Let Me Clarify: Unsolicited Advice by Genia Blum

A series of short pieces for Queen Mob's Tea House based on personal opinion and experience

#10

Equal Cheese and Melted Rights

Making fondue from scratch involves more than just grating and melting two pounds of perfectly good Swiss cheese over the unreliable flame of a spirit or gas burner placed imprudently in the middle of a table, nowhere near a fire extinguisher.

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#9

Phantoms, Witches, Apostrophes

Almost every night, a witch appeared at the side of my bed, wrapped her bony arms around me and dug her sharp nails into my back. I writhed and screamed, and cried even after my mother roused me. She stroked my head and whispered, “It’s only a dream.”

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#8

Turner, My Big Mouth, and I

A young invigilator—most likely alerted by the magnitude of my hand gestures and the fortissimo of my voice—had followed us from room to room and interfered with my view of the pictures, despite the fact that I was using my eyes to merely gaze at the artwork, not burn holes in it.

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#7

What Kind of Name is That?

I’d wait for the inevitable pause, the stuttering and throat clearing, the garbled approximation of what should have been my name, and then, with burning cheeks, I’d fulfill a request to pronounce each syllable slowly, clearly—and more than just once.

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#6

The Eyebrows Have It

My Aunt Irena knew how to do eyebrows. A former opera singer, she distracted from the signs of aging through her expert use of scarlet lip color and blacker-than-black eyebrow pencils. Madame Irena Turkewycz, the diva, would have been unrecognizable without the bold arches dancing up and down her forehead …

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#5

What to Wear to a Wedding

The Reverend Monsignor Wasyl Kushnir mumbled the matrimonial covenant in Church Slavonic; a weedy altar boy swung a brass censer; and one of my father’s third-year dentistry students, pressed into taking photos, created an ungodly racket by tripping over kneelers and music-stands.

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#4

Trousers of Trust

Even before our son was born, I'd pictured him toddling around on chubby, dimpled legs in classic, dark blue trousers with H-suspenders, like a posh French infant or the coddled progeny of the British royal family.

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#3

Don't Forget the Lipstick

Flavored lipstick! During lunch break, when the nuns at Immaculate Heart of Mary School weren’t paying attention, I snuck off to Woolworths on Winnipeg’s Selkirk Avenue, and bought a shade called "Caramel Kiss."

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#2

Picasso and Rising Damp

Madame had once asked me if we might get a dog. She didn’t add: "… for your children." Our family’s function was that of a human shield: a noisy presence in the garden flat, a supplement to the simple burglar alarm that triggered a siren whenever a bird (or bat) strayed through an open upstairs window.

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#1

Wearing Pajamas All Day

I keep a Swedish laundry basket in my bedroom, hand-woven of a single, acid-proof, stainless steel wire, shiny as hell. It holds a big pile of black pajamas: a rotating supply of freshly laundered, Lycra-infused, cotton leggings and matching, long-sleeved, scoop-neck tops …

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