Crumb: (n) a small particle of bread, cake, etc., that has broken off.
Mrs. Venetti was old.
This is the nicest thing I can say about her.
She was sure of herself.
Having become so assured of her own perfection, she launched out, attempting to perfect the world around her.
I knew her because, for some reason or another, my parents insisted I call her “Aunt,” even though we were not related. (I later discovered that she had money and my parents were intrigued by it.)
So this woman, who had the answer for every problem and an extra problem or two available if you were lacking, quickly made the decision that she did not like me.
She had an organ in her home that I enjoyed playing–until she heard my rocking and rolling. She explained that the German technician who maintained it told her that my fingers were too fat and heavy and might damage it.
Her house was perfect.
(What other kind of house would a perfect woman have?)
Only one time when I visited her (at the behest of my parents) did she offer me something to eat. It was a single cheese slice, wrapped in cellophane. Unfortunately, I peered at it too long before dismantling and eating it and she accused me of being ungrateful.
But she had a favorite word for me.
She loved to call me “crumb.”
She even had derivations.
Sometimes it was crumb.
Other times crummy.
When she was particularly perturbed, I was referred to as crumbum.
Along with the insult came a snarling at the lips, a look of superiority mingled with loveless pity. She always asked me to walk slowly through her house so as not to knock over knick-knacks with my heavy steps.
She was an unpleasant woman who had to be viewed as tolerable because she had money.
Although it’s been proclaimed that money can’t buy everything, the few things it doesn’t purchase don’t appear to be very popular.
She never liked me—and when I was young, it ate at the left corner of my soul, threatening to create a hole from which all my hope was prepared to drain.
Then one day, God—in his infinite wisdom and grace—gave this fat boy with chubby fingers and heavy feet a gift. Sitting in her living room, entertaining some friends, barely tolerating my presence, Mrs. Venetti suddenly farted.
And not only farted—she pooped her pants.
Everybody quickly rose to assist her, which increased her embarrassment, causing her to become livid, threatening everyone in sight.
I sat very still.
I knew I was going to need to laugh about this—but now was not the time. Yet I did not want to lose the reservoir of humor building up inside me.
So I remained motionless.
After everyone carefully lifted “Auntie” from her chair, which she had sullied, and taken her into the bathroom, I ran out the front door, down the street, around the corner…and laughed.
I did not do it very long because after a few moments, it seemed cruel.
But the first fifteen or sixteen cackles healed that left corner of my soul.