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Today's Story by Anita Anand

Sandra wondered what Buddy thought of being called foreign by the foreigner

Fruit, Nut, Reality

Hey, look at that. Wouldn’t you like a piece of that?” Sergei made a low whistling sound as Pam from Accounting walked by in a pair of low-cut celery-colored corduroy pants.

“A piece of what?” said Buddy, not quite looking up. “A piece of pie? I wouldn’t say no to a piece of pie, no sirree.”

“You are so…how can I say…foreign.” Sergei’s sigh said even more. You are pathetic. You are not a man. Even, “you have no penis”.

Sandra wondered what Buddy thought of being called foreign by the foreigner. Buddy was from a small town in Ontario. His parentage was half-British and half-Japanese-Canadian. The Japanese part manifested itself in his height (5 foot 4) and his legs, which were short, even for him. His father had been a fisherman on the west coast. A tiny fisherman, he had told Sandra, which made her think of a drawing of a stick figure on an enormous boat, in rocky waters for some reason. Buddy wasn’t tiny; in fact, he was pretty fat. Maybe that was his mother’s side.

Sandra and Buddy went for walks every day at lunchtime, but nobody ever asked questions about that. Buddy was married, for one thing, and Sandra had someone for that. People trusted Buddy, felt comfortable with him, maybe because he always seemed so comfortable with himself. He was twenty-nine years old, but, married and a father, could pass for forty-five. He dressed simply but in bright colours, the way an overprotective mother dresses a little boy. He was, Sandra often thought, endearingly young and old at the same time.

Sergei, on the other hand, was somewhere in his mid-thirties, tall and muscular, with big hands and a thick neck. There was nothing remarkable about the way he dressed at all, apart from the white pants he sometimes wore at office parties– but he had brought a lamp in to work one day that seemed to express something about him. It consisted of a pile of splayed white hair-like strands gathered up at one end and stuck in a small white plastic funnel bolted inside an upside-down black saucer, from which the light (of many different hues, from blue-grey to violet) emanated. The saucer sat in a white plastic sombrero-shaped base, supported by three plastic prongs. The hairs waved about a bit as the structure rotated, their tips appearing to be lit. The rotation was accompanied by a great deal of noise, the kind you would associate with a small electrical fan.

“That’s one ugly object,¨ Sandra said almost every day.

“You should talk,” Sergei would answer automatically.

Buddy would only smile amiably, as if he didn’t understand English.

Sergei had arrived from Vladivostok seven years earlier, the male equivalent of a Russian mail-order bride. His wife had been a pathologically shy catalogue artist. Sergei divorced her after obtaining his Canadian citizenship, ostensibly because he had given her a bad back through “too much fuck”, ending their sex life, and because he was not meant for monogamy, he said, let alone platonic monogamy.

“I am Tech Support,” Sergei was shouting into the phone. “I am not psychiatrist. You call me again for made-up problem, I kick your ass.” As he put the phone down he added, “Fucking gay. Next time wanna flirt, I kill you.”

Sergei came and stood over Buddy’s desk. Sandra watched from her desk, which was across the room.

“You. Why you not tell me that Matt is homosexual?”

Buddy continued to look at his computer screen for a moment. Then he said, “Did you ask?”

“No, but you should warn me.”

“About what?”

“About homosexual.”

“Warn you about homosexual.”

“Right!” Sergei had turned bright pink. The flush had started at his neck and was moving up, the colour spreading as if someone had just added a cup of cranberry juice to a tall glass of water.

Later that day, Sandra showed Buddy the note. That childish font, the one he himself used for personal messages. It read, “Sergei is gay! Not that there is anything wrong with that.”

“He’ll think it’s me.”

“What? Oh, because of the font. Yeah, maybe. Do you mind?”

“Why would I mind? We know he’s perfectly well-balanced, would never dream of physically attacking anyone.”

“If you end up in the hospital, I’ll bring you blueberry pie.”

“Deal.” He rubbed his stomach in mock anticipation, and smiled so high up in his cheekbones that his eyes disappeared.“Vanilla ice cream is always a nice touch.”

Sandra repressed an urge to kiss Buddy on the cheek. The truth was, she thought, nobody would think the note was from Buddy. Buddy never had an unkind word to say about anyone.

Sergei and Buddy carpooled. One day, as Sergei was dropping Buddy off at his suburban home, he noticed an unfamiliar girl playing in the sprinkler with Buddy’s son and daughter.

“What, you have three kids now?”

“She’s my sister, not a kid.”

“But she’s a kid, no? How old? Teenager?”

“No,”said Buddy evenly.

“Not fat like you.”

“No, not fat like me.”

Keiko’s dark hair was shiny and wet, and fell nearly to her waist like a soft black curtain. She wore a pink bikini. The kids, Lou and Mika, were running in crazed circles around her, spraying her with long green plastic water guns and shrieking with laughter.

“How old?” demanded Sergei.

“Twenty-six. Keiko’s twenty-six.” Buddy said tensely.

“Twenty-six?”Sergei seemed to be turning the number around and around in his head. “Well, that’s old enough. Very nice.”

Buddy pressed his lips together as if he was trying to smile but couldn’t, and said nothing as he heaved himself out of Sergei’s 1979 Cadillac.

Keiko’s arms were bare, revealing glistening skin and a tattoo of a Japanese character on her left shoulder. It meant, she had told Buddy, fruit, nut and reality.

Buddy noticed that Sergei’s Cadillac had not pulled away from the curb yet.

“It means nut,” he called to him.


“The tattoo.”

“Oh,”Sergei said, and nodded and grinned to himself. “Like tough nut to crack.”

