Every Christmas, my Aunt Ruth sends me a $50 cheque for Hanukkah. I look forward to it. I count on it. I budget it in. This year, seeing my aunt Ruth's name and Texas address on an envelope, I opened it excitedly and read the enclosed note. She'd just finished reading my novel and had a few words to say about it.

There's not much I can say about her. She doesn't make a very interesting character, although she's uncannily like Mrs Robinson in The Graduate, always smoothing a stocking and dangling a cigarette between her beige lips. Once, we rode the Long Island Rail Road together and a good-looking young man boarded the train. He approached us, her eyes narrowed and, in one deft movement, she crossed her tanned legs and hiked her long skirt well above her knees. The boy and I were horror-stricken.

Another time, at a restaurant, she inquired about the man I was dating at the time. We'd been living together for over two years. I was in love and expecting an engagement ring at any moment. I looked for it in my dessert every time he took me out to dinner. "Tell us about your new boyfriend. Is he married?" she asked me. "Is he what!" I shrieked. "Is he married?" she asked again. I just sat there, too hurt and stunned to speak.

It is also rumoured that she may have caused the death of Judy Garland, because she supposedly cancelled a luncheon date with her on the morning she killed herself. It is my belief that Ms Garland did not receive the message of the cancellation and committed suicide to avoid the luncheon with my aunt.

Once, she yelled at me for eating a tuna sandwich alone in her dining room, with no shoes on. "We do not come to the dining table barefoot!" she announced. Her mother had never allowed bare feet. Her mother had also vigorously protested teaching The Catcher in the Rye in schools.

As I stood by my mailbox reading her note, I got very angry. "Uncle Ed and I are saddened by your family portrayal in your book," she wrote.

She stated: "I feel you have been mean-spirited in your treatment of your father and stepmother... I believe being a talented writer does not give licence to injure." She continued about "truth" and "humanity". "In the meantime," she ended, "I wish you well." I took another look in the envelope. No cheque.

I wonder if it's really my book that's saddened my aunt, or its success. Until this note, the publication of my book got no attention from her. Had I gotten engaged (provided my intended was not already married), I would have received congratulations and a crystal vase from Tiffany's, like my mother did. I remember when I told her my book was published. "Is it a children's book?" she asked, bewildered by my happy news. The book is called Going Down, and, in America, has a blurry photo on the cover of a woman without a head wearing black vinyl and high-heeled boots, sitting on a concrete ledge with her legs spread wide apart. Hardly suitable for children.

I had thought I might write about my screenwriting experiences with Madonna, but I just felt like writing about Aunt Ruth. How would Madonna and Aunt Ruth get along, I wonder. Could Aunt Ruth seduce the father of Madonna's baby? Could she convince Madonna to change the name of her hit song "Express Yourself" to "Don't Express Yourself"? The questions boggle the mind. Like, what if the great writers throughout history all had Aunt Ruths?

Maybe one needs an Aunt Ruth to be a writer. My parents are so supportive, it's almost disappointing. My mother (whom my Aunt Ruth hates the most) is a writer herself and my father calls me almost daily to tell me how proud he is and to see how my second book is going. Even my brother, who is in law school and would strongly advise me against writing this, and who lives in constant fear that my rift with Aunt Ruth will ruin his upcoming wedding, has been on my side. (His fear is not unfounded. At her son's wedding, to which I was not invited, my Aunt Ruth called the Baptist bride a hussy at the altar.) I don't believe in writing for revenge, as my mother does, but it's nice to have someone to rebel against.

Although I now get to go to Madonna's house, nice lunch meetings and to a few premieres, my book's success has cost me an invitation to Passover Seder, perpetrated every year by my Aunt Ruth. Last year, it took place at an Italian restaurant because her kitchen was being remodelled. She brought her own matzo ball soup and in a loud drunken voice kept demanding the waiters open the door for Elijah. I was seated next to a middle-aged man whom I had never met. "I'm here because I have to be, why are you here?" I asked him. "My wife just died and your Aunt Ruth insisted I come," he said, "I couldn't stand my wife." I'd rather die myself than go, but it's still nice to be invited.

Perhaps Aunt Ruth's wrath stems from her exclusion from my book. Maybe she's hurt that she wasn't even mentioned. She always had a squelched desire to be famous as nothing ever came of her tap dancing.

I talk to people all the time who say they can't write what they want to because they're afraid of hurting their families. This is what I tell them: write it anyway.

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