I checked this morning’s emails and my heart stopped. One of them was from Myrna Von Nettel, Max’s older sister and the person he calls “Princess Rain on My Parade.”
When you marry someone you love, you marry his family, too, and Max warned me about Myrna. I married him anyway.
Myrna, 5 years Max’s senior, was the apple of their father’s eye. The father was a hardware importer / exporter and had hoped Max would take over the business. When Myrna announced she intended to marry Otto Von Nettel, an importer / exporter of expensive auto parts, the father couldn’t have been more pleased. They had so much in common! Besides, Otto was a “Von.” It whiffed of aristocracy.
Both Myrna and the father looked down on Max. He was always in the kitchen helping his mother arrange food platters and carving vegetables into interesting shapes. When Max announced he wanted to be a caterer, Myrna had said to him, sneering and flicking a cigarette ash onto a tray of hors d’oeuvres, “Now you can play with your food for a living!”
His success didn’t matter a wit to Myrna nor to the father even after Max had won 5 Golden Radish Awards during his career, the highest honor bestowed on caterers by the Garnishing Guild of America.
Every time Myrna announced a visit, I would see Max sitting on his meditation cushion with a dry martini within reach.
I can’t say I’m particularly fond of her either. I’m not immune to her barbs. Myrna is tall, thin, loves to name drop, goes to spas a lot and has a facelift anytime the mood hits. Once she said, “Sylvia, darling, the dress you’ve got on is divine. I’d really know how to wear it!”
Myrna’s email read:
Dearest Sylvia and Maxie,
Surprise! Surprise! I’m going to pay you a two-week visit to see your home in Mexico! Isn’t that marvelous?
My heart started up again, pounding against my chest.
Otto is attending a two-week steering wheel convention in Berlin. This year’s theme is “Our Wheels Will Turn Your Head in The Right Direction.” He is looking forward to it with great relish. I would be bored to tears. We’ve been to Berlin so many times, the city holds little interest for me anymore.
See you soon and we can catch up!
Telling Max that Myrna was coming for the surprise visit will be like telling him he’s scheduled for a surprise root canal without novocaine.
I went into the kitchen where Max was whistling, sculpting vegetables into various shapes for tonight’s stew, blissfully unaware of what was to come.
“Guess what,” I said, waiting for the guillotine to drop.
“What?” said Max, continuing to whistle and carve.
“Myrna is going to pay us a two-week visit.”
Max stopped whistling and carving and plunged the knife into the chopping block.