Page:Manhattan Transfer (John Dos Passos, 1925).djvu/368

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Manhattan Transfer

Mrs. Cohen, a bent old woman with a face brown and blotched like a russet apple, stands beside the kitchen table with her gnarled hands folded over her belly. She sways from the hips as she scolds in an endless querulous stream of Yiddish at Anna sitting blearyeyed with sleep over a cup of coffee: "If you had been blasted in the cradle it would have been better, if you had been born dead. . . . Oy what for have I raised four children that they should all of them be no good, agitators and streetwalkers and bums . . .? Benny in jail twice, and Sol God knows where making trouble, and Sarah accursed given up to sin kicking up her legs at Minski's, and now you, may you wither in your chair, picketing for the garment workers, walking along the street shameless with a sign on your back."

Anna dipped a piece of bread in the coffee and put it in her mouth. "Aw mommer you dont understand," she said with her mouth full.

"Understand, understand harlotry and sinfulness . . .? Oy why dont you attend to your work and keep your mouth shut, and draw your pay quietly? You used to make good money and could have got married decent before you took to running wild in dance halls with a goy. Oy oy that I've raised daughters in my old age no decent man'd want to take to his house and marry. . . ."

Anna got to her feet shrieking "It's no business of yours. . . . I've always paid my part of the rent regular. You think a girl's worth nothin but for a slave and to grind her fingers off workin all her life. . . . I think different, do you hear? Dont you dare scold at me. . . ."

"Oy you will talk back to your old mother. If Solomon was alive he'd take a stick to you. Better to have been born dead than talk back to your mother like a goy. Get out of the house and quick before I blast you."

"All right I will." Anna ran through the narrow trunk-obstructed hallway to the bedroom and threw herself on her bed. Her cheeks were burning. She lay quiet trying to think. From the kitchen came the old woman's fierce monotonous sobbing.