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The Nut and the Slut, Together at Last
WE REACHED MY HOUSE, I headed for the back door, as I always did when I
came home from school. I went up the back steps to the tiny stoop
and turned to find that Patti was standing at the foot of the steps looking
“What’s the matter?” I asked.
“Do you want me to use the back door?”
“No!” I said, realizing how matters looked to her.
“Of course not. I’m going to go in this way and open the front door
for you. Okay?”
“Okay,” she said, and with a smile she bounced off
toward the front of the house.
I let myself into the kitchen and discovered my
mother sitting at the dining room table where I had seen her weeping not
many days before. This was not a good sign. She was bent over
some papers on the table; I couldn’t tell what she was doing, but I didn’t
like the implications of her posture; it suggested sorrow and despair.
I decided to tell Patti that we were going to have to put the meeting off,
and I was making my way through the kitchen toward the front door—well,
sneaking through the kitchen toward the front door—when my mother looked
up and called out to me in a voice full of hope and joy, “Peter!
You’re finally home! Come here! I’ve had a wonderful idea!”
“I—uh—brought somebody with me—from school,” I said,
extending my hand vaguely in the direction of the front door.
“Really? Who is it?”
“It’s a girl named Patti.”
“Patti?” said my mother, trying the name out to
see whether it belonged to anyone she knew. “Patti,” she repeated,
trying it again, and this time her eyes widened and her eyebrows shot up.
“Patti Fiorenza?” she asked.
“Um, yes,” I said, not entirely surprised that my
mother should know who Patti was. Why shouldn’t her fame, her reputation,
have reached my mother, after all, if everyone else in Babbington knew
her, or knew about her, or thought they did?
“Wow,” she said. “Where is she?”
“Waiting at the front door.”
“Well, don’t leave her standing there, Peter.
She’ll think we’re talking about her.”
“We are talking about her.”
“Go let her in!”
I went to the front door and opened it. Patti
was waiting there, looking wary.
“You were talking about me, weren’t you?” she said,
“No—we—my mother had one of her ideas—and—I should
tell you about these ideas—I mean I should warn you—”
“Do you think I should go home?” she asked.
“No,” I said. “Of course not, but—”
From over my shoulder came my mother’s voice, calling
out “Patti Fiorenza!” as if she’d been wanting to meet Patti for a very
long time. “Come in! Come in!” I stepped aside, and Patti
stepped across the threshold. My mother was holding both hands out
toward her, and Patti grasped them. With a hand on Patti’s shoulder,
my mother led her through the kitchen to the dining room. I followed.
“Sit down!” my mother said. Patti sat, and I sat, too.
My mother looked Patti over—stared at her, really,
looking for clues, I thought. “I’ve heard so much about you!” she
said, with something like awe in her voice.
“It’s not true,” said Patti. “Honest.”
“It couldn’t be,” said my mother. She paused
as if she’d startled herself, considered what she’d said, and added, “Not
all of it, anyway.”
I wondered what she meant by that. What had
she heard about Patti, and which parts of what she’d heard did she not
“Everybody thinks I’m a slut,” said Patti, “but—”
“And everybody thinks I’m a nut,” said my mother,
They burst out laughing, like schoolgirls who fall
into a fit of giggling over an invisible something like a puff of wind.
“I think it was the candy that did it,” said my
mother, with the short sharp nod of one who has come to a firm opinion
after giving a matter some thought. “The lace candy. That convinced
them. Ella’s nuts. Nutty as a fruitcake.”
“My mom bought some,” said Patti.
“I remember that,” said my mother.
“For me, it was that famous blow job,” said Patti
with a frown and a shake of her head. “Dennis Jarvis! He was
the one. He told half the town that I gave him a blow job in the
woods behind Stillman’s delicatessen.”
“But you didn’t?” asked my mother.
“Only in his dreams,” said Patti, and she and my
mother burst out laughing again.
This conversation was making me very uncomfortable.
Patti Fiorenza was sitting at my dining room table chewing her gum, winking
and pouting, and chatting with my mother about a blow job; my mother
was waving her cigarette in the air as she spoke, pushing her hair askew,
and giggling like a girl. Did they really have to do such a good
job of playing the slut and the nut? And how on earth could my mother
possibly know what a blow job was?
To change the subject, I picked up one of the papers
from the table and asked, “What’s this?”
They looked at me, and then at each other, and fell
against each other, shrieking with laughter, astonished to discover that
I was still there.