Armadillo and other stories

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Title:
Armadillo and other stories
Physical Description:
iv, 116 leaves : ; 29 cm.
Language:
English
Creator:
O'Leary, Suzanne Carlton
Publication Date:

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Genre:
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )

Notes

Thesis:
Thesis (M.F.A.)--University of Florida, 1996.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Suzanne Carlton O'Leary.
General Note:
Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 002215709
notis - ALF5859
oclc - 36633454
System ID:
AA00003184:00001

Full Text











ARMADILLO


AND


OTHER


STORIES


SUZANNE


A
OF THE


CARLTON


THESIS PRESENTED TO THE
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA I
OF THE REQUIREMENTS F(
OF MASTER OF FII


O'LEARY

















GRADUATE SCHOOL
N PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
)R THE DEGREE
NE ARTS


UNIVERSITY


OF FLORIDA















GENERAL


AUDIENCE


ABSTRACT


Thesi


s/Dissertation


Title


Armadillo


and


Other


Stories


Student


s Name:


Suzanne


Carlton


O' Leary


Phone


Number


: 336-1743


Department


: English


Committee


Chair


: Flournoy


Holland


Most


these


stories


are


in North


Florida


rest


France


. They


are


concerned


with


separation


and


loss


, with


love


and


death


, and


them


people


the


best


they


can.















ACKNOWLEDGMENTS


thank


Noy


Holland


guidance


generosity.


thank


Sidney


Wade


and


William


Logan


their


patience


and


advice.


I thank


Daniel


Bourgeron,


D.M.


Thomas


, Grace


Paley,


Beverly


Gordey,


and


Peter


Christopher


their


encouragement.


And


thank


George


Jay


O 'Leary


these


things


as well


time


and


love


he has


given me.





















TABLE OF CONTENTS



ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.. ......... .. .... .... .... .. ... . .ii

AB STRACT.I.s. . . . ... . . . . . . .iV

THE GRAND D KE .. .. .. . ****. .*** . ........ ... 1

RUE DU COMMERCE. * * ******.. *. ...* **.. ... .. .. 8

TH E FROGS. .*... .*. **. .*. . .***** ** ..... ... ... .24

OARMADILLO.... * . . . . . . . 31

EXPOSURE.... . . . . . . . .78

THE BEST YOU CAN DO. .... .. .. ... .... .. .... ****.. 88

BAB Y-DOG. .................. . . . . . . .95

LTELLING HER NOW. . . .. . ... . .. .. .103

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH....... ..............................116













Abstract


Thesi


he University
Requirements


Presented


of Florida


to the


in Partial


Degree


of Master


Graduate


School


Fulfillment


of Fine


Arts


ARMADILLO


AND


OTHER


STORIES


Suzanne


Carlton


O'Leary


December


1996


Chair
Major


: Noy


Holland


Department


: English


Most


these


stori


are


in North


Florida


and


rest


France


They


are


concerned


with


separation


and


oss


, with


love


and


death,


and


them


people


the


best


they


can.
















THE


GRAND


DUKE


My mother


has


been


dead


a long


time


, and


for


long


time


I have


been married


to Alvi


Honeysuckle


. Like


mother,


Alvi


soft


cold


hands


and


pale


freckled


skin


and mol


on his


back


and


belly


After my


mother


died


didn


't know


how


to live


without


her


, so I married


a man


much


like


her


as I


could


find.


Alvi


and


I live


a house


the


country


. The


house


been


in Alvi


s family


over


a hundred


years


. The


wall


are


made


stone


"There


are


ghosts


told Alvis


once


. Noi


ses


overhead.


"This


old


stone


house


full


of dead


people


said


Grand


Duke


" he said


. The


Grand


Duke


was


that


small


lived


screenless


in the


window


atti


. One


, coming


Sunday


and


night


going


after


through


Alvi


had


gone


to bed


, I heard


something


scrambling


, clawing.


"Did


you


hear


it?"


said


, and


poked Alvis


the


back


always


slept


window


and


he always


slept


with


back


me.


He didn


want


to sleep


on his


left


side











because


he had


heard


somewhere


that


sleeping


on your


heart


shortens


your


life.


"Rat s


" he said


, half


asleep


"The


cold


weather


must


ve driven


them


in from


fields.


s that


" I said.


s got


something


Light


pried


closed


shutters


our


bedroom


window.


I pressed my


body


to Alvi


"I want


to make


love


said.


felt


desperate


and


frightened.


"Please


said


"I'm tired


" Alvi


reached


around


squeez


bottom.


love


you,


Selma.


know


love


you.


thought


of a doll


I used


to have


, a Chatty


Cathy


.My


father


had


bought


her


me after


favorite


doll


was


torn


apart


neighbor


s Doberman


. My


favorite


doll


had


blond


hair


and


wore


a pink


and


gold


skirt


and


had


belonged


mother


when


was


a girl.


Chatty


Cathy


had


freckl


and


wore


tennis


shoes


, and


you


pulled


string


in her


back


said


"I love


you,


or "I'm


tired!


father


had


taken


me to the


store


to buy


her,


to buy


any


doll


I wanted


.It


was


only


time


remember


him


doing


such


a thing.












The


morning


after


I heard


the


and Alvis


was


tired


to make


love


, I didn


in time


to make


my job


as a travel


agent.


I'm


one


those


peopi


who


behind


Interstates


a desk


and


and


blue


draw


lines


lines


on sceni


and


trails


down


. Sometime


customers


are


so enthusiastic


about


where


they


re going


want


scream.


Unlike


many


customers


, I have


even


which

have


een


oka,


been mi


y. I

ssing


state


like s

a lot


and


trying


barely


home


of work.


county,


so much


Alvi


that


hasn


lately


a clue,


but


know


he wouldn't


like


. I stay


around


house


watching


the


latest


talk


show


host


ask


women


how


they


feel


about


their


thighs


and


unfaithful


husbands


That


morning,


after


talk


shows


ended,


decided


to the


cemetery where


my parents


are


buried


, a hot


and


treel


ess


acre


land


thick


with


sandspurs


. Now


and


then


some


optimistic


survivor


plants


a dogwood


or a crape


myrtle


, but


the


soil


sandy


and


nothing


can


grow.


hadn


been


there


in a while


. I usually


take


white


plastic


roses


granite e


vases


White


holds


well


against


the


sun


I figured


some


new


ones


were


probably


order.


As I


drove


into


cemetery,


I noticed


a new


double


__












Tiny

giant


customers


oaks


laughed


as Maury


and


and Mary


talked


at outside


Gulliver


leaned


tables

into e


under


ach


other


, waving


from behind


counter.


I remembered


how


Gullivers


used


to make


great


grilled-onion


hamburgers


vanilla


shakes.


I parked


in front


of where


my parents


are


buried,


saw


an American


flag


stuck


dirt


foot


father


s grave.


The


flag


had


started


to rot


.My


father


had


been


life.


in the


He died


Second


when


World


was


War.


barely


don't


ten


know much


years


about


old.


A psychologist


told


me once


that


was


lucky my


father


had


died.


Otherwise


he might


have


really


screwed


up my


life.


don't


know


why


this


might


so unless


was


fondness


women.


He died


suddenly,


falling


flat


on his


face


on the


sidewalk


skin


on his


nose


scraped


and


eyes


were


bruised.


If somebody


hadn't


known


better,


they might


have


thought


father


had


died


in a fight


rather


than


of a heart


attack.


A few


days


after


funeral


mother


took


me to


woman'


house.


The


woman


gave


me some


doll


clothes


had


sewn


herself


. A silk


evening


gown,


tiny


silver


slippers,


white


lacy


underwear


size


of a bottle


cap- -


small











The


woman


was


father


S secretary,


sometimes


wonder


was


also


mistress


. My


parents


never


along


Once


father


tied


my mother


to a chair


and


beat


her with


belt


.She


just


there,


her


head


bowed


watched


from


the


hall


and


living


room.


I cried but


loud


enough


so that


they


could


hear


. They must


have


thought


was


sleeping


the


front


bedroom,


big


bedroom


with


the


blue


wall


and


the


fireplace


where


blackbirds


nested.


thought


of all


this


looking


rotten


flag


dusty-


rose


Lincoln


pulled


up at a nearby plot


and


sunlight


jetted


hood.


grey


-haired


woman


a flowered


chiffon


ess


floated


car


and


over


sandy


road


, the


ed-up


grass


smelled


something


sweet


, like


honeysuckle


touched my


breast s


. I remembered my mother


hands


moving


like


feathers


over


skin


, coaxing


me into


sleep


. I wanted


to dig


up my parents


' bodi


. I wanted


know


they


still


looked


the


same


. Each


them had


been


buried


concrete


shell


meant


to keep


their


bodi


fresh


from


decay


more


than


half


a century


Once


thought


loved Alvi


, hi


skin


so like


mother


. The


sun


burned


back


neck.


"The


Gulliver


couple


died


told Alvis


that


evening.












"How


about


a hamburger


dinner?"


grinned.


He pushed


us off


"I am hungry.


He always


was.


The


Grand


Duke


appeared,


gliding


toward


oak


in the


front


lawn.


was


white,


a shock


against


darkening


sky.


"Look


said.


time


Alvis


looked


had


disappeared.


"How


about


a picnic?"


Alvis


said.


"Out


at Spring


Lake.


"Are


you


feeling


sick


or what?"


"Forget


On the


way


to Spring


Lake


we stopped


Angel


s Drive-


In and


picked


up hamburgers


and


fries


and


jumbo


iced


teas.


Spring


Lake


was


only


about


twenty


minutes


from


house,


between


evening,


there


working


wasn't


day


much


and


time


watching


going


reruns


anywhere


guess


you


could


we were


stagnating.


Alvis


and


had


done


much


of anything


since


I had


tried


to get


pregnant


couple


years


back.


Then


we had


gone


on get-away-


weekends


, to the


circus,


anything


to help


us relax.


Alvis


flickered


turned


over


into


water.


a clearing


A rope


and


dangled


truck


from a


lights


limb.












Spring


Lake.


People


fished


for


bass


during


and


hunted


alligators


and


frogs


at night


, shining


a flashlight


over


water


until


found


a pair


eyes


. I had


heard


stories


about


people


falling


boats


and


getting


tangled


beds


water


moccasins


and


thinking


at first


that


they


had


fallen


into


barbed


wire.


Alvis


turned


engine


and


light


then


put


arm


around me.


He said


something


words


were


muffled


in my


hair


, and


could


hear.


looked at


him,


his


long


nose


, his


pale


skin.


"I love


you,


heard


him


this


time.


I heard


my mother


trying


to breathe.


body


didn


give


up just


like


that.


A weak


body


stronger


than


had


ever


imagined.















DU COMMERCE


When


pregnant


, my


mother-in-law was


so excited


bought


a tiny


chair


and


kept


in her


living


room.


sick


and


weak.


I had


trouble


climbing


two


flights


of stairs


our


flat.


wanted


to eat


bread


and


butter


chocolate

started


bars


thinking


Most


that


of all


wanted


couldn't


to sleep.


do it,


could


Then,


have


baby


asked


my husband,


Luc,


"What


you


want?


What


you


think? "


He said


was


me.


He said


he had


started


staring


at himself


shop


windows,


surprised


at his


own


reflection.


was


terrific


ed of


being


responsible


another


living


being.


time


was


old


enough


to watch


beans


sprout


out


of Dixie


cups,


I had


learned


that


people


you


love


away


or die


and


there


is nothing


you


can


do about


.My


favorite


memory


father


the


time


helped me


plant


bean


seeds


.It


was


probably


only


kind


thing


ever


did.


"Run,


mother


would


tell


me when


father


was












and


hide


under


house,


where


brick


pillars


sagged


into


dark


damp


ground.


Luc


lied


to his mother


. He


told


her


that


I'd had


miscarriage


. He


didn


want


that


I had


had


abortion


because


I didn't


think


could


love


a child.


Every


night


several


days


mother


came


to visit


me in the


two-


room


flat


and


I shared


on rue


Commerce


. She


cried


and


hugged me,


and


I looked


over


her


shoulder


at the


wall


took


time


from my


teaching


English


to French


businessmen


bed.


was


late


spring


and


getting


hot


. I closed


curtains


against


sun


listened


the


slow


buzz of


flies


excited by


heat


and


drawn


to the


cool


dark


inside


our


flat.


The


fumbled


against


glass


listened


to the


woman


in the


flat


above


vacuuming


, vacuuming,


listened


when


woman


watered


red


geraniums


plastic


window


and


purple


boxes,


pansi


listened


tended


to the


water


in white


splashing


the


closed


windows


my bedroom,


spattering


the


glass


with


dirt


and


bits


started


green


to bleed


leaves

and d


.In
. I nt
.idn 't


.ever

know


heard

why.


the


woman


I bled


and


bled


. The


doctor


gave


Luc


antibiotics


and


needl


. The


French


are


great


believers


in medicine


administered


from












"I wish


were


dead,


told


Luc


second


time


stuck my


bottom


with


that


need


"Relax


" He aimed


again.


