“So,” says Uncle Shmuel, who having appeared out of nowhere is now sitting at the table enjoying a nice piece cake. Miraculously he speaks excellent vernacular American English — albeit with a heavy Yiddish accent,
“Nice place you got here. I see you keep your animals in your house. That one there sounds like a pig but looks like a dog.”
“They are our pets, Uncle Shmuel. The oinker is Nan. She just makes that sound. She’s kind of old. I think that’s the dog equivalent of ‘oy’.”
“Pets, shmets. Animals. In the house. What’s next? Toilets? Never mind, your life, your choice. Oy.”
“Can I give you something to eat? Tea? Coffee? Cake? If we don’t have it, I can go out and buy some.”
“Are you Kosher?”
“Uh, no. Not Kosher,” and I shiver, remembering the many pork chops that have passed across our dishes. “Oh, wait, here’s my husband. Uncle Shmuel, I’d like you to meet my husband Garry.”
Shmuel looks shrewdly at Garry, then at me. “He doesn’t look Jewish.”
Garry’s eyes twinkle. “But really I am,” he says and deftly pulls a yarmulke out of his pocket. It say “Joel’s Bar Mitzvah” across the back in big white letters. Fortunately, Shmuel doesn’t notice.
“So,” Shmuel continues after a pregnant pause, “You have problems with the Cossacks?”
“No Cossacks, but lots of politicians,” I reply.
“Cossacks, politicians, there’s a difference?”
“Not so much,” I admit.
“And for a living you do what?”
“We’re retired. But before that, I was a writer. Garry was a reporter. On television.”
“What’s a television?”
I look at Shmuel, realize we are about to embark on an extended conversation, so all I say is: “Oy vay is mir!” Which seems to sum it up.