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Fischer, Joan (ed.) / Wisconsin Academy review
Volume 51, Number 3 (Summer 2005)

Nesaule, Agate
Randa's umbrella,   pp. 42-47


Page 45

whether it's full of rock stars, Mafia 
dons, coffins, or vampires. 
I must stop. I've avoided an accident 
three times already, even before the 
freezing rain turned the pavement into 
black ice, and I may not be so lucky 
again. I creep along to the first exit and 
follow a weak neon sign to a Knight's 
Inn. 
"Traveling alone?" the clerk asks, 
brushing dandruff from his navy blue 
sweater. 
Have I stepped into Psycho? Did I see 
an old farmhouse, with only one window 
lit, in the desolate fields behind the 
motel? Is that where he keeps his 
mother's corpse and changes into her 
dresses? Is he questioning me because 
he plans to stab me to death in the 
shower? 
Stop that. He's far too fat to be an axe 
murderer, and the flashy rings cutting 
into his pudgy fingers proclaim him to be 
a husband, a high school graduate, and a 
member of the American Eagles Club. 
And it's not really deserted because 
there are several cars in front of other 
units. Besides, I can move a bureau and 
wedge a chair under the door. 
I am calm by the time I park in front of 
my number, but a scream escapes me 
nevertheless as I reach for my overnight 
bag. 
A black shape, like a huge dead bat, 
has spread over the entire back seat of 
my car. A truck driver, a pair of newly- 
weds, and a family with three children 
spill out of the other rooms before I real- 
ize I've been frightened by nothing. 
It is only Randa's umbrella, somehow 
unfurled on its own, which I've forgotten 
to return. 
"Keep it as a memento," Papa says to 
me on the phone. "I have no earthly use 
for an umbrella that color." 
A small voice deep inside me whis- 
pers to get rid of the umbrella as quickly 
as possible. The last thing I need is a 
memento of Randa because I want to 
forget her, unforgettable though she 
may be. But I don't listen. That umbrella 
memoir 
is more than rightfully mine. Beate and I 
will never see any of our mother's things 
again, which Randa appropriated: her 
delicate hand-painted china cups saved 
for and bought one by one at L. S. Ayres, 
or her crystal vase, treasured because it 
was a present from Mrs. Putelis, who 
was later brutally murdered. Randa even 
glommed onto some of Mama's beloved 
books, though she wouldn't understand 
them if she tried to read them, nor could 
she pronounce the titles of the ones 
Mama studied for her late-life Ph.D. in 
comparative literature. 
So far Randa's daughter has shown no 
inclination to offer Beate and me any of 
the things that belonged to our mother, 
and Randa's will has made it clear that 
her children inherit everything. She 
hasn't left even a two-dollar bill to Papa 
though he paid for her food, utilities, 
maintenance, new appliances, new roof, 
and new car, not to mention that he 
WISCONSIN  ACADEMY  REVIEW  SUMMER  2005  45 
endured living with her for thirteen 
years. She has, in fact, done her best to 
make him homeless again at eighty-four, 
just as he was as a seven-year-old 
orphan during World War I and as a 
thirty-six-year-old adult during World 
War II. 
But Randa's kindly son Juris has 
unwittingly foiled her plans by gener- 
ously inviting my father to live in her 
house as long as he wants. I hope she's 
mad about that Down There. I hope 
she's hopping up and down, cursing 
ineffectually, between blazing fires as 
three little devils, their long tails snaking 
behind them, circle and jab her with 
their shiny red pitchforks. 
It'll make her madder yet if I too get to 
keep something of hers. The umbrella, 
spread out and drying peacefully in the 
sun, doesn't look the least bit frighten- 
ing. Its green and purple panels spring 
to life, tempting me. The green is the 


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