"Ouch


" I said


"I hope


you


burn


in hell


Evenings


brought


small


cakes


, raspberry


chocolate-


layer,


from


bakery,


and


a bottle


of red


wine


and

pape


wedges

r. We a


of Boursin,

te on televi


smelly

sion t


soft


rays


cheese


and


wrapped


watched


d in


wax


puppets


on Canal


Plus


and


then


a movie


, usually


an American


made-


for-


television


movie


, lots


guns


and


shapely


women


. Or


watched


"The


Invisible


Man"


or "Mi


ssion


Impossible,


"Dragnet


or "The


Saint


" Then


we brushed


flossed


our


teeth


and


went


to bed.


"Bonne


"Good


nuit


night


" Luc


would


" I would


"Bons


repeat


reves


English.


"Good


dreams.


We slept


back


to back


. Now


and


then


we would


try


make


love


would


on top


of him;


he didn't


seem


have


energy


to do much


. The


bedroom


was


as dark


imagined


had


been


the


blackouts


during


war


. We


made


love


without


seeing


each


other.


Mornings


.c made


me coffe


.e and 1


-L -


croissants


fresh


Y













In the


fall


I decided


back


to the


English


school


and


instead


found


a job


at a nearby


children


nursery


. My


first


day


nursery


, a man


was


standing


a doorway where


I needed


pass.


A child,


a girl


a red


dress


, had both


arms


around


one


legs


"Hello


" he


said


. He


touched


the


back


girl


head.


He must


be eighteen


or ninet


een,


thought


. He


looked


like


a young


Belmondo


. In


April


I would


be thirty


was


skinny


and


had


red


hair


blunt


.He


was


the most


beautiful


man


I had


ever


seen.


learned


that


name


was


Gabriel


.He


had


just


graduated


from


high


school


and


was


working


toward


certificate


in child


care.


At lunch


we walked


along


river


eating


hot


dogs


smothered


cheese


drinking


apple


cider


.He


told me


that


mother


had


died


when


was


eight


and


that


and


father


had


fought


. Gabriel


remembered


had


how


lived


mother


streets


smelled


a while


lavender


. He


when


hugged


him.


He remembered


how


her


bedroom,


room


where


dead,


smelled


lavender


for


days


after


had


been


taken


away.


One


lunch


hour


we took


Metro


to the


eighteenth











street


was


empty


compared


to Rue


du Commerce,


where


lived


. There


were


no flower


sellers


or shops


selling


cheese


and


wine,


delicate


cake


and


chocolate


, croissants.


Instead

vegetab1


shops

live


were sh

chickens


elved

and


with

goats


strange


rabbits


fruits

. Iron


and

bars


striped


windows


In the


beginning


November


when


night


fell


fast,


when


snow


fell


and bombs


from


unhappy


extremists


started


exploding


in the


subway


and


in parked


cars


outside


schools


started


working


South


of France


. I got


tired


sleeping


alone


. I wondered


why


I had


ever


married


first


place.


night


when


was


gone


close


door


to the


flat


quietly,


turned


key


in the


lock


, and


ran


down


stairs,


round


and


round,


down


five


flights


, almost


soundl


ess


, my


footsteps


padded


worn


carpet


tacked


on the


polished


wood.


Snow


had


started


to fall


, not


big


, wet


flakes


, but


kind


flakes


that


when


wind


blows


like


picks


pricking


skin.













The


trash


cans


outside


door


of Gabriel


s building


were


overloaded.


I stepped


over


a dirty


diaper


and


an empty


can,


the


edges


the


can


like


the


ruffled


edges


socks


had


worn


as a girl


. The


door


building


was


unlocked.


On the


second


landing


I heard


a televi


sion


playing


Light


shone


through


the


keyhole


and


under


door


A month


ago


police


had


found


the


skeleton


a woman


sitting


easy


chair


in thi


building


. The


televi


sion


had


been


playing


for


months


I climbed


to the


third


landing


and knocked.


Gabri


opened


the


door.


"I just


came


" I said


"Okay


" he said


. He


smiled


and


invited me


come


inside


. He


didn


seem


at all


surprised.


"Give


me a minute


" He broke


a flimsy


board


over


one


bent


knee.


"I'll


a fire


going


He told


me he


furni


shed


flat


with


things


he found


in the


trash


. There


were


orange


crates


, old


lamps


with


stained


, yellow


shades


, a straight


chair


that


looked


have


been


gnawed by


a dog


amazing


what


you


find," I


said.












the


headboard,


wrap


hands


tight


around


iron


bars


and


to let


"I love


you,


almost


said.


didn


think


that


I had


ever


loved


anybody


before,


had


ever


felt


anything


powder


ever,


and


really,


thought


anyone


of my mother,


else.


and


smelled baby


of powder,


mother


powdering


me.


my way


home


looked


at everything


carefully


, at


gray


the


light


the


early


morning,


buildings


hazy


yellow


headlights


cars


.My


breasts


ached


woman


jogged


over


Pont


Neuf.


On the


corner


street


a man


lay


bundled


in a yellow


plaid


blanket,


head


turned


toward


wall.


At the


butcher


shop


near


where


I lived,


corpses


cows


slick


and


pink


hung


along


back


wall.


The


lights


shop


were


bright


white,


a man


in a blue


work


coat


swished


water


over


concrete


floor


with


a wide


broom.


When


nursing


was


home


growing


Sunday


up, my


most


mother


holidays


worked


.We


at a local


celebrated


Christmas


and


Easter


, Thanksgiving,


on the


wrong


days.


On Sunday


went


with


father


to church.


Every


Sunday

church


he and

facing


north,


on the

facing


second


row


old


on the


cemetery.


side


He had


the

his












listen


to the


pastor.


never


listened.


watched


squares


of colored


light


st retch


across


sun-


faded


carpet


. I watched Nola


Johns


play


the


organ


, her


feet


barely


reaching


the


pedal


, and


thought


what


small


feet


Nola


Johns


had


, and


how


stiff


her


back


was,


as stiff


as my


hard


, plastic


doll.


One


day


father


told me


what


adult


had


known


years


Nola


had


killed


her


own


baby


. The


baby was


only


a few weeks


old


when


Nola


submerged


a sink


full


of water


Afterwards


called


her


mother


to tell


her


what


had


done.


Nola


s husband


left


her


Rumor


was


that


had


had


a lover


who


wanted


her


not


baby


. The


lover


was


never


named.


Nola


went


into


a mental


hospital


After


a few years,


came


back


to live


with


her mother


in the


small


house


Lake


Street,


a small


house


with


a screened-in


porch.


Nola


walked


stiffly,


as if


were


in a trance


, as if


felt


nothing.


father


said


that


Nola


had


had


shock


treatment


. He


told me


should


a lesson


. He


said


that


I should


never


love


anything


or anyone more


than


loved


God












apartment


, and


at night,


nights


when


was


Marseill


Gabriel


rubbed


ced apricots


on my belly


and


breasts


a faded


me--his


and


gold


lips


licked


scarf


like


juice


he found


lips


.He


trash


of a stranger,


blindfolded me


and made


soft


with


love


on the


inside


arms


, legs


, the


back


neck.


craved


him


way


imagined


anybody


craves


anybody


or anything


that


makes


feel


alive.


Gabriel


started


taking


me out


with


him after


dark


rummage


through


trash.


Except


parked


cars


and


trash


cans


, the


narrow,


cobbled


streets


were


usually


deserted


late


at night.


night


I heard


wheels


turning


, slowly


, then


faster.


you


hear


it? "


said.


"What?"


Gabriel


said.


"Wheels,


turning.


He stuck


his


head


into


a giant


green


trash


can,


black


sneakers


lifting


gently


concrete.


There


were


holes


in the


rubbery


soles.


s starting


snow,


said.


Snow


flurried


under


street


lamp.


"Don' t


worry,


" he said


, straightening


He brushed











When


we got


back


to his


flat


Gabriel


turned


on the


shower


. He


took


clothes


and


laid


them


on the


toilet


seat


He lathered


soap


hands


and


washed


. The


reminded me


my mother


, of


big,


aluminum


used


to set


in the


middle


kitchen


floor where


'd bathe


, then


dinner


me play


. Gabriel


in the


squeezed my


sudsy


bottom


water


hard


while


cooked


, squeezed my


hands


behind my


back


until


they


burned


inside.


closed my


eyes


thought


father


, of


outline


hand


, blue


and


black


, left


on the


outside


my thigh


. Gabriel


sucked


breasts


, the


nippl


, dug


teeth


into


skin


drawing


me up


and


into


mouth


. "YOU


re hurting


me, I


said.


I did


stop


him.


When


I opened my


eyes


saw


blood


and


soap


bubbles


whirling


in the


water


feet.


Luc


came


home


weekends


. I would


him


touch


me.


He didn


seem


to mind.


One


Friday


stood


in the


doorway


pulling


the


knot


out


. He


looked


pale


and


tired


. He


told me


that


he had


seen


a doctor


in the


South


France


annual












"Are


afraid?"


asked.


"Are


you?"


thought


"I haven't


I didn


about


been


believe


it for


with


him,


a moment.


anybody


though


else,


I had


"I don't


know.


he said.


no reason


I remembered


something


I had


read,


an article


that


said


anybody who


had


sex


with


strangers


wanted


to die--you


should


know


your


partner


as well


as you


know your


own


hands


.But


own


hands


were


always


surprising


me.


The


sun,


whether


one


weak


or strong


hands


would


, would


sting


bring


soapy


a new


dishwater


freckle,


I would


find


a place


where


had


cut


myself.


I stared


at Luc,


studying


him


for


signs


fear


remorse


, for


anything


. He


stared


television.


imagined


child


I did


have,


asleep


in my


arms


.The


child


smelled


sweat


and


baby


powder


. Its


breathing


was


warm


and


damp


on the


inside


arm.


The


Friday-night


horror


film


was


on.


must


have


been made


in Florida,


said.


could


advertising


tell

orange


billboards


juice,


along


conch


shells


coastline


stacked


along


the


streets


sale.












wrapped


in shiny


red


paper


and


white


shredded


ribbons.


"I'm


cold


said


, as soon


as I


saw


him


standing


doorway.


He took


hands


, pulled


them


inside


shirt


pressed


them


to his


chest.


Then


saw


the


women


standing


at the


window


. One


woman


had


razored


hair


and


was


wearing


only


a short,


black


skirt


and black


anki


boots


Leaning


against


wall


beside


was


a tall


, dark-


haired


woman


, her


neck


arched


back.


tall


woman


lifted


her


head


and


looked


, her


hair


wild


tangled.


"They


re my


sisters


-in-


" Gabri


said.


"You


take


me to look


trash


cans


" I said


"Where


you


take


them?"


"I don


take


you


" he said.


"YOU


come


along


because


you


like


looking


in other


people


s garbage.


As if


were


nothing,


as if she


were


alone


, the


razor


-haired


woman


pulled


her


skirt


over


her


head


, and


hung


on the


radiator


looked


underneath


like


an ivory


window.


doll.


ran


ran


down


stairs


expecting


to hear


laughter


. Halfway


down


block


Gabriel


caught


with


me.


"YOU


re going


to break


my arm,


said.











spit


face


and


arm


hard.


He slapped me


and


grabbed


both


arms


behind


back


and


began


pulling


me along


, dragging


me when


stumbled,


and


then


carrying


me as a child might


a teddy


bear


or doll,


under


one


arm


. When


he got


an alley


he turned


into


, slammed


back


against


the


brick


wall.


I felt


hand


cold


on the


inside


my thigh


and


then


I felt


him


inside


me.


I held


his


head


in my


arms.


I heard


wheels


turning


faster


then


slower,


then


faster


and


realized


wheels


were


own


head,


turning


turning.


Gabriel


shoved


inside


until


care


lived


or died.


"I'm bleeding,


said,


tasting


blood.


"What


have


you


done?"


Gabriel


lifted


me up.


thought


of Nancy


McCall,


paper


doll


played


with


as a child.


When


Nancy


gets


married

carries


groom


over


picks


the


her


threshold


up gently,


their


always

lovely


gently


warm


and


home.


Then


thought


nothing.


heard


water


running


and


opened my


eyes


was


lying


in Gabriel


s bed.


looked


over


and


saw


him


standing


naked,


magnificent,


light


bathroom


door.


"You


love


" I said.











bed.


The


back


head


ached


and


there


was


blood


underneath my


fingernails.


I got


. I looked


for


him


bathroom,


living


room,


kitchen.


looked


clock


on the


wall


over


the


stove


but


didn


have


any


hands.


in the


straight


chair


the


window.


looked


at the


lamps,


orange


crates


I understood--Gabriel


wasn


't coming


back


this


morning


or probably


any


morning


. What


have


come


back


some


things


he had


found


in the


trash?


When

behind me


and


stood my


without


a moment


legs


locking


I stood


felt

it. :


weak.


was


there


the


I closed


cool


dark,


in the


in the


door

stairs,


quiet.


Then


there


was


sound


a door


opening


above


and


started


down.