Buddy didn’t say anything. He walked over to his kids, his hands up in surrender. A moment later, out of the corner of his eye, he saw that the Cadillac was now parked across the street, that Sergei had intercepted Buddy’s wife Jeannie as she walked up the street with a bag of groceries, and was now carrying the bag inside the house for her.

Jeannie was serving the pork chops. Keiko sat between the children. She was still in her bathing suit, wearing a towel on her head like someone in an ad for a spa.

“How many, Keiko?”

“That’s okay Jeannie. I’ll just have apple sauce and potatoes.”

Jeannie raised an eyebrow.

“You vegetarian again?”


“You don’t eat pork chop?” asked Sergei.

“That’s right. I don’t eat meat.”

“Why not?”

The two looked at each other for a long moment.

“She doesn’t eat meat,” said Lou, his mouth full.

“Like before when she didn’t.” offered Mika.


“Well, not these days. Not today,”said Keiko with uncharacteristic bashfulness.

“Maybe tomorrow?”

“I don’t think so.” Keiko pulled the towel off her head and shook her dark brown hair around her. It had begun to dry, turning lighter and revealing a golden auburn glow.

“We will see.”

Keiko grinned. Something about her face was very childlike. Jeannie winced and tried to catch Buddy’s eye. Buddy dug into his pork chop.

“I heard Sergei stayed for supper at your house last night,” Sandra informed Buddy the next morning.

“You heard correct,” Buddy said as he settled himself in his chair and turned on the computer.

“How was that?”

“Jeannie stopped at the Supergrocers on her way home from work and she bought all kinds of great food. We had pork chops, mashed blue potatoes, apple sauce. Lots of butter on the potatoes. Pistachio ice cream for dessert.”

“Sounds good. Heard your sister was there.”

“Yup. Keiko lost her job again so we hired her to babysit the kids after school. She usually stays for supper.”

“And, so, how did that go?”

“Oh, fine. Keiko had way too much apple sauce though. Sets a bad example for the kids.”

“And Sergei?”

“Oh, I can’t remember if he even tried the apple sauce.”

“Did he behave?”

Buddy gave her his simpleton smile.

“Apparently she made an impression on him, you know,”Sandra said questioningly.

“I’m getting hungry,” announced Buddy. “I wonder if the cafeteria has oatmeal raisin cookies today.”

“So, if Sergei goes out with your sister…”

“That’s okay,” Buddy said quickly. “I don’t even like my sister.”

“Buddy, you like everybody.”

That, at least was the consensus in the office. But maybe it was just that everybody liked Buddy.

It was true. Buddy didn’t actually like his sister. If anyone asked about it, he would say something unconvincing about injustices dating back to their teenagehood. Keiko listening to boy bands at ear-splitting levels, Keiko monopolizing the phone, Keiko breaking their parents’ hearts.

“Wait, how did she do that?”

“She…she moved out.”

“Not exactly the crime of the century.”

“She is my sister and she pushes my buttons.” Buddy looked at Sandra. “I’m not as mild-mannered as I look.”

When Keiko was sixteen, she fell in love with a skinny layabout almost twice her age. He was into vegetarianism and scrounging off other people, as far as Buddy could tell. For some reason, Keiko, still a child, decided she wanted to bear this man’s children. To the layabout’s credit, he did not care for the idea at all. So, Keiko confided to Buddy, she had a plan: poke holes in the safes. Buddy told her, very matter of fact, that it was time for him to snitch on her. At which point Keiko disappeared. For a full year.

When she resurfaced, she had no child. But she had a tattoo, a life-threatening disease and ambivalent feelings about vegetarianism.

“He’s refreshing,” Keiko had said to Buddy as Buddy drove her home after the supper with Sergei.

“The lemonade was refreshing. Jeannie makes a mean lemonade.”

Keiko went quiet, looking out the window as the tree-lined streets fell out of view, and the landscape turned drier and dustier and more urban.

“What’s going on with your T-cell count?” Buddy asked, in the same tone as he might have asked what Keiko thought of the lemonade.

“Everything’s A-OK,” Keiko said.

“That’s peachy.”

There was another silence, and then she said, “there’s an Italian AIDS march this weekend.”

“An Italian AIDS march?”

“Yup. In Little Italy, in, you know, that park in front of the cathedral.”


“Do you think I should invite Sergei?”

“Do you think you should invite Sergei?” In truth, Buddy was stunned by the question. Why would you invite Sergei? Then he said it out loud.

“Why would you invite Sergei?”

“I…like him?”she said in the am-I-talking-to-a-retard tone of their never so distant adolescence.

Buddy pulled up in front of Keiko’s three-storey brownstone building. A skinny teenager with a cloud of puffy white hair was dribbling a basketball up and down the sidewalk by himself.

“Hey Q-tip!” Keiko called out cheerily.

Q-tip stopped and grinned shyly at Keiko.

“I think you should invite Q-tip,” said Buddy. “Q-tip and his ball. He’d be fun for Lou and Mika.”

“So YOU guys are coming?” Keiko threw her arms around her brother. Buddy patted her back awkwardly and then nudged her toward the door.

“Sure. Why not? Park means picnic. Those Italians will know how to put on a good spread.”

Buddy tried to remember the last time Keiko had followed his advice about anything. He sat in the car watching Q-tip whiz around Keiko, dribbling his ball. He closed his eyes for a moment and listened to some sparrows and squirrels chirp and chatter at each other. In the background a boy and girl were shouting at each other.

“You are one stupid fuck.”

“So, you are like TWO stupid fucks, you fat stupid fuck.”

Buddy turned to his sister and looked deeply into her eyes.

“Yeah, why not. Invite the guy.”


Anita Anand lives in Montreal, Canada.  Her stories and essays have appeared in Frostwriting.com, the Louisiana Review and  the Toronto Globe and Mail.

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