First draft of Marianne Hauser's, "The Talking Room"


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First draft of Marianne Hauser's, "The Talking Room"
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Hauser, Marianne
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Box: 2
Folder: The Talking Room- First Draft


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North America -- United States of America

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University of Florida
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Full Text

Again I can he their voices coming nonstop from the talking
room downstairs.Babette, ...e.i. I hear my name in the long
night rqin, I lie on my back between candy stripe sheets o-- ~-4/
listening, And I know it's me they are hbthey
call me an idea. fiti- i' ,-t-"S n! .... .a.. .

Sle? 5e1i.L was your idea and don't you deny it...

Is h

(Your T idea, not mine, the whole deal...
KHush! not so loud dear!'9
Go hush yyprself ~ You had it all
-( 4 ^-- -^--- --^
figured ouT, a planned hah c'weet chr with me for mom and'
a test tube for pop, the tube,you went all out for it, so
sanitary you said, safer than i 4f pieup e f iinht
bar fly, though anything will do, 4- ke snappy pai4--
ngrT?' A little bastard' better thar nothing.].2? You couldn't
wait another second to play house,.
4You are drunk. -

#Just mellow, honey V, your- mellow fellow. T ~o~b~-s J-dA ta ed..out
&'." -- / ,_ $ u- / c< "7 I,/a ,- t
ef-iny-mu -pile. God *.y c ou o n' y u *p c- in *:our ov. -sand-box-. y' -

That's not a pretty thing to say 1 J.'
, (Me J you .y We are initials. Our names got lost estebe*-0
bo.l ~ ni what, ove dove, will they write on our communal

headstone ?,-;o capital letters. One capital lie. Here lies the lie
t4-Aly initial parents 8 of B, excuse the fart, he part you
forced on me, I wasn't cut out for it, sa, I never learned to

play mother. No football coach showed me.

QSit by me... Don't im;- Stretch outava s 1:s
rub your back...

Rubh ohr, But it -Boats

whistle, %raen for the ocean. The voices in the talking room

go dead. I've smothered them with my pillow and maybe I

invented them in any case, it was *:--- -long-i4s ago, like

yesterday. Those voices, I can turn them up or down like the

pocket transistor I keep-gaag-,under the pillow for company

to'heat time to my night dreams. Bad for h r head,1said Aunt V,

going to sleep with the radio on, static, politics, now if

if werd .j::t music classical non profit, but no, .a e~
< C c c ^ cC- j nk the "
<-.7c garbage v.'..: popular junk c.:.-' the commercials too,

shep-wra =-ve. tell hei J#to switch it off, ell her, d --

you 1e-her mother."

Yes tell me mother, smother me with a bear hug. Confiscate

my little transistor, mash it gut kiss me good night.

Sor Chrisake av her be.Le er do asee pleases led's
old gh, for cl"i i .

Under my pillow the newscaster counts out the mangled bodies

between one rock song, one soul hit. One two three out from un

der heaps of rubble of war or earthquake. IJsa-lyv: the bhod:

count of disasters1put$ me to sleep. But not this night,
T- Tir rOLI'ICS OF Ni'CiOPIilLA ilAVE liI' iTU Cik BOTTOMi. TijiS'

Li.t% I :L ^ iS IS ONLY
tih f.j it ? TEiST ONLY A TEST ECT
he ',t ;.c
How can Mh~m he s-o .sure it "s;---t+'st--a-r4 not ,the real thing,

the test tube,, not real VJ-argued over the test tube a
9 /ost.tuhe atid

t-1he-t' lied C as hey were ready to try anything 4--

PI'r Y'4. bstuhe, orphanage, sailor on shore leave, they-

Sna.r.edl_the-'-all as though ixrin matf8~ma no matter how they.

produced me-, the final product would always be the same mrs
)h LLU.
Babette. I'm that idea in their heads1dnd the idea was there

long before me.

Ah, sighed Aunt V, if one could only make a baby viawi1"*

t h t- for i gn -le r -o, al-e---i: 'tri1s-eion. One should thtnk
.. '7( .C_,- A l
that in our ag mb m:.1ine age l'hre-.oug!h'-tc bc-,cns

c.--. ica1./. ..0 (holding mom tight to her bosom) ya-thim

you'll reallythe father, I should be the mother, look at my

Ir-c1e pelvic, feel those childbearing flacks, and .if my

S tubes hadn't been removed by hme ca~ aas butcher oh-

ages ago I' Ladly sbm1t to th. t. gt tunh an-t bear our

child, ut tc nr Ct ft, --- .

O/ gp~4, v.44- have to mother the little stranger it onJy
takes a-few months and it will at:- be your own flesh and

blood, /'all you, -J

S Hm. The guinea pig. What do you think is in that test tube -

goat's milk? mom aska with that harsh laugh which carries a
hooked little echo. into-my-heart.

A --Unfortunately for all concerned, we can't entirely yet dispose
" of the male substance V's sigh hts-r left no echo.-A child

S will cement our love, will give 3,ou that center my love

which, so my psychotherapist assured me, you seem to be

j) tragicallyac lacking.

"Yeah,. Keep me tied ko your o1pamnnx,'rm.inx leather apron.."n':,g.n

Hang a brat around my neck to keep me k irTrx on the r.-:.:,-.t

straight, though not too straight you bet, but on the

narrow sure as hell. IWh ta/a laugh. Good old V and me zi

g th hby bggyg- Wta 4i .Lreamr
A scream, a-d mom knew all along how Aunt V i4 scEred to

death of losing her.--What's happened to my-J? I've lost her,

Aunt V would cry and search all over the house as if mom /

were a ring b -had mislaid. Lost lost. ff, re did asa get

lost doupA .ttbsa -la. e.Wi4 -l-J be back? If so in what

condition ? How hard will-V have to scrub her mate in the
sunken tub t r-)r-snovie -.wha~-v.r. -.t:'I-cit ele. ray .s me-:. oy find. -

-"rthb"iim'c1iIr-te holly?

-A child, said Aunt. V, breathing hard through keyhole

nostrils, is essential for the survival of a normal

'nu a-ltra ted marriage. /

-Get lost, said mom, kicking hle'.- h-ha.too -r lip;'ors -into.t.o .

Still she gave in to V's persistent pleadings, maybe to shut

her up, that I can see, maybe r.,'pa.i to make peace and' then

start a new war, this time over me. Fight, make up, kiss and

fight though never with me,maiyum~enmemmm. I've tried every

trick to make iny-rmother-fight me, punish me so we can kiss

and make up. I threatened to swallow a li namwhite- nriothi mouse.

I almost dd swalloww it. But y iBRt shrugs and
lights a .i.:. -"e---- I
rn'rit. No war for me with her. How can we have peace?
N-irr-'at iF'r: ro2 v.)'ift, .reCasons, war"o''-reace, she -'thI ,*1 '

test tube, hoping she'd get big with me,K,';f.3lsb\..':.I.ti, t am

deliver me(into V's hungry arms and he done with/ once and for c.l

Legs,- p top] 41A.s.-..? i ,-g .'l^t h ( '.-T-ei -i,..h.e lind-O, ;_a-

's-tar- Pc i.t hiKa t,- !\ ic,")hoc-..loi' ,-,,, h yny ---. ...'.--1.......- L.--: ....

And though she kept protesting-that she'd never conceive

with a tube for her lover quite inconceivable, she pt!:ned N

she obediently kept her appointment at the Hospital of the Holy

Sepulcher. -OK. Fire!? she said lying, legs up, rimWl em

under a white whihtre shroud, an rubber-gloved. I. rsw'iriloi Slav-io-

mato-u.h ocy,)-ion doing the honors.-It won't tnke a

minute, he mouthed through the gauze mask. -Relax.

q- ma was relaxedsenough,but what of Aunt V who was pacing

the corridor in her high boots her face paler than pabe

under the brush-on powder called blushing rosesC. They

hadn't allowed her into the room with J, tne hairy brute of

a doctor having ta-Xken an instant dislike to her, as-wvould

be clear to an unborn child, V insisted. He was after J.

Why else would he he substituting for th female GP whom V

had handpicked Anm for the job after the closest scrutinity

public and private? It was plot to separate J from V.

Perhaps it was a dommrin u-st plot. The Sjhianghat-=iorn man in white

was a red agent.

Aunt V's high heels were striking the terrazo up she corridor

and down. Whpt were the two up to behind the an-tiptic screen?

Shoulc.she cotl the FBI? But all the public telephones

were out of order.

-You'd think 1g girlfriend was a having a baby, one nurse's
sa :.d
aid montihu to another through a mouthful of T)rrrifs pastry:

-I'm having kittens, groaned V to an empty wheelchair.

-I goofed, said J with hangdog air.-Sornyxnusr.dee .-r'ngo

-HE goofed, steamed V threatening to expose the white

/docto \
-0.$ k '


But that must have been much later, after much guesswork and

bustling about in preparation of the blessed event,t V snuggling

her ear up against Mom's flat belly, sure ahe had heard me

give si6me sign of life ~,fu:,l, :::.:: i,
the rabbit test had co~e-out at4i a-eIe-~ ar no. But V wouldn'Ar X&T

take no for an answer. She wouldn't let a stupid rabbit pt/

down the law, and she swore she had heard me gurgle though

mom ke4t~- 14g her- it wasn't me, it was the gin, hbwi-ftg-buhSies.
v h
Mm However, Anmmti wasn't one to say die, I.,Ppe springs eternal

whs her-b-lue- true-Atcr.ica;... motto, and besides she had already
Cth^kdi she hadlayed out.
invested as-iot-Sof time in me, not to speak of the money.
c. private ,.~ '/- -
She had reserved t w aw ~4h.-te mnbaimmbn lay-in ward of

the SanftePe.awnse^, -S ovena-ho:n a nd. c-i p;l es and she had

spent a fortune fixing up a nursery for me an antique cradle

certified to have been slept in by the infant Isabella queen

of Spain and wh-i e4h-wa guaranteed to last for a year or your

money refunded. Other certified antiquities. Something old:,

something new, something blue. That was my nursery or one of

them as there were many and none I remember, though I remember

the one with the Spanish trudlebed under a ht~s baby blue

quilt, and the blue astronauts on baby blue walls and
erectors, tractors,
curtains, blue spaceships, f ,tfitU Ag xt rt' if;i,, the original

Trojan horse n:yir.'e in a blue swoon,.a~mb and windows facing the

blue east so sun should fall on me first thing in the morning.
s is
But n= it% night. It s raining, and when I think of that lost

nursery I never owned then I trr # weep over the missing; dolls.

Those toys for boys, and not one i.L:!:-: .-f.- :' -'-p .-!..

Mom didn't gS4-vae6 ha- whether I'd turn out boy, girl or

nothing or both. But Ant V had.' et her alPrerdy.- c for the hunt in
boy blue to jump out of Jay-'s boy loins ait dressed ap'nmr

velvet Eaton jacket nnd blowing his horn. N'G'r*L-',;'..: .,?,r.-

. Nothing: live or. dead jumped out of ma-. -I suro keep-

lousing things up, she said, feeling guilty, I guess, or sorry

I guess for V though never for me.

What was going wrong? Something amiss- somewhere. The woman

doctor for women who wra;mPDpose had been designated to

inseminate mom and deliver me, but had hut--rece-n ly-recovered

from a still unidentified virus, gave them a talking togf,

reminding them of father time and mother nature. Patience,
Romulus wasn't made
said she. j m rahmEiroaxinnart.hsmakjOt in a day, nor was Uncle

Remus, she said, chatting with them in our sooty backyard
and roses
among ith plastic gardenias/under the stunted' willow tree.

Weep not. The age of miracles has barely arrived, and tku&
^0, aM. y0f -<- ..44%.-L-L
test tbe &"e le hm picture tube i?& nmt infallible,, doe .advised,

patting now V's hand, now J's thigh.

An offended bee, hunting in vain for nectar, came buzzing

out of a plastic American Beqiuty. No polled on the breeches

of that bee. Go sting old doc, go take a nip fromJ J's

ommb tall frosted glass.

It's:Iclear, said Dr.Hartebeest, wiping her Si1ees, that J's

fnamim mwinani potential hasn't ben aroused sufficiently

It's up to yot, she lectured V who was taking notes while
L.-7z c .< aro 5se-e-it;t
4- glassy-eyed, kept bur:ping into her gin,- t'o-dtamiimr

put your erogenous experience to use with foresight and-

patience.Observe the lunar calendar, the phases, the curse

of the moon. The bloody mucosal expulsions of monstrous"

menses. Now I must call my answering service though I doubt

that they will answer the phone.

Doc shaking the ashes out of her meerschaum, rising from the

cast iron chair, stooping to pick a flower for her modest does--

-tag.. Those girls- what clever gardeners they are! she marvels,

sniffing at the plastic gardenia. Delicious fragrance. Tut tut,

sister, cheer up and do your job. You barely got started.

o phey followed doctor's orders, loved labored with one eye on
the calendar. Chalked off the shining hours and took a eimmla

to The Holy Sepulchre to have another crack at the test tube.,umaer

the li'r'.aeb:;nm good doctress presiding. May nobody say I wasn't

a wanted baby. They wanted me 4-t-t .-.~ ,--'--.pc-ib-.l .--i',ay,

But they failed, for all of V's nimbler than nimble manipulations.
The tongue was quick and soft, the womb was tu. iol'ymihookfnremitr'ihtlII

double lpcked in secret self love. No dice.

-My friend's here. God damn it, said J, kieki4wthe toilet lid


-Who's here? V calls, not understanding J's girl t4lk from the

old JHS days.

-Nobody's here. The flags out. We goofed again. Find me a cunt rag.
i mnliw.p. ii-. ;i, 141.?l01ftl ?x hampered
Oh curse of womanhood. In= Woman V. :,.1_fm,l lluilh by

the mystic mandala, the bloody circle.

Is their union doomed to remain untlessed? V, licking a sheet

of trading stamps, triple value, to paste into the booklet

(free pre-paid gifts to bp chosen and broke la-r) pleads

R(! 4pxhyment'rnm that they give the taste turie one last chance.

But J says thank you, no, she's sick of gadgets, and if V

must have a brat she can write to the nearest mail order irpli)n.'iiige

and a little bastard in a basket will be delivered promptly





- Pronto. A ready-to-wear tot. Prefabricated, easy as pie, says

mom through my pillow through the crackling transistor,the

crackling logs in the fireplacemmramown in the talking room where

they are lying on the bear rug. -No sweat.

-Motherlove, my love, is born of siveat...

-Of shit, says mummy.-You were wetting your pants for the

home-made thing, the home-baked loaf out of my hot oven...

A sudden gunshot makes me jump. They have thrown a fresh log on

the fire. They are working the bellows, lolling on their bellies on

the big mama bear rug.

Did I join them ready-made ? What oven baked me? They won't tell

me. No one will. -t .,

B IS A TEST TUBE BABY, I saw Belinda' writi on the privy door of

Mid "irLing- -.s private school for privileged ;::'tii, 'and B might
stand f her or me or for intieba3 Bertha who showed me her thing

in the privy, by blond fuzz she had bleached white to match

her old man boyfrie investment broker. Clairelufe i sizzling

champagne number 5, she c ed it thou h it was white, she said:

not to tell, a secret,hut I tol ,'ts '4-uc' who said not to
the hair thing
worry, mt was a passing fad and she'd me t to touch on it anyway

in mental hygiene. Only MZy, v-in3 iqnU nits! obAnl touched on the

wrong kind of hair, MCl: ::. .. ... .. ...

t V .-. .', ool


got me and Bad Bertha's secret wrong, and lectured the class

on bleaches and how she had seen them ruin more than one

healthy young scalp. -If you must improve on nature's natural

charm, I would prefer tmaxanxrtam you try a switch, rat, wiglet

or fall of the kind my brother-in-law manufactures wholesale

and which I can obtain for you at cost, Mrs.B. proposed and she

unpinned her own diminutive hairpiece to pass around, her

head looking all at once squasbed and~-reaner. I can't believe

she's younger than my Aunt V and married to a senator in the bar-

gain basement. She looks like a store window dummy, all joints
a nd
and sharp edges, and a bird nest on her head, false breasts never

in place past&l scarves trailing behind her, you'd bet she

was an old man in drag dolled up for Aun V's masked ball in

our oval room But of/course she is a lady.

-What are you laughiAg about,Babette? she asks in her bicycle

bell falsetto which setsmy teeth on edge. She's always on my

back, telling me to stop stuffing candy into my mouth, I'm too

fat, telling m :what a shame that I don't have more self-

respect for body, what with my lovely family background,

my lovely 1 ing mama, my elegant aunt.

God is she/stupid!

She tells the class that her Philadelphia people are

mainline rs, and she can't figure out why half of us ar

Slaughi g ourselves s-=c5:. "
If ,Ann, V knew what was going on at Mrs.B's, she'd send me

back to public junior high without a prayer.

But Mrs.B has her cT ..!c d, telling her we are the cream of the

cream, her student body the finest right out of the social

register o'oi.'nsti-am -But mor says it's the ring of the cash

register she must he talking about, though it's all the same
to mom as long as the tuition doesn't come out of her pocket.