At the


bottom


stairs


a dark-skinned


woman


with


a baby


secured


to her


back


with


a pi


ece


of bright


yellow


material


was


bending


over


a flat


grill.


I smelled


sausages


cooking.


told


baby'


head bobbled


me to tell


red


. Small


-haired


hands


woman


grabbed


that


air.


was


going


fishing


with


his


sisters-in-law,


" she


said.


gave


me money


say


this


thing.


" She


smiled


her


teeth


were


white


and


very


beautiful


in her


dark


face.











on the


floor,


an empty


wheelchair


beside


him.


He kept


trying


to pull


body


onto


a folding


seat.


Each


time


he pulled


seat


down


began


to pull


himself


seat


popped


closed.


Another


man,


eyes


snowy,


skin


around


eyes


twisted,


scarred


, played


an accordion.


looked


away,


and


saw my


face


window-


-pale,


freckled


skin,


hair


sticking


hated mirrors.


never


looked


at myself


except


when


I had


and


never


where


light


was


good.


looked mad,


crazed,


like


children


from


local


asylum


I had


seen


as a girl


parade


days


sitting


and


standing


on bleachers


along


avenue


waiting


floats


, for


stuffed


giant


alligators,


and


sleek


sequined


bodies


maj orettes.


When


I reached


home,


wanted


to sleep.


window was


open


and


as started


to close


it I


imagined


child


I did


have


sitting


on the


window


ledge,


her


small


back


straight.


I squatted.


"Darling,


come


to Mama,


said.


child


turned,


and


leaning


on one


chubby


arm,


looked


into


room.


"Come


to Mama,


said.


At first


seemed


that


child


would


city,


and


not


come


then


me.


stood


turned


and


stepped


and


back


looked


into


room.


thought


that


would


have


loved


this


child.


child


had


s almost


black


eyes


, and


her


hair


was


silky-











I stopped


working


children'


nursery.


Gabriel


had


stopped


working


there


, leaving


no forwarding


address.


continued


work


in the


South


France


and


came


home


on the


weekends


thought


how


strange


was


that


little


our


lives


appeared


to have


changed.


What


did


change


that


instead


going


to the


nursery


I went


to the


park.


bread


crumbs


on my


head


and


shoulders


and


the


tops


my legs


so that


pigeons


and


wrens


would


light


there


, and


would


feel


their


talons,


dulled


from


running


around


on the


concrete


searching


food,


would


feel


their


talons


sink


into


skin


and


I sat


there


as quietly


as I could


so as not


to frighten


them


away.















THE


FROGS


Whenever


telephone


rings


or Bert


hears


wife,


Evelyn,


dialing


, he


slips


into


the hall


. One


day


Bert


hears


her


that


sadder


than


ever


imagined


possibi


Bert


s losing


mind


" she


says.


Bert


looks


down


hall


sunlight


slanting


through


screen


door.


s the


frog


" she


says


"Frogs


Bert


says


, so loudly


he's afraid


Evelyn


heard.


hasn


"Something


must


wrong


in the


environment


" she


says


worriedly.


"Remember


when


there


were


frogs


everywhere?"


Bert


can


still


remember


frogs


how


when


was


a boy


they


lived


in the


trees


. Some


them


lodged


between


windows


and


screens


and


died.


Bert


would


find


their


soft


green


bodies


and


put


them


in a shoe


box


.At


first


they


stank


and


then


they


rotted


to brittle


skeletons


that


liked


like


tiny


dinosaurs


Every


morning


Bert


reads


the


Florida


Times


Union


, but


---A-- ~ 4 a a- -


____


TT-


________











Evelyn


and


their


children


delivering


newspaper


. Now


that


he's retired


he reads


funni


and


front


page.


When


he remembers


, and before


he forgets


, Bert


tears


date


top


corner


back


page


and


keeps


shirt


pocket


Evelyn


finds


the


scraps


paper


in his


pockets


when


she does


laundry.


Sometimes


he hears


Evelyn


say


that


remembers


Bert


as a young


man


Back


then


he went


to school


at the


university


Gainesvill


. He


was


smart


and


understood


about


numbers


and


building


things


. He


also


owned


a car,


a Model


, something


Evelyn


s father


didn


have


When


Evelyn


was


growing


lived


in a screenless


shack


Orange


Lane


with


four


brothers


and


three


sisters


their


parent s


Mornings


her mother


gave


her


the


of sweeping


the


clay yard


to keep


sprigs


grass


from


taking


root


Bert


dressed


can


remember


a cotton


Evelyn


dress


that


the

fit


first

close


time

and


saw


sweeping


her--

g the


front


yard


. He


had


known


day


saw


Evelyn


that


would marry


her


, and


when


he asked


, Evelyn


didn


hesitate.


Sometimes


, when


Bert


alone


attic


building


birdhouses


, he wonders


if he would


know


that


losing


mind


he hadn


heard


Evelyn


so. It's all


can


think


about


sometimes


, and


sometimes


s more


than


can












Bert


concentrates


on learning


something


new


each


He does


this


watching


television.


There


always


something


that


he has


never


heard


or seen


before.


Last


night


on "Jeopardy,


" Bert


1 earned


that


hummingbirds


may


warriors


who


have


died


and


come


back


to life.


This


what


Aztecs


believed,


and


Bert


figures


he is nobody


argue


with


anybody


else'


beliefs


. Live


and


live,


he has


always


said.


Bert


has


considered


building


a hummingbird


house.


nests


It would


are


have


than


to be


an inch


tiniest


across


thing


. He has


since


seen


their


red-


throated


hummingbirds


no bigger


than


thumb


at the


four


o'clock


outside


kitchen


window.


The


hummingbirds


forward


and


then


backward.


Their


wings


beat


so fast


they


appear


perfectly


still.


Bert


ties


to figure


if he would


qualify


as a warrior.


He fought


can


in World


remember


War


being


II but


boarded


was


onto


taken


prisoner


a train


early


Paris


on,


that


would


take


him


to a prison


camp


along


border


of France


and

didn


Germany.


like


A Frenchman


foreigners


spit


. For


in hi


most


face


and


war


said


Bert


that


waited


camp


and


expected


to die.


Bert


spends


more


and


more


time


alone


in the


attic.


Once h


e had


wanted


to build h


family


a house.


He had











exists


are


concrete


foundation


and


several


block


wall


varying


heights


. It


was


going


to be


a larger


and


sturdier


house


than


the


wood


frame


one


where


Evelyn


live


and


where


they


raised


children,


grown


now


and


living


on their


own


. He can't


remember where


them


are


living


, but


certain


that


there


are


them--


four


boys


and


two


girl


. On Father


s Day


he receives


cards


and


sometimes


food


items


such


as raspberry


jam


and


champagne


.Evelyn


does


most


the


talking


to the


children


when


they


call


Bert


hears


her


tell


them


that


their


father


sends


love.


Evelyn


makes


Bert


apple


pies


and


perks


strong


black


coffee


meal


him


to him


. Since


anybody


on a tray


. He


can


remember


sits


faded


brought


armchair


three


feet


from


the


televi


sion


and between


front


door


and


wood


stove


. He


wait s


her


prepare


a tray


carry


to him.


One


after


night


after


coff


Bert


a dinner


decides


of chicken


to build


that


rice


, and


hummingbird


house


. He


sets


tray


beside


chair


and


takes


flashlight


and


goes


to the


garage


to find


a hammer


and


some


nail


Once


in the


garage


remembers


that


things


wants


are


in the


attic












down


at his


side,


shining


on his


old


loafers.


"But


Bert,


dear,


middle


July


" She


takes


hand


and


leads


him


toward


house.


"I didn


know which


way


" he


says


He vomits


and


vomits


, bent


over


toilet


. Hi


legs


give


long


no use


way


arms


and


and


.She


Evelyn


grabs


call


her


cannot


him


middle


older


tries


daughter


.She


pull


to lift


Zenith


on his


him,

who


but


insists


on calling


an ambulance.


"Your


father


will


hate


that


" Evelyn


says


he does


.He


like


a child


paramedics


hands


, doing


whatever


told


, as if he has been


waiting


life


somebody


to lift


him


and


onto


stretcher


and


feel


se.


"Hummingbirds


are


little


fighters,


" he


tell


men


in white


coats


, and


men


look


at each


other


and


smil


last


night


in the hospital


Bert


wake


to the


sound


of a million


frog


He call


Evelyn


there


answer


. He bounds


bed


knocks


a water


glass


from


bedside


table


. When


he tri


to stand


, he cuts


knees


and


bottoms


of hi


feet.


should


have


been


here


" Evelyn


says


in the


morning.











Bert


doesn


anything


at first


.He


sits


hospital


bed,


and


looks


at hi


knees


and


feet


which


are


swathed


white


gauze


He thinks


that


after


these


years


marriage


Evelyn


should


have


left


him


alone


. She


could

at her


have

hand


slept


on a cot


, creamy


and


beside

wrinkled


him.

. her


He looks

Fingers


at Evelyn,

so tight


around


her


purse


that


knuckl


are


white.


"I heard


frogs


" he


says.


Evelyn


scrunches


forehead


"The


frogs,


" he


repeats


already


he i


forgetting


what


about


frogs


that


bothers


him.


s the


mating


season


a nurse


says


as she


comes


into


the


room.


"YOU


can


even


your


car


without


stepping


on them


, and


they


are


stuck


together


so that


you


step


on one


you


squish


both


and


their


eyes


bulge


funny


" She


sticks


a thermometer


under


Bert


s tongue.


The


living


room


dark


and


close


Evelyn


afraid


burglars


and


snakes


breaking


through


screens


so she


shuts


the


house


when


gone.


"Welcome


home


Bert


says


and


gives


him a


sideways


hug


, her


arm


around


waist


"Very


nice


, very


nice


" he


says,


and


hobbles


to his


chair.











When


telephone


rings,


Bert


thinks


about


going


into


hall


to listen


but


he doesn


have


With


windows


closed


house


so quiet


that


her


voice


carries


"Who


would


have


thought


that


a man


did


nothing


deliver


newspapers


and


sit around


house


would


have


an ulcer?"


can


hear


her


say


. All


once


the


living


room


looks


unfamiliar


and


Bert


feels


odd,


like


a stranger,


and


then


hears


Evelyn'


footsteps


in the


hall.















ARMADILLO


My mother


learned


about


her


disease


when


was


born.


Things


started


to make


sense


to her


, her


own


mother


s early


death


, for


eight


example


them


, had


. My mother


same


wondered


sease


if her


, since


brothers


was


inherit


might


have


even


wondered


about


, about


only


child


her


daughter.


kidneys


are


as big


as football


s," I overheard


her


tell


when


someone


was


after


fucking


had


handsome


started


and


dialysis


, years


so handsome


later,


young


men


and


was


living


as she


said


, as we all


are,


on borrowed


time.


The


last


time


my mother


slept


with


father


was


night


pregnant


with


me.


In her


sleep


made


mistake


cupping


her


body


around


his curved


one


. He


kicked


her


, as


trying


to shove


her


bed,


the


same


time


he held


onto


her


arm.


Then


he let


. My


mother


told me


that


there


were


bruises


and


down


her


thighs


on her


bottom


for weeks


afterwards











At night


, before


bed,


and


would


hear my


father


reading


Bible


aloud...the


Lord


my shepherd,


shall


not


want...


was


four


and


then


eight


, twelve.


Silen


would


say.


one


could


make


a sound


while


he read


. He


read


himself


would


hall


or on the


back


porch


steps


watching


pecan


trees


night,


down


back.


stars,

In North


the dark

Florida


jagged

where


limbs


we lived,


but


a handful


winter


nights


were


like


summer.


father


found


other


women,


girls


really.


My mother


said


that


he had


always


liked


girls


on the


verge


womanhood


anyway.


Maybe


had


thought


that


when


he married


his


desire


would


fade.


Maybe


there


was


a freshness


in the


girls


that


didn


last.


slept


with


my mother


until


father


died.


said


that


was


afraid


fire


and


didn't


want


me to sleep


upstairs


.It


never


occurred


me that


other


girls


didn


sleep


with


their


mothers


thought


belonged


me.


read


fairy


tales


of a fat


green


book


until


they


seemed


real.


rubbed


baby


powder


on my back,


made











A psychic


told


me once


that


was


lucky


father


died


when


he did


when


was


twelve


. If


had


lived,


might


have


killed


him.


can


understand


children


who


kill


their


parents


.It


s easier


than


one might


think


. There


was


something


wrong


with


father


, something


in him


that


made


him


violent,


nothing


inside


cruel, or

e of him,


maybe

that :


was

was


only

empty


that

. He


there

had a


was


weak


heart.


My mother


didn't


pret end


to be in


mourning


. To


funeral


wore


a pal


pink


dress


with


tiny


flowers


embroidered


around


the


neck


and


wrists


. She


had


bought


first


store


-made


dress


, baby


blue


chiffon


over


taffeta.


Because


I asked


her


, she


hemmed


that


dress


halfway up


thighs.


"Paul


hated


dark


colors


" she


told


surprised


funeral


goers


"Paul


hated


black.


