadia asked gently.

“Harold was collecting, of course. He lives down the street…well, not all the way down the street. He lives a couple of houses down the street. Let me see, there’s my house and then there’s Beanie’s house and then there’s Miss Amelia’s and then Harold’s.”

Zizi interrupted. “Yes, so, he was collecting. Get on with it, Aunt.”

Raising her nose in the air at Zizi, Aunt Magda sniffed. “Am I talking to you, Zizi? Am I talking to her, Nadia?” she asked, turning back to Nadia. “Am I talking to her? No! I’m talking to you. I’m telling you the story. Besides, Zizi probably already knows all of this and is just acting like she doesn’t.”


Attempting to soothe Aunt Magda, Nadia reached across the table and gently patted her hands. “Alright calm down, Aunt Magda. Just tell me what happened with Harold.”

“Like I said, he was collecting. He knocked at my door and when I opened the door, I told him to step in. I needed to get my purse, you see. When I came back into the living room, there he was, holding my quiet hammer.”

At this point, Zizi threw herself back against the sofa, raised one arm and used it to cover her eyes. Aunt Magda looked at Nadia. “What is Zizi’s problem, now? I believe she’s trittering at me again.”

Nadia, using all the strength she could muster to keep a straight face, asked, “Aunt Magda, what is a quiet hammer?”

Aunt Magda stared at Nadia in disbelief. “What? You don’t know what a quiet hammer is? You can buy one at any Home Depot. I use mine in the middle of the night in case I have to hammer something.”

“Oh, that explains it,” blurted Zizi, finally unable to conceal her laughter any longer.

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