-We pride ourselves in being, said hMs.B, a progressive
conservative institution e dowed by the few fo tehappiness

oi-rte-1rny in the rp"ved tradition of owin processed o *. /
Wherefore it gives me high satisfaction to announce to you

that we have admitted our first Negra Pura, a pitchblack
pedigreed princess from what used to/eupehmistically labeled
the ivory gold coast of the dark continent. Now what's there to

laugh about?

I raised a hand and asked for permission to go to the toilet.
As soon as I had made sure that I was alone in the white -tiled
cloisters, I took a magic marker out f Prmxarmdrm my sock and
went to work on the doors:


babette, I w mrpenmiibxiafR spit on it to wipe it off, I started
again, habette is, I wiped it off, feeling sleepy, but the bell
rang and kids came bursting into the cloisters, such noise
flushing the school house and Barnum's liberty bell never
stopped ringing.ih the privy smell of piss and pot and
blooming lilacs.

B^;-+ .-- ~ilac scented talcum mom dusts on her armpits

armpits little hollows of r'er-, hair, small paie wMeds

growing under mom's arms as she raises them above her head with
t -e -v > the mirror. V kissing mom's armpits, lilac, watching-

the mirrored kiss kissf4 g the mirror which -i's, witJih


was lipstick red with greasy mouths. "0 gee J joy my had

had hoy what were you up to last night?"

V's clean-shaven armpit -is a plucked chicken, twitching.

Her thumb curved upward, running down mom's curved spine.

Mom was naked, she started to shake, and on the vanity
table the powder box toppled, blew its lid. and- crashed mn the

floor to the tune of home on the range.

0 give me a hole, the softest tinkle surviving the crash ,

they giggled, white lilac talcum powder making a blizzard .

The buffaloo is in the zoo, sang mom, she shivered, their
man sized
nipples were touching in the ihamm bedroom mirror in the

hmng snow. I ran downstairs, to the kitchen. I hanged a spoon

against the copper pots and pans on the wall.Doubletime I

beat out the tune -o give me-loud enough to beat hell, and

Flo came flying in from the backyard giving me hell and dropping

the plastic orange tree Aunt V had bought to be planted under

the kitchen window to go with their mowSpanish tiles imported fro m


Flo grabbed the spoon from ni..-.andimi-ade- 4ike she was going to

give me a gYrP spanking, onl .9ho never would wad Aunt V

' as ruled that no hand must onr. b? raised against me. Flo

7 (';-I 7 iFi h,-!.:, sh..bltu i t .^- n t.- Eo r''s pr nrK':, she said,

go brush your hair this minute it's kinky like a. nigger's I

I hugcc'(L r. and novksr!..r;aid 1.was; Scarlet.,OIT rvivedob,(:olor
g !, -- ... ..f .- '' _'" ,. .. .. .-r..... "" '

T-'/and would .she brush miy hair. 1't she said thank you she was
good ,... .
(.no/bl.-ck' liamni fro1i Geo,-rgiia:- .,. l .::rC..^-- "
... ..

i .
e^ ./

I sat on the deacon's chest under the stairs and brushed my

hair until the spark started to fly in the dark. The ceiling

light came on yellow. Mom and V were coming down together dtrinu

dressed to kill for an opening night of rY=4 fun] hi theb allet

or king lear. Cordclis,- co.r;.11.,. They were in look-alike togs

dead white down to the heels, and black gloves up to the elbows,

and each had one shoulder bare and tRie-ether feathered:.

-Oops, said mom, tripping over her dress, the hem catching in her

rhinestone stiletto heel. V caught her by the feathers and

helped her round the tricky curve of the old staircase:. My

hair was crackling with the sparks. They were passing the frme

swinging mmim hll mirror hetyeen the .antler -Toni ht we are

twins, k gorgeous 4v'o highpriestess-s,- ang V -A couple of
high class whorey,mom said, -is more like ~. 7 T i-t f

They passed through t-h4e mirror and into another mirFTe, mother

leaning cool and tire inside the kidney-shaped bar, she was
was Cup and down
pouring a drink, the mmammmirrored bar/ flas P~ing~ith many

miothersr.m pmandmimamm. Ouf house a maze of mirrors, ymi run into
ynimrself at every turn, each time a different me new mirrors-

gett4 g hoary with ibhabr talk, old mirrors so warped they

make me into a monster, I try not to look. I sleep.

The night a black deep mirror. The little transistor is chuckling

crackling in my h ir the fire crackling in the talking room ,
a mirror there/with valentines Jiltf Irtterflis glued to the

glaos over the sooty mantle. I only saw them once in look-alike

white, tuimmbrm~. t ixontnr Jeronima eronica2 holy sisters, I wonder

was mom in white when she was sitting down at the brass rail
Cha GY R to pick up a fly-by-night an and get
bar THE GRAY hAiRE to pick up a fly-hy-night man and get

herself big with me by hook or by crook for V's sake?

A nun-'s white fleece, but no, mom was in her washed-out

hip-hugger J-jeans, the kind she always wears, she had them

on.when V first caught an eyeful of her in the busy powder

room mirror at B34rNG;3 CAFE PARFAIT for mothers and sisters./

Mom had on a sweat shirt three sizes too big and with a

mCI-.-a-~e name tag sewed into the. collar: Oliver Bull. That

name V learned before she learned mom's. She was breathing down

mom's back and there it: was -BULL it made her see red, shie

said. It burned her up. Poor O6B- -she tore him off J8s back

and stepped on him and then she burned him.

But that was after the ball, after they had discovered

each other atmiiMatmA in BANGS' mitror among the gay roses- and

retired to mom's greasy hotel.

-Goodbye and good riddance, Oliver Bull! V cried shoving

the offensive shirt into the incinerator while mom was sweeping

off her sin or sorrow in a broken-down bed;

mThe past went up in flames, V often said, and why must

it be resurrected? Why must some clumsy buck or bull always
don't make a
break into their China shop? But two cows ca xutpmld xax xcalf ,

she wearily agreed with J.. The test tube wouldn't do its 6ob
put up with the
and they had to RRrsngx oire. mva m -imlsi second best choice ,
the live male, quickie pick me u-) anonymous #/ko prelimnarieso I/io
^f ~'fr7 1a T at a hv+-e *.-'-
dird 4,--.--fi -,T-.t 1g., ust a stiff drink "i quick go/ t ti
TS* Home!
fjjW home,Jay. !aRio nfA.Ihx le / b s'T


So off to THE GRAY MARE, P low class no class waterfront

joint. V's r midtown cockleshell lounges where not for my

mother. She's rather g et the clap from a seaman than from an

adman she said, spitting into the river. -You either let me

play it my way, or I won't play at all.

-The agonies I endured! I hear Aunt V amaodiam say through

the river mud of a thousand nights. -On broken heels I paced the

cobble stones. I almost fell into an open manhole. I almost got

mugged by a dyke. The watch had stopped on my bosom. The city

had gone black, Tfi1 GRAY Aiad blind:, and from every blind alley

I thought I heard your Indian love call, and through how many

gutters, love, did you roll that awful night of my golgatha?

V's golgatha. There were others. But the first was the

worst, she said. That long night never seemed to end, she said'.

Itwas still going on.Sometimes she thought she never had

stopped pacing outside that bar where her love was downing

drink after drink, bloody mary or jospeg, her hair falling into

her kohled eyes. Less than a heart beat had passed since she

had flashed the V sign through the cracked window across a

sunkissed han beer lake 9m ad, I~ilwaukee's bluest, and
already sailor on shore leave was slipping hrim hand under

J's blouslet. What was he doing with the other hand.

Chin pressed into a silver fo, V paced and pr yed -

how long o lady love my lord- a stray" ~ag-rTo6o ng nTieFl-

d_ without end.)A juke box or hammond organ made hallowed

sounds. Would the jackass from the Destroyer Wisconssin ever

gvE-his fat ass off the bar stool,his fat paw v ,.

pec-nbeoo-. iiois-t, escort her out o-tMiVoar and do his job no

matter where, but fast and ship her back home to big sister.

Big SISTiR, suffering s L santa veronica, where's your

sweat cloth? V's sweat ruir hot and cold, kharmd1hbarixtime's
running short. /Peerinp through silver fox whiskers and sees

the bink big-knuckled paw on little sister's brown waist, that

summer skin they both so tenderly tended and suntan oiled (amnre
ammaMnmaii) in grandma's pastures. Brown you are prettier my love.

Dark you are fair. Memories of Jayjay's strawy hair buried deep

in the hot clover. Jealousy pain tearing through V8s abdomen

under the girdle. Lay off my tomcat! Don't kiss her. Just make

her big. I want a baby doll for christmas, daddy.

But sandiclaws didn't deliver the goods. lie passed out

cold on the saw dust and the game had to be played over again

how many $imes, they lost count, Emsaiinmauemi V swore mom no

longer did it for me, she did it for kicks, sge got a kick out
misery those jealousy pains which made
of V'smawfnb r ehous peiixsr xwkhsmimdmx a mxrahkmimpx

V double up like with a sickness, she said mem it gave morn

goosepimples, little blond hairs having erections on mom's

skin, the entire US fleet touching that skin nmxffx and sailing

through mom's port so I should be conceived, and occupy the
hafia blue nursery which was already getting old it had been

waiting for me for such a long time. And anyway vou sliced

it it still was bWtj'lg6i or wIha 4 Mysa1)horsecock.i,'.Jhe

cmn y ~M:Y'-. y:..having adopted seemdn sa=a and mr.r.oienltrie-,

an an.- -o-a t --:~ -,oC-w 3k-i&g,3I:k-. i4 sealegs on dry land;. And how

could V be sure mom IiniAxmaiaflriixii wqs likiu i:-wm-c.t'h-

a.ny-~r V'ihn, when half the time she'd get into Pi-gliYf i n- t

bar with some whore or another and lose the qi-k-A*p somewhere

t he
on Fulton and find herself inmamstra~geraed nex t morning wrdin

in a strange bed with the whore? Not even V for all her determina-
could be expected long
tion PasniAnnahhn to walk guard the whole night in front of

a cheap tavern in such a neighborhood, qnd how many times
in the street
hadn't she been accosted by those same sailors- who later

accosted J? she would demand, maybe in the hope of arousing mom's

jealousy. -I may not be the youngest anymore, said V with a flip

of the hip, -but men are still attracted 6e to me, they always

have been fatally so I may add.

. i -You may, my mom said unperturbed. -Why don't you? A good'

s^Enewa1 d1ioonjrgRnoin straighten you outsma~tie.
couldn't turn the tide, she paced
Mpmpoor Aunt V, she tirmec cgemencwi$bmdooaome~i

the river front, trying to be her brother's keeper, she said.

But there always came the moment when the axvwnr iron shutter
a she the
came down with bang and Af was left with dbhs empty pillow at

home, and with a fantasy parade of hen~ rivals. Those ghostly

rivals were crowding her night, she saidmmau she-sai~ ) those

rivals were more real than the one's she'd watch through

the bullet hole in the tavern window across Milwaukee's bluest

beer lake. How could she be sure how J was winding up the

night, with whom or what, when J told her next to nothing, though

always enough to make her suspect the worst? The two had made

a pact, a gentlemen's agreement, V called it, so I should have a

pop, pop out of mom and tighten the knot that had got t:

looser. 1 I fahfAsixtm didn't show arinlthjn but the knot 1'oi

wts getting tight and wia>:rtxrit.JoM turning into a noose around

V-s neck' or nose.

-I was willing to lend you out for a few hours. But of course

you never Igm count the hours,aQsd you have no watch.

-Once a hooker always a hooker, V said when she thought she

coula hear it no more, those ahominal jealousy pains in her abdomen,

those ghostly visitations alone in bed when she'd imagine J

mom lying with all the seamen, their sweethearts too. And hadn't

mom balled with an Eskimo on the Arctic Slope under a-snaes blanket?

-You were hustling in Fairbanks when you pretended to study

the mating habits of the wolf at College,Alaska I've checked, youth
police record. And what, if I may make so hold aminmn ask, where you
up to
dmrisn that night at BANG'S in the lady's room? (No, BANGS doesn't

have a man's room, I grant you that much). I pulled you out of

the morass, and gave you all I had, myself, rmy, money. And h)w did

you repay me? You have no love for anyone ( not for yourself (r

me, you're set on destroying everything, so go ahead, destroy,

kill me, but do it fast.
pair of scissors
But do it fast with what a Il Jlclhrbmnik'mrL, a pdn memnfA

nylon stocking? a gun? I wonder where they keep the unn in which

secret drawer of my blue nursery v>i-- V.--S ..'a& ;-usc..
her cardigan open
-Kill me! V tears oerairmm sibio m ts. The buttons are flying.

V keamsminfmhrnre offers her left breast to be stabbed through the

heart. But mom is weak and blue after a night of roaming in
a flea
no condition to kill sMxmIn mr lu duxmrWn. Mom's drained and lost,

a lost swimmer, p-ch aps she always was. She hangs on to V's

sturdy neck a to a pole dee, watersChbing, begging. :-'..riv.

wa-oDon't let me drown...


Mom drowning in the river flood night after night.

I tried to do it t-c-'y:'it-f to scare them, I tried to drown myself

in the new swimming pool v shaped heamanaM Aunt V built jit on

her land in the hills, they call the farm all kinds of names,

V's NEST, V'S REST, SAPPHIO'S SILO, I call it randma's, farm
god's land, ,/-- y 7q et god's.
though it belongs to V,Hnxrm, the whole country side is V's anwdimmore

I shut my eyes and stepped into the pool' like Ophelia in a

white night shirt and flowers. The pool went deep and blue hut I

stayed up. My shirt blew up above me, it was my sail, my fat

was my life buoy. I couldn't drown. Eyes shut I floated on my

back into the sun.

-Hush, said Aunt V, slapping caramels into my mouth to keep

me from screaming murder. You've got to go back to the city

tonight or else, you can't stay here, look at yourself, a1l

fat, grandma' s cooking has been your undoing, that auf4lMInsari.aN-
B/IC ^^r'C T / and
se1JixDta oatan peasant cuisine, aib oodles of noodles, strudles...

-Gx-nRdma She's dead, I said. My wet shift had dmm dried in the
Who killed
sun. Still I was cold. -immiammmimhiai Granny-Anny?
mftnt What tripe,
-Good lord, ism Tmpm mai mPjiXji ^^?
SMw AxT;1R She ripe
Yfl~PTx r. Ebxmr9nit.cth died of/old age. hay her soul rest, I
my mother
supported Mhr as I support your mother and you and neaOit

half a,dozen of hangerss pn dead or alive. I'm taking your mon

on an dxien ed cruise on / m~ney and Flo will look after you

inrt+he-cPty, she has instructions to put you on a strict

diet. No hot cross buns. rmnemmah. Yol:nol,.I-tc-;i'oT-l' I''T~rrly

yu.:' bhcst--i-ii-ni-nd. Hush, baby.

Another caramel. I suck and sulk. The caramels taste like

sand. V's fac3 looks like sand under the'*~ G straw hat. It's

raining beech nuts, we're sitting under the same big tree


where grannyanny told me tales about the drowned toad and the

maiden, she carved my name into the sticky hark. I trace it with

my finger: BA.tha BETTE is gone, Maybe a squirrel ate maiwher.
-You are nearly 13, Aunt V says, a lucky number, and you've seen

plenty considering the sheltered life you've been leading.

'. We'll miss you, we won't be away for long, be sure to brush

"after each oi meal. Frankly I'd rather not trasvel,rnwmabib,

but your mother ne-4s-to-get away from it .ll Ah, here comes a

A buzzard! I must-gett- him iit the picture.

Summer sunday pai~tammym sketcher V sharpens her pencil. The.

sketchbook full of barns, sows, cows, gothic carpentry churches

where I never prayed. There will be Greek windmills She narrows
Sher eyes, mxamaens th~I distance.,but the buzzard has flown

So~emymo out of sight before she could trap him between two identical

cloudlets. Axn xa hxnowmMximira1
her legs in
Aunt V sketching, stretching Aoutmi inr the buttercups. NamytTixm

S3sanamtnmi snmxaAttmgxarxinmElanmxfsm -Your mom, god knows, she is too

vulnerable really, no matter how tough she acts. It's the male in

her darling we all have it in us god knows she beat me up till

I was black and blue all over the landscape beyond the delta.

I'm hesitant to give you the raw facts, but my group therapist

adv4ses us to let it come out, cit, talk talk, he says, mr

ma tmr pullout that stopper or the bottle will burst.

The sun is riding the crest of the hill. Aunt V s crying

out her peafMnt grief, tears staining the Cr.tia-n blouse embroidered

in child labor sweat shop, grandma explained it to me, she did

embroider blouses, table napkins when she was a little cIAd, times

don't change, she said, but now she's dead.

Pull out that stopper. The sketchbook ,slrrrnmons1 hlr.n:n]sa3Eeip

rests in her lap. Two butterflies alight on the blank page,
and paint nm a beautiful picture orange and yellow. But Aunt V's
/eyes, indmiti.s are on the shadow of a far away flag pole.
wass I wrong
-Sometimes I wonder dMrnimdhminfnmmng divorcing Jock, trading one,

J for another a ?she asksma into the faintest breeze.

Was Jock a he, was he a she? tm That I must ask her.