And


into


First


Baptist


Church


we marched


, mother


and


daughter


, Edith


and


Laverne


Snowdon


, the


stars


day.


On the


way


home


asked


the


driver


black


limousine


to stop


Belk


Lindsey


s department


store


. The


driver


was


young


and


blond,


famous


having


burned


a barn


down


with


a man


, hi


lover


, inside


. My mother


patted











limo


into


sun.


We walked


over


tarmac


and


into


plush


coolness


"I'd like


air-conditioned


a leotard


and


store.


tights.


sales


lady


I plump


with


grey


hair


and


a plastic


name


that


said


"Granny,


" showed


my mother


an assortment


of small,


stretchy


garments


. How


would my


mother


ever


them


over


her


belly


tights


looked


like


they'd been


made


a child.


My mother


bit


her


lip.


couldn't


decide.


Outside


glass


doors


we could


see


limousine,


sunlight


glaring


hood.


knew


had


to hurry.


There


is only


so much


time


to be alive.


With


life-insurance


from my


father,


no longer


had


to work.


guess


it wouldn't


have


seemed


like


a lot


money


some


people


, but


was


my mother.


It meant


could


quit


her


at Sunnyland


, a home


for


mentally


physically


handicapped


children


and


adults


who


were


children


still.


had


worked


there


a decade


, longer


than


could


remember.


Mornings


would


rise


at four


o'clock


to work.


Sometimes


would


wake


and


see


dressing


in the


dark,


see


the


white


her


uniform


and


rubber


soled


shoes.












her


belly


.She


laughed.


This


was


years


before


the


fitness


craze


. Women


still


wore


double


knit


almost


everything


mother


always


believed


double


-knit,


fried


chicken


, was


the


main


cause


of obesity


Southern


women.


decided


on a diet.


For


lunch


drank


grapefruit


juice


and


ate


open-


faced


peanut


butter


sandwiches


with


orange


marmalade.


At night


during


commercial


breaks


'd stand


in front


televi


sion


jumping


rope


.She


jumped


as fast


as she


could


for


one


minute


.Her


cheeks


flushed


underneath


freckl


. Her


coppery


hair


shone


. She


was


in her


late-


thirties


and beautiful


. The


rope


slapped


polished


wood


so that


we could


hear


the


voices


selling


things


. When


stopped


would bend


over


, trying


to catch


her


breath.


shape


as much


as she


could


. Her


arms


were


defined


and


her


thighs


were


taut


, but


belly would


away,


swelled


that


slightly


looked


as if she


, she


were


didn


in the


.Her


early


belly


stage


pregnancy.


joined


a single


group


. Twi


a week


and


other


middle-


aged


people


danced


until


dawn


in a flat


brown


building


at the


a skinny


dirt


road.


had


stori


.My












"What


think?"


would


ask


me before


going


out.


"How


do I look?"


stood


in front


of her


vanity mirror.


had


decorated


her


room


in red


antique


satin


. Sometimes


at night


men


in pickup


trucks


would


drive


and


beep


glow

movie


windows


star'


. From


. The

where


mirror


was

on he


framed

r red


in lights


like


gold


bedspread,


I could


see


her


bottom molded


into


some


silky


material


that


clung


wore


lipstick.


"Fine,


would


absently.


I always


pretended


to notice


enamored


how


beautiful


of her.


looked


was


back


. I pretended


down


that


at whatever


wasn't


was


reading


Usually


a love


story.


was


always


eager


to get


happy


ending


The


last


thing


would


say


me was,


"Are


you


afraid?"


I would


see


her


standing


in the


doorway


under


porch


light,


see


way


her


high


heels


glittered


in the


half


light


felt


warm


night


air.


thought


rocket


I had


seen


one


night


walking


with


my mother


along


the


lime-rock


road


there


in front


house.


rocket


had


been


like


a gigantic


fire


in the


and


then


fire











"NO,


I'm


afraid,


said.


lied


. On


the


nights


left


me alone


I could


sleep


. My mother


had


given


me my


father


s old


room and


though


had


fixed


up--painted


the


wall


white


and


bought


lilac


-flowered


curtains


and


a matching


bedspread


purple


throw


rug-


could


used


to sleeping


there.


The


old


house


made


strange


noi


ses


took


a pillow


and


patchwork


quilt


had made


me and


lept


bathtub.


The


bathtub


was


deep


and


white


and


stood


on clawed


feet


I pulled


pink


shower


curtain


Two


good


door


closed


years


lover


. My


waited


thought


after


boyfriend


in bed


nobody


father


came


, listening


would


died


through


for


look


I discovered


unlocked


footsteps


me there.


was


kitchen


in the


hall.


The


first


time


I made


love


, he and


I had


been


hiking


through


woods


back


old


house.


was


mucky


afternoon,


, still


There


would


a rain


. When


and


back


to the


house


, he


suggested


we take


a shower.


"Okay,"


said.


mother


won


't be back


hours












soap


hands


and


bathed me.


I closed my


eyes


and


then


felt


him no.


him pushing

The first


into

thing


quickly,


thought


was


before

how s


could


trange


tell

felt,


having


something


inside


me.


nights


mother


stayed


home


would


sneak


bedroom


window


and


along


side


house


, under


her


bedroom


wait


windows


me near


to the


a live


lime- rock


oak


road.


from


boyfriend


house


would


and


would


strip


and


make


love


in the


grass


there.


In the


half


dark


our


bodies


would


look


unfamiliar.


They


looked


like


polished


ivory


figurines


mother


kept


on the


living


room


mantle.


Other


times


my boyfriend


and


would


fight.


could be


any


boyfriend.


was


jealous,


I had


to be the


only


one,


and


sometimes


he would


leave


me with


bruises


and


would


have


to lie


to my mother,


tell


her


that


I had


walked


into


a door


or fallen


bike


, that


black


or the


marks


on my


arms


where


a man


had


squeezed me


until


bones


ached


were


from a


vitamin


defi


ciency.


believed me.


One


afternoon


summer


was


sixteen


came


into


mother'


room


and


found


her


sitting


at her


vanity mirror.











didn't


know


what


say


was


already


studying


lines


under


my eyes


, worried


about


getting


old


that


was


beautiful


I had


freckl


, like


my mother


, and blue


eyes


, but


instead


her


full


breasts


and


curvy


hips


body


seemed


stunted


in childhood


. My


breasts


were


small


and


funny


, the


nipples


too


large


them


, and my


hips


were


narrow


. When


looked


at myself


mirror


would


seem


me that


God


had


thrown


silly-putty


at a wall.


Now


looked


at my mother


. Her


lips


were


dry


and


cracked


though


had


been


licking


them


. The


skin


underneath


her


eyes


was


puffy


. Had


been


crying?


I could


remember


ever


seeing


her


cry.


When


said,


"Let


s go


to Morrison


s I


didn


think


anything


about


it except


that


I wanted


to drive.


At Morrison


s Cafeteria


a man


in a white


shirt


and


red


jacket


carried


our


trays


.He


our


plates


of overcooked


vegetable


and


fried


shrimp


in front


us. He poured


tea


I picked


up a shrimp


with


my fingers


and


dipped


ketchup.


"I'm


starving,


said


and


laughed,


feeling


happy


to be


sitting


Morrison


s eating


dinner


, with


a slice


chocolate


pie


dessert.


unfolded


the


cloth


napkin


. "I'm


going


to start


dialysis


." She


let the


napkin


fall


over


lap.


, as


, my












thought


that


had


overheard


a conversation


another


table


A fat


man


and


woman


with


several


small


children


and


was


telling


them


to eat


their


meat


-loaf


you


remember


Herb


Penney?"


I heard my


mother


ask.


was


on dialysis


died


, Mama


a while


said.


He had


been


a tall


man


who


attended


our


church


, thin


except


hands


When


you


shook


one


was


like


shaking


bloated


toad.


My mother


dialysi


laughed


progressed


"That


since


s right


then.


" She


I don


sighed


even


"But


have


pay


The


government


pays.


didn't


know


what


. It


was


first


had


heard


about


mother


s di


sease


A pickup


truck


backed


into


the


parking


space


in front


window


A rattlesnake


as big


around


as my upper


arm


was


draped


over


tailgate.


"Remember


that


time


we saw


Ross


Allen


milk


rattl


esnake?"


I asked


and


light


- headed


, as if I had


eaten


too


much


sugar


and


hadn


touched


colate


pie


"Allen


had


held


snake


behind


head


and


squeezed


until


poison


dripped


fangs


into


a plastic


was


conscious


air-conditioning.


"I'm


cold,


said











in the


parking


took


the


keys.


"That


enough


your


driving


one


day,


" she


said.


I had


driven


Orange


Road


three


times


on the


way


into


town.


I sat


in the


passenger


seat


watching


pines


and


occasional


. We


hawk;


buzzards


ssed Hatchet


drifted


Creek


Bridge


dull


where


early


father


evening


used


meet


girlfriends


on the


edge


rusty


- colored


creek.


"The


poison


was


white


and


creamy


, I said.


"What ?"


"The


snake


Ross


Allen


was


milking


"I don


know


why


you


insist


on talking


about


that,


said.


"What


s the


point


"The


point


, I said,


"that


you


him


a black


snake


around


your


neck


and


people


took


pictures


you


"So?"


The


car


engine


idled


, died.


stayed


leaning


against


steering


wheel


, her


hand


on the


key


'd just


turned.


house


loomed


white


dark


I imagined


house


on fire


. Fire


seemed


mortar


that


held


planks


together


My mother


heard


first


"Listen


" she


said


. It


sounded


like


someone


walking,


foot


steps


heavy


and











An armadillo


moved


into


beam


car


lights,


tiny


armored


tank


blundering


over


the


lawn.


we could


hear


rooting


up grass


, looking


grub


worms,


things


that


live


in the


soil


there


just


below


surface.


was


comforting,


sound


methodical


digging


. I often


heard


them


outside


at night.


was


always


same.


quickening


sound


my heart,


rooting,


thinking


relief


was


that


somebody.


was


Then


only


armadillo.


father


shine


used


flashlight


to shoot


over


them .


yard


He would


looking


have


them.


mother


When


father


an armadillo


would


fly


into


air.


mother


took


key


ignition


and


back.


looked


straight


ahead,


through


dirty windshield


with


crushed


love


bugs


stuck


to it.


The


dead bugs


smelled


like


semen.


kidneys


are


covered


cysts


" she


said


and


her


voice


was


quiet.


"Edith,


I'm


afraid.


We watched


armadillo.


think


now


that


must


have


been


in shock


and


the


same


time


surprise


seemed


inevitable,


as though


I must


have


sensed


that


something


was


wrong


almost


from


beginning,


in the


same


way


that


adopted


children


are


said


to know


that


their


parents


aren't











slow way


light


and


then


we could


hear


digging


nearby.


Ernie


Smith


worked


at White


s Hardware


town.


mother


met


him


a couple


weeks


after


learned


that


would


undergo


dialysis


.She


went


to buy


some


nail


and


ended


up falling


love


with


Erni


. Erni


looked


like


mole


, he looked


like


father


, small


and


dark-


eyed


. Erni


took


her


dancing


at the


Holiday


Inn


and


when


they


came


home


could


hear


them


in the


kitchen


opening


cans


of Campbell


soup


, Vegetable


Beef


or Bean


with


Bacon,


my mother


favorites


Usually,


though,


they


just


on the


flowered


chintz


sofa


watching


s taking


me for


a seafood


dinner


Cedar


Key


mother


said


sa special


occasion


" she


said


and


winked


Whil


was


in her


bedroom,


standing


push


bra


and


pant i


running


a hot


iron


over


lavender


dress


, the


long


one


with


a slit


one


and


matching


pants


, Erni


leaned


over


the


coffee


table


and put his


mouth














The


next


morning


heat


woke


me.


was


kind


languor


that


comes


before


a storm.


I kicked


sheet


and


there,


listening


to the


hum


floor


fan.


thought


about


whether


or not


should


tell


her


about


Ernie.


This


sort


thing


had happened


before


and


had


never


told


her.


would


invite


a man


home


dinner


or iced


tea.


would


into


kitchen


to check


on something


on the


stove


and


man


would


come


over


and


arms


around


a fatherly


sort


of hug.


never


liked my


father


would


tell


them


every


time.


"Buzz


" But


some


them


would


stop.


They


would


look


down


shirt


. Once,


one


them


hands


on my


breasts


and


said


to me,


"You


never


as beautiful


as your


mother.


I got


and


went


outside.


I had


to be careful


where


walked


on the


porch,


boards


were


soft,


starting


sag.


Termites


, one


mother'


brothers


had


said.


Her


brothers


rarely


came


see


and


then


only when


they


were

the


drunk

relief


. They

they


talked

hoped w


about


would


come


heat

with


summer,


winter


even


about


though


there


was


never


much


relief


from


the


heat


in Florida.


mother


was


always


glad


when


they


when


saw


thin


cotton


their


shirts


sticking


to their


backs.












fast


on the


lime-


rock


road


raising


dust


Dust


drifted


toward


house,


settling


over


my mother


s pink


flamingo


birdbath.


closed my


eyes


and


breathed


smell


the


camphor


trees.


