Wilsonâ€™s mother has a Maxwell House tin from the early seventies filled with complementary blue copies of the Haggadahâ€”collected from years of dedicated coffee-drinking and being Jewish. She has a beautiful white, eyelet table cloth and blue china plates, heavy and hairline cracked with age, and sets of silver and glasswear that she brought out special for the occasion, although sheâ€™d admitted to House more than a decade ago that she still used the same pots, and she figured God would forgive her that.
House liked Iris Wilson as soon as heâ€™d met herâ€”which is the only reason he hasnâ€™t killed her son and tossed his body on the side of the highway already.
He flicks on his high beams and narrows his eyes at the houses lining the sides of the streets, trying to see mailbox numbers. â€œStop fidgeting,â€ he mutters.
â€œI canâ€™t help it,â€ Wilson mutters, his knee bouncing, thumbs playing at the seatbelt.
Outside, the rain beats down harder and harder, slapping the hood and windshield, battering the trees. Theyâ€™ve been on the road for more than two hours already, and theyâ€™ve finally peeled off of the highways and onto the side streets, melted into quiet, tree-lined neighborhoods that meander one into the other like streams.
â€œItâ€™s your mother,â€ House sighs. â€œShe thinks you crap unicorns.â€
Three-oh-six, House thinks, three-oh-eightâ€”three-one-zero, finally, and he parallel parks (badly) underneath an enormous sycamore, setting the parking break.
â€œShe thinks you crap unicorns,â€ Wilson retorts, rubbing his hands over his face. â€œI suppose Iâ€™m just lucky youâ€™re not actually a womanâ€”God knows she would have made me marry you years ago.â€
â€œIâ€™m not your type: Iâ€™m not a shikse,â€ House says and got out of the car.
Wilson is probably the most terrible Jew in the tri-state areaâ€”and thatâ€™s even accounting his unprecedented capacity for guilt.
Houseâ€™s role in Wilsonâ€™s family life is to attend each Jew party his wives wouldnâ€™tâ€”either because they were cheating on one another, divorcing one another, or looking for reasons to do one or the other. All in all, House has gone to six of the last ten yearâ€™s worth of Seders at the Wilson house. He doesnâ€™t mind: Wilsonâ€™s mom makes a killer brisket.
â€œNo,â€ Wilson says, sounding fond. â€œYou unrepentant shikker.â€
â€œHey,â€ House says, thumping up the front steps after Wilson, â€œI am not a drunk.â€
Wilson rings the bell and shrugs, saying, â€œIt was the closest my people came to inventing a word for â€˜addictâ€™ predating narcotic drugs.â€
Wilson always anticipates the disappointed frowns, his fatherâ€™s sadness, the scolding looks of his older brother, the smirks of whichever cousins had appeared. House imagines that Wilson always plans for at least one nephew or second cousin to have some sort of seizure and die, prostrate, with tumors sprouting from his eyeballs, on the dining room floor. But Wilson has always been the good son, and well-loved by both his parents, if not necessarily understood. They worry about him, less than they should but more than Wilson wants them to.
â€œYou look thin,â€ Iris scolds, peeling Wilsonâ€™s coat away and starting to tug at Houseâ€™s. The concept of personal space is foreign here, House thinks, resigning himself to being stripped by a woman about a foot and a half shorter than himself. She turns to him and frowns. â€œAnd you! You look terrible! Whoâ€™s feeding you?â€
House points at Wilson. â€œBut only if Iâ€™ve been good.â€
Iris slaps at both of them, trying to stay annoyed, but collapses like a cheap deck of cards, gathering up Wilson in a hug and giving Houseâ€™s elbow a squeeze, leading them into the kitchen. Only House and Wilson are ever led to the kitchen, House has realized, and he recognizes heâ€™s there only by virtue of Jimmyâ€™s cooking; Wilsonâ€™s conscripted into service immediately, forced to parcel out gefilte fish and check the matzo ball soup.
â€œMa, what did you do to this?â€ Wilson half shouts, diving at a cupboard, one hand holding the pot lid. The liquid inside does look somewhat suspicious. â€œYouâ€™ve been messing up this soup for as long as I can remember!â€
Iris waves a dismissive hand and turns to House. â€œWhat a stickler,â€ she laughs.
â€œYeah,â€ House agrees, grinning. â€œYou know how patients hate that.â€
â€œItâ€™s so good to see you boys again,â€ she tells him, and seeing that Wilsonâ€™s appropriately distracted trying to rectify whatever sheâ€™s done to the first course, she asks, â€œIs he doing all right?â€
House could say any number of things, but he and Wilson are on shaky ground as it is, relearning boundaries after Tritter had gerrymandered his way into their livesâ€”and more than that, he doesnâ€™t want Iris to worry. Wilson is fineâ€”just not in the classic definition of fine. Jimmy wonâ€™t ever be happy the way he thinks he should be happy, but Iris doesnâ€™t need to know that, so House says:
â€œWell, he hasnâ€™t proposed yet, but Iâ€™m thinking he might ask soon.â€ He holds up a hand for her inspection. â€œWhat kind of ring, do you think?â€
â€œHah,â€ she mutters, and pushes his hand back into his lap. â€œMy boyâ€™s a nice Jewish doctor. He can do better than you.â€
â€œTouche,â€ House acquiesces.
Iris asks about hospital gossip and House says utterly scandalous and horrible things about his fellows until Wilson finally tunes back in, compelled to speak up on their behalf.
â€œI like Gregâ€™s stories better,â€ Wilsonâ€™s father says, herding everybody to the dining room table, and filling everybodyâ€™s wine glass. He slaps peoplesâ€™ hands away from their drinks with his dog-eared copy of the Haggadah, shouting, â€œAll right! All right! Itâ€™s time for us to get this night on the road so everybody shut up and think about escaping from Egypt.â€
â€œI feel closer to God already,â€ House whispers, and when Wilson kicks him under the table, shoulders shaking from laughter, House can feel the love through the toe of his expensive French shoes.