Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Priceless Punctuality

Reflecting on “The Third and Final Continent”, the final story in The Interpreter of Maladies, brought my focus to Mrs. Croft, a brilliantly designed caricature of American history and influence on Asian American life. I couldn’t help but think of my great grandmother, who at 93 is just beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s, something not stated, but somewhat implied about Mrs. Croft. Her influence on my life parallels the influence Mrs. Croft’s life has on the protagonist of the story. I believe that the picture given of Mrs. Croft by Lahiri could not be portrayed any better but I couldn’t help but write a part of the story from Mrs. Croft’s point of view. I feel that her seniority and influence deserves a little more depth, and what better way than from the very mouth and mind of this Alzheimer’s ridden, fiery old woman.

The doorbell rings exactly on time, this boy is off to a good start. It’s nice to see that some of these young folks still care about showing proper time management skills and respect.
“One minute please!”
The only way to keep anything safe nowadays is to keep it locked up tight. Goodness, this chain is getting heavier every day, I swear! Why on earth do people have to be so untrustworthy nowadays? These ruffagins that throw trash in my yard and set off those preposterous car alarms so late at night wouldn’t know what hit them if I had half the strength I used to. If only these fingers would work the way they used to, there, that tiny knob button-lock won’t get the best of me!
Well, this boy looks presentable enough. Harvard boys just don’t take pride in their appearance the way they used to, such a shame. Now, where did I move that piano bench to? Oh goodness, is it there by the piano again, where could it be? Here it is, oh these old bones, what am I doing? Yes, yes, this boy, the room… Oh dear the lock!
“Lock up!” That was close! Goodness boy, don’t you have any sense?
“Fasten the chain and firmly press that button on the knob! This is the first thing you shall do when you enter, is that clear?”
Like I said boy, you can never be too careful nowadays.
“You’re punctual! I expect you shall be so with rent!” Am I speaking too loud again, he recoiled? No matter, I hope he doesn’t think I’m going to let him slide by with that rent! That last boy… what was his name? Well, he knew nothing of courtesy…
“I have a letter madame.” The boy extends his hand, in it a folded sheet of paper.
Interrupted once again, for what? I assume this piece of paper shows his credentials, he seems credible so far. Better warn him, keep him on this good path he seems to be following.
“The last boy was always late! Still owes me eight dollars! Harvard boys aren’t what they used to be! Only Harvard and Tech in this house! How’s Tech boy?”
“It’s very well.”
“You checked the lock?” Can never be too careful, even in midday like this… I miss my noontime walks, sunshine sounds delightful right now, Henry would never have approved of all those locks on my door. He always said he was all the protection I would ever need… When was my last visit?
“Yes, madame.”
Oh yes, this boy. He’s going to be alright for now, I wonder if he has heard? I shall inform him.
“There is an American flag on the moon!” I hardly believed it. If I hadn’t have heard it with my own ears I would never have believed…
“Yes, madame.”
Is that all this boy ever says? Maybe he didn’t fully comprehend. This is the moon!
“A flag on the moon, boy! I heard it on the radio! Isn’t that splendid?” He thinks I’m a fool.
“Yes, madame.”
Foolish boy! I may be old but I am not crazy. If you are to learn respect and dignity you must be able to recognize your place. I know mine, you will learn yours, even if I must help you along…
“Say ‘splendid’!” Oh dear, this boy, he will understand with time, I know it. He is different.
“Say ‘splendid’!” Do not make me repeat myself again, I know you will learn fast.
“Splendid”. He murmured. He knows I am hard of hearing, thoughtless child. I will give him time, someday he will understand.
“Go see the room!” He recoiled again, oh well, that’s what he gets for mumbling. He should be grateful. I wish my hands would stop aching, I would like to play another piece for Henry. Having company again will be nice… He better be punctual with that rent!

I know these stories focus on Asian, and/or Asian American characters but I feel that Mrs. Croft’s influence on this Asian- American man as an American woman was worth expanding. I thoroughly enjoyed her character, and I enjoyed watching her influence play out through the growth of the marriage.

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