"You


have


to understand


difference


between


right


and


wrong


father


used


say.


never


could


never


understood


that


whatever


I had


done


was


wrong


no longer


remember


why


I had


to stand


hours,


inhaling


the


smell


camphor


trees


I loved


just


outs


window


, wishing


was


outside


, anywhere


but


there


, my


nose


pressed


against


dark


, varnished


pine


. My


legs


ached.


day


father


s funeral


someone


had brought


a gum-


drop


tree


, a branch


stuck


in a coffee


can


filled


with


dirt


, a gift


meant


ease


a child


pain,


suppose


.But


hadn


felt


any


pain.


"Good morning


My mother


was


at her


bedroom


window


peering


through


the


whit


sheers.


Outside


a fat,


black


fly


buzzed


, bounced


the


screen.


"I'm


getting


.married


" she


said


. It


was


obvious


could


believe


her


luck


"Ernie


s asked


me to


marry


him.












sheltered


from


sun


the


camphor


trees


, and


turned


the


television.


rerun


"The


Twilight


Zone"


was


just


beginning


.An


old


woman


paced


floor


of her


small


room.


young


Robert


Redford


appeared.


He seemed


so clean


and


fresh


, out


place


in the


dank


surroundings


He knocked


on the


old


woman


s door.


really


short


mother


said


, coming


was


wearing


yellow


Bermuda


shorts.


"Like


Daddy


said.


I could


smell


coffee


brewing


"Does


Erni


know?


How


could


a man


desire


a woman


if he


knew


that


her


insides


were


covered


with


cysts?


"Does


Erni


know what?"


in the


rocker


corner.


"I found


a dead


under


bed


said.


"Lovely,


" my mother


said


. "One


Sandra


Lee


s cats


must


have


Sandra


brought


and


her


" She


mother


used


shook


her


run


head


store


, dismayed.


down


road


. Now


owned


a hundred


cats


and


them


food


scraps


in giant


aluminum


tubs


in her


back


yard.


Robert


Redford


was


lying


in the


woman


bed


. The


old


woman


was


afraid


to die


Robert


Redford


had


come


convince


her.














My mother went


into


hospital


to have


veins


her


left


arm,


largest


veins


, the


veins


that


carry


blood


directly


to the


heart,


tied


together


to form


a shunt.


Erni


sent


her


roses.


"All


never


thought


about


my veins


except


be glad


I didn't


have


those


ones


on my legs


some


women


are


cursed


with


" My


mother


shuddered


, ruffling


blue


chiffon


of her


nightgown.


"Earthworms


knotted


under


the


skin


. Gi


ves


me goose


bumps.


On the


bedside


table


were


Ernie


s twelve


roses.


"Get


well


soon"


card


read.


"HOW


original,


said


"You


re not


exactly what


call


sick


" The


stems


were


limp,


as though


buds


were


burden


to them.


they


don


open,


Erni


says


can


return


them,


said.


"I always


figured


was


luck,


you


good


ones


or bad


ones;


you


ones


that


never


opened


you


just


threw


them


in the


trash


Maybe


s some


kind


promotion.


There


was


a knock


on the


door


"I brought


you


her


doctor


said,


coming


name


was


Tarrel


--a


kidney


specialist


.He


was


young


and


lean


A marathon












times


a day


, it


should


help


build


veins


your


arms.


"DO


you


play with


your


patient


s feet


" she


said,


flirting.


"Clients


point


rather


" he said


to a child.


than


an illness


, rai


consider


sing


finger


kidney


Something


failure


to live


as if making


a condition


with


smiled


. She


was


wearing


pale


, pink


lipstick.


"I need


say


some


things


" he said


and


looked


me.


"Go ahead

firsthand, she


mother


pester me


said.

until


she didn

found oul


hear

" She


squeezed


ball.


"Edith


wants


to be


a journalist


Doctor


Tarrel


told my mother


that


could


tomorrow-


-a blood


vesse


could


break-


-or


could


live


long


and


full


life


. He


explained


that


had


polycystic


kidney


sease


just


like


a couple


of hundred


thousand


other


Americans


and


that


the


cysts


were


created


a weakness


her


veins


, veins


swelling


and


sometimes


bursting.


picked


remote


control,


and


ball


dropped,


rolled


until


wall


"I'm


lucky,


" she


said


and


aimed


remote.


can


still


to the


bathroom


a little


. Some


people


can't.


"That


s right


" he said.











could


hear


footsteps


brisk,


going


away


. Cars


were


going


on the


road


outside,


turning


into


shopping mall


across


the


street.


thought


the


veins


like


dams


and


blood


like


rivers


flowing


through


them


and


how


sometimes


dams


break


"Let


me tell


you


about


show,


" my mother


said.


s a love


story


. Chri


love


with


Samantha


but


Samantha


lost


the


Rocky


Mountains


. She


dreams


about


him all


time,


and


then


there


s Hilda


who


s trying


put


moves


on Chri


. It's wonderful


, Mama


" I laughed.


"I really


believe


that


your


father


and


I could


have


made


" she


said.


woman


selling


Cheer


sang


and


danced


under


a clothesline


were


just


starting


to get


along


Bruises


and


down


her


thighs.


The


morning


the


day


died


he'd


gone


house


singing,


lily pads


, frogs


all


things


When


, a song


closed


the


about


door


mosquitoes


, the


and


string


tiny


gold


bell


attached


to the


doorknob


swayed


, as they


always


did


. It


was


a happy,


tinkling


sound.


leaned


over


and


took


her


handbag


bedside


table


, pulled


a photograph


and


handed


me.


was


small


and


square


, a black-


and


-white


photograph











looked


frightened


and


coo


thin.


He wasn't


smiling.


They


might


have


been


strangers,


thrown


together


chance,


waiting


a train,


a bus


. My


parents


on their


wedding


day.


father'


sleepy


was


half


-closed.


was


damaged


at birth,


when


doctor


accidentally


pinched


nerve.


His


mother


died


a few


hours


later.


I don't


even


know


her


name.


seems


as though


I must


have


known


name


once,


can't


remember,


just


as I


can't


remember


a lot


things


do know


that


spinster


aunts


raised


father


mother


told me


they


beat


him


with


own


belt


and


then


tied


him


to the


big


oak


in front


their


house.


They


left


him


there


whole


days


Walking


along


hospital


corridor,


my mother


eyed


the


arms


men


and


women


with


big


veins


like


a jealous


lover,


way


looked


pretty


and


popular


girls


who


had


stolen


one


or another


my boyfriends


mother


looked


at the


veins


on the


inside


of her


own


wrists


They


were


small


and


blue.


"The


veins


are


blue


because


they' ve


given


the


oxygen


to the


body


mother


informed


me.


"That


means


blood


headed


back


to the


heart


and


lungs


to get


more


oxygen.


" She


smiled.


"Doctor


Tarrel


told


me.


. My











me he looked


like


a walking


dead


man.


Half


of his


head


was


missing.


can


't smell


or taste


" he said,


pausing


"But


alive


" He threw


hands


"Prai


Lord


My mother


nodded


and


looked


the


inside


of hi


wrists.


I nudged


her


elbow


, hurrying


her


along


s nuts,


whispered.


"Don't


encourage


him.


"But


did


you


see


those


veins


" She


stopped


and


turned


to look


after


him.


"Next


I said.


thing


laughed


I know you


. "You


be wanting


be wanting


to date


to suck


guy


veins


"Stop,


Edith,


" she


said.


"What


have


done


for you


to be


hair


so ugly


" She


sloppy


" she


tucked


said


hair


. She


behind my


wanted


ears


me to cut


. "Your


to look


neat.


"There


s nothing


wrong


with


"I said.


drove


herself


to the


dialysis


center


every


Tuesday


and


Thursday.


have


to do better


than


" she


said


one











order


" She


picked


one


pile


though


had


arrange


everything


right


then;


then


dropped


"I'll


some


tea.


There


counter

kitchen


were


dirty


tne pressure

floor. "What


dishes

cooker

if Ernie


unwashe


just


kitchen

d and


decided


n


sink


sitting

to stop


on the


on the

by?"


refrigerator


reeked


of something


rotten


when


opened


to get


the


tea.


"Must


be that


chicken


said


pulled


culprit,


a green


and


brown


carcass


carelessly wrapped


foil,


and


dumped


into


the


already


overloaded


brown


paper


sack


sitting


backdoor.


"There!"


"You


will


never


grow


mother


said


and


shook


her


head.


"What


you


mean?"


"I'll


be back


" she


said.


"I have


to get


out


these


pants


" She


was


wearing


lavender


pants


with


a blood


stain


on one


thigh.


In a few minutes


came


out


wearing


one


of her


old


evening


gowns


. The


gown


was


made


of satin


and


chiffon,


had


a slit


halfway


her


thigh


. She


opened


a drawer


beside


sink


and


pulled


a pair


ssors


. Then


at the


kitchen


tabi


and


gown


just


above











"And


you


have


no breasts


" She


smiled.


"I'll


get


you


one


those


bust


developers


ve seen


advertised


"I like


having


no breasts,


said


"They


only


the


way


"YOU


have


no idea


" she


said


I wanted


to tell


her


that


Daddy


liked me


best


, that


sometimes


when


wasn


't at home


he would


make


me stand


naked


front


him,


front


the


fireplace


.He


said


was


my punishment


having


gotten


close


to the


fire


. "It


s dangerous


to get


close


" he would


say


One


day


came


from


school


ready


to watch


"The


Edge


Night"


and


found


her


lying


on her


back


on the


grass


out


in the


front


yard beside


the


birdbath


. She


had


been


dialysis


and


had


on that


same


pair


lavender


pants


A redbird


fluttered


and


perched


on the


side


the


bath


. The


water was


fresh


and


clean.


My mother


said


, "Once


I found


one


women


Sunnyland


sitting


on the


steps


outside


cottage


holding


a redbird.


poor


bird


s head


was


crushed.


I said


, Billy,


put


that


down


and


wash


your


hand


"Why


don't


you


wear


something


else?"


said


shrugged.


"What


difference


does


it make?












wasn't


strong.


made


funny


sounds


, the


kind


sounds


someone


makes


when


they're


making


love


and


good.


didn't


stop


until


I had


her


pants


around


ankles.


"Mama,


said.


had


locked


herself


in the


bathroom


just


the


back


porch.


been


hour


said.


"I'm hungry.


could


feel


heat


from


tilly-


heater


coming


from


under


and


around


door.


In the


middle


summer.


Then


I heard


key moving


in the


lock


and


door


opened.


panties


"I can't


, the


" she


lavender


said.


pants


stood


crumpled


there


one


and


hand.


"Nothing


comes


God,


said.


eyes,


nose--everything


was


swollen


I could


stand


to look


at her


so I


looked


hands


SThere


was


blood


underneath


my fingernails


looked


away

the


lush,


over

green


the yard.

vine that


Down

had


back


grown


saw


and


old


over


outhouse,


.The


other


day my


mother


took


a picture


me standing


front


outhouse.


was


wearing


short


, yellow


nighty


with


satin


trim.


When


was


little


and


had


to the











hand,


out


back


door,


over


dark,


grass.


stand


outside


shining


flashlight


through


the


crack


door

into


so I


could


a plank


see


. Inside


. The


were


the


outhouse


infested


with


were


holes


white


worms


Now


and


then,


usually


on the


weekend,


I drove


her


dialysis


center


. Now


that


her


kidneys


had


stopped


working


entirely


, my


mother


had


to be dialyzed


two


three


times


a week--Tuesday,


Thursday


, Saturday


. When


drove


her


, I shopped


mall


across


street


Then


came


back


to watch


her


being


dialyzed


and


read magazines


waiting


room.


My mother


and


the


other


clients


in green


vinyl


recliners


, the


same


color


as chameleons


that


lived


in the


windows


the


old


house


. The


row


was


in faced


windows


, the


other


faced


wall


. Behind


each


chair


was


tiniest


televi


sion


had


ever


seen


,attached


folding


arm.


Bes


each


chair


was


a machine


with


tubes


sticking


head.


The


only


sound


machine


made











"Look,


" she


said,


pointing


an oblong


plastic


tube.


"This


my kidney.


looked


at the


tube,


filled


moment


with


blood.


"Who'


he?"


said,


looking


past


tube,


a young


man


row


against


windows.


"TOO


old


rej ected


" She


you


. He had


said


a transplant,


s divorced


with


but


two


body


children.


nurse


came


touched


one


mother'


feet,


asked


if she


was


okay.


nurses


at the


dialysis


center were


pretty,


beautiful,


with


a healthy


bounce


to their


walk.


And


blond.


Their


blond


hair


fell


easy


waves,


or straight


down,


past


their


shoulders.


noon


they


took


turns


jogging


, running


over


green


hills


that


surrounded


center,


through


woods


They


talked


with


my mother


about


men,


men


they wanted


marry,


to have


to hold


until


death.


mother


smiled


at the


nurse


and


settled


a little


farther


down


into


her


chair


under


the


cream-colored


afghan


that


Myrtle,


a blind black


woman


three


chairs


down,


had made


her.


