Some people buy tools. Others buy shoes.
I buy books.
My sister is staring at the stacks of them on the floor of my living room.
“What?” I say.
She picks one up. “Are these your I’ve-read-these piles or your I’m-going-to-read-these piles?”
“Those are the unread.”
She shakes her head. “You’re never going to die, are you?”
“Don’t you read?”
She shakes her head again, chuckles. “Not like this.”
She puts the book down. “What are you reading now?”
“I just started White Guard by Mikhail Bulgakov.”
“And what did you read before that?”
“Why do you ask?”
She shrugs and tilts her head to the left, a movement reminiscent of our mother. “You called that beggar outside the theater a schnorrer.”
I smile. “The last book was a collection of short stories by Sholom Aleichem. Fiddler on the Roof was based on his stories about Tevye the Milkman.”
“Really,” Karen deadpans.
“What?! The guy acted like he was entitled to my leftover malted milk balls! Why should I give him my malted milk balls?”
Karen stares at me.
“The word fit,” I say, emphatically. “And anyway, so what? I’m reading! What should I be reading if not the books I’m reading?”
“Is that accent you’ve just developed courtesy of the collection of Yiddish short stories, too?”
“Maybe,” I say, evasively.
There is a moment of silence.
“You do that, you know,” she says.
“Remember when you read The Great Gatsby?”
I stare at her.
“Afterward, you wanted to go clamming or some dang thing! You wanted to lay around the house in period dresses and drink room-temperature gin!”
“I’m sensitive,” I say, perhaps a touch defensively.
“And what about when you read The Kitchen God’s Wife? Isn’t that the book that made you say “Ai-eeee” all the time?”
My eyes shift to the right, then to the left. “Maybe.”
She starts to laugh, and then we are both laughing. “You thought you were Chinese,” she says, wiping her eyes with her sleeve. “Oh, my God.”
“I said I’m sensitive, dammit!”
“Oh, yeah," she says. "Sensitive.”
“I am! Shaddap.”
A decision is abruptly made in Karen’s head, and she grabs her purse, roots around for her car keys. “Hmmm. I’m thinking lunch,” she says. “I’m thinking either deli or Chinese.”
“Ah-HA!” I say. “Now look who’s sensitive!”
She smiles. “Aw, shaddap.”