-A he of course, what a child you still are. I'm as straight
as the next guy, not even bi-lingual, my Guru as.mmao.xmImn.Imaxns

kamim~aftymmNmimif I could have made a go of my marriage if that

notorious woman hater DrSparrpw hadn't removed my procreant
organs. Believe me B if ever there was a wmman cut out for

childbirth it was your mdi Aunt V. I could have had a dozen. I

could have had you. Jock never should have permitted Sparrow to cut

me up, I ask you .I3aeds why did he permit it unless he himself

received c-a-unconscious gratification to see my maternal potential
(I am quoting
destroyed? ma my psycho-ceramic psychologist ) Jock's penis envy

like Ludwig V B's made him withdraw from reality and when I was
and with hSs nephew,
u der the knife, he was at his Ninth Symphony, though unlike the
deaf titan hl never had a note of his performed, and it was left
support the nephew
to me to/pay the piano tuner..
Was JmaiBrfim nephew my father? Jock-Jay, the butterflies have
flown away. The glow is gone the sketch/is barren again.

Jack in the pulpit. I turn over and let myself roll downhilL:

in the fat grass, downer and downer. The trees are flying through

the air. Aunt V has vanished. I laugh, I roll through the

tumbleweeds in the hushed fog of the valley into the night.

-I broke my ass for you, mom says to V, they squatting on fat

cushions in the pulman parlor fighting room, their noises pressing

through horse hair, cracked bottles, split mirrors. -The whole crrew

from the skipper down to the sweeper where lining up by my picket
fence to plant their prick into my piece of smm mnmf. Fuck you andi

your taxdeductible womb, I bet you sold it for a good price to

some fucking medical school. Exhibit V. I've h ad it. I spit on you,

you using me for your substitute belly, and don't you dare hush md&

I never wanted that brat, any bra.t, I didn't raise my skirts to

be a mother. /,/,.

-Hush Jay, you've ha d too mulei. You know how I ~LAwryou. -

I'd do anything to please you, even cut off my ear like Vincent V G,

Teddy's lunatic brother...

-OK, cut off your clit. HuirdOe.-',t--.~- l'cT T',t -"oat 'i.

Mom burning with gin, burping with tonic, quinine buhble-

bath. They with a spynmifib jigger of gin to keep

me from bawling my lungs out, Aunt V, consulting books haby

care, found gin was a mmm no-no, liquor mniht stunt m growth.
070 2.-t Gy /
But I grew an y7 faster and bigger than they-in all directions.

Last night I dreamed I ate my tongue.. It tasted f-~Luiiy.
SMIASIH CRASH. A bottle has shatter against the mirror. Mom

roaring drunk tears through the talking room Aunt V fitted with

overstuffed lounge chairs, mirrors from Garfield's presidential

special o Irfoxh-m~ asmsh- he never boarded. immS Some nut shot him

dead. mdash IU.-.tG. I'm sitting upin bed not scared at all.

Dead soldiers are s -~ -.,"U.. n'. ;a on my t1444-Ce

transistor. Let mom tear the roof down.

The roof sits tight. It 'bnglat iwm take a bomb to smash it,

the house is solid brick, the' front door solid oak with the

american eagle in brass for a knocker. Aunt V says ou6 neighborhood

is safe for solid citizens like us because it's so unsafe for the
little people
m mftaff, what with the waterfront full of narcotics, exotics,
perverts and
/pimps, dog catchers, cradle snatchers,, seamen to drunk to remember
which ship they jumped. From the roof which never budged, the river
mnaola so close we, might e aboard a irate ship. But we are
/)C <'* ^- -rd x-a e^^ ''*-'* ', norc ''
snugly tucked away on a little side alley i n smelling distance

of the trucks and the dead fish. Aunt V says not everybody can

afford to live in a house that looks so poor from the outside

you'd think there wasn't a thing inside worth stealing. Ours, she

reminds us when we complain of the sA is one of thi6 iwm rare-

American homes which hasn't been either burglarized, or shot at,

or burned to ashes. No stranger would suspect there is a home

in t..L:E stinking little old lley. Few even know there is. an

alley, and those who ps through only stop to urinate ie oulr

stopp. Then they pass on. True, one fine morning we found the

american eagle hanging half- unscrewed and limp, but that, Aunt V
looking mom straight in the eye,
figured, i n jxi must have been an

inside job. And she screwed the bird back o tight. -Back to your

nest, she said, sla-mmihg-t-he_dopr shut.

-You really piss me off, says mom whever Aunt V refers to

the nest which is what she calls ttxe house. -A hornet's nest is
with a sting in her voice
more like it, says mom/ but Aunt V defends herself xrxaxtxiix

with gentle dignity, explaining that woman has a built-in

nesting instinct. A cozy nest for every family, that is her

creed, her"-motiva-tion, she says, why s.e went into t'ic-r-cia

real estate, abstracts, though not in the arts where she prefers

the realb t, h~ -at'ea-t. 0 she might have done well as a landscape

painter, painting what meets the eye. But her nesting instinct

made her turn to the city and buy up rows of tenements so eftt~ n

even the rats were moving out.

-Yeah, mom says, chewing on an apple je, spitting the seeds
across the table
with amazing precision/into a certified Ming vase.fidrmxfsatmairai

She has such talents it takes my breath away. -Sure. mlnnmThmnrr-s

You kicked the tenants out and so the rats moved'out, you bought

up those rat holes for nothing when some bloody depression hit

the city like a bomb and the boys were. coming home from some bloody

war in their bloody coffins. Old rat exterminator V You made gold

out of rat shit. $ /,. -
witht1~ewa: -o my brow
-I- made my- money in the sun,, AxM ymimxsramnln mnlxybhmx tidaikqixmmn

K,53i:tinmRSsC,-ti-mpn.:ofbL:u-j,* Aunt V says with a wise smile.
,^-<* ,. -' _S eT- 4' A. w.. A '/( 7i
_y ou &d<:-nt khow- i-what it -islike-to come-out of nothing.. RtxiAa ..
You ran j ,, Z'.
yn~our-xdlciEinrnmibo ran away from a nriam good family, though listening

to you it's hard to believe ttx:t your dad was dea of education and
mom- /, ^ .,....' a
your mother an associate professor of speech. I weket-l-hard' for

every cent I made and you are spending, I used my wits, and my hands

ant ghen I found it hard to find a plumber I took a course inthnat,.

and associated fields. What I made I made on my own with a short
term loan from Jock, excuse me I pean.k. Oap the income tax lawyer,

my first .T.-.hand. I'm happy to say ha ,g, happily married again
happy .4
an. the recenX father of a baby.

-Bully for him! Mom cries and she spits an4 apple seed

straight down V's V neckline. -Here's something to help with

the baby shower. While Aunt V, sililing brighter s4)'... :,'-,y-

pours water into an empty
and brighter ignores the baby shower, she tilmamammnipmofmhmmmratner
wine glass and taking a sip she asks was it a sin
f MIT Ir0i.n33-gaa nTn1 r .q nloxut aO\ n m iii cnirth roi hnsix
to buy up property cheap and mmaes rotten tenements rmin into
charming nests
b uamiOnl tIhmam with sun and mmr.- other Spilities to sell' at

a profit or rent to those who can afford a bit of comfortlI1J.i
afford it
immammy though everybody ought to haavimmtilhmt of course, she's the

first to agree and she is chairman of the neighborhood improvement

committee to keep the gutters:.zc 'an1d tUerunks off the stree-,s.
reach thing
-I don't deny I didn't feather my own nest, Aunt V says', ipemrng
inside for
lmam her dommib decoletage maybe tmimAnd the apple seed'. -But if I

hadn't made a bundle, who would he bringing home the bac on?

Who would pay for your daughter's tuition? Who would pay for

your booze?

NYou win,says mom. Imtms ~mianHtmimmBinmamfixMxwhIxram~ismloimram
Her have the
dmwnxhanxoixw.nxaamm. Mmn lms eyes Ihmwm tbl~ owl look, as if a second
lid had gone down ma them like a thin film you still see the

mitae pupils,mNit Bmthatdmfdimxibika dark honey under that film ,

and she isn't lookinat V wh is looking own her. Owrboom, she
V calls it a pri eless o (je ( art
is looking at the Chinese vase -5~liifah miean;xjihfxmslHxm
miM maybe
'x~akaI 'th ,i.ivai.n because she paid such a |hka price for/it, ,i.
for all I know not rj<7 DJ C,. Oe- Q '7
though f7:,-,--7. it 's just a vase n r3mbher tall not small and with

a-gayn ha landscape painted nnmnii across its belly.

-You Win, says mom again in that faraway tone which crimes out
drops miaR it to
of her belly and fatbs back intmi~. tFhenamtib die. She drops the

stem that all that's left oft her apple, and she gets up :?rom the

chair and sleepwalks toward vase. and with a joy and a

horror too waitt for her to pick it up and rmp? 1H' '' 4 .,-

smash it.

But no,.@he simply stands there, T:r:I' ~humb hooked into the
leather belt of her faded pants=, she stammsmat the vase-

as though she never had seen before-, perhaps she never did
see it until this moment, shmranm'm mxvsm her eyes are different
from other eyes. She stands poised on the balls of her gmimny

feet which are always grimy, she shakes her head in wonderment
and than.--sc traces the landscape with imm thumb, the other

she keeps in the hobnailed belt. She traces the few little

clouds and thdn the gray cliff and then the little old man
who is sitting beneath the cliff with fhm coolie hat oh

and holding a fishing pole although there are no fish. There is

no water.

But now the sun comes in from the talking room and

bounces off the mirror above the mantle and mrmmirndemomihcm

airmomcinmpeIppdooriocrioht.en th3 little man on the vase is

fishing in ripples of water. Mom is floating in the mirror

in the water very still. I step behind her. We are both
in the water, though Aunt V has natiimcd nothing of this.

Sbhe.eli-eves -mom ..i- rI 1,,. tr -ing- to--find out--if% the vase is

really o c.,b tte!ctic- a museum piece, wuracbmBm gen rne ming

or sing. -Gogo swears, it's: -a-org-.ry, hV e ells me I was
not to".~~siis advice
a fool s ~n mmaitih f ia nhi, she says across the sm~
0.; Gogo
fruit 4alad. -I begin to wonder if L;r' may not be right since the
xwhwais immme skipped
dealer I bought it from has since alc-~ the country wri~tif

'-...oo i;Iii;,O1 a Ss,-, i.i if t -H_ from under the water

-Who '. G,, '... m l:.: *-. r:"

-Y rr^ i'Y ^ o ^;1-<^ ^ /. -*/*^/.^' *-"*' -

She honestly thinks mom is studying that vase to find out
whether it's or
Aflmminimia genuine ming marm ifm a fabulous fake as Gogo insistsiit is,

-The dealer gave me a cebtifica.te which states he bought if from

a Chinese poet Li-Tai-Po But Gogo says the poet is a fake like

the vase, and the dealer has skipped the country. -I really

begin to wonder, Aunt V says maga across the salad, -if I haven't
may be
been had. Gogo ntghirmilnx!ur'-n mmrnihn-be right, you know, he used

to run Instant Antiques.

-Who's GogoMom asks with the faintest gurgle from

under the water.

40ne of the fellows of course. You've met him,Aunt V

says. And she continues to talk about fakes, though mom razAht

hearsher nothing, she has floated through the water out of sight.
a *' ..-
'' *,
, 'h .3T II /- A*.-.. ..... --... .. 7 .... -, ,

lJ'v-,l, tifl~-r olm ire'lri_,hec* r ,irogo 'or, ny--o- F'.t ro w^ She

always stayed out of sight when the fellows arrived, and they

arrived at all hours. Kh-kAkook, v.'ven now in the black of night

I think I hear the american eagle knock at our doon, though

tonight no one will he admitted, of that I am certain. In the

country it was the girls who cam in droves with their overnight

bags. But here it's the fellows, they neviy stayed over, they

came with flowers for Aunt V, they hugged her, kissed her on

the mouth and told her never ever had she looked ,.-;'.Ie so a, like Imatra G in thiam flowerd kimono, thii- warm--

abee-,onalight. They'd pin a bunch of live violets to her

shoulder, and once when they had forgotten to bring her flowers,
,Gogo who is slight an sly-. te vase an
Gogo who is slight and sly, i.-.4-to the vase and <.,- -,. .: *--^-

lifted a dozen carnations mom had either bought for her or

shoplifted Rteari-rasnua ras a rare gesture of peace after another

one of their screaming fights. They were hybrid carantions:,

t MiOxppir part prnk part white, and Gogo, komak xb pretending

he had bought or shoplifted them for Aunt V, played them into

her cradled arms. She didn't mind the trick. She stooped and

kissed him thank you on the head. It's the gesture, she said, that

counts. It's the idea.
at the house
The idea, she said, was to have as many of the fellows amnndim

as the traffic would bear. Her analyst thought I needed a father

image. She'd call me on the intercom to come and join them -

the fellahs, she called them in Egyptian. They would kIiss me!.
There was a great deal of hugging af kissing. -Don't worry about

her weight, they'd assure Aunt V. -It's baby fat. She'll outgrow

it and grow rdbmhm a beautiful GG figure exactly like yours, VV.

Everybody came in doubles, VV, Gogo, Dodo, Hoho and I was

BB. They looked so different each time, with different hair or

voices, I got them mixed up in my head. They let me mix martinis

dry and high the merest whiff of V, they sang through patches

of shadow and sun as they sat in the yard around the mirror top
table in the black soot, the plastic tulips. Why wouldn't VV
plants perhaps
grow the real thing, impmrar real fragrant Eidri:W- maff)e in boxes?

But she hriuminrinb had tried everything, she explained, but everything

live died ip th&s yard, knd even on her dead mother's smm land
S .:-/:. :.. her 1:.
(which always was rmtn own, vyi\ understand, the plants were beginning

to die maybe because of poluti-ojio .,-c ,

4 29

;i I'd pass the drinks while mom might sneer from an upstairs

, window my window? I'd pass the carrot sticks as she'd shout

down at them that they were nothing but a bunch of freeloading

maggots or faggots. -You godamn Bags, huy your own booze! she'd

yell. -Buy your own carrot sticks! And sie'd slam the window shut

hard enough to shatter the panes. There always was some broken

glass in the yard.

They didn't yell back. They ignored her. But when she was

out of sight as she usually was, then they would go to work on

her. -Good riddance, they'd say whenever she took off -for ever,Aunt

V might cry in despair, breaking down.

-I've lost her, she would sob and they would catch her

tears in a pocket handkerchief -or colored napkin and say the hitch

should have got lost long ago, and how could VV ever have permitted
thb sharp little hustler
th~usxhuHiUaRIyimkmxto run her life?.

-She's a fake. She's phonier than your vase, said Gogo.

-She'll be hack to take your for al) you're worth. SheS11 run you

out of your house as sure as my ,name used to he Gallagher.

-Why? Why? Aunt V woulu cry, lpotngOlike a flustered hen.

Butch, bull dyke A hitch. They called mom all sorts of names.
/ VV
They said she was schememing to throw AnnM out of her nest. They
saidmshe should have waited until I was of age before making the

house over in my name. -She's BB's mother on paper if not

for real, though it's really you who should he the mother,

you are the great white mother of all of us.

I've heard it before. Mom's going to chase Aunt V out of

the house. -You'll be left without a roof over your head, they
that she owns
warn her,as though they have forgEtten Ihsrcai y other houses .

She weeps. She too has forgotten those houses, it seems. I

have forgotten them. I imagine Aunt V homeless4ew the water-

front and vanishing in the fog. Flo too has vanished, but not

with her. Now mom and I have the big house for ourselves.

But we lie ;t'-y on the roof, ,We picnic ~there We sleep

in sleeping bags. The roof is the deck of our ship.

-Why? ',hy would she want to drive me out? Aunt V keeps asking

the fellows.

-Because... they say and Aunt V puts a finger to her lips

for fear I should hear. Don't fear. I am not here. I'm on the roof

with mom. She's fast asleep in her sleeping bag. It will

be hard to wake her up and I shall have to guard her with my life.

I'm watching out for both of us. The Milky Way makes a

huge arch in the sky. I'm standing guard.

The foghorn sounds low and dark;th,,IughtlT reii t In the

talking room Aunt V and mom are playing their favorite record.

BONNE NUIT CHERIE. Are they dancing I wonder, are they

fighting? BONNE NUIT CHERIE it says on the short jecket

Aunt V sports in bed, she bought it in Paris with greeting from
to V
la belle Helene tfmmmainiy.Paris is her wonderland,the palisade amuseme
park of all her dreams.
BONNE NUIT CliEi~E, Aunt V said, tucking me in and kissing

me goodnight for mom who was away. I asked her was it true that
.mwas the owner of her be
I ow~mtnaSmh house, and she said I woltld as soon as I was of age,
C-' she had dear mama
and she was leaving everything to me and my moithE1T, it was
except when it comes to lovers.
share and share alike. -You'll be well off -and I do hope you',=
f--nd -coo n ,. :';!.m a .ke,-a-,-go.2 v.'..f:-:"- nri r.,,ther ;-; tiu.iyi'"

you'll finish your education unlike your mummy, she
could he a PhD mramnm come if she hadn't dropped out of

JH 13 at 14. She has brains and--you hetter-hel-ieve-~ity

but she lacks sitzfleisch, sitting flesh roughly transla-

ted. I learned the word from a room mate who preceded

J in the alphabet of my past. Her name was I, she mastered
I nm-fr ai5d c c,, 7'
15 languages but spoke not one inmVIpW she was born

a-deaf mute. Her manner was extremely aggressive, no doubt
she was trying to compensate for her/silence. Ah well, she

has her ML and a husband in Hackensack. Men like dumb women

You should have no trouble finding a husband, what with

your poise andi cprli'eeon, all dimples, no pimples.
a-t c >--r-
Still you had better get your dgree first just in case.