"She


incredible


eyelashes,


said


thought


nurse


was


kind


woman


my mother would


have


liked


a daughter.


"I'd bet


anything


they're


false,


said.















"Can


make


latest


boyfriend


said.


I felt


myself


panicking


"Gotta


" he said.


Some


girls


at school


had


seen


him


standing


under


trees


cemetery


outside


First


Baptist


last


Sunday


talking


a new


girl


with


long


black


hair


"I only


wanted


you


your


body


anyway,


told


him but


had


already


hung


I went


into


the


kitchen


looking


something


to eat


and


found


an unopened


package


fudge


cookies


on the


counter


My mother


had


bought


them


for


herself


tore


them


open


anyway


. Before


I knew


bag


was


empty


decided


to call


the


man


I had


seen


dialysis


center


. My mother


had


a list


of numbers


people


dialysis


. Hi


number


was


easy


to find-


-she


had


written


word


transplant


big


letters


name


. Sal


Carlyl


"I'm Edith


Snowdon


" I said.


"You


know my mother


Laverne


Snowdon


. She


s on dialysis


too.


"Yes


.She


s that


lady with


the


pantsuits


and


scarves


She


s ni


came


over


and


drank


iced


tea.


"Where


s Laverne?"


asked.











When


started


getting


late


took


s hand


and


him


bedroom.


"What


about


your


mother?"


"She


never


comes


back


earlier


than


midnight


" I said.


took


clothes


, a white


cotton


sun


dress


bed.


"YOU


re so tan


" he said.


"YOU


look


so healthy


"I'm


not,


said


I put


hands


on my


belly


was


if I could


feel


insides


crowded


with


cysts


. It


felt


my belly


might


explode


though


it looked


flat.


body was


long


and bony


. White


. It


reminded


me of


photographs


had


seen


victims


Holocaust.


elievabl


touched


scar


.It


traveled


from hi


belly


around


to his


back


I could


see


tracks


where


stitches


had


been.


"What


like


said


, "having


a part


you


cut


out ?"


s a relief


" he said


, "when


you


know


part


that


s killing


you.


The


place


on hi


left


arm


where


dialysis


need


had


been


inserted


was


black


and


blue


and


swollen


. He


said


"Come


here.


I could


hear


chimney


swifts


moving


in the


boarded-











the


baby


swifts


and


wrap


them


an old


sheet


and


leave


them


to die


the


trash.


was


after


midnight


when


my mother


home.


was


afraid


you


'd turned


into


a pumpkin,


said,


opening


front


door.


stood


on the


porch,


her


arms


limp


at her


side.


s found


someone


else


, someone


younger.


A nurse.


thought


the


pink


satin


wedding


gown


hanging


closet


Pressed,


perfect.


had made


herself.


dyes


hair,


Mama,


you


can


see


on his


forehead


, little


dribbles.


stepped


into


hallway.


"I need


a drink.


"A drink?"


There


had


never


been


any


alcohol


our


house,


that


I knew


anyway.


I followed


her


into


kitchen.


"YOU


find


a bottle


in the


back


cabinet


under


sink.


" She


table


and


kicked


her


grasshoppers.


I walked


over


to the


sink


and


stooped


open


the


cabinet.


was


sore


from


fucking.


Behind


Comet


and












Rain


started


falling


, softly


at first,


then


rat-a-tat


over


roof.


"Ernie


looks


like


a mole,


said


and


glasses


on the


table.


"He


s ugly.


"Lightning.


" She


looked


past


me out


window.


Under


pecan


tree


was


a ball


lightning.


I had


never


itself


seen


and


anything


then


like


into


and


watched


ground


or the


turn


tree.


around


I poured


wine.


color


reminded


me of


grape


juice


they


used


to drink


at church


communion.


father would


me drink


juice


and


because


opened


I had


screen


been


door.


saved.


I walked


down


steps,


under


pecan


tree.


listened


to the


rain


falling


around me.


Thunder


rolled.


I heard


screen


door


open


and


close.


mother


stood


beside


me.


"Fuck


God,


" she


said


and


laughed.


had


wine


bottle


one


hand.


Her


hair


was


and


sticking


to her


head,


down


back


her


neck.


"This


insane,


said.


a man


doesn't


want


you,


then


there


nothing


you


can


about


pulled











"Well,


somebody'


there,


" she


said.


We could


see


light-colored


car


in the


driveway.


"Ernie


just


like


daddy,


said.


"Daddy


could


keep


penis


pants.


"Edith,


" she


said and


then,


"You


can


stay


here


you


want


opened


her


door


and


, pressed


bottom


slowly


against


door


until


osed


with


a click


and


then


strode


driveway.


After


a long


moment


too.


I had


run


to catch


She


walked


steps


and


knocked


on the


front


door.


There

floor.


was


the


Then


sound


the


porch


of feet

h light


moving

came


over


on and


raised

door o


wood


opened.


mother


stood


there


in the


light


looking


through


screen


the


woman


"I'm


on the


looking


other


Erni


side.

e Smith.


"Ernie?"


woman


said


and


turned.


Her


hair


was


pink-


sponge


rollers.


"What


hell?"


Ernie


said


when


saw my mother.


already


sweating,


said.


"Why


did


you


do it


, Ernie?"


my mother


said.


Ernie


looked


at her,


shook


head.


He put


arm


around


the


woman.


"He '












mother


wasn


't moving


.She


just


kept


standing


there

light


in the

. Some


light


them


Mosquitoe


zzled


buzzed


, dropped.


. Bugs h

A black


at the


beetle


spun


on its


back


at her


feet


, trying


to flip


itself


back


upright.


had


a gun


I would


blow your


brains


said


to Ernie


"Edith,


please


mother


said


"She


s got


black-


ass


today


nobody


" I said


"Come


Back


at home


changed


into


her


nightgown


and


her


stomach


on her


bed


. The


bedspread


was


turned back.


night


was


sticky.


"Sleep


with


me." she


said.


"I get


so tired


an empty


bed


noticed


hairs


on her


legs


were


long


and


asked


wanted me


to shave


them


.It


was


something


did


sometimes


or give


her


shaved


her


a facial


legs,


ran


or I


might


electric


pluck


her


razor


eyebrows


over


her


legs


and


then


rubbed


cream


into


them


. She


smiled


, the


side


face


pushed


into


pillow


, her


arms


bent


underneath.











"I'm all


belly


and


breasts


" She


laughed.


feel


good.


When


had


finished,


. She


flattened


her


hands


and


down


her


legs


.She


seemed


pleased


. Her


hands


glided


over


her


silky,


salmon-colored


nightgown,


over


her


breasts


, belly


. I had


only


ever


seen


her


body


like


hidden


underneath


some


material


thought


was


strange


that


body


came


from


should


be such


a mystery


stood.


"I'll be


back


a minute.


went


and


I heard


her


footsteps


in the


hall,


dining


overhead


room


and


, and


after


then


on the


listening


a long


moment


. I heard


her


that


must


be in the


junk


room.


"What


" I


said.


was


carrying


a cardboard


box.


was


thinking


about


Mama


" She


box


on the


bed


and


started


taking


photographs.


"Here


" she


said and


photograph


handed


before


me a small


. The


oval


woman


picture


in the


. I had


photograph


seen


serene


eyes


and


hair


smoothed


back


.She


looks


straight


into


the


camera


could


do anything


her


mind


as if she


afraid


of nothing


"Here


again,


can


believe


" I have


i also


seen


thi


photograph


before


. My


stairs


realized











arm,


several


mother,


almost


children


grown,


crowded


behind


standing


one


her.


recognize


ide.


eyes


two


women


look


to be suspicious


lens


that


found


them.


My mother


told me


about


night


mother


died.


had


told


me before,


trying


think


to understand


why


her


mother


died,


what


was


wrong


with


her


mother


that


made


her


bleed


and


be able


to stop


bleeding


. Her


parent


bedroom


door


was


ajar


and


from


hall


my mother


could


see


her


mother'


bare


leg.


car


rattled


and


doctor


came


into


house.


The


next


morning


her mother


was


dead.


"She


died


when


was


sixteen,


mother


said


me.


still


miss


her.


During


night


I felt


mother'


foot


touching


calf


was


sleeping


on the


side


bed


, my


back


turned.


I propped


on one


elbow


and


looked


at her


twisted


in the


sheets


.It


felt


wrong


sleeping


in her


bed,


vaguely


sexual


and


promised myself


that


I wouldn't


this


happen


again.


would


sleep


own


bed.


I dozed


and


slept.


dreamed


a woman


with


enormous


breasts


sucking


breasts


and


felt


twinge


of desire.


next


morning


mother


said,


"I dreamed


that


was


urinating.











nodded,


and


her


eyes


had


hope.


"Miracles


happen,


said


died


right


there,


just


inside


door,


" my mother


said.


"Sal


Carlyle


was


closing


door


behind


him


when


place


where


they


put


need


broke


open.


It only


takes


a few minutes


to bleed


to death


"What


were


we doing


that


time?"


frowned


me.


"Where


were


we?"


"What


you


want


to watch?"


said


thought


might


vomit.

'Magnum.


on the


couch


, pulled


brown


robe


that


once


belonged


father


around


her


. The


cuff


were


frayed,


the


bottom


torn


where


kept


catching


her


foot


in the


hem.


I switched


on the


television


and


there


was


Magnum,


moving


across


screen


and


wearing


a pair


of white


shorts


.Hi


legs


were


and


muscular


and


hairy


was


only man


in both


our


lives


now.


"I didn


know


him all


that


well


. Hi


chair


was


at the












visiting


their


mother.


They might


have


saved


him.


then,


maybe


not.


Maybe


they would


have


had


see


him


bleed


death.


" She


held


up Myrtle'


afghan.


"Would


you


this


over


me?


don


know


why


I'm


cold.


I got


unfolded


afghan,


and


draped


her.


Magnum


had


been


hired


to protect


a 3azz


singer.


Someone


was


trying


to kill


but


said


no idea


who


or why.


"She


knows


mother


said.


heard


crinkle


of a plastic


sack,


saw


forbidden


chocolate


in her


mouth.


"What

"What


kind?

kind


I said.


what?"


"You


think


don


know?"


Lately


had


started


keeping


sacks


candy


between


cushions


couch,


in the


corners


of closets


backs


of cupboards.


never


weighed


her


food.


didn't


do anything


was


supposed


to do.


found


the


blue


spongy


ball


under


her


bed


covered


in dust


and


white


hairs.


It happened


like


this.


One day t


veins


that


had


been











shunt


inserted


into


her


arm,


to create


a place


strong


enough


to support


the


dialysis


needle.


"What


about


a transplant?"


I asked.


"Impossible,


" Doctor


Tarrel


said.


felt


a rush


relief,


against


will.


"Your


mother


waited


long


come


me.


Her


heart


was


already


enlarged


from


the


ext ra


work


had


to do,


what


with


her


blood


being


dirty.


know


that


just


before


came


me a little


bubble


went


through


her


heart


I hadn


known.


thought


there


must


be a lot


things


I didn


"That


know


s not


, things


Ernie'


car


never


there.


told me.


opened


screen


door.


My mother


turned.


thought


you


were


shopping.


" She


was


making


biscuits.


Her


hands


were


covered


with


flour


"Your


lipstick,


said.


She


was


wearing


a dusky


rose


color.


Ernie


came


clomping


I remembered


one


legs


was


shorter


than


the


other.


was


holding


a hammer


and


lock.


He looked


the


same


except


instead


of combing


his











mother


looked


older,


her


hair


was


grey,


face


was


loose


from


constant


retaining


and


letting


of fluids.


"Your


cooked


mother


meals


offered


" he said,


to cook


I'd put


me one


a new


of her


lock


good


on the


home-


front


door.


"What


wrong


with


old


one?"


asked


He stuck


out


hand.


I stared


at his


lips


. Hi


lips


were


thin


, and


he had


a cold


sore


at the


corner


of his


mouth.


It looked


like


he had


been


picking


at it.


I walked


to him


mouth


, put


same


my mouth


way


on his


he had


, pushed my


forced


tongue


tongue


into


in mine.


hands


on my


shoulders


and


thought


was


going


pull


me to him.


Then


heard my


mother


shouting


something


and


pushed me


away.


"Maybe


he would


be a good


candidate


a transplant,


I said.


He looked


though


was


disgusted.


was


so close


that


could


see


cataracts


clouding


dark


eyes


"Let


s cut


him


open


and


see.


"What


right!"


I heard


mother


then


I felt


the


blow


on my


shoulder.


The


rolling


floor


and


kept


on rolling.


It rolled


over


the


kitchen


floor,


into


dining


room.


It rolled


and


rolled


and


then


it stopped.


