As for Arlene, well, he was just not going to think about his upcoming meeting with her while he was masticating. This whole mess was no less an embarrassment for him than it was for Arlene.
In all their business dealings for clients they had always come through with flying colors, which was how they had built their enviable reputation and their legendary success.They could do nothing about it for the moment except, of course, to use Arlene's idiom, go on being supportive, love their daughter unconditionally, always be there for her, but, at the same time, they needed to allow time to grieve—figuratively grieve, that is, not actually go into mourning by sitting shiva for seven days, like those ultra-Orthodox fanatics when one of their kids converted—and then, of course, they'd need closure, they'd need to move on with their own lives, to let go of all this bad stuff, put it behind them, give the healing process a chance to work, blah blah. "The bad news is, it's a fact: she's a nun, so that makes her a Christian, I guess, a goy, a shiksa, even worse, a Catholic. And also it's a problem, I suppose, that she had to go and pick that Carmelite convent right by Auschwitz, of all places, for her nun phase, where three quarters of our family were incinerated. On the other hand"—and here he would slow down and suck in air for greater effect—"the good news is, she's safe, she has a guaranteed roof over her head and food to eat every day, guys can't bother her anymore, and, from a parent's point of view, we will now always know exactly where she is at all times." Hey, he loved the girl as much as Arlene did, Norman thought resentfully. It was an emergency damage-control situation requiring a rapid response.He had to figure out some way to market this negative to their advantage, to turn it around—something like, you know, the ongoing trauma of the Holocaust, the continuing threat to our survival, the Holocaust is not yet over, et cetera et cetera. But there was one thing he wanted to know, just one thing—why was he always the one who had to be, as Arlene would put it, supportive, like some Goddamn jockstrap?"Sister Consolatia asks that you respect her right to choose," the nun told them with finality, in English, though Maurice of course knew Polish.Hearing the signature phrasing, the Messers, father and son, could not deceive themselves that this was anything other than a direct quotation from their apostate offspring, their lost Nechama, now reborn as Sister Consolatia.