Take it or_. leave deep down in my heart I think that

a career \% ~ wreck a woman's marriage, or vice versa.
rat race
Forget the motea, stay home with the kids, I say, and let

your man provide for you. Men love to compete in the open

market, that'swhy their life expectancy is lower than ours..

They die early. I wish I'd had the good fortune to be-
/ -(L/. I never had your kind of security.
a-home make'a. Ahwell xyonwma mthmwiimnrtherii -x

You'll make'as a wife and mother, B-ut don't throw your-

self away on just anybody. You only have one maidenhead;.

HIld on to it. Don't burn your flag or girdle. Burn up

youf calories instead. Excercise.Jog with J for god and

country. Pot god's sake dmnr~ learn not to s-iove food into

your mouth all the time....

Mv mouth she said and all the time. But that was at a
different time, in the country, thma~n ymthe big storm hit the

hills and ripped the roof off the old barn Aunt V had just

finished sketching. The storm clouds came rolling in fast. The

wind was whipping up the dust behind the grocery store, and

through the wire fence, the dust I saw a baby chick being pecked

to death by the mother hen. I should have saved the chick.But

I couldn't climb the barbed wire. The chick was dead and still
the mother hen kept/ away at it and clucking like all fury.

It scared me to death.

-Survival of the fittest, Olli said. Hie had jumped down from

his father's delivery truck, and was creeping up from behind me

the way he always does in those sandals made from cut-up old
tires. -That chick didn't have ckinnmmurn chance, he said.
to he there
-I happened tiomsa ib when it came out of the egg with one

wing missing.

He pinched my behind and off we went together behind the

garbage dump into the bushes.

BONE NUIT CHIERIE for god and country. I didn't learn it from

the birds and bees. I learned it from a kindergarten book:

Fun with Mr.Sperm and Mrs.Ovugi. Picture fun with funny-facad*

blobs and blubber. I wonder wmia whose Mr.S shacked up with mom's

Mrs.O, how did she get pregnant with me at least three times- 0"

I know she aborted me once0 a.i] th~-other time I almost made it,

but ~ 'was a still hirth, I was born dead. That particular birth

or death of mine shook her up worse than the others,no matter how

she would protest that she never wanted me or any child, that I

wasn't her idea but V's entirely. Poor baby B I wonder where they

put me away. If I knew I'd visit my grave, but nobody knows

where it is, not even Flo who has been with us for ever,. She came'

with the house, said Aunt V. No use asking mom. She pretends it

never happened. She was so broken up when it happened, she
game room
locked herself into the rnrtmpagcxroom with a crate of gin.

Aunt V had to kick the door in to get her out.

Perhaps I have no grave. Perhaps they threw me into the

fireplace. I've often combed through the ashes, but I've found

nothing. Once I found a snmll chicken hone.

Like mom, I'Tw%~_ ked to forget. It's Aunt V who keeps hlvibra&dng

mp harping on the still birth, asking why, why did it have to

happen to them? Oh, that other time when her Jayboy had lost me:

after maybe two month no one had been surprised, what with her

drinking like a fish at BANGS and diving from the bridge of a fire

boat into the Hudson dead drunk, and riding the top of the

garbage truck, and the Ferris wheel on Coney Esland. But the

next, the crucial time when she had carried me for full nine

months, she had been an angel. She had taken her vitamins, had

followed doctor's orders with a meekness unbelievable in one

who was so rebellious, so careless with her own body. But of course

she had taken care of my little body. Except for an occasitinal

puff, she had quit smoking and sworn off liquor for the duration.

She had drunk a quart of milk a day, had not roamed the streets.

She had been in bed each night before midnight. Ah, those months
had been heaven, a second honeymoon, Aunt V recalled, nimbhi :h the

wedding hand off her finger an through it at me? Never, she said,

had they been so close before o since, There had been no ?ights.

Even my blue nursery which used to make h'e sick to the stomach,

had suddenly pleased her, and oh she had looked heavenly her

Jayboy with the swelling breasts, the swollen belly. No morning

sickness. She had smiled into the I n:iwg sun, rocking my empty

cradle, diapering the rubber doll which Aunt V had' had bought for

her Tn Gimble's bargain basement to practice on. Be prepared:!

They both had observed the boyscout motto to the letter. And why
v vicious
dear god had fate played such a aiasoons trick on three innocents?

Three, said Aunt V, and sometimes- she said four, including Flo

perhaps because Flo was black as the road, and Aunt V was active

in equal neighborhood rights in conjunction with the local

rotary chapter. Four victims, she said, opening her heart to

Flo who was washing the dishes before stacking them up bit in

the portable dishwasher to be washed over again. Everything

was done twice over. Everybody came in doubles. -Poor BB, Aunt
I thought
V said, squeezing me tight to her chest. And all at once i-xmumn
both victim
tr..xmymnjCd that itm maybe it was me who was nmmomrby/number
and mInm it
threemhiut number fourlfo I had a twin, ancxthhn:tmtraxwas born
dead, thatxBx xtatiixhwmn, but the other Ti had stayed alive

for a full day at least to be suckled and Am kissed by mom.

That B was me. For if I never was alive- at her breast why should:

she have grieved bad enough to lock herself into the poolroom

with a whcle crate of gin? Nobody in his right migd could be

that sentimental, least of all moir who calls Aunt V ( sentimental
asshole for spetimmg a paper poppy on V day.

-The fields of Flanders, Aunt V said to Flo -I saw them on

a guided tour and I was moved, by the historic tragedy. Still --

private tragedy tis seems so much w~ ee. Charity begins- at home

and ends at home.

-You said a mouthful, ma'm, said Flo and after a pause she
I/ begged
repeated the mmtah ma 'm no doubt tqannoy Aunt V who had aslbem g l-; -

cmll/ammmammpThy V as we were all god's little children and this

wasn't magnolia country but a progressive town house with the

American eagle screwed to the front door.
Still won't drop the ma'm and each time she says it she seems

to b hitting Aunt V in the stomach. As for mom, Flo doesn't call

her anything. They don't speak. But me she likes, we talk, and

when I get into the fudge, she makes believe she's blind. She

shuts her eyes, she abmpm raps the broomstick to the floor and hums:

Steal away...

Steal away for Jesus. Flo and I hit it off from the start,

before I was born.

-That still birth. What a tragic waste, Aunt V said to Flo.
I retained
-What went wrong? i.,iinhied the most expensive obstetricians, remember,

one Jfoe- from Zurich I -arck- .;--hi1t-'t nm perform a-n autopsy,
remember? A- Sima~ft xmaxtrasg Something sini r:-T 7 about the
7 ,.v\ was
central brain... Aunt '. r mEs squeezing me tighter I gasped for

air, I struggg~ed to get free while Flo sa d yes ma'm and w ma.i.
^ ^ *&.r/ a/}} :' and- -a.m
'no-usc c'rvingr over spilled milk. T!.-.-'--,-,.,, t-hil;'-- _- ky. i- I.-:n1ui-Lv}_

Spilled 1 other, mi }kt -It's always the children

who su ie..a.t, said Aunt V. -Her mother's refusal to ce. ,'

Omer iatl a a s doesn't make it vany easier on the child.

Small wonder she was so slow growing up.

Slow to walk and slow to talk. 11Pt T always was a fast eater.

Swe..t.,- sour,- I ate it (1,.. Flo never had to coax me to lick the

plastic platter clean. I hollered for extras. Lean, fat. I gobl}J ed

it up.

Bulimia. A pathological craving for victuals. Mine was

a texhook case, Aunt V supposed., having just returned'from a
^ a Hrn+-in. v : *) i^ ; "- *1
group shrink session with 'new r!:.a.-. ,v: .-,'r. '-. .needs help.

But she won't see a 'doctor. In that respect she .is like her

mother who will not lie d&sn on the couch. Of course she is an

only child like B. J drinks too much, B eats too much. Otherwise

they are as normal as you and me.

-I couldn't have said it better, h -m.atfsx ma'fi, said Flo,

-You couldn't have ,said Aunt V. -They are ccimpensatij' for a

lack a. siblimng ri alry, though in B's case it's also the

Oedipus complex ..1.'-.'','..- '''n. I had to pretend she was going to
a 't, see
ee her father in order to get her uptown to/my therapist. And

when she got there, she bit him in the neck. lie was bleeding, poor

man, he forgot to give himself rabi shot, aima he was foaming at
the mouth for weeks Olvioateuifter. How can we get her mind off food?

Maybe we ought to buy her a pet.

-Buy her a pet and she'll eat that too, Flo said, winking at

me with one eye and showing teeth enormous and savagely gleaming.

-Tnx EnxthmxpaB

-Perhaps so, said Aunt V who had made a strict rule never to
too openly
contradict/a person of the opposite race 1toinwpro rnIx -Still don't

you agree it might worth r try?

-Not for the pet it ain't,screamed Flo laughing out loud- .

Her body wn as fat as my own was shaking, she laughed so hard,

she ousted a seam of that white uniform Aunt V makes her wear

as if Flo was a nurse in a hospital. She once was a nurse at

Belvue, but this house was worse t~ii sle, this was Bedlam,

hoho. Flo's laughter made the coffee mugs gri~pxmn dance on the

shelf. I had struggled free from the V hug. My shoulders hurt.

I smnelled the ginger snaps and went Ythe cookiLe jar.

-Perhaps so, Aunt V repeated. Bulimia, I ;4 Marnd"RS"* e

a peculiar disorder, and patients iniental hospitals, prisoners too,

\o~oe known to swallow anything, coffee spoons, rusted nails, razor
a< O *, blades Vao. But she never had heard of thetr eating their cats
Be serious
or dogs. -FSnms~iami-ea, Flo you don't really think she'd kill isat

.ust to satisfy her craving for food

-It's being done all the time, ma'm. Flo wasn't laughing anymore
watching without mnt moving
or even smiling. She was dead serious, tas1aringlmar Aunt V,,hilk emm
a muscle,
ioIcmde,'lGininr.d,-:, and her eyes were suddenly like aneria!h Indian's,
narrowed and guarded. She crossed her arms, She opened her mouth

and let her tongue sweep very slowly in a circle over her creased,

'dt lips. And the tongue went around and around as she kept

watching Aunt V through those narrowed, glittering eyes.

Not a word was spoken Aunt V was standing as though

hypnotized, her wide open eyes were on Flo, her mouth was open,

her tongue, a gnmompamm[naad, gray mouse,came darting out, wa twd,

and then hegan to imitate Flo's broad tongue, movingvery slowly
/:. ':"..',.= : ..." ^' .- ^ t ,. i :...' -..' ." T ., .
in that same circle-. n.':.:'.,.t.;. ..::..':.n'dn n i pi. L'c. painted lips.

It only lasted seconds. Then the clock in the talking room

bean to strike .4e j-it. we spell was broken. A cold shiver was

going down ny sXineri'-.-.-i hYt h y into my socks.

-Really! Aunt V was screaming. Her face had turned dark.

Her mouth was gray. -It's obscene! Absolutely! She had thrown her

hands to her mouth. -Obscene! she scronmed through her hands.


-Yes ma'mn? Flo asked in the ca.lmost tone, uncrossing her arms

and turning back to tihe sink as if nothing had happened.

Nothing had happened, except that cold shiver inside me.

-Obscene, the way we let her eat, the way we look arbm on while;

she stuffs herself! cried Aunt V, leaping forward. -There will ben

no more sweets in this house she cried, wrenching the cookie
.jat away from me and emptying/into the trash can. -No more sweets!

Do you hear me, Flo?

-i~taih;r-jn~ .I.iouIs there anything else ma'm?

-Yes. Your uniform needs mending. It's split at the seams on

both sides.

-Yes, ma'rI Flo said. Her face was a black mask. There was a
faint clatter. as she stacked up/the plates in the dishwasher to
be washed over again as Aunt V had demanded for reasons unknown

even to herself.perhaps.

-Obscene, thw way she licked her fat lips, she did it to

spite me of course, Aunt V says to mom. -That walruss tongue, I

couldn't begin tod describe it, huge, pink and slimy...

-Sounds yummy to me, says mom.

-Don't he vulgar, J. Think of yolir daughter.

-So what's with her?

-She hates my guts, Flo does. The nightmare I had thit night,.

you have no idea, that horrid tongue it was all over me and into-.
..-;:' -. .. ./ .-. -
la. --p. ._ ._ '' .% .._n- r

it changed into Jake or Jock, Jock's you know what,..

-Jock's cock. Go succotash, says mom. -Wet dreams are not for

Jock, Jake or Joke. I make my own wet dreams. Not/I can't

hold my water. I can store it up like a camel i-;h~a des ert.

I wet my bed because I want to, I like the damp smell,mXmin:l km the

warmth '". the nights are ."... too long. Jake & Jock. It sounds

like a TV clown act, the way Aunt V mentions her two Xes in A 'iii nQk mFr the same. .a
breath. They look tbhcairnmecrtncmey I've met them both, ~wBd- n~.-et

Er*e kkiich o ---44eta smashed/his V issij -we A v s4s-Lo rac it

for kicks, he raced through the Painted Desert and crashed into

an adobe schoolhouse. Nine little Indians killed. Ht made the

front page. The highway patrol asked for his driver's licence

Kiss dad, he said, stopping by the house on his way to Death

Valley. lie offered me his cheek, it smelled of roses He'd m~tOpp

come to horrow money from his X but she and mom were cruising the

Agean No bread, Flo said, go sell your superduper soupedup heap.

He wouldn't say goodby, he was so angry the FPev~"i took off with

a roar like a 1mlgy lion into the/4unset.

He's not my dad. ., ". 'r-t ', w ',lirvn-. Somehodvy,-ww.,h, but

nobody tells me4c Perhaps they can't. Perhaps it's like the still

birth. They can't for the life of them figure what brought it on.

They wavSidd no more mention my fatheoe than they c4o-1,u mention the 4

twins at 1.':...,---.i: --.,'.,.;.- once Jt.'s all superstiton and guess work,


0 no, it's god's work, said granny anny, .', ask too many qestions

the child who asks one too many will have her hand mnut grow out of

the grave. Stuff and nonsense said Aunt V listening with one
moving along
ear as she was. amlbhMjg ninrlimnn): the V of th~e s' viReen 'g pool

with a a'ihng net on a long stick to fish out the leaves that
Her coolie hat
had@ fallen into the water during the long winter. Sthl-ra1stx
was mirrored in the pool. Humbug, she said, Hanris don't grow
*wemirqxngmman am.o\ixha msN :?*:; :* r-e:r. m-i *

out of. graves Her motheq,she said swiin t;:; i the fishing net, was

full of slivovitz and Croatian salami, unable to adapt herself to

the U.S.A, 4er mother won't fly, she won't bank, she depositesr hsr

money in a sack of cracked wheat don't you believe her old

world old wives tales

I don't. Still the hand that won-t stay buried worries me.
my hand like a
I shut my eyes andxswuxiPJtm4,," there it is a sr-.'11"' v '.: naked tree

growing ou-t of a riragitcsi aiex ,'ole hill or doll's grave,
.i-nn Aunt V returned from a land buying spree in Spain I guess
Zrmiamnrdagmamnginarem i3nm2d n

she bought up half, the sun coast dirt cheap s-he brought me hack

a Spanish co ll. J. waxen head w-as,%s- it h ad', the rcet .was stiff

shaxls anm flamenco skirts glued together,. -- was not a baby doll.

I cu! off her head and tried to flush it down tAunt V3 toilet.

But it kept bobbing up. .
-'.,'-in little girls play wit? dolls, where is the fatl:,;?

askord uncle G asked n .. night. wt3ue were having a barbecue in the

grimy bayck.yar)b cL: hadn't comer tc eat wrt~ ls. wIe was a vegetarian,

He was nihhiing on a raw nm.s'hrorn sitting in the ca.t iron

chair away from the blaze and th( smoke. I was sitting at his

feet in the gravl.- lie wasn't one -of t feiilow.. He eC

was a lone wo ", I loved bi ad r'od my f'c~ to kne


It was love at second sight., I felt it in my hknee

that earlier a hundred lives ago when he emerged from the

foge. was walking (down the pier with snort, '''-.; steps

as though he were late ford an irml'ortant appointment, though

there was no one at the end of tie pier, Thenre were the rotting

poles. There was the river, rand behind him was .' st ]l gray,

with the usual rows of trucks parked there for the night,

and the usual cop on the heat flashing his flash light into

the hack of each truck to see if any male couples were
smelled him,
hiding Some always were hiding hut they :!c :i'ny,

they were three jumps ahead of him, jumping down and vanishi;.

in the fog before he could bust them.

The truck looked like huge elephant s. G didn't turn his
in the opposite direction -
head to watch. 1t e was walking fa-; i his- '- li-ft shoes',

with hisrrmanrfsmCin his nose in the air and his hands in

the pockets of his safari coat. lie looked like a hunter.

