Tamar Sees the Sign

Tamar took the picture after she dropped her bag of trash. She knew exactly whose sign it was: Iris Overton, first floor, front apartment. Old Iris, who cracked her door open every time someone came in. Old Iris, who cooked with eighteen cloves of garlic, shouted on the phone to her brother, and went to off her Department of Ed job each morning with a grand slam of her lock-festooned door. Iris came original with the building, it seems, and she had what Tamar thought of as a classic case of tooth-grinding liberalism.

The sign, now folded over and somewhat crumpled, said “Jesus Had Two Fathers and He Turned Out Fine,” replete with three exclamation points. Tamar studied it briefly and then spent her walk to the train contemplating what demonstration Iris had attended for which such a message would be appropriate. Gay Pride was weeks away. The AIDS walk was over. She knew Iris had once slept at the original Occupy Wall Street, but stopped not long after getting into an argument with a youngster in charge of camping equipment. The camping incident was learned because Tamar had the unfortunate timing to be letting herself in just as Iris was shouting the story to her older brother. Taking a quick pause to listen, Tamar was caught red-handed by Iris, who threw open the door and, still holding the phone, shouted: “Yes?!” The ambush so took Tamar by surprise that she gasped and nearly fell backward. Spluttering and stumbling, she did her best not to drop the mail or trip running up the stairs. Once she reached the shelter of her fifth floor studio, Tamar threw her mail down and let the red-rush of shame fill her. Iris looked so much like her great Aunt Sylvie, and Sylvie caught Tamar, too.

Getting off the train and treading lightly, Tamar headed straight to her place of work, bypassing the deli where she usually picked up a yogurt and banana. Hitting floor fourteen, she soon found herself behind her p.c., posting the picture to Facebook. “Evil Neighbor with a Heart of Pale Gold,” she wrote. “Park Slopers unite in liberal confusion! Snapped 28 may 12, approximately 8:50am.” Thus complete, Tamar picked up the phone to order a bagel and scrambled egg sandwich with a side of home fries. Her smile was vague, perhaps because she was calculating the cash in her wallet, or perhaps Aunt Sylvie was haunting her. No, it was this: the post was way too benign. How about a picture of Iris as she leaves for work, accompanied by a sound clip of the nightly brother chat? Yes, yes, and Tamar had just the app to do the deed. A delighted grin appeared. Ten minutes to a greasy mess and twenty-four hours to neighbor-nasty revenge.

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