I walked


and


in the


car


didn't


come











Devil


s Hol


I had


never


been


there


before


but


some


kids


at school


talked


about


People


came


here


drink,


to do drugs


. The


water was


smooth


and


black


, deep


endl


ess


On the


ground


at the


edge


the


water


lay


a brown


paper


sack


, a crushed


beer


can


, a pair


black


lacy


panties


When


people


drowned


in Devil


s Hole


they were


never


found


. They


sank


into


crevi


ces


to underground


streams


that


flowed


into


the


ocean


or the


Gulf


or who


knew


where.


took


squatted,


skirt


sliding


down


and


T-shirt


grassy


and


bank


panti


into


and


water


swam


toward


the


middle


father


had


taught


me to swim.


at Swan


would


Lake


there


made


to catch


me jump


me but


dock


wasn


't and


. He


said


was


part


of his


plan.


I had


to swim


or drown


. I heard


crickets.


A bullfrog


croaked


. I felt


strong


and


good


and


clean.


The


lock


Erni


had


installed


was


shiny


and


gold.


When


I pushed


on the


front


door


swayed


open


sound


ess


.As


I stepped


inside


saw


Ernmi


coming


my mother


s bedroom


door.


"She


cysts


on her


kidneys


said


"Did


tell


you?


One


on top


the


other


, like


seashells


beach











He stood


there


startled,


trying


to buckle


belt


without


looking


at what


hands


were


doing.


"What


about


you?"


mother


said


. She


was


wearing


Chinese


robe


, the


one


with


cranes


embroidered


on the


back.


"What


you


mean?"


hasn


occurred


to you?


" she


asked


"Erni


thought


Edith


was


so smart.


always


made


Her


father


made


sure


that


. Then


when


died


started


failing.


"Good-bye


Erni


said


. I knew


that


sounded


like


jealous


lover


could


stop


Erni


hesitated.


"God


damn


it, get


or I'll


pop


your


eyes


your


ugly


head


stuck


thumbs


so that


he could


see


I meant


business


"Erni


" my mother


said


"Thi


house


"I'll


see


you


Laverne


" he said


to my mother


.The


screen


door


opened


and


closed.


"Sometimes


I wish


were


dead


mother


said.


They


hacked


open


her


chest


with


a saw


, that


s what


they


used


to get


through


bone.


"She


going


to look


bad


when


comes


" the











in the


waiting


room.


Rain


beat


against


the


picture


windows


My mother


on a tabi


an operating


room


on the


other


two


big


metal


doors


After


several


hours,


surgeon


came


out.


"Everything


s fine


" he said.


was


a famous


man.


went


well


" Blood


was


on his


white


coat.


My mother


didn


wake


Days


passed.


A week.


On the


televi


sion


they


talked


about


a hurricane


. They


showed


pictures


of mobil


homes


turned


upside


down


, crushed


like


so many


tin


cans,


uprooted


oaks,


roofs


houses


spun


Erni


didn


come


lowered


bedrail


, climbed


into


bed


beside


her


and


broke


my promi


to myself


that


I would


sleep


with


her


. There


was


so much


room.


After


thirteen


days


, she


opened


her


eyes


. She


could


longer


talk


. She


couldn't


move


one


side


of her


body.


can


even


tell


you


if she


knows


or not;


her


whole


personality


could be


different


" Doctor


Tarrel


said.


They


brought


in a speech


therapist.


They


brought


in a physical


therapist


massage


her


paralyzed


and


arm.











reached


and


touched


hair.


I had


gotten


scissors


of her


bedroom,


ones


she used


to chop


her


evening


gowns


, glittery,


like


snake


skins


hanging


closet


, and


sitting


at her


vanity mirror


had


cut


hair


short


over,


way


used


to cut


it when


was


a child,


way


wanted


me to


wear


grinned.


"I feel


lighter,


said


and


nodded,


as if


understood.


"The


doctor


said


you


have


another


operation


probably


die


on the


operating


table,


" I said.


Her


shunt


had


clogged


up again,


and


they


would


have


operate


, this


time


to join


veins


her


right


arm.


blood


was


dirty.


Even


with


dialysis


was


impossible


keep


it clean.


looked


looked


like


a child


, frightened,


and


tired.


on the


edge


the


bed


and


held


her


hands.


looked


down


at her


hands


in mine.


said,


s up


you.


had


practiced


this.


spoke


fast.


said,


wanted me


to ask


you.


He said


don't


have


to have


operation


you


don't


want


But











When


looked


saw


her


tears


Then


suddenly


mother


was


laughing


and


crying


at the


same


time


and


then


both


us were


laughing


like


crazy


women


and


crying


"Yes


" my mother


said,


"yes


yes


A medical


van


carried


her


home;


inside


the


van


was


slippery


looking


and


white


house


, two


orderli


hoi


sted


her


between


them


and


heaved


her


onto


a rented


hospital


bed


in my


room


at back


house,


where


was


quieter.


"I feel


so sick,


said


and


hurried


to the


bathroom.


On my


knees


in front


the


toilet


vomited


and


vomited.


"Nerves


" I heard


someone


and


I looked


One


the


orderli


stood


bathroom


doorway


. Hi


silhouette


reminded me


of a beggar


who


had


come


to the


house


when


was


a child


. It


had


surprise


ed my


mother


see


him,


a tall


thin man


standing


the


unlatched


front


door.


"I'm


hungry


" he


had


said


but


my mother


, out


fear


, sent


him


away


As he walked


out


gate


and


then


along


lime-


rock


road


I had


thought


of angels


, of


Bibl


stori


about


angels


disguised


as beggars.


The


orderly


laughed


and


seemed


odd


to me that


would


. Then


I realized


that


bringing


people


home


to di


was














At night


lept


on the


floor


at the


foot


mother


bed.


first


few


days


drank


a little


the


water


brought


. She


ate


a mouthful


stew


and


a bite


biscuit


Then


one


day


slapped


the


glass


water


hand.


One


night


I dreamed


a man


saw


ugliness


inside


me.


I dreamed


insides


covered


with


cysts


. How


could


a man


ever


hands


were


. He


reached


inside


, took


one


my kidneys


and


held


to look


at. It


was


red


and


precious


as a ruby.


The


next


morning


said


mother


, "YOU


have


to do thi


picked


at a thread


on the


blanket


. She


seemed


angry


and


away.


I went


to the


vase


of flowers


on the


bedside


table


and


start


pulling


the


irises


and


jonquils


that


had


started


drying


I tossed


the


dead


flowers


in the


trash


can


and


then


rearranged


hardier


roses


and


mums.


Every


morning


a hospice


nurse


, a doughy


kind


woman


came


to help


ran


warm


water


into


a plastic


bowl


and


she helped


roll


my mother


gently


onto


side


. I dried my












One


day


after


bath,


after


the


nurse


had


gone,


decided


mother


I powdered


her


nose.


colored


her


cheeks


, her


lips


took


a ti


issue


shirt


pocket


and


pressed


to her


mouth


"Oh,


Mama


" I said.


"You


are


so beautiful


" It


was


first


time


I remember


saying


that


to her


"You


are


beautiful,


said


. I smoothed


her


hair


, just


as she


had


done


mine


when


was


a girl


, sleeping


her


bed,


before


occurred


me that


other


girl


didn


sleep


with


their


mothers


, when


I still


thought


that


belonged


me.


suppose


that


I thought


things


would


on forever


like


. What


miracle


really


did


happen


What


if her


kidneys


were


free


cysts


and


didn


need


to be


dialyzed


anymore?


People


went


to Lourdes


, France,


and


were


healed


simply


believing


. Maybe


her


belief


in miracle


would


be enough


It wasn't.


Her


breathing


grew


labored


, her


chest


heaved


rattled.


Her


lungs


were


filling


with


fluid


. She


was


drowning


and


drifting,


drifting,


like


a tired


lover,


a lover


longer


in love


thought


swimming


, of how my mother


never


learned


to swim,


had


always


required


a raft,


water wings


, something


to keep


her


afloat


ay on the












Angels


disguised


as beggars.


dreamed


or I


remembered.


A wild


kitten


caught


in the


chicken


coop


back.


The


coop


had


been


empty


months


, years


maybe


, but


father


left


a corner


backyard,


door


broken


, hanging


on by


a screw.


"We


have


to catch


father


said.


He studied


kitten.


in and


my gl


oves.


I looked


at the


kitten,


clinging


to the


wire,


small


white


chest


heaving.


"What


are


you


going


to do


with


it?"


can


't wait


forever,


" he


said.


He stuck


arm


through


door


coop.


watched


bare


hand


close


over


kitten.


The


kitten


yowled


and my


father


jerked


back.


my gun,


" he


said,


sucking


bloody


hand,


"and


ask


your


mother


where


bullets


are.


"I won't


said.


ran


into


house,


shut


myself


in the


bedroom


that


still


shared


with my


mother


In a few minutes


heard


backdoor


slam and


went


to the


window.


mother


had


gun


and


shells


. She


was


wearing


a pink


cotton


dress,


waist


tight,


e skirt


w











There


was


only my


mother


walking


through


uncut


grass,


the


grass


still


damp


from


the


night,


going


to him.














EXPOSURE


We cannot


see


well


.My


husband


Samuel


are


standing


on the


edge


of a cliff


after


dark


on the


west


coast


France


. Samuel


takes


hand


and


pull


me cl


ose


can


still


feel


space


between


us.


"I love


you,


Ella


hear


him


but


don


t believe


.On


beach


people


move


like


ghosts


through


the


falling


dark.


Since


our


baby


died


three


months


ago


Samuel


and


I have


been


living


like


children,


eating


rocky


road


cream


dinner


or apple


pie


fresh


from


bakery


.We


stay


watching


old Hitchcock


films


and


late


-night


talk


shows


. We


feel


sleepy


, but


we don


sleep


until


we have


, and


then,


more


help


often


.Now


than


, we don


, we have


come


eep


here,


together


to the


, not


of Bi


can


scay


the

and


west

soft


coast

sand.


of France


It's a place


a small


neither


cove


of


surrounded ]

us has been


rocks


before,


a place


meant


to help


us forget


that


our


baby


dead.


A light


flashes


in the


darkness


below


us. I


see


aman


and


a woman.


stands


between


A child


them


in the


. They


are


man


s arms.


naked.


Another


I look


child


the


Person


taking


Dhotocraph,


see


in another


flash











there


is nobody


. A tripod


has


been


set


and


they


are


taking


photographs


themselves


-a family


, naked


, knee-


deep


the


sea


dark.


"Isn


wonderful,


"You


must


be tired


after


the


long


drive


" Samuel


says


me and


takes


hand.


"The


water


must


be really


cold


here


ought


to be going


to bed.


" He leads


me back


path

way


towards

down to


the


the


cliff,


"Careful

I almost


" he


fell


says

when


. Before


foot


on the


caught


a rock


so smooth


, so much


the


color


sand


that


did


see


When


we pick


our


key


the


desk


, a white


rabbit


sitting


a cage


on the


counter


and


sticking


pink


nose


through


the


silver


bars


. The


rabbit


reminds


me of


a man


with


white


hair


and


red


glasses


who


hosts


one


those


late-


night


televi


sion


shows


. He


always


asking


guests


they


are


afraid


to die.


All


them


say


. One


them


says,


"Death


doesn


" Another


says,


"My music


will


live


after me


" All


of his


guests


are


famous


and


rich.


Sometimes


seems


they


really


live


forever


. One


day you


hear


they


have


died


and


next


thing


you


know


there


they


--













bed


covers


have


been


turned


back


over


a red


gold


pais


ey spread.


into


bathroom and


open


makeup


bag


cream


on my


face and


wipe


off.


press


a wet


leave


white


cotton


pad


on the


enamel,


my eyes


floor.


look


slippery


slip


at the


curve


sun-


empty


back,


dress


, at the


and


then


climb


When


was


growing


used


to hide


and my


mother


pretended


that


could


find


me. The


white


enamel


cold


and


turns


skin


goose


flesh.


"What


are


you


doing


in there?


" Samuel


says


and


taps


door.


"I've


decided


to sl


here


. I put


a hand


on my


belly


and


like


nothing,


a slender


nothing


with


breasts


I feel


lower


belly


, the


flesh


there


soft


and


sinking


opens


door


and


stands


looking


big


over me


then


sighs


imagine


thought


that


it would


be easier


here


, an ocean


s distance


from


where


we live


. He


tell


that


he needs


me and


that


am all


he has


this


true


.He


me that


mother


I should


and


feel


brother


bad


about


. Hi


having


mother


lost


tell


such


young


baby


, that


the


real


attachment


to a child


occurs













The


pees


next


as if


morning


am not


Samuel


there


comes


in the


into


bathtub


. He


bathroom


and


washes


face


and


can


see


long


back


bent


over


sink


and


then


face


blurry


the


old mirror


as though


caught


a rain


on the


other


side


of a closed


window


and


feel


though


not


my husband,


as though


I haven


known


him


these


years.


"Ella,


sweetie


" he


says.


"I'm going


a swim


He leans


over


and


sses


forehead


, smoothes


hair


back


face


and


I feign


sleep


hear


him


leave,


hear


the


door


close


. I wait


until


sound


footsteps


gone


before


I get


and


to the


bedroom


window where


can


see


him


walk


along


the


rocky


path


. Hi


white


shirt


flutters


and


then


disappears


down


steps


that


descend


to the


sea.


