Post 68: Excerpts from The Rooming House Diaries

The second novel by Bill Mathis will be published in August 2019 by Rogue Phoenix Press. Available for preorder through Amazon as eBook or paperback around mid-July, 2019.

Diary 4

Katie and Krys Koslowski

Katerina (Katie) Born: September 16, 1931

Krystina (Krys) Born: January 9, 1951

A red leather diary discovered between the back of an armoire and the wall in the efficiency apartment.

The Interview Weekend

May 25, 1949

This is Katerina, but I think I’m going to start calling myself Katie.

Hello, brand new diary!

That sounds so funny to write, as if a diary is a person. Maybe it is. Having an official diary sure sounds different from writing stuff down in leftover school notebooks.

Mom gave you to me and you are beautiful. Light red leather. Real leather. With a clasp and lock. Big enough to write lots in, pages big enough so I don’t have to cramp my hand, but small enough to fit into my purse or shoulder bag.

Mom waited till Dad left the house to give it to me. I don’t know if he went off to work or drink. 

Either way, I knew he’d have yelled at Mom for spending the money, even for a graduation present. Poor Mom. I don’t know how she does it. Six kids twenty years apart. I’m the youngest, Joe is the oldest, he’s a priest and we’re best friends. Mom had a bunch of miscarriages in between us kids. I love her, but she’s so worn down and tired out, I try not to bother her with things in my life. Not that I have many things to bother her with. Still, it would be nice to know she could help if I ever needed it.

I am so excited. Friday, I go to Dr. and Mrs. Kaplan’s for the weekend, till Monday, Memorial Day. My Home-Ec teacher, Mrs. Sorenson, the one who wants me to go to clothing design school downtown in the Loop, told me the Kaplans were looking for a nanny, part time and sometimes full time. She gave them my name and had me talk on the phone from school with Miriam, Mrs. Kaplan, who told me not to call her Mrs. because it made her feel old. Mrs. Sorenson told me she and Miriam went to college together and have stayed friends. They’re calling it a weekend trial interview, but Mrs. S said not to worry. She thinks we’ll hit it off very well.

I want to save money for design school, but Dad already told me I have to give most of it to him for my room and board…

I love the Kaplans. Doc, Miriam and little Esther and Ruth. Miriam is slender and tall, maybe five-foot, seven-inches. Taller than my five-one. She has curly brown hair and big brown eyes and a most friendly look. Doc is shorter than her by at least two inches. He’s a little pudgy and balding. He has hazel eyes and wears round glasses that make him look very serious, almost like an unfriendly, stern doctor.

The first thing Doc said was, “Call me Doc, that way, you only have to learn three old testament names, Miriam, Esther, and Ruth. Besides, Levi sounds so orthodox New York Jewish. Oh, that’s right, we are Jewish and from New York and still sound like it.” He patted my shoulder like I was an old friend and said, “Hey, Katerina, think we’ll ever sound like native Chicagoans?”

Of course, I giggled, he was so funny, but I did speak back, “Call me Katie, please. It’s more Chicagoan and less Polish.” They both laughed. His laugh is catching.

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