My Lover Doesn't Like Beets
had never met Dontravio, and I was nervous about how it would go. She
winked at me as she shoplifted a wedge of Zabar’s Camembert for their
first encounter. I took this as a sign that she was in a chipper mood
and things would go well.
We made our way over to the
New York Peanut Butter Society where Dontravio does public relations.
He calls people up and asks if they like peanut butter. If they do, he
says, "That’s great!" and hangs up. If they don’t, he curses them out
in a language he and his brother made up as kids and then slams the
receiver down in a fury.
It’s a dirty job, but it pays well enough that he’s been able to buy a
hammock for evening relaxation. True, he doesn’t have a backyard so the
hammock is tied between his kitchen and his living room and is frankly
a real pain in the ass to have to untie every time I want a snack, but
then it’s the price you pay for comfort.
On the way to the Society, Mother and I sang "One hundred bottles of
beer on the wall," a family favorite. It always draws stares, and we do
love the attention. I announced myself at the Society by having Mother
blow a bugle and declare my name with a theatrical bellow.
Dontravio bolted down the stairs, grabbed me in his arms and twirled me
around relentlessly, accidentally banging me into a wall and causing a
skull fracture I would not feel till hours later.
he noticed the dent my head made in the wall, Dontravio released me
into a standing position. He held out his hand, which was encased in a
large hot dog bun (he promised to explain this "when the calla lilies
are in bloom" and hinted that it had to do with his past as a carnie
sword swallower). Bowing to Mother, Dontravio mumbled, "Eh, yes, eh,
Mrs., what was your name? Who’s this? Lisa? I dunno from nothing. Eh,
yeah, the commies I tell ya, they’re out to get me. And the black
helicopters. Hey, got any beans on ya? Yeah, beans. I likes ’em."
Mother seemed baffled but only momentarily. She has always been a
terrible listener so within seconds she returned to her usual
stream-of-consciousness laundry-list brand of conversation and told him
everything she bought at Gristede’s the previous day, her scheduled
times for washing her hair in the coming week, and every doctor’s
appointment she had from this day through the next six months.
Dontravio feigned interest, then attempted to shoot himself with a
water pistol he kept in his suit pocket for when he needed a little
"Dontravio, no!" I said, still dizzy from banging my head against the
wall. Be strong, said the voice in my head doing a very bad Katherine
Hepburn impression. When the squirt of water hit his cheek, he fell
helplessly into my arms. "You’ve got to stay alive!" I said, while he
began shoving crackers in his mouth and whistling. Dontravio kept a
stash of Saltines in his left pocket. He said it helped keep his change
from clanging when he walked. "Do it for…for the children!"
"Children? Darling, are you…" His face filled with the kind of fear I
had only felt when I thought I’d ordered my chicken wings "mild" but
had instead received them "caliente."
"No, I meant, you know, children in general!"
"Oh, I see now! Ha ha!" While he’d actually just spoken the words "ha
ha" because Dontravio likes to think we all live in a comic strip, he
then burst into peals of laughter, and Mother and I joined in. Soon, we
had the entire New York Peanut Butter Society in stitches!
Knowing that the meeting was going well, I suggested Dontravio try the
cheese. Mother offered, "It would go nicely with those crackers you
Dontravio bit off half the wedge with a reckless abandon that proved he
was the man for me, then tossed a cracker in after it. "Bellissimo!" he
exclaimed. "Jumpin’ Jehosaphat, this is the best darned cheese I ever
sunk my dentures into!"
Mother was overjoyed to meet a fellow denture wearer with whom she
could discuss joys and miseries. She began jumping up and down, which
was charming but also embarrassing. "Oh, Dontravio," she said, "Welcome
to the family! Hey, I was thinking of cooking beets tonight. Would you
"I’m sorry, Mother of My Beloved, I do so hate beets. May I still marry your daughter?"
Sadly, I decided then that I could never love a man who hated beets. I
could not believe we’d come this far without discussing my fifth
favorite vegetable. I felt certain that I had to call it quits.
For two weeks, Dontravio came to serenade me on his guitar. Since my
doorman would not let him up, Dontravio had to settle for standing in
the lobby and serenading the doorman. My mother contacted Dontravio at
the Peanut Butter Society and force-fed him borscht for five hours
straight. Dontravio grew numb to the taste of beets, and we reconciled
our differences. Our marriage will take place in the 59th Street subway
station some day when I can get out of work early.
Ferber's short stories have appeared in Tryst, The Shore Magazine, and
Muse Apprentice Guild. She is a member of Playwrights/Actors
Contemporary Theater and a writer and performer with The Brick Radio
Players. Her plays Oh, Mister Cadhole!, Hell-O, Either the Cat Goes,
Brick Theater; Penny's One Date, Stop Calling It Cinema, and Lulubelle
Gets a Makeover have been performed at various New York City venues,
and this summer her plays Oh, Mister Cadhole! (musical version), Are
Not My Foibles Amusing?, and The Return of Toodles Von Flooz will be
produced in NYC.