But he was a vegetarian. Thie hands 6n the clock in the big

Cutty Sark billboard above the old flop house were madly

spinning T stepped in front of him and said hello.

He was trying to get p me, hut I hbrredr his way.

He didn't see my blush. His eyesight is poor, His glasses

were fc g'd:. It was dark .

I couldn't lose him to the night. I grabbed him by the

flap of his safari pocket and told him T wasn't a hustler,

I was B13 p' ad met me at Aunt V's.

-Of course! I recognize you now! he said, removing

his glasses s and mifoin peering at ise throun;h dark glitterin-

eves. His moustache was a chat'coal s mear, His nose was

twitching. -How is yonr dear aunt? Tell me, is she all right?
so anxiously
he inquiredS -rihr n ':i-,r'Lt, i .an you'd have thought she was with

one foot" in the grava. She wasn't. She was in bedr

-You ought to be in bed. It's late. The dial of his wrist
blinking signals
watch was ..'.' 'Lgmmin h green d aa. -It's not safe to he out

that Inte, not for a pretty young lady like yourself. Come!

In his uplift shoes he was taller than I. Ke had taken

my arm. The Cutty Sark on the billboard was sailing ,the sky

as he walked me past the deserted trucks, the elephants,

and hack to the house. There he waited by the stoop until
through the door
I was safevly :.,i'~.:. and had locked myself in.

-Little girls will mother their dolls, he said, talking

into the smoke as Aunt V was throwing hunts of meat on the

charcoal. -They Dathe and dress the doll, they spank 6t and

kiss it. But when they play mother, where is the father?

he asked. -Absent, Never invented.

I was crouching at his feet in~ the shadows Ie nhn

carefully chose a raw mushrooin and fed it to meo. It tasted

of the woods and Olli, I rubbed my head against his knee.

Aunt V's head was a faceless copper pot above the fire.

The spangles on her blouse were flying with the sparks into

the wind. -Pn ys are ashamed to play with dolls, sre said ,

turning the steaks, sniffing.

-Not all are ashmmed, said G. -Some act out tbhefinn mn)ther
instin .. :i--nr,,-ri.H"R It's : aite an accepted instinct
instinct. whicihm -i "* ':a : '.; .


among male animals of otih&r species. The lion mothers the

young while the lioness is off stalking her prey. She is

the hunter.

-J won't touch her steak unless it's nearly raw ,
)oz i r!
i;:--"" ".- with blood. I've often asked myself why? Aunt V


I felt Uncle G shudder. -No doubt it's- some form of

atavism, he said to hiniself with a si'.r.der but in his soft

Georgia voice. He has two different voices for different occasion

-Will she he joining us? he asked in his city voice.

-She may and she may not, Aunt V was fro".lir:-. -Run

upstairs, will you, she said, slapping at a mosquito. -See

if your mother cares to join us. Run!

I didn't budge. ilis cordiuri,'s felt like a tree har against

my cheek. -I must run, he said, standing up. He helped me up

with both hands and kissed me below the hair 'line. Thenhe

embraceld Aunt V. -Take care. Don't work too hard he said,-
g h ...- : C. his hand moving in short little strokes
S patting her inda -wrist ,itLaxquikxatuseatstaut k,'-'i i ir:
in the firelight.
Rmsn;ilmipn>3Humpmhmanii rj

/ I '-.
Hishand is plump,, hii he wf.rey, Je works out at the Y

eP-.h .morning. I asked Aunt V did he work hard-for a living

a d she said no, he was a man of independents means,,: was

a scholar doing independent rcar.oarch ,Enshe had forgotten in

what field,

-The locker room; says ',.i. She hlas no more use for him; than

she has for the fellows, though he is not one of them, le ..

Aunt V says he is
bimmsaR a loner iwho pre.'rs monkeys to people. iis family made a

pile in 'the hotel business s.pccsi aliingi in honeyoonerso .
Aunt V says it's
grew up to the beat of the Lbhen-;rin weddini march. No wonder he

hates iagnor. "'The bridal suites had queen-sized beds, hers ias in
was on her own honeyinon
the shape" of a swan, for yes, she i-.tih:n with

one of her Xes when she mt hii in the blooming garden of his
lie came P;Opl ing out
booming otel, ,xa.n n:,r l from behind the azaleas -

a daipper, well.-scrubhod litttre m.n, !quite the proverbial little man

on the wedding cake. His foot got caught in a brida. veil on the tiu--,

terrace steps, But his mother untangled him in no time. She was an

engagirng widow, Egyptian or Jewish. Elsa was her name. It nearly kille

him when she (ied. He never married.

-Mama hoys, says mom mdke asy husbands.

But she isn't referring to uncle; Q, I am!i sure. He is' the liess t

of man, I wish held elope with me to his retreat on Sea or Saw Island

and love me to death in the (Gorgia moon in the azaleas. I'm glad,

Aunt V rulef him out from-the start when she was frantically trying

to catch a husband for mon uor a dad for m~i ages before they had

any idea where I could be found. If they were to adopt me, it was

paramount, said Aunt V that they first adopt a husband for

mom so there would he a n pstanding rnalle in the house shoul.1 a

social worker with the all-seeing welfare &ye snoop through .

their dirty linen.
Of course Flo changed the bed sLeets every,. She polished the

American eagle. Ours was home beautiful froN top to bottom even

if the alley was reeking; of piss. No social wvork.r said .lo *-andihe

said sh.e'ri plenty wvoul! wa'scate bhr time. sT ,;. : on rich neo,. ij.e

rThi 'r ..joh was to spy on the poor: who had no 'K.ed Ishe;ts,

gearing : '. besidess, if worse cane to worse they

might always get a hold of a Brooks Brothers store window
dummy, and sit him upp inE:'a rocking chair on the. second

landing. Then tlhey could point him out to the social worker.

.-ush! Papa's havirn- his nap. He's been on his feet all day,

mindi ng the store,

-A dummy might do the job asv-wel-1-asz-the-real--thing,

Aunt V agreed, recallin| her married past. Still she would

r<'ther be on the level and find a more convincing head of
the / one who was less follow. Of course there nwre always

the fellows. She had no objections if one of their friends
led rmom to the altar, provided lie v msi~y a notorionw~is hust ler

or sa sa r hoy. -\s for the danger of blackmail, that didn't

scare her. That she could handle, she said. She hadn't been

through two husbands for nothing. The danger wasn't what the

nman m:.ght do. It I s w what iorn might do. If the guy was a

sailor, her Jayhoy might fall for him hook line and sinker

and leave her poor room mate ;the fall guy. It had happened ,to

other couples. Aunt V had to protect herself at all-coat.

She was casting her line for a norvalrt int overt type with

extra-rert looks and a good record in the army reserve or

some other secret service. It was the type her J despi d-

Yet supposing they made such a lucky catch, mightn't she

still fly the coop with himr simply because she despised him?

She vwas so ,npredicthleo~ S ..P.rvrse. '

Insoluable problOems. A tin can rattles down in the yard
in the black Ia n. Mim's voice comes pushing through

the night from neverian1 i.Ht they are in the t,--a.-rig room

amid shattered mirrors. -You weren't content to saddle me

with a brat, oh no, you had me down in your calendar as

a June bride so you could have a hall and cry at the wedding,
Hf1r is .' ,rnita.n splintery
I hear mom say. i-. ,-r.'". voice v.;rp''i/ -iike wdL, echo of
:1 ,-.--1 i r
the .':...Y< ni voice on m.i tlransistor,a announcing free
^ ^ *'*-?^ w^ ~ :****-*' -.. r* ;/.. -
gifts fo. t'v..''y new' ow'erv bride who will nat.touch L.P avii

account during hlerli e iir ne; Vo- You had it figured to a

T-bone, a holy church. d lgf n-- ." -tl,.h of or the

hills and an unholy bash with the gals ~oi were still

shopping for- : .' r',-ron, V.IieU von h1ad already .set the
for .. wed ing S,. T itching
.datexc ,a x ,i f aAki, h n:'!.knxiiBk vioi we-reo ,.,: -.:, to dress me
up as r bride for th'ln day in sixty-nine yards of satin and
undierthe hoopskirts.
with grandpa's lon:(,johns rndc':lneath. T got your number,

strr, you were w-ting your bkiaimxi;fo drawers to watch

me prance up the aisle and say I do to some cocksuc'iJ. ?r:
you the right kind of sucker, none wanted
mother. Only Mracouldn 't d(ig up ~hammr- other \v ': .. iY,;I I..
t e acting the
groom. Eich l !wnt.rSnt xh a lied hisp heart set on '' ...',"" bride ,

each wvante' ~i,-we ar the veil and the orange blossoms and toss

the )ounuet to his fellow mother.

The rain hits the window panes like kernels of rice.

Is A nt V crying? -You aren't fair, ..TT, you are making a 4I

farce out of an honest attempt on my part to conform t:)

tradition., vbe I amr too romp-rntic, I can't supress it, I'm

s feminine, I...j e... to .cry, yes, at graduations,,

S weddings funerals n ... .. .. io" ...

-You ain't going to .t funeral ,ran, no fucking under-
taker is going to Ruwa ;o up with embalming fluid. I'm leaving mrIy
J/ s
ravished body to science .'j find ie a pencil and I'll put ti r L-

inx',MTziJingx my writ ing. On the wtll.

-H-ush, dearest, you're so -inebriated, von couldn't sign your

own nalce. ,. .

-Inebriated,ohho, three sheets against the wind. .O K habe,

I'll sign your name. I will them your ur : 'ivmy hbody. They already

got your inner tubes. They can hrve the rest. rDmpm.riirTayrmmi-m..
^:-.'nt-i ,*r.'.: .-_'n tow inuch ( o; '- a stif.f'1O. '
ho n3t
to pay for a hottle of l'hii,;' I guess.

Now Aunt V must be crying to break mom's heart. Hion's l hert

breaks easy no matter how tough she talks "v,' whzn s.oc:ie-bo-dy shed' tears

or blood s:si'h brea-i, down like uncle Q. Of course lie never talks

tough, though at odd timnles he make. belie ve he's tough, I saw

him stride down the pier andr crack a riding crop at the passing

Queen E or was it Miss Liberty with her torch in the sun set

far out at the bleeding nouth of che harbor?

A riding crop fror Uiruuay., Hi never went t:her hie never

sat on n horse. lie is too much of a;n nimal lover. ,Ve-, carics t.

ri'in O croa) for show, to scare away Vi the rniWters iom s"ays she
Srid ing
bets her betterr half he has a collection o.f wrtiti-t'., crops at

home, anc :'ullwhips too and spikena;iler leathe belts and shrfinken

heads. Ilse whyv should his a be-:t-- b. off limits

for Vi'She passes ''- apar-tw t .. o ay
r .. .-, i ^.* a .
t-o her he-l-shrinkr his colleciopll V Syare ,c'.,-a,

/ hi; c ves,.. u-- and it's cris cuo Ps he should have invied her

eve- ,,.ce. ..--tf.-. .e, when : .: dr-'(pl-5 in on 1her arny old tiine, .

to chew the fat and ask for ire advice on irr how not to
invest Mom, sari~d she amiell a rat .
he saw ,eO wait
A water rat, in:ver war m et o the i~or he leookicd
on earth where
astonished, as thonogb it were tih l2st place !he e:- ct-' to

find me. But I know he only ca;]e there tW-e fnd-e Wo sat on

the rotting poles in the sun. A stiff breeze sent a shiver through

the poles in the water. I shivered, he removed his safari coat

and put it over my shoulders. I asked hin about the shbrnken heads

in his house and he stared at me as if I were out of my head.
on earth '-F '"i cc~L.; C o-. /
-Good grief! he said.-',.;re/did you gei hear Are--nonR.. ,

I said T'd heard it through a wall, but perhaps I had only

dreamed it. He looked at r;e closely without his glasses. His eyes

were sad. But he smiled. -Ah, children are born ,o eavesdrop [A;

-*fhe- s;-i d- -and in your dream you eavesdrop on yourself. I speak

from experienence hen I was a small boy T eavesdropped even in my

sleep. ~a~t-iR-x:mws Our home was on the around floor of our the sea, and not a night went by that I didn't,
listen in on the waves/and the newly weds renewing or\bIeaking

their marriage vows. Not a sound escaped me, I hand eve:"y

wave, every word. 0U DO I Th NOO Ai D) FOR NiVLR 'i' TI.L ,. .TII

I tried to make a poem of it, but it remained a. --ageent like

m-most human endeavors, I eavesdropped on carnal love before
distinguish between the sexes -
I had learned to t ?m nmr-Sxr,53t'Ei n'r .thnx IT do

find it difficult at times to tell then apart i-which however is

no surprise, considering how our present culture ten"]s -e 2, i..'".
Win d 0,. .
s # i .- e"', "" %-i
S dM n..a:-...y v/.hAtA.i4.0 r.acc,.Ino ...J ,;r t his, I ye rn "" 't... -- .t

1iirT;(I-.'.rir} For .et tw /tlb~ i rr )'"'ti no of 7' aL er V r'Moi c'' Vnirfc ,
f / /' ,:. .;r j '. I i 7 '

- There were tears in his eyes. '7 that was because of the brisk

wind. Ve was in his bush shirt, Ie sneezed. I was afraid he might

want his coat hack, hbFt te said not to take it off, he was

warming himself by the gaslight of times lost. He had been horn

too late. He should have lived in those day-.: forever gone ,twr
,-''I. a ..look "-- c
when a man could without": ,-'.:-'v.yr.',-'., ,-c' : the fair sex by the

subtle music of their garments the rustle of the hustle, the frou-

frou of the fillies, the swish of the trailing train. It was

a world of s-Wutile innluendosf an-d "ishop sleeves. No lady worthy of

that name would have dared show her hare arms in the street.

I hid my arms under his coat. Our lives, Uncle G said,

blinking against the wind, had become too garish and barea'cade-&

AP longed for the mauve era when a lady's face was swathed in veils

an-d *- .. a parasol at Biarit; or when she sati' hmloilized by-theo:~

wh abw-w 5 -s ys a-t-. : .;.' :,Ah, for the tied ankles! -\h, f-r the

thrust of the bust du cote do chez Maxim!. he exclaimed tlh:'owing his
TI^ i' an
chest out. ',' .fashion silhouette resemrlbd -nxi tihelmbnrtaer S-

which trade the wo7ian f, ..t.he hello epoque look like a galeon

figure carved to be nailed to the prow of a ship, though what
Was of,-cott' .
went on behind the prow imsr anyone's guess, .ut all that was done"

with, finished, said Uncle 4, :pad out, he said sharingg his-

eves, 'by the suffragettes and dIas ktpital,

He-stood up suddenly. He leaned over. me to hold me? To

kiss me? Hy heart was h)eat'r.- lou. ind fast. But he was reaching into

the pocket of his safari coat, not even touching me as he drew out

aa p-air of opera g;lsse. T...y w er-e R -i f ile- n aglitter w'ith
mrother-of-O 'iarl' as thonl:'h th'ey had -belon.'red to one o --his -ad ,'

He stepper awatyfrom rve and tra inood the glasses on a passing ship -

to see if there was a gallon figure at the prow? Bnt Ait was a

Russian frej-i;Lter. I knew by the big red star. No S-shaped dames

In deck, only twa some sailors stripped to the waist.4r Two of

them were having a wre8stling match. The others watched. Uncle G

watched until the freighter was a mere toy hFtT bobhhing in the blue


-The Alexander Pushkin, he said, ::,o:;:p;",1;:: glancing first at

the cbnhaL clock on the Cutty Sark billboard, and then at his wrist

watch. I'm late for an appointment. I must run.

I prayed he would forget his coat.. Then I would keep it and

sleep with it under my mattress. Put he remembered it the last

moment. He slipped it on, t e worried hbout his appointment to

kiss 'me goodbye as he took offf, hands in pockets and at a fast


If I were to dress in whalebone stays and hobble skirts,

would he fall in love with me? ',..i- he in love, with Aunt V? The wind

had grown weak. '"i:e sun had gone pale, The water lapping up against

the hearted poles was a moss of garage, I i;h~rBP 'x found a

stick and fished out a dripping co-'.on to take home and and put into

Aint V's bed.

She wasn't ome when I let myself in, she ivas conhing the bars'

for miiom wh-o mlus t have dis appeared ,-..:,- in: though T'lo said how could

mom hafe gotten away when sie n was herenr anyway? Flo was upstairs

chainging their ;i'mrrm,2,,em-Kb p-:r-p-e has hbed sheets. I went into
Ia f e,
f their halhroom, we have many nline if. full oP floating toy boats and

.tiles with dutch windmi"ills ,m pial e theirs- ias a Nepal flag
N ^ andf] ..... 2 ... '-t--t^^w ^ --^w -- Y'', They have
9 v f::, ''' ;:: .,.xa'nkux rntr i ~ns2).xnxnn, 'h ." ia;rid Greek goatskins on

S *Ii taM( er died hlue and a Spanish crucifix by the sink which is pink

and veined like human skin. The tooth paste is pin3. I liked to stand

by while mor brushed her teeth her brush so iunimi worn io-pwn it

had barely a hristle left, mhiimhntitAunt V jgave heri an electric

toothbrush, but sh -,-- -,-, .--, ... .1 ikd her morning smell, pink
S-- to hear her tell Aunt. V through the
peppermint foam at her mouth I liked hw l Auitc'... -

hetl\xwhe-foar to go to hell, to hellnom saidl, with your dreams
about lost keys to the right door, ormno keys to the 3ost door, to

hell with mermraids in aspic and- water lilies erm consult your
dreambook or: ~yor broker, you (re not on my couch.