After


coffee


and


toast


take


same


path


to the


edge


cliff


. I hesitate


, looking


Samuel,


but


beach


crowded


with


people


lying


under


umbrellas


playing


paddl


ball


. Voices


hum,


the


sound


like


that


rail


just


before


the


train


arrives


Many


women


are


wearing


only


bathing


suit


bottoms


and


though


have


heard


fashion


France,


surprises


me.


Samuel


must












s clouding


hear


someone


and


turn


dark-


haired man


is sitting


on a bench.


"Rain


" he


says


but


there


is only


blue


.He


a French


accent


"Could


you


tell


me what


time


it is?


asks.


look


at my watch.


"Half


past


say.


The


young


man


nods


and


smil


es.


"YOU


aren


't French,


" he


says


French


woman


would


wear


tennis


shoes


Only


English


woman


or an American


"I'm American


"And


what


wrong


with


tennis


shoes?


like


them


very much


" he


says


"But


know


French


women


, they would


rather


be glamorou


with


sore


feet


than


comfortable


and


how


you


say?


dowdy?"


am not


dowdy,


" he


says


"You


are


beautiful


"I'm


looking


husband


"Yes


, it


often


case


" he


says.


"YOU


don


"Thi


understand.


often


true


"I don't


even


know you


and


am having


a covers


action


with


you,


and


turn


to head


back


path,


to the


hotel


"Let


me buy


you


a drink"


, he


says


catching


. A












He is


so handsome,


so foreign


me that


I don't


resist


.We


to the


hotel


restaurant


and


have


tall


drinks. He

someone who


tell


me that


travel


a lot


name


Speaking


Dominique


careful


. He


English,


tell


me about


a trip


he took


around


the


United


States


.He


traveled


from


California


across


the


desert,


down


to the


South


where


found


people


with


stronger


accents


than


own


. He


says,


"I have


seen


Florida.


Everyone


spoke


Spanish.


I could


understand


nothing


remember


something


I heard


on late


night


. An


actor


said


you


ask


almost


any


French


person


who


favorite


actress


, he will


Romy


Schneider


, even


though


s been


dead


years


. Some


people


think


died


of grief


after


her


only


son


impaled


himself


on a


wrought


-iron


fence.


think


that


should


ask


Dominique


about


this


when


open


my mouth


I hear myself


saying


that


my baby


dead.


I hear


myself


say


that


husband


doesn


like


my talking


about


baby was


crib,


you


see


, he


was


crying,


"Just


after


midnight


called


hospital


and


told


doctor


that


my baby


had


fever.


'Crush


some


aspirin


' the


doctor


said.


'Give


him


a few


sips


of water


' "I did


what


the


doctor


told me


to do,


but


my baby would


stop


crying.


v












We walk


to his


car


and


then


drive


along


coast


until


we reach


the


Grande


Cote


where


there


are


1 if guards


and


where


beach


wide


and


people


only


swim


without


"Get


clothes


and


undressed


their


" he


own


says,


risk.


unbuttoning


shirt


"That


s okay


say.


He shrugs


and


then


takes


trousers


, hi


undershorts


see


him


standing


naked


front


, his


penis


long


and


soft.


walk


with


him


to where


waves


sand


, the


waves


that


make


so much


as they


crest


and


fall


that


we cannot


hear


the


voices


other


people


on the


beach.


It's like


think

never


a dream


why


been


and


Samuel


to before


am not


wanted


like


to bring


so that


would


myself


, and


me to a place


see


we had


differently


that


I would


be different.


Dominique


dips


waves


and


ves


into


the


white


water


. When


comes


to stand


beside


me again


dripping


with


waves


he has


swum


through


skin


so cold


that


a blue


tint.


"You


should


come


" he


says


look


and


down


beach.


There


are


some


people


they


are


enough


away


now


that


they


don


seem


like


people


but


like


figurines.


take


dress


pulling


over


head












and


breasts


still


sagging


with


milk


they


once


carried but


then


Dominique


touches


scar


and


smiles


and


says


that


take


breath


away.


"I've


back


into


never


felt


water


anything


to wet


like


hair


and


When


lean


come


Dominique


standing


front


me and


then


he pulls


to him.


bodi


are


sleek


underwater


and


while


can


feel


his


penis


hard


even


in the


cold


water,


hard


against


thigh,


he does


enter


me though


would


resist


and


wonder


how


that


lovers


who


spend


only


a short


time


with


us are


ones


that


we will


later


yearn


for


most,


the


ones


that


we seem


to know


better


than


we know


our


husbands


or wi


ves


with


whom


we spend


a lifetime


sleeping


Samuel


sitting


the


window


with


a book


in hi


when


come


into


hotel


room.


"Your


hair


is wet


" he


says.


"I went


"Who


a swim.


he?"


"Who?"


"The


man


who


drove


you


to the


hotel,


" Samuel


says


and


closes


book


was


restaurant


downstairs


waiting


or you


and


worried


sick


about


you


and


then


saw











s a boy


who


wanted


to take


me for


a drive,


and


think


I sadora


Duncan


who


died


after


a young


man


asked


her


a ride


in his


sport scar


. It


was


some


years


after


her


two


children


drowned


in the


Seine


, trapped


back


of a limousine


. When


he started


engine


scarf


was


wearing


caught


in the


spokes


back


tire


and


snapped


her


neck.


"I would


have


killed


him


if he had


stayed,


" Samuel


says


. "The


chicken


shit.


"I'm


starved


Samuel


gets


on the


phone


and


orders


dinner


, fi


sh with


mushrooms


and


strawberry


tarts


, a bottle


of wine


and


another of

penetrated


champagne


skin


e. The

so even


cold


after


the


water


we have


seems


eaten


and


to have

finished


last


champagne


skin


still


chilly


and


weak


with


desire


Dominique


who


must


be well


on his


way


to Paris


where


he will


catch


a plane


to Italy.


on my


nightgown,


short


and made


creamy


silk


, and


down


on the


bed.


"I didn't


do anything


I should


have


done


say.


"I need


you


Ella


" Samuel


says


and


sits


beside


, the


bed


slumping


under


weight.


"There


nothing


can


about


" He gathers


silk


my nightgown


into












to each


other.


think


how


we may


have


other


children


that


will


never


forget


this


one


who


died,


even


though


cannot


bear


say


name.















THE


BEST


YOU


CAN


listens


an old


woman.


"I don


know


what


s happening!"


woman


says,


and


paces


her


green


plaid


slippers


. "Herbert


just


started


walking


Herbert


around


old


in a daze


woman


and


s poodle


running

, sits


into


on the


walls

floor


between


a buffet


and


a round


table.


He pants.


Saliva


drips


from


smiling


mouth


and


eyes


are


dull.


"When


this


happens


to Herbert


again


to hold


him


love


him,


calm


him


down


" she


says


to the


woman.


best


you


can


do until


s over.


"But


"YOU


won't


have


be still


to try


night


coming


an end.


like


pink


glass.


"Stars


" she


says


, looking


man


with


opens


door,


then


goes


around


to the


driver


s side.












He leans


over


and


fumbles


in the


glove


box.


"What


are


you


looking


for?"


says


He holds


up a pink


, satin


sash.


ease


" he


says.


thinks


pink


satin


waistband


of a dress


had as a child

white, crinkly


. Her


mother


a full


had


skirt


made

Scan


the

say


dress


her-


thinks


. She


thinks


can


the


car


and


run.


lets


him


the


satin


ribbon


around


her


eyes


.She


lets


him


tie her


hands


behind


her


back


A precaution


, he tells


her.


He drives


along


hard


road


a while


, then


turns


. The


drives


car


bounces


fast.


sits


over


potholes


quietly


. Her


, washboard


body


ruts


is warm.


. He


Something


slaps


the


windshi


. Spanish


moss


, she


thinks


. The


car


fish-


tail


re here


" he


says.


lets


him


lead


her,


arm


around


her


shoulders-


first


through


soft


sand


and


then


onto


firmer


ground,


her


footsteps


passage


softened


narrow


leaves


Brush


scratches


thinks

her a


, yes


rms


leaves


, legs


.The


catches


the


hem


of her


dress.


"YOU


re going


to climb


now


" he


says


.Hi


arm


drops


from


her


shoulders


. He


unti


her


hands.


A hoot


hoots,


with


heavy wings


"I'm












can


knot


feel


in the


him


satin


close


sash.


to her


Even


after


hands


fiddling


blindfold


with


fall


she keeps


her


eyes


closed


a moment


Then


opens


them.


It's a tree


house,


roofl


ess


unless


you


count


eaves


and


sky.


"I don't


understand


" she


says


"YOU


don


have


" He ki


sses


her


. He


s hard


pressing


says


against


"I had


her.


to know


"I wanted


" He holds


to know


her


. She


you


trus


feel


ted me


now


and


a little


dreamy


..-try


to hold


him,


love


him


and


calm


him


down


" she


says


to herself


best


you


can


until


s over


" She


does


know


how


long


takes


fall


asleep.


Someone


a knife


and


tracing


her


nipples


, her


belly


button


, the


soft


insides


of her


thighs.


"I'm


hunter


" he


says


but


doesn


recognize


. It


could


anybody


.He


says,


"I killed


a doe


long


ago.


her


and


open


then


and


saw


when


the


I did


fawn


, water


inside


and


her


blood


like


came


a pecan


pouring


wedged


inside


shell












knife


poking


her


in the


side


and


thinks


what


a dull


knif


and


then


s half


awake.


Her


father


understands


at least


one


thing--that


whatever


perfect


doesn


die.


"I'm not


hungry,


but


thank


you,


" she


says


bends,


taking


her


stockings


wave


hisses


over


sitting


holding


sand


in a black


reins.


. Over


carriage


water


. Her


...nobody


sees


father


there


her


father


a little


to hold


him,


boy,


or to


love


him,


thinks


. The


black


horse


prances


. Her


father


dressed


perfectly


pressed


trousers


and


hair


parted


unevenly


walks


along


with


her


arm


hooked


in the


bent


arm


a facel


ess


man.


Before


long


they


come


to a barn.


A skinned












like

lamb.


this?


It has


It's the


bes


been

t she


skinned


can


alive

But


water


want s

rushes


to hold


over


concrete


floor


and


the


lamb


and


the


faceless


man


disappear.


Silvery


stretches


darkne


over


A streak


linoleum


light


floor.


from


lives


city


alone


room


on the


second


floor


a city


where


nobody


will


miss


her


does


wake


lies


in bed


and


looks


the


light


coming


through


frosted


glass


knows


that


outside


is cold.


She


remembers


how


father


tells


with


eyes


that


beautiful,


isn't


apple


though


has


eyes,


bird-like


and


so dark


that


they


are


black.


A house


on fire.


stands


close


to the


blaze,


if daring,


inviting


the


flames


to catch


lacy


bottom


her


nightgown.


Inside


the


house


are


years


and


years


things,


screaming


if alive.


A hand


holds


hers


but


when


looks


nobody i


there.











seems


a mortar


that


holds


the


upright


planks


house


together


and


then


planks


fall


one


one.


Sometime


in the


early morning


awakened


footsteps


on the


stairs


. Someone


knocks


when


gets


and


opens


door


hall


is empty


. She


oses


the


door


and


returns


to bed


. She


pull


covers


around


her.


Then


the


knocking


starts


again


. The


knocks


are


steady


relentl


ess


as a heartbeat


. Then


they


stop


"I want


you


" He unbuttons


her


shirt


, undresses


her


"Wait


" she


says


She


stands


beside


bed


feeling


sun


on her


back,


her


bottom


, and


watches


him


undress


. She


never


seen


him


naked


knows


. Thi


every


amazes


part


her


of hi


now


because


body-


-the


seems


scattering


though


freckl


belly


chest


and


arms


, hi


legs


. The muscular


arms,


muscular


maybe


from


lifting


animal


, cows


, horses


, or maybe











someone


once


opened


him


with


a knife.


This


scar


, pale


and


skin


soft


as a child


, is what


presses


mouth


against.
















BABY- DOG


It's been


two


months


since


Baby-Dog


died.


Anita


had


him


cremated,


and


whenever


any


us visit


opens


urn


to show


us hi


ashes


.My


husband


thinks


Anita


weird


as hell,


I understand


her


. Baby-


Dog


was


closest


thing


Anita


had


to a child.


Anita


and


on her


front


porch,


in her


swing,


the


metal


chain


creaking,


and


me in


one


her


rocking


chairs


. We


can


even


see


the


road


azaleas


which


are


in full


bloom.


"There


s a snake


tell


Anita.


"Where?


" she


says


azaleas


" A glass


snake


slides


through


blooms


and


over


spindly


branches


Its


translucent


skin


like


a prism


in the


sunlight.


Anita


squints


. "I


can


see


" she


says


, shaking


her


head


. She


rubs


her


eyes


which


are


blue


and


tremulous


under


thick


lenses.


have


never


seen


a glass


snake


except


in pictures


have


read


in the


encyclopedia


that


a glass


snake


s body


can