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Kvetching

by Martin Green


Car parked in a house garage


     “She’s becoming a regular kvetch.” The speaker was Max Levine and he was talking to his friend and doubles partner Bill Quinn. They were on their way back from the tennis courts, Max in the passenger seat, this being Bill’s week to drive. It was a windy morning but they’d gotten in two sets before being forced to quit.

     “What’s a kvetch?” asked Bill.

     “Someone who’s always on you to do things. You know, a nag. I think it’s Yiddish.”

     The kvetch in question was Max’s wife Shirley. “So what’s she asking you to do now?”

     “She’s on a big health kick. She wants me to take all of these vitamins and other stuff every morning. I’d never have time to do anything else. That reminds me, you came early and I didn’t have time to clean up my breakfast things. She’ll be on me for that.”

     They’d come to Max’s house. “Well,” said Bill, “maybe she just wants you to be healthy. I’ll see you around three.”

     “Right.” Bill and his wife Marie were coming over to play bridge. Max let himself into his house. As soon as he was through the door, Shirley called out from the kitchen, “You left your breakfast dishes again.“

     “I didn’t have time. Bill was waiting.”

     “Well, I cleaned them. There’s something else. You have to sweep all those leaves out of our walkway.” Max had noticed some leaves, blown there as they always were on a windy day, but they didn’t seem to be too bad.

     “There’s not that many leaves,” he said.

     “We’re having guests this afternoon.  The walkway has to be clean.”

     “It’s only Bill and Marie.”

     “They might bring the leaves inside and track up the carpet.”

     “Okay, I’ll do it. Later.”  

     “Don’t forget. Oh, and I heard a loud noise this morning.”

     “From where?”

     “From outside. I looked but didn’t see anything.”

     “Maybe it was a backfire.”

     “Maybe. Don’t forget the leaves.”

     Max was tired and sweaty. He wanted to sit down, take a shower and have lunch. He heated some coffee, picked up the morning paper and went to his living room chair. His knees, as always happened lately, were aching from the morning’s tennis. Max was retired and lived in a retirement community. His friend Bill was also retired. The community had half a dozen tennis courts, a nice amenity. After half an hour Max felt ready for a nice long hot shower. As soon as he stood up, Shirley appeared from the kitchen and said, “Don’t forget to sweep up the leaves.”

     Max sighed; there was no escape. He might as well get it done and then take his shower. He went out to the garage and pressed the button to open the door. The button flashed red for an instant and he heard the door start up, then it stopped. He pressed the button again and nothing happened. He went to the center of the garage and pulled the cord that was supposed to open the door manually but the cord wouldn’t pull. He bent down and tried to pull up the door. It was stuck tight. He looked more closely at the door.   Max was no handyman and didn’t know much about garage doors. When they worked he didn’t think about them. When they didn’t it was a major problem.

     He checked to see if the rollers were on the tracks. They wer. The chain that pulled the door looked okay. What about the spring? Was there always a space in the middle of the spring?  He wasn’t sure. Maybe the spring had snapped?  That would account for the loud noise Shirley said she had heard.

     This was a major problem. As always happened with this kind of mishap, it was, of course, Friday. If the door couldn’t be fixed that afternoon they’d have to wait until Monday.  Since Bill had driven, both of their cars were trapped in the garage. And, he remembered, they were to go into Sacramento the next morning for their grandson’s high school graduation. Yes, definitely a major problem.  

     He went back into the house and explained the situation to Shirley. “I’ll call Mr. Baily and see if he can come out this afternoon,” he said. Mr. Baily was the proprietor and sole operator of a local garage door company. Their door had come off the track one Christmas Day several years ago and Mr. Baily had been the only one ready to come out.    Since then they’d called him whenever any garage door problem had come up. He got the answering machine and left a message, saying it was an emergency. This was the drawback of dealing with a one-man operation. Baily was probably out somewhere fixing someone else’s garage door.
 

     “It’s your bid,” said Shirley.

     Max was distracted.  It was almost five and Mr. Baily hadn’t called back. He pulled his mind back to the game. He’d had lousy cards all afternoon and this hand was no exception. “I pass.”   

They were playing husbands against wives and the women were far ahead in points.    Shirley played this hand and easily made game, sweeping up trick after trick. The phone rang. Max ran to pick it up. It was Mr. Baily, who explained he hadn’t been out working but had been at his son’s Little League game. He said he’d be over in half an hour. Max asked if he could replace a broken spring, if that was the problem. Mr. Baily said he could. Max went back to the table and said help was on the way. He was feeling a little better when he sat down but his next hand was still lousy.
 

     “So you got to see your grandson’s graduation?  How was it?”

     Max had picked up Bill and was driving to the tennis courts. “To tell the truth, pretty long and boring. There must have been a hundred kids in his class and each one had to be called up to the stage to get a diploma. I thought it would never end.”

     “So how’s the garage door?”

     “Fine. The spring was broken. Mr. Baily put in two new springs so if one breaks the door will still work.”

     “Sounds good. Is Shirley still kvetching?”

     “Still.”

     “You realize that if she hadn’t gotten after you to sweep up the leaves in front your cars might have been stuck in the garage all weekend.”

     “What do you mean?”

     “Well, you said that when you went out to sweep them up you found out the garage door was stuck. If  you hadn’t gone out you wouldn’t have known until Saturday morning and the door might have been stuck all weekend.”

     Max thought. “You’re right.”

     “So maybe kvetching isn’t all bad. That reminds me, when we play, stop poaching so much.”

     “Oh, no, don’t tell me you’re going to start kvetching, too?”

     “Only when you deserve it.”


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