Mom was always at her best in the morning, she had a big head,

but she was s'eet to me she kissed me through the foam and snaid-,
a flick
-. v don't -you take V to am!r .ir ..n? I' 1- pay you to baby sit with your

Au nt V e m om
But sc- usually slept late ::h;.'1 .'.:..:rf.": and Aunt V was -;oo busy
at the
buying or selling, she had no time t3 waste cn movies. Morm was fast

asleep and snoring inni under the covers even her head was
coverck, She slept like a hear I r-.,:.m2 a noise with the aspirin

bottle,- Tut nothingg co~ild wake her. I, took a bubble bath in the mar*
emptied .t ,
mermaid tub, I .o'-: ":"-- :.. t'" bottle of o.nne Nunit: herie into
t .. the perume stark, it--
it ,.hut -., ..1 W :., ","-- R.: .', ad e the bubbles, vanis..,

T took a hOt s-1Vwe. The ceiling mirrojO was. st'~amed, 1 squeezed

out mom's toothpaste and ate sone, it tested of peppermint candy ,

hut soft and pink. I stuck cut my tongue at myself in the wall

mirror, it toow was steamed. The door mirror was steamed. I sneezed

the pink stuff on my tongue to rake a/i B I soneezed out another

1 on the mirror.


Flo had stripped the old sheet off their mattress. The

ticking wm had blue ain white stripes, it made me thipjk at granny-

anny's sumw-ler awning behind the kitchen v.iidow. Thrjy took the
thipxramidrMtii awning off h .fmii,, .-:lr :."'::...;r* s" e il e i. / / ._ ,('' < i /~
3 (' c ^ ^ l" -
and stained by the rain'. Sh7-e diel-, o-o~ws lapping out the'

fresh sheets by-the open window. They flapped' out .ike sails,
tS she didn't know, nobody di
I9t purple. I asked her where mom was. I. knew shi .'r,:ilr'n;.'i' I::n' -m,

but it was an old game between us, T'd ask -whore's my r.omn? ;and
her mom t .-.r
she'd ask back where was h-"r. if I n-miihbniE lih fund hers, she'd

,"4i-i'- ine. It. went hack and forth t'. n.. Cy while I helped her
S. fold them neat at the corner
tuck in tih sh eets. She had taught me to Xackmxrxaxri anwm;in the
nurses are taught.
wrly bhficule xa4tmxpit;' was a tratinirl nurse, hut, nit' the only

nursin o they had her let .do dncthbrna wa., e.noWtvin 1-"tr *r'r" ar.
f .a .-- .. .. t ...- .
at BRsHiaMit a dead white hospital : *
had "
ihewever ,won1 vanished the house which was always, -1i.nt
c heck ao wards though first
V would caJit the hospitals d.ead white or black, nh..amrkrt-,'.. .:
she would check at i3iANGS 4rmt,
Shec.3m ,T h:fiyr- ae h .l-. .,i :'o m ic aw. d I once -tried to check ti-ol e

but the hnoncer said the place wa's c 1oscd t..'e>:,:h"h I h;ard ,.the

iuke boyx ard4-aaw tb steaorw the bar.
lima r outi le m C.- : r b. n :O -
B for I Met teo ul imia 0u .ti oue aj iB.1iS I /4 k,
"" l-',"' te." M"- 1


A fire cracker, exploes i the night, cherry bomb or chlocola.te
/chip mint, though it is not the fourth of J or we would be in the:

hills. A fire engine sh rieks through he. rain. Perhaps a o.rl bomb
C :" /* / ? ... '
went off on the pier, and blew lie cement, bh ock.s, .and rc'.t. .':, I.-
I. ... remain.
x.lx .sni n ,,to the moon. The hills and 1li ''. 01 sbTIbiM-ah!r-, Vhem-
is T find
an Miint The pier --y d1 gone- Where can!/!' le f/f-; ,

-You promised me, J, Aunt V says. into itle c-. night,

you me your word of honor that not ever again, would you set

foot into that vile bar. And where do I have to look for you?

'here do I 4ind you? ?

No answer from ;n:mor, and of course -Auni,' never montill found her

at BANG S, not really, she onlv went there to look because it was

the place where they had met hy sheer accident., she added.
19s" tlthe lowest
Or all the g:iy bars, i3,~NG the s.d.est, and if she hadn't felt

so low that, liate afternoon, she never wouldni'ttve have entered.

the vulgar place with its unwashed w-irrors and sle-i :n lampsladcs-,

and phony Raster statues of naked rymphs. At least the statues were
7_ 4 "&
well proportioned ,i5ch couldn't he said of their live counterrparts,
*el ] o~or o~ ,1' l- ,

those plastered, table hopping fem-ales so fat, so unappetizing

no regular iar wrvould admit tihemi;, no nall would touch them -You

touched there, J, I saw you do it, ycu did What made you d6 it?A IV,
No answer frori n iom.

.Those repulsive cr'-' ures, wilh their fat popping through their
Jersevs before and behind Throse waitresses parading-their derrieres,

stompin. about like ~screamrainx like whores when a customer

comnplai'-ed df the cockroach in the h :nhattan! Aunt V saj:; iPt

turned her stomach:, Therh: shruild be a law.

It was the sort of pace that made one pray for a revolution

-the right kind, to the rii ht, says ~mnt V to the night' -Good i'. j!

If you had one i4oa of self res! 'you 'wou I I's he found dead in

the place, it is a disgrace,,

One find days meon rplight; e found dead, Aunt V warns. Her

voice is slinling witn the window panes. Some of the girls were

karate experts, always out to prove their manhood, always a-t each

other's throat, even though B was survposed to keep an eye on them:

from behind the cash register. Of cp'urs,sr, e vwa a mere figure h!i-d,
4,^ a tir^^a4**a te^ iC Ca-r :'-' / f 6 j, ~ S
rigid &iei~. 1riMaiatnomian :-*--' .'.:h b .-.-.. -.,. 'and so' plastered with

make-up she wouldn't open her mouth lest her face should fall off;
B'sp mask. WVas she an S-shaped figure hand? Did her petticoats


B used to hustle, I hear Aunt V say. They named the place after

herr hut she had no power. Her pimp was the power behind the bars,

V441r i h Pke looked like a college professor '-ougt to he behind

hbArs. But he had all the ins, he greased :-nIrnI the right palms.

Aunt V had no doubt that he heat up B every nighIt.

Mom's dad was a college professor. Didj he heat her up? ,:.:;

that why she ran away from hope? Should I run away?

*r 's pimp s- etil,, I hear Aunt V say. -hie wouldd have b3en

arrested long ago. But instead they arrested bouncer, a Corvier
harMile'ss, ;.:nif le is or c-
wrestler and perfe'ctiv, atniiti a --, rto-Rican. r
?-- -,-,! ,6, U B
Na.zot. his frCz 1 11t
,Tis wife and kids p".'.e on wveofre in Brooklvn.0T nmilJed them

some of '^.old clothes, anon;.ouslv or co!rseC. I'm;inot in ti ,i

Picture o"''; re in the picture. o'Yo wallow in de gravity, y',,-
d-..'t even mind the-leering dr. -* .int johns inoey let :i: xAl.;

'.' 1; those out-of -t:'.vers whlo prv through their noses for undr'-inkalec

moonshine so thli could watch .the hank:i, 'nk at L iGS and tell the

chaps in Chaipparn hroT women were abusing their right to vote,
It was an insult to the f se;, A slap in the'face, says Aunt V.

-T5;-,at cold late evening ad' hc ti.lrr when I found you'at

biatNGJ you cried on my shoulder then, oh J you swore you'd never

ai i3..n-t-d..o w.ithi.. .3e awfu.l- omen, you lied t.o me, 'J I saw
you d(ori.t njotheIm, I did with my own eyes. I saw you do it to them

in the powder room and you would have done it to then right at

bar J if B's p hadn't laid down some basic rules. 0 J,,if it's
"Jj, a- ,
true that vou'' rather--drink with- regular guyv ait a regulate bar,
wrah then do you always end up at t'.~.-GS with tht whores?

Aunt V's voice is choked with tears, She has lost the battle

for the night. But she wants to keep the medals. This happens every

ni"-ht, -You are making me the launihing. stock)c. r' fmi., limtrhor V pin p rlt,

Can't you at leastP respect the image of our marriage?

No answer from morn Perhaps she is asleep. Perhaps she is not

in the house. Her image is in every mirror.

1omr's hlaad a strawy blond growing out dark at the roots at

BA.NG I in the rain. Moim crying on Aunt V's honv' shoulder for what?
had been Bay
Mom was drifting, Aunt V w-rnxa might say out of Bostoh bamN~at and

through -many hack waters, drifting alone ; wit the scum and there-

was nothing she h In 't tried mn to Wow .4,,- j .. .. "! ;. -. I /
:^I-. -. I -
' [ en1' Ve!': :t 'hat a.n7! J-,--'" .,-.rW.nldn' t/en i;-y:.-:ldi her JlerC, r .

A ^./ *," ".;,' e c if-i Iie tn+5 ed;' "- -". /...l ."r Ct. '' .'-'.. .L .
.." .*' ... .
.*- "" -'. -
/ *

Wherever she- drifted, l s: had a conn section for up or downs, though

in the end. she always wotnild drift hbac! to the old bottle. It gave

her something o hold on to and knock her out, she had conf-essed

during their first crucial meeting when Aunt V herself had

felt at sea, depressed and totally alone, although she '..,e;

in the coMpany of a friend, a little house wife from Qurirns,

.unt V recalled. A pT-.A r edhead younn and advetursome -
S. she-
enough to t"~-,'. '5. l. int as soon as Anni, iiiAhad spied the-s t' y,!

shaggy head in the mirror, she had sent the little housewife home

in a cab with cahfare and some extra bill for the children,

Aunt V explained.
How t"iian her J was in those days how starved, her hig hungry

eves shedding -agic even over the shoddy statues at i'ri.' It was

J who had spoken the first word at the bar, asking for a

cigarette, and V bewitched by the poetry of those eyes, had

offered her not only all the cigarettes hut the solid gold

cigarette case too. -I'm trying to quit. Please keep it .
tak-en @'C. .,/ she that same night.
ind J had hapt it1: :t had lost it f'l-p.,:r-.;:.i ..'i.:, ndpnmti~ixon

gc ivmitx trv
-Can you spare a but, i.:.v? Nomn's owl's eyes amber in
fr, -i d ) the
f n':.::... ] .:.r ] )
the amber mirror. The colr1 -igarette c;iEe lost in msinpitton.
curled ihalo
nrardian laint Venrai,(M's cl OaliMomf icunTl:g died auburn hover -,.

above singer J's drooping head. Come live uitn me and be :n
a or fa nc v,
the same -; .'--~:ia 't-!e::- if you prefer separate beds. Four qq.t!nf.n-
-- a day
hathrooins ., three square meals, 'he mtid sleeps in. Rng if

vou need ; t. *:-.--:. ',at's your p r session No, let me guFtcS
talent all over you in
You are creative, an artist it:-is wriJten C;.'-.:-."..-

capital Letters. All. WOver. /AP L.,

-Please ladies, not at the bar, says B's piip.

Fuck you profSSorx I'in out of a :job.

Eveleasbes ''-- '-terf'fly kisses. .pr'gertips read palrs.

Fortune teller V 's hboan is blessed with -a clairvoyant eye -
to her
wa second sight handed down by tha gipsies who travel steep

roads of Croatian mount ins in tne raiin witni. .liieir dancing hears.

J's hand, ragged nails hid(ldoen, is swinmning pal.lm up in a beer puddle.

A new long life ahead of hbr. A new friend for life. A cruise.

No apendectornv. .o'll1 go to your old room around the corner and

pack your things. J has nothing to pack, But she wants to steal the

Gideon bible.

V puts on fresh lipstick, buys: another 'sit eye shot for J

and still another, each one a quickly for the slow road. home to a

new life. Rain pours on the 9fth district. The hot dog men on

14th st have fled. There's no one left in the world in the

downpour, only V & J wrapped in a plastic sheet.


No one. Not me. I wasn't even an idea/ then. lAunt V said their

union was hilessed with mutual trPst, they were wrapped up itirn

in their love. Mom stayed Loome, resting up from her imon

wayward drifting, sleeping it off on the roof, reading the comics
was *
or Great Elxpectation It sn the only book Io ever -..~ h r read.
and if she cried out in her drnoms
She read it in her sleep, ir e rxMi M

MiSs I 'visha;.. or Georgi na, it didn't: ven wake ,unt V, Va u hes're

so sure d:dl -hp fool of her love. '. ''-:y went to bed at the sa'e.

hour, at times .moni never got out of hpa, 'ehfnr was no question s.

She wan thriving, tough she ate mostly potato chips they were
unIder in the sofa too,
alls over thb" herd anyl under ,anci!o:pln the rungs ain1 inrtihnNe-ohnjs ir, y

wvhereever you walked or sat there wis that crunch of dry autumn.r
the fallen leaves
leaves, and yes even nowv I can hear it/in mry own bed. Mom's
blue shadows
netherlook the ,-.".' the lack circles uider the oees were

still there of course, but they wer covered by a sun tan out of

the hlue sk' or the hot tle, h'rl regular life was bringing out

ti'btphtstty.og Mthhc N hnxhvony the hobest points in her boy, said"
Aunt V comparing figures as they stood together i .v.' .*:' r.-'.-. .r'- '
in the talih triple mirrors, under a hl.ancbhin horn by entr r-me
cherubs. Hvy angel, arsh whispered going down on her knees
milky o0 1
on the lambskin rn";. .inl sine: slipped tne rin, withh tihe imrhyi off

her little finger ano forced it lietween her angel's clenched
S e wvee!,:s molusk.
thighs i. eOre it peered throun!h brownn v)jt'l 'hr-pir like a strange
gs mhiNw il im :ma :Crnt the 'e" p.
-iiah 'Aunt V remainecu in an attitude of genu-
flection She opened the/shell with iher figerti-ps. ai.n.Tie opal

dropped into her hand and she slipped it on moin's little
finger,/her th ree little fingers in -the three mirrors.

'4When was it that her ainel stolpe1d wearing the opal, -explaini

it made her look like a damn .aggot? .Aunt V was at a loss as to
omi ions
the exact day. 1Tt s all tot.' rD eio redte W ien

she discovered that ame rare opal han': n down the hoson of
C,'\. the ring
a ( ,..i waitress at b1hG;'. 1, tore ~ti off the cliw--or-tn and

ran for her life, persued by murderous screams. SiOe .iight
in time -
have been murdered. HBut she escand into nearby St.J's sanctuary.

'Thpre ,se had praw.el and laid th opal at ;tbe rlasterstat ue of

the virgin.Y

/ -

'Their first gr 4~n ig~ht. ITori pleaded innocent, swearing

by all she held holy that she must have lost the ring on her

way to the liquor ;ltore. She crossed her heart. She hoped to die.

She swore she had no idea, she didn't kno' what the screaming was-

all about, the waitress whoever she was or wasn't tirn must have:

found the rina in the gi~Ac. Finders keepers.

Losers weepers. .lint V swallowed hard:, she swallowed her

tears and dared mom to repeat her story wor.! for word :. in front

of that home'wrecking waitress wiote.

But mom said in a stony tone that .she was through with DBNGS'S.

Not ten horses could drag henrs~lf there again. And t3ow come, -lhe a ..

that V had been there again? hiiat had she been after?

-You! screnimed Aunt V. -I was going a after you! I didn't find you

heioe when I got back front we'ork dead tired. You didn't bother to

leave a, message, yon didn't taz. the trouble to pick it a

phone sat by the phone past midnilht, waiting to hear the worst.
dear god,
You could have been in an accident. Yonr blerfect body, I imagined

it mutilated and lying unclaimed in a cold morgue :i ,r .,.:':. r.,'.

-,..'.:GS' is no nmorguje, the angel said coldly. -'~rh only iorguce

I've ever Teen ..l .'-: ..,' in is your goddanned house.

V's cosy nest a moriie. And this on the day of their

first anniversary when s'.." :I. n they should have ce ?'eratedi

.Astxhxh dnlut J had forgotten,' of course. Mhe had forgotten

that V had reserved a booth for two in the back of LA iulb',; i L:...
iL .'.' i -iJA I X ',

Of course .ioii has no head fop tine, she's. been drifting
ton far too long in the rain to remember wiat (ra she fo-r'.t to

keep or whJere she lost what. -- do understand, A\nt V says, -to

a degree and I am ready to forgive and forget, yes even the opal.

It is after all an unlucky stone unless it's your birthstone,

ad luck, the fact hit me in the rmpty church St.J's -i&o I left it

on the altar. No doubt someone found it thlea.e and kept it. I

do hope it was a nun.
T have thr ring.
Finders sleepers. They don't know EmIlainovi1hrr.iwvi.mghu. I fond

it in the garbage in the street but it is tiny,-the opal is

tiny, yet it has fire. I lick it, look at the fire wriggle in it.

