Maury’s aunt Susan, lately eloped from her nursing home, pulled up a chair in the kitchen of Domus Logogustationis. “I’m pleased to meet you gentlemen,” she said, smiling prettily. “I’m Susan. I can’t remember my current surname at the moment, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s not my first, and it may not be my last.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Daryl and I both said. Maury said nothing, having known her all his forty-two years.
“I thought I’d have a night out from the residence,” she said. Plucking at her nightdress, she added, “I’m more dressed for a night in, but I learned a long time ago that if you look like you’re going to leave, people may try to stop you. Anyway, I heard you taste words here, and that sounded like a kind of diet I could go on. I regret not having one to bring to the table. Certainly my name isn’t much for the palate.”
“Susan?” I said. “Plenty to go on there. Almost too much, in fact.”
“Brown-eyed Susan, black-eyed Susan,” Daryl said. “Both flowers, though ironically Susan – or rather Susanna, which it comes from – means ‘lotus flower’.”
Susan smiled even more and folded her legs up on her chair. “Lotus I can do! I used to be a flower child. A late bloomer, though – I was thirty-three in the summer of sixty-nine. I was like the Suzanne who takes you down to her place near the river… Only, of course, I was Susan.”
“So,” Maury said, “you’d take them down to see what ensues an’ all that.” His vaguely weary, knowing manner telegraphed that Maury had heard many tales of her colourful life.
A thought occurred to Susan. “Wait, doesn’t Susanna mean ‘lily’? Which is twice as ironic!”
“Yes,” said Maury, who it seemed had told her this before, “‘lily’ – or also ‘rose’.”
“Not the rose of Sharon!” Susan giggled.
“The source seems ultimately to be from Egyptian for ‘lotus’, though,” Maury continued, “as Daryl says. But the Hebrew root for Shoshana, which is ‘rose’ or ‘lily’, is also from a verb meaning ‘be joyous’.”
“Well, that suits me!” Susan said. “Oh, Susanna, don’t you cry for me… I’ve come from Alabama with a banjo on my knee. Or anyway from East York with a Band-Aid on my elbow.” She pulled up her sleeve. Nope. She pulled up the other. Nope. “Hmmm… Either that was another time or it’s on another body part…”
Maury leapt in to distract her from the search. “You never went by Sue, though.”
“Nope!” she said, looking up. “I didn’t want to have a name that was a constant reminder of legal action. Not that I’m all that keen on imputations of laziness.”
“Nobody who knows you would ever call you lazy, Susan,” Maury said. He left it unsaid that legal complications might be more common, given her storied adventuresomeness.
“I did try Susie on for size,” she said, “in fifty-six or fifty-seven… Of course I’m not a Susie Q. But ‘Wake Up, Little Susie’ was my theme song… Well, it came second after ‘Sleep with Me, Little Susie,’ which was very popular.” She giggled mischievously; Maury looked a bit uncomfortable.
“Susan is a popular name,” I offered. “Several of my junior high school teachers were named Susan. Well, they were named Mrs. This and Mrs. That, but we found out they had first names, and they always seemed to be Susan.”
Susan raised her hand. “I was a teacher for a time. But I prefer to be thought of as like Susan Sarandon. Or maybe Susan Sontag. Anyway,” she added, stretching and shaking out her long hair, “I always liked the shape of the word, with those two sinuous s’s, even if I never liked the buzzing sound in the middle.”
Daryl and I looked at Maury. “How come she hasn’t been a member of the Order of Logogustation for years?” I asked him.
Maury paused and looked a bit uncomfortable as he tried to find a nice way to put it. Susan just laughed. “I’m not very reliable, and neither is my brain. I have episodes. I forget things. Now, of course, many people my age spend time thinking about the hereafter – they come into a room and say, ‘Now, what was I here after?’ – but while I’ve been a bit of a menace to society since at least nineteen fifty-four, I’ve been a bit much of a menace to myself from time to time since… what year is it now?”
“Two thousand ten,” Maury said.
“Good grief,” Susan said. “I’m seventy-five. Wait – what month is this?”
“August,” Maury said.
“I’ll be seventy-five soon. You must come to my birthday party.”
The word “party” reminded Daryl. “We have a party to set up for.” He turned to Susan. “You will stay?”
“That’s why I’m here! I’m not just sussin’ the place out…” She turned and looked at Maury and the melon that was before him. “I brought a cantaloupe. You can use what’s left of it if you want.” She swatted Maury lightly on the shoulder. “Piggy.” She turned back to me and Daryl. “Now, I think I heard something about wine?”