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Works

Toadal Chaos

You crossed the line, my friend Ann tells me. I’m visiting her in California. We’ve borrowed a trailer perched on a small mountain so that we can have a quiet place to write. Now I’m trying to explain why I can’t focus, why my nerves are so jangly. Why I can only take short, shallow breaths ...

Mary Janes

She wore homemade dresses and store-bought black patent-leather shoes (Mary Janes), and she loved her shoes, the crescent of white anklet sock that showed between the toe and the strap ...

Blessed Assurance

That summer Lily would get up early to help her grandmother search for slugs on the tomato plants, and although she pretended disgust, she liked the dew-drenched garden and the way conversation seemed out of place there ...

Dropped

She has always had too many friends, except for now, when she has left her old life behind for a Holy Grail of sorts--she looks grail up in the dictionary and finds that it is only a cup, and Holy Grail is only a legend, and she sighs and looks out the window ...

Metropolitan Home

The trouble with having embraced minimalism is that when her mother and grandmother come to visit, she doesn't have any chairs, except in the dining room, that her grandmother can sit in--or get out of--comfortably, and so that's how she and her mother and grandmother end up spending the entire week playing pinochle at the dining room table ...

Winter Acoustics

Snow continues to fall, and in this room they have borrowed, a muffled intimacy of quilt swish and window creak: winter acoustics--(only in New York, she thinks, are apartments loaned like clothing)--and somehow during the night, the radiator has learned a parlor trick ...

Running Dispute

It all comes down, she thinks, to this simple fact: wide piles are bad and tall piles are good; for example, he maintains a stack of newspapers on the living room coffee table, occasionally beside, but often on top of what she has been reading-(this week he's buried The Book of Laughter and Forgetting) ...

Lists

Every time Lily opens the windows to let in the salt-sea air, dozens of her lists--they're scrawled on the backs of envelopes or torn from spiral ring notebooks--blow about the house like small kites, then settle to the floor with a sad sashay; he teases her about this, the grocery list (broccoli, bread, capers) in the bathtub ...

Cold Comfort

His words sound muffled to her, as if a Kleenex has been stuffed into the phone line: slightly smaller than a tennis ball … surgery Wednesday … back to work … home for dinner … love ya …

The Discreet Charm of Chemotherapy

He reads Ragtime while being poisoned by a nurse with a woodpecker tattooed on her ankle, and afterwards he describes this to Lily over hamburgers and beer--he is ravenous (go figure)--and she chuckles...

The Last Seduction

The music therapist's voice was flat, he complained afterwards; the art therapist suggested scrapbooking; the poetry therapist used the word simile for Chrissakes--and with the departure of each hospice worker, Lily feels more alone, trapped like a bear on a floating mattress...

Bereft

At night, and sometimes during the day, the phone rings and it's him, and his voice sounds so far away, but no longer in pain, and the people in her support group tell her these are ADCs (After-Death Communications), and that it's normal ...

What Zach Won't Do

Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. A temporal safety zone, if you will. No need to make decisions now. Not necessary to draw conclusions. Divorce and her seven-letter cousin, Custody, they're big words. They can wait. Zach said and I agreed: Let's just get through the holidays. For the children. ...

Waiting For August to End

This is how I remember it: I'm ten or eleven, lounging with my cousins and Aunt Corinne on her sun porch. She's wearing a pink Chanel-style dress, like Jackie Kennedy, and she's sipping iced tea from a hot-pink metal tumbler. She's just discovered, she tells us...