T've made it my birthstone. That was easy I 's my luck I can

pick my orn birthday. I offered the ring to Uncle G to wear on

a chain at his heart under the bush shirt, Put he said his hirth-

stone was not the opaol. 't was the carbuncle.

Besides he already wen's one chain around his neck. Ve is a

Jew and a ig--s-i-an ': ie v'e .,- i I*.11 cross he found in I

STm n w'r'd's garIage, n ... ;: ..:; :A, the chain.

nOW wals she to cLain l' .... ., to ,c tthe house? Aunt V used to

ask. herself. ow was she to teach her to read. tire Andi-t-he-ca .: .

-Nobody's going to mess with mr hadrl, man wariras Aunt V wrE;

suggests '"~A-tle mental tLherpv 'ith_\ h !Z:,S .
-A A--/ < -
No ticrapy. Aunt V crosses iF e -.,. She's m e .ut a list of

workable iceas for J-keeping. The list includes me. But I am still

at the vow hottom. There rust e other occupations than motherhood
to or -... i at home. ITous ew: 'z is out, wirnn wouldn'tt dreatii of

or if she should o-..i .of 'het ing, out of s eer boredom, Flo

would instantly qi .; Sheo threatened to quit that time when mon

happened into the, k.itchn rjnoie with an empty stare, and P;':ty

glass asking yher, the hel was she, was she on a shuttle train?

No, if didn't surprise \unt V that her angel should he bored to

extinction., llo;v could she not be bored, what with her doing
dr ink,
nothing all day except o0iut1j..dninh sleep and ead about supermouse
an old
or a dead spinster in weddin-g gown! No mature adult should

be that idle though at least her hoy hadn't strayed again -

not to w knowledge, Aunt V might say, sniffing mom's hair for

a strange scent, examining the T-shirt for lipstick stains,

a stranger's lipstick. No guilty evidence. So far so good. But how

long: would the peace last? How long before Aunt V would have/

to face another night of deadly visions alone by the phone?

uack to the list. An outside job for J? But that would

defeat the main purpose which w ti 1 to keep/inside 1 ~ m .gg. Tear

up the lpit. out n new one Concentrate. Aunt V takes a

deep breath. Sie pickup tt agn the purple ink pen anr writes

dow-n Cit'iVj id J jgiy in large; block letters. At that moment

a ll the light go out -I've h1lovwn a fuse mo0i cri. Y froin another
^ -f / r, C .*1- A
dark rooni 'i Aunt V is -~- -t'rbod. -s ,. o. '.. dark.
Cr a.-'tiv: ss 'h is t', -- a .' :h '-'... "

thw-trti oh, 4h What mnrade her foget to p'--' 5t tthe cura to J?
.... and of

She .aS .PrtniI, lv sggste;l itto eerYVbo- '1 '-. : *. '-:ny

course s se herselff is creative, pntin K ii er p .re ne 'ro
Solve / probil s
nature. It haV; helped hmor' t.nih /.i-or c -.. e --i
?, Y '' .I / ii

es cu'e o t was a
She has seen tle light for J. Creativeness 1. a curea.11. It bs an

discipline Iow could she have oriittdd that discipline from the

list when she had always ~rknow s-Igt;ested it to other problem

children ,iin luding .e?. Art brought out the best in the worst.

That she never had doulbttedl. Anrl weren't nr is nn 'raall over the

great U.S. A.' sni steered into creative channels, atih unless

they had to he kept in solitary, of course?\Some chronic:

jail hreakers had become so content creating, they refused to

leave the cell even on the day of their release. They had to he

dra;r::ld out of prison. Some had to he shot.

\lin.t V said she si>lved'-'erp~roh. l:ps,-hy painting froi nature

in her s!pre time. Nobody hid shoot her. She always knew l

when it was time to stop. -Stop) eating, she'd say to. nd,

-stop holleringi: for extras, .;-- please do soretling

creative instead, play the piotar, play with clay, play with

my paint hox.

Lose weight, create. I splasl'ed the pil paint, all over

their bedroom walls and over my face. The paints were beautiful.

I loved the nies. I d tlhe scui-nd of ultrari.-ri-ne. I dro:vned

their hedroom:i mirror r in waves of ultrai -arinc,. I dro',,ned in the


I -;':as at the bottom of the li st -as. .was --t te ho, toi -f:tthe -"

o:.- .- 'j when A nt V saw thIe light e nd io!m ~-.w fuse. Amun V

lighted the fat canwl os in. ithe Spanish can-elabra in the,-tae jn

room. ,T's head was swii mv:,In in tcr calnd3 light i', the V lap/

V was ruffling and si.othi-g 'thee streaked hair, asking how

would her like to become a raintor. V would buy her the q
she would
eq'vipmiocnt, the best, aiid i maket an artist out of her and make an

artist's studio for her out of the spare room upstairs.

.n ideal room, nobodv's using it, she said, stroking j's

hair; '6rf.. carse- she had my nursery in mind, only she Mctifi

did not know it, I had not yet come up, I was. at the bottom

of the ocean. -io'le put in a wall-to-wall iirrdr, she said,

-and I'll1 teach you to pa;init yourself from life as god made you.

'-"i r
-.Tess said J andi nowv. her hbead ca'ne shooting up)-flrom the V

lap -Spjre -ne, j esni siparec hoth of ns, it- ',s vou r h ag, I don't

have your eye, I see everything double or not at- all. "'. inks

a million. You paint. I loaf.

) t i;hat's what V was trying to stop at all cost the

wastefull, the ho
creative activities -rnsic,? she said, g.lancinp past the fat

candles :and at the sprnt, on t'/hirchl she smetires played

PF)NN PUITi' Ch"3IEzv with one finiPer. u t J shook her head ard

said afrain thanks a million, hut she was tore deaf.

Very wellt-riI rOeyv'd nave to settle witti poetry, V said- ,

standing up. J was a poet, whether sh? li i~edl it or not V
F~f~m-Iii~r ,r). T V~i

liIke it, Sh it hadr sensed her hboyv, it.o!enlt at: once, had felt it

in h-r fgr ins ,the m ,-n- t i-. ,!.-,: she- -i.' cyese rn J in

the mirror t 5G' ;verylodv had a. poetic F treak an ', a o

J had more than the nc:Jt guyv ; poenby J. It was a snall favor

to ask, Aunt V said, it was a pact.

M!om rjidn't say y-e or no, A.\nt V took the snuffer off the

mantle and snuffed out thDe tft candles..She wanted to seal the

p~ct with Pmoi in the dark. But Flpo had put in a new fuse and

suddenly the house ii tiup from top to bottoli!, the TV and the radio

hblared, a fire engine shrieked ad ran mra gc0 : terribly drunk and said

terrhle thin-S.

nAunt V would not give up She kept her head and bought a

notebook hound in pigskin for her love tp :';ite down hr noem.s.
Thuatever else .iunt V had c1bughlt for her hbefore/t iMrm/hid lost.

nBt she di,-] not lose the l].ooseleaf notebook. Tt still exists..

I've seeonit on Aunt V's vanity t-ble T've opened .it more than

once to thl' first hage, thie one single in monm's
Cs awKWta'rd a; i a ; nd .1
ink-loaded huind which is Korrxhi: i.iflnX Jeder Engel

ist schrecklich.
thel language.
T don'; thin!: she know1 s Rm.n'.n. T thin she ,mist have copied

the line frovm a book in the country. bne of the firls who spend

the weekend with them may liave left it behind. She speaks the

language. She used to he a iiAC stationed in Heidelberg which is

one ruin the whole castle bombed out, syslong before the

bo.ib was dropped or invented.

Jeder I'Tngje ist schreckl.ich. I col icd it from the notebook

arnd took ii to the pier in the wind for InBle -G to translate-,

Ihut he s.'idc it could no.vr W e done. The SCiWEiCL was untranslatable.

Ivr ng-l is terrible ThIt. would nover4 do of course,- it
blocked t he raiTH t error. )Dreo;0ful? Tor rifv-ing? ''.: :, -.ama

Ve vwas Iholt ing the scrap of -p-pe- et.:een h"is palns. very anpel is

deadly. Perhors t ;t canme !an closerto the truth, inhpA sm tunw
distort the angel's
nsnmv-n just .close ono'; l,],he feared,to he 1uitesnwonyi'

t-er b i r o -ab'ihig.uit ie s,

Jeler Engel Ist Scihrecklich. Not another line in tha the

whole not:ehook. 'Not another word, though on the -parge ext to

the last there is a small .ctoss in ink in the left corner. I

doubt thlit anyone has notice: the cross. Mom's unwritten poems

are lvinf on the vanitv table and sometirms like myself

Aunt V will o!-in the book and stare at the single line and speak

the first letter.

The transistor under rhy ear has gone- dead. I i;ust have turned

it e-"f in my sleep or switched the dial by mistake to hit

hit a dead spot in the Arctic, Push the knob. SCHRECKIPS l-rOC_-,';:I:!

.C...S.. ..... ..* PIC .IC FOic iuOau iN DAD. SriYS. SUNKISSED jiE iTE.
DO'; -ST S O E S.

S.' G LFLO C l. i2: ) i;: TiE


-I'm sick of you, sick, sick, T hoar mom's voice in the night

rain. Tler voice sounds strange, as if it came from another house,

that e ,,-t'" hoarced-up honse next to ours on the narrow alley.

-Stop throwing the brat oni up at nom she's not my responsibility,

she never was. Get out of my hair, says the voice.

Are they clawing at each other's hair? I hear a murderous scream,

out it comes from thenmp'trrn pier. The brat. The hat. They can't get

me out of their hair. I swish between them hack and forth, I'aI

their idea. Swoosh. I've flown into romi's mouth, Sne swallows me.

She throws e up again.

SYou've got me hbac! in your stink hole.
NVa s
Mom's Voice sounds diffcrcnt, yes. Of s'ch: ;:;rn away fio-i

a long time longer th-n ever. That house next door, a co ndo 'ne

house, Aunt V s\aicl, nnoeCe not n ~ a to live in -h't sho thought it,

iti-ti h s ts .own value. T ried to climb in thron.h a lose hard ,

hut the io-.le was too .small. You car hear the lose board rattle
,thl.urouh oi's voice, yoiu listen, ycu bear the hats screech in

the e'pity hons You ha. r the broken glass and the rain drip

throi;h thne leaks in thh roof.

-The b'-a.t needs. "e like a hole in +bh hea like I. ned you,

fon't fock my head, leave me alone...

-Don't let her or anybody else fuck you head, kid, shel'd

say to me. She'd say ok kid, you do what you like kid. She always

says kid, hut she never says much no me, we don't have the time,

and when she calls me brat she does it to hurt Aunt V. She never
she didn'; mean
hurt me once except. that one time iand then i.t s .ws r.;cfio

to, hut she had a tcr ijhle ,henad! r : : '
r, r. ..


She /was soak in in th hot t'.; b ith the ru'-2 'er inrnit1 Pfro Conev

Ilnri anni a washicloth ; -n ovr;r 'ifr face. 'rom'? fa;'ce ia-s n -""een

mask in rhe steamni;1 I strirj. n5^ ciiribod int thi- tuLb, w. hj
s o F 1 ) : w -l e
her* 1' w s *j -J,- 11 I ar-I a

water spiile oe e 3g o kin The rii "id foll out. omt'S

Ih ad 1 ent. .;ndei :,',', -I pulle it :'ack y t i;e 1 ir, I save. her

from dronirn t I hal scai- t r to ent h. She yel oc she

chased 3 e out an, hurled u cake of f.oap at me hard enocih_ to give

me Ta b.rise o the chin to i'n :,o for days.

Syellow. cake of a.lmond soap shape like an eg. I cauhi. it

an- holc- it. (C stole it. I still have a sl oor's fice Lt:-i
s~ipfCrled o-jr to
lis 1...d .er tho gr on si I ho-.l an ; room, n Ion r *oet tracL'. hotwee77 c n moa or eo "o,
as hou,' v r fo' t were bmisei-I too, -*<: ^'^8*" ''*-- .* '

tW Tve cruise wavs blue a nd purle. Thent it was 4 yello.-. I

knoc:kec on wood, wvisli ng i:txi~'i n I c oiul keep1 t he l)ruise for
But i., -
a long tjime,, thoui'., i. t went caay innms;;"t T.iat ,ai .io cry


'h' hi Fiise was still fOs:h ancd .lowin. when Annt V c"ar horm
with ;t purple li nibreol-n -an; i
after d(1-rk', :- :h n briefcase st n ffe1 full of doeo,: ~n::;r ,?i h:

i.,-r cx-' --Niy poor pr ) ch ild I; she cric(:. anw4. she d?'rppe-: t0

umbrella. -'..:;t happened to your chi.n! ho hit ,:.. !

I said nobho;y hit ime. I c .oo<:a at. aoii -0 ,w- p-rtc '. I

to look a~ ;onarmokeaon '.:A TV, a fis tfight. in thi snow on Gl;, ,

T% ?2, I T ;l' tipped on ry h itlr ooT f o l; ar-1 c-noe :ed ryv chiin .g'ai.n.

ny nrle sqbihm rilne ^ 6 .

On, vyo poo d c -r-: Ai: she skd did I h'irt,

11"' m'uc, ad si hou.I sho .is0 te iruis .way. I i d r

the Inklo.

-J nit sayn Aunt vV tsI to non, -you sh':nl1 have s '.

eye on you;r chilM It's Flo's 'tay off, Tho se hathroom oys a 3ll
over th floor, ;ittle. hi S ia lines and. po:lrp,-. a TI e chil, have broken he. neck. U I- suppose you weren' t in & henn shae

fell. Yo, arp always aay, / ^

hMoifn looTeQic ui f' rom a r e.ort c]hai90 an-1 cliri t.lV a' r,

-I wish iT'd heen a 1way, sihe 'aii to me. -T hit her. I'm a wfuilly


-You didn't 1 Aunt V saiii. -.iow could you hit an innocent chi iI

;-ivt did she ,]o to ,ouT

-',,thin,- sai. r rloni. ;W ."i-- l]ookin -: t each other -TI'm very

sorry it Imppened, she said softlyv. -"eall T'nm sorry,. Sh wVa

still spealkinr to me alone, though her eyes lbd Fgone to Aunt V in

the mirror. --I don't know what got into ie. i wasn't myself.

I fingered the bruise in thei miirror. I s-aid it ,hurt, hu; ro

could not hear me. She hiad turnIe d up thie TV+ Th' 7y 'W vere shooting it

out in the blizzard. Aunt V switched it off. -Of course yon
an all nigitht poker
weren't yourself -'who wonid h after nxa< xnirh 'p;'ilnMx

game andr enough hoilorakers to' s!.nk a l.. lcsip!

-I hiunt ,had, I moan ri i ito t he mirror, 'Bt I lied.

-If yolu must hi soimeody, hiit "me 'ii us to it, Auit

V said1 in '. onO--of doe.l-hurtl. -I'm i baise: all ov er. Noei I re; ind

you? She pulled her "leather kirt nI over her high to sh
blue om rksc

-I sa i.8 I was sorry, iMon said to me. I T.* down- on

my knees?: Sh:e looked beo1ra'glod a;a sad like the y 41w n c'; w'.o

haid followed. Uncle G; to the l.pier i, tChe rain. I love her-.

felt sorry for nothing. Aunt V was 'fi,.;;,:,ring the blue marks
at theI back of
,on her thigh, complaining how th:, ached, and how she had-harely

been able to sit down .a-; h r office desk.
-There,.. there.., 'momn said with a Outn growl and looking

more than ever like thrt sheep doo as she wagged her head and
patted Aunt V's bhok with a grimy paw. Her eyes were yellow,

peering at me through strands of hair, The mirror was dark and wet.

I went to my room. I locked myself in and washed my armpits

with the ;al.ond soap,

Mnom out of the rain and .!ac ~ in the fold chastised,

Aunt V hel ieves ,..oxmnat iro each time momT! has returned from a
another spree at the el event hour .inst as Aunt. V -::;'-: -.'

given her up, though she i miht saiil- ..bechaihsing ..-atr .h,

out1 of Wha' it. She'd be in at thie theirr and otf ti to.n o; mIn

would c la.bhr out of a ca1 and n the stoop though sormetiries

she might nmistakr the c,rnn;:ynd IO sP for ours, and a skr,

the drive- to stop whore nobody 1Lves Se'd knock at thE

boarPded ua t oor, she'd hi's it with both fists in the midsi

of night -Open'up! Let ne i'i w hile Annt V would he cormbin

the bars '- ad V1h the c y orgu t'oo.


-Let me out! I tm i vmould ciry, hammering against the board,

imagining somebody had locked her up inside the dead house.

I lock myself in every night. This worries Aunt V. She

thinks it'p not safe, I r..iglhtn't get out in time in case of a

fire. She has taken away key after key from me. But she never

thought of ~4ag the lock @4-_'and I can always find another

key to my own door. I fish ,'-;: them from the pier with a

magnet tied to a line, The bottom of the river is covered with

keys people must have lost or thrown away. Sometimes I i 'ae

my own old key from the river.

