We've already had a tussle over the ban on cigarettes. She attempted to cover the scent of half a pack of Virginia Slims by burning a whole box of my Japanese temple incense. I came home to find the apartment smelling like a klatsch of chain-smoking Buddhist nuns. Words were exchanged.
All missing and damaged books have been replaced, although the new edition of Kiss of the Whip (revised and expanded) already seems to have been nibbled on. I may have to invest in a small, locking case for certain types of literature.
Most surprising: her capable and even enthusiastic wrangling of the sock yarn colony. The fifty unruly skeins and balls seem to have brought out her long-dormant motherly instincts. The rabble has become quite docile, following her in two straight lines for daily jaunts to Lincoln Park and on field trips to the Adler Planetarium and the Field Museum.
At night, she corrals them neatly before retiring to her cushion with a copy–certainly not mine–of How to Talk to Yarn So Yarn Will Listen and Listen So Yarn Will Talk.
And imagine my surprise when I returned home to find the following note taped to my desk:
The boys and I would be so pleased if you would join us in the living room at eight o'clock for a little surprise. Jacket and tie requested.
Suitably attired, I sat down on the sofa promptly at eight and Dolores entered, followed as usual by her crocodile of sock yarns. They arranged themselves neatly in two rows on the rose in the middle of the carpet, and then Dolores cleared her throat and blew an A on her harmonica.
"Laaaaaaaaaaaa," sang the balls of sock yarn.
There followed a short concert of traditional American favorites, including "Wait 'Til the Sun Shines, Nellie," "Home on the Range," and "Buffalo Gals, Won't You Come Out Tonight." In four part harmony. With choreography.
I applauded vigorously and was rewarded with "Where the Streets Have No Name" (D. Van Hoofen, harmonica soloist) as an encore.
It was all so touching I was dabbing at tears as the company took its final bow and the yarn rolled into the kitchen for light refreshments.
"Nu?" said Dolores. "Did you enjoy?"
"I'm overwhelmed," I said. "I thought I was harboring Belle Watling and here you turn out to be Maria Von Trapp."
"What a nice, and incredibly gay, thing to say."
"Well, I mean every sweet, homosexual word of it."
"That's swell, cupcake. Can I have fifty-three dollars?"
"It's dollar beer night at the Lucky Horsehoe. I told the boys you'd underwrite the cast party. And I'll need a couple extra singles to put into Julio's thong."
See, the thing about lasting change is, it's gradual.