Welcome to America: The Bag

Flash Fiction

by Marina Rubin

EMMA SCHWARTZ, my mother's lifelong friend, helped us find our first apartment. She knew all the shortcuts of immigrant life, how to sign up for welfare, which store had chicken legs on sale, where to buy yesterday's bread, half price. One night she burst into a grim soliloquy, Oy vey America, it is far from the La Dolce Vita we expected, a student stabbed for a pair of sneakers, an old woman mugged in broad daylight, earrings torn off with the flesh, bag snatched together with a finger. My mother, terrified, remembered the expensive leather bag she bought in Rome next to the Trevi Fountain. She loved it, but if it was going to cost her her dear life . . . . Promptly, she brought the cursed bag into the kitchen, tags still attached, and said, Emmachka, you have been such a wonderful friend, please accept this humble present. Next evening, as we sat on the porch watching the Mexican vendors roll up their flowers, we saw Emma Schwartz strutting down the street, swinging my mother's bag with the carelessness of an Italian schoolgirl.

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