-I want out mom's voice is a splintery echo against my locked


-Calm yourself, dea '-..t. You've barely coir in, ], ct. Sleep...
'^Su ^^^*t <.''(*-
;:c -. -'. i-r i '-- a long rest in ...-:-nost i.n the hills...

IoP't.Sleep. Aurmt V feels safe as ilong as mom is as'

at hore, though she may have tc, pour cold water over he:,

face o wake hert up. But. that was oly when we were/gei "

ready| ti. leave for the country an morn wasn't redsy, she slept

too h"ard or wis away .I was:, ready hourst- ahead with. my satchel,

Aunt as ready, r ::,-.- to leave! before th.e .heavy traffic

out of town, tihci; lwe never did. tt away inrtine, we always

got cau-f -.- tfhe worit traffic, \;:.' said she wo .ld hav -.

The nest. The girls who spent the weekends there wifgl us

gave it all kinds of names like S;AiC-'K.'-Wi'IHOS SACK or SAPPHiOS

SILO. They played ca;np fire name garmes, mon helped them play,

hut I never joined in that game. To me the place was granny-aunny's.
original -1oun -;o up-again, g'- ,:
The nhi farmhouse had, hean burned down, had-been-builit and struck
*p:ni'n ,-. bh lightning,
h;:~r-:.'[:H' .ng ml o r -l i before granny-anny had come down j.'r,:. her
When she arrived there was
mudhut in the Croatian mountain. 2O3xiM:tiimx:i .:,"h',:;l' nj.rj:'rly t

only rinstmnriamrn ~ema the silo I believe she is buried in it,

though Aurt V says her mother was laid to rest in the cir:..tery

next to the old folks home. ..1:.n the weeds grow high in the heat

you see the two melt into one. You'll see an old man swing in a-

swing from ,,and old tree outside the old folks home, with his

silver head flying above the roof porch and his felt sliT,;r:s above
the .mfnihens. Everything is old and and raand silver. You hear a

bird sing in the silver marshes behind the graves. There irises are

b ue. You pick thpem from the border of the marsh, But they ,. -,.

don't last, They soon turn brown andi curl up iike the tj'iirafi; of

newborn babies,

Uncle G never visited Aunt V or me in the country. lie '.':::

allergic to some of the shrubbery, he explained vjhen I askod,

But Aunt V said he never had been invited no man ever was:

The girls vere used to being a:-i themselves, relaxed, sh

said and their natural selves with mother nature.

We'd g their them together on our slowc drive .n;:'' .-I. -C:

through th2 worst traffic jam. t' i true, we usually planned to /
avoid bylav-h early-,'t usually we left late. naemSomething
avoid by 1 l~avrWihfR earlll, 'i' t. us~uallv we lofl. l.a te, BncTssSometotb~ingT

was sure to delay usi ,i.-: might bee sleeping late. She mightn't

even he home. Or Aunt V might not. he home, having been delayed

at the office, unable to shake off an unwanted client who refused

to believe her when she insisted that the hoarded up house on the

alley was not for sale.

iWhy should a convey itional salesman with a wife and children

in Iiackensack set his heart on a condemned house which had

no obvious value except to us becausee it assured us of privacy?

Aunt V might demand. Could it be that he had come upon mom

there in the night rain as she had hammered her fists .g :;-i'.-t the

boards, shouting to let her An, to let her out?

-Maybe it isn't the house he's after. Maybe he's after you,

she said to mom. %I'm only Uoking, she added after a moment.

Rut her face was tense behind the wheel as we were crawlin.g through

the sticky traffic. I was sitting between her and moiorm I was

wearing my cotton dress printed with poppies. I wondered if

Olli would notice that- it- was a new dress,

-May I suggest, ma'm, said mor, peering over her dark glasses

across me and Aunt V, -that we bury the little old hatchet till


The poppies were in her dark glasses. She reached across me

and squeezed Aunt Vits arm. -Don't hug the wheel,she said,

-'.ol.n driver

She was in a cheerful mood. I squeezed her arm, We never

scer.ird to get out of the city, The only time we picked up speed --!s

when Aunt V passed through a red light. If mom were driving we'd-

go faster than the wind. But morn was resting and hanging her

hr--.; out the window into the wind .'
** J< W "lC .

h\e creep along bihumptPr to 0bmirper. '. make endless detours to

pick up the girls I as5k would we ever get to the country and:.
z 'Ie h.- I .
can't the tiee of us there by iurslevezs I :..:: three but I thin-

four -r' five. I-t-himn .-of 011i and granny-anny.

Aunt V frovns at a- three-way light and says, -ple:;e don't

complain to me complain to four mother, she makes the arrangement,

without the girls along you wouldn't get her out of the city, not

ovdr her dead hody.
It opened up in the back.
The car is long and black. ". l lcr;I '.ir ; i I.ri t n.. -:.-
Mom calls it the paddy wagon. The girls call it the -:-l-.,'oThey

are in great spirits. They give the V sign and pile into the hack

with their duffle hags, crash helmets, first aid manuals and base-

ball bats, Hiya, old boy! They slap mom's back, iThh-y kiss Aunt

V and me.

They smell of sandAl wood shaving lotion. At last we will be-

heading for the hills. But instead we are heading for Brooklyn

Aunt V almost forgot to pick up Q. It is mom who has to remind
J ? // .,. 1" I : ',
her s1 rply. I don't mind Q, she is the former WAC out of the
ruined i.idelherg castle. Perhaps that's why she never ready: for

us in time. Site's i" lived too regimented a life say the girls.

Mom says nothing. She stares ip to the turret in Brooklyn

Heights, the Q's face Q :. -ti: .-.:.i-- UNa=ma there pink and white,
draped with r-..'. 1...' dripping we in the peaked window.

-I won't he long. I still have to put on miy face,

The face has disa' Mol keeps staringg up to the emp-ty

window in the t. .L Y;:; : turret,

The girls pass the chewing. ,;-:. They are in great form. Th'y

exchb:nic jokes while they time Q. Not-ove-n-Q-ea-n--take--that--nig-

to-put a-f ace on-,. they all cc -cide. She must he hanging on the

phone again, talking long distir.Ue to her clergyman father in

Boonsville, Missouri, begg:;i; for his permission to spend the

weekend out of town-., ..?- -.. '. v

/ -I'm not going to wdt any longer. She is welcome to take the

bus Aunt V is releasing- the emer'gncy brake.
1 J- '../7 -
-YoM"'-I: wait, morn says, still staring up to that story book

turret of the Brooklyn castle in the clouds. But when Q comes floa-
ting out of the'dmtanr arched doorway in what must be hoa nightshirt

as it isxayihxtbegthmalnd long and so transparent her body shows

underneath silvers and pink morn ha:rl:y. glances--at-her-,

-You'd think she'd-have sufficient time to put .t --_lit.

some clothes on, Aunt V says to nobody. ''Thn she turns her head

to mom, rarely avoiding an uror'ing truck as she says, -I can't

get over it that anyone should have his eyes on a worthless
unless of course...
ramshackle housexn5, .c::y .i :. ::.i.. ....

Mom says,- -T':e in your lane., or we .:-l1ihave b h accident,

The sky is in her dark glasses. BehinO me Q's long hair

flaps wet in the breeze. She says she felt castrated when she had

it cut off for the WACS, She hated the arry.She only joined because

of the cultural opportunities it nlB0gmxd offered to one like herself
was spj:"--- ncd bV ..C /'
who ,r..'.: the bible belt, -I'Td--ot out of rmy. OD's and play

princess in"~ birthday suit in the many-chambered ruins of the

Schloss. That's Ger.n n for Chateanl--rc-u.,

She suddenly starts to giggle hystericnlly, The g:,

bo'.:nc'r like marblc-s on ceiment t.


-Stoned again, says Aunt V.'

Q keeps on gi,:t.'ing while she leans over my shoulder .

Her hair. throws rain drops on me. She drops a box of Trrk.'
Delight into my wide ]ap.On the glossy lid a beautiful fitro-ig~ lady

embraces her Ocn collie Both smile. The lady has a red poppie
of uncle G .
stuck into her black, glossy hair. I wonder why she makes me think?

-I really bought it for your granny. I'd forgotten she's dead.

Now Q sobs against T's enormous bosom. T is the girl who is tearhin,;

her Arabic. They both are planning to go native in the Sahara

desert -8 ce mdad rmnmes"~rim

The candy is sweet and chewey. It sticks to my teeth. I think

of granny-anny's many-chambered cellar, her mil-n jam pots there

on the high shelves. I can't wait to get to the hills and talk to

-her in my head under the plum tree

-Dead, dead, sobs Q.

-Stoned out of her head, says Aunt V. -Don't stuff yourself,
Save -.. -- ,r
,B. *Map some for pmunmliat me.

The nahiif winds sells of shaving lotion and dry leaves.
Soon we shall see the silo.
'n:-:.:,.::,iamingmsiee The sky has filled out withnthe hills

green and yellow. Red apples roll from a roadside stand onto

the road. They roll across the E;sy and through the yellow
., p ns ,;(- shades.
dust fO .n imo's '':\r


singing. She pulls a clean handkerchief from her dumgarcas and

hands it 'to Q without looking at her. Everybody is.singing.

ic;.:i TOl-; BALLS 0F iO:. 1.- T.O. O,. ,i erybody las'he ;w- n son:;.'

I make up mi own words .-i tunes. I bl re the loudesti O MS
DJLL', W 1e all are watcbhi r' for thb fi. .xn.'-t2.Nt..xthe. sil ) .


We are rattling across a bridge. I don't care to see what's

below me, ravine or river. Heightts give me a sick headache. So

I look straight ahlicil at the winding dirt road and then sideways

at mom to watch for the silo in her (:. la glasses.

But all I can see is a bush. A dog i-s--howling. Aunt V, taking

a curve to fast, has t;k:c., half a bush along. The collie limps off

through the whirling dust. Q has slumped forward and graced itwh

mom's shoulder with both hands

Now we are crunching across the gravel and arrive with a

bang. Aunt V has smashed into our rural mail box.

/I minor incident. No broken bones. Just a splintered old

pole and a squashed aluminum hox with the junk rail spilling out

of it onto the gravel.

I-'m sorry, Q. I hopa I didn't frighten you, Aunt V says


-Drop your cocks and grab your socks I moin annom'.I:e.

She jumps out of the car, and helping, Q out, she exj f th-rtt she.

picked up the phrase during reveille on a destroyer bound for

Atlantic City or was it Atlantis?
Don't be vulgar.
-Iin. :..:I.....,I:.J'ian.-'g. Aunt V inspects the dented fender

Then she searches for the igiitio )}2y she dropped Always

0s41 lose/ keys, she mnwmia rtwnw ,. Tonight Sadin of

lost keys.



CLi.. i CLOGGjXUP iiO.; .:I. GLOjIU) I S .it iuj-d OF FAiLLEN LEAViP

r- Rake through the fail and iig through the spring'. The days get""

dwvveer' shorter. The lists au r e gets longer. '..- Aunt V licUs

the pencil tip and adds: tW..'ll:OXI KEYS, ?Q? CHECK LOCK OF

There isnoee end to the weekend chores that need be done to

keep the place in shape, to put me into shape, she says, searching

for the bathroom scales. But I have hidden then emhaindrl in the woods.

I am to rake up the leaves. But I won't lift a finger, unless mom

asks me to, and of course she never asks me for anything. Sue

too won't lift a finger. Aunt V says we act like ouecn bees and that

includes Q. Aunt V thanks the go.J lord that the rest of the

girls don't shirk their duties. In fact they clamor for iannbi

activity. They work themselves into a state of near collapse for

the sheer love of it. Soar'miascles, housemaid's knees and twisted

backs don't spoil their fun. On the contrary, their aches and

pains at the end of a day gives them a sense of real achievement,
re, hea lth.

Thqy are rearing to get things done. Barely have they

arrived when thehtear off their shirts and roll up their pants
head ""
and' n .~an; across the lawn for the tirdMSKhe toolshed which used
granny, anny's (dy,
to be a privy in tl,.." :.1 .., All day th--: %"-w they're at it,

di,:-in, rmaineaering, axing, h ulin: rocks from an abandonec

rl:i-ry behelind the green hrook!; c;' They split the rocks to

pave the V-slhaped patio under a sudden windfall of far' ripe

plums, O m 'y ahin hack. They moan with pleasure. Aunt. V means'

loud enough for mo~ to hear, Blut bmon has stopped her ears.

Everyone is sore and contented. At nightfall they will drop

their tools and take brisk showers or sauna baths and give

each other ruh-dowhns with baby oil. Then supper and slow

dancing to iDEATHi & T'tiie MAIluJN.

Shoobird is Q's passion. The record is playing now as she

floats about in her diaphonous m~ihea dream gown, gathering

the fallen plums into a wire basket. They slip through the wire

mesh aA-4rqp hack onto the torn-up patio. The basket remains

empty. But she does not seem to awp"f"t Moim is sitting

on an upended barrel, drinking granny-anny's hand cider from

an old mottled jug. Her eyes are hidden behind the dark shades.,

She may he looking at Q or at nothing. -'. ,-' ....

-Do you khow your daughter is a woman lover? somebody,

maybe Olli's mother .,v- said to granny-anny as she was walking out

of the sticky mill:veedrr and into the grocery store with a

shopping,' basket. Granny-anniy hook her head, baffled. Then

she removed her hearing aid and spit onto the saw dust, still'

baffled or uncbo:;:i ;chencin,: but also alarnrd, perhl.::: because $,

empty 4/<-
Mom is asleep upstairs in the/bathtub behind drawn yellow

shades. The noon sun is standing a. .top the silo. Q's hair is
white and yellow strearnm of light, by a
-'.... i r ..'-'. -; .. -"'. ".'"': She is standing raw.a ladder,
wearing mom's dark shades s: she points
r1.::':.:.r.;; the silo with z'arAiA brrhimred hearts. Some hearts she pQ

leaves empty, some she pierces with arrows and initials with Qs and
Mol's shades are too big for her. When they slip down
Ts, !: '., & i ., : .-- n .';...: nkna : -., -.l iin ,;:!<.;n her nose rnS.i she pushes

them up with a shrug of the shoulder. She puts the paint on

much too thiik. The hearts drip blood. I watctr Aunt approaches

with a pair of pruning shears. Don't mess with the silo. It's the

flagpole that irods to be painted. tha Shee sounds angry. I wait

for her to a *'f4 Q's rda streaming hair wiAt -. i.- ??

SI But ~i6n he sees the initialed hearts and pats Q4-bot oi.

[ / Good girl.

I go inside and down to the cellar for privacy, iw-

anny jva_ p"- There is no privacy. The old wonan who pretends to
be granny- anny is counting the jam pots. Aunt V hired her to take

care of the house after they put granny-anny to rest in the silo,

and she gave her all off her old clothes to make her look liko
-/'< ": and skirts -
granny anny. But even in er- black siawls she doesn't fool Ime.

She fools the girlsQ xti:;. i : .c i.. :;-t i: they call her',
not her
I call her nothing. It's iie-who sleeps; in granny-anny's toctm
slept there.
I always have. I used to have a cot next to her bed ,anr1 tNo' I

can sleep -n her bed on a cloud of goose feather under her

old hlanke;so : ; '
The rton smels of gr'ni ny-anny'v i r silVe polish. The ~ ;nmi.n

ikon over ;he e i3e b: .0 to--5ieh- l owa in the dark. e linen

chest under ]-the. -creened-in windows i~i- pai. 0-with red hearts.


Granny-anny's life is in that chest I have explored it. I have

explored the da-rning; e-,., which mrt -r many eggs, one fitting

into the next and all of them painL d alike to resemble ,

Sc a ..... girl in granny-aIry's ig s+~wl and apr.on, You

twist it open at the waist and out drops an egg seller and yet

the same. So far I have found seven ,a-M, There must be more,

The smallest will not open. But something moves inside it. I've hear

it move.

The chest smells of old wool and ITurkish Delight. I've gone

through it a hundred times. At night when the girls are dancing

ticarather c wns rs to D)EATH & THE MAI DEN, I try out the plastic

,hearing aid which is lying; on a skein of wool as in aneost.

It sputters and crackles like my transistor. Tt blots out all

outside noise. I sit foi c--., rummaging through granny-anny's

life. Th i ..'_i::l.:: tunleaptot k kiss the cocoa-colored photo

oriur:: nr: cf her hnn husband because his face reminds me of Uncle QG

A black mi:stache and hirning eyes. I can't believe that he was always

sickly, with a weak cle:;-t. She said he barely survived when they

crossed over steerage to the new corld. She thought the Stites

would make him well, but he got worse, r'V:'..- ..:''1: before the year

was up he had crossed overi',.r:i :r.".;:. into heaven, -oy

.hw .r...s .

Dried r(illkweed pods A ticket stub to the circus. A tZ-R:tiN:m

sribhsm spool of lavender tlhrendO, And folldd lengithrise inside a

pencil box O-T" .'. ... :: fr n'- thoC JMe vndcrs of

!.. ... -,Con addressed to a.. it may c'oncera- :o.' rcolpinim ing
fnr her vi. : (
gri'r;any-anny A rm s'loyalad trirl .i -. .o -
/ \

service as first miaid an second cook witth the iavniOx AC lvenders

in Mystic Co.

The hearing.aid is carrying on inside my entlthe way it used to
C 4a1rm.!lxammgranny-a nny.