I shook hands with the older boy, who was maybe four, a gesture that
amused him highly. I waved to the baby.
“Dad’s still mad about the wedding,” my sister said. “He thinks you
and your lady friend were trying to organize all the workers.”
“We should have,” I said.
“Let’s not go there,” my sister said.
I made funny-faces for the kids, and I asked how Mom was doing.
“I never knew she was so miserable before,” my sister said. “She said
this is the first happiness she’s known. The husband is a goon who drinks
too much, but she likes him.”
“I hope he has money,” I said.
“Dad has a rule about not mentioning your name,” my sister said.
“He thinks you stole Dillon’s hi-fi. The night you left.”
This was a bit of an exaggeration. How could I have run off on the
train with two mahogany-encased speakers and an amp and a turn-
table? I had only taken Dillon’s portable cassette recorder, a plastic box
the size of a hardback novel, which he never used anyway.
“He holds that against me?” I said. “It was eight years ago.”
“Brother stealing from brother,” she said. “That and the union thing
at the wedding.”
“So what are you up to these days?” her husband said.
I said I had a job at the headquarters of Local 1199 of the Health and
Hospital Workers Union. I was at a desk most of the day—answering
phone calls, trying to get hold of people, getting flyers printed—but I
enjoyed the work. It was Norm, one of my old roommates, who held
this job, but he would not have minded my seizing it for the purpose at
“We’ll keep that under our hats,” my sister said. “If you don’t mind.”
“What the fuck do I care?” I said.
“Little pitchers,” my sister said.
I asked the older boy if he liked Bert and Ernie, and we had a brief
discussion of Muppet plots (which Trudy and I liked to watch when we
were stoned). I got to be his uncle for maybe twenty minutes, and I did
an excellent imitation of Miss Piggy—“Are you looking at moi?”—which
he liked. When the baby started to fuss, we all said our goodbyes.
So that was how I started my career with Local 1199. I told Norm I
wanted a job there if he ever heard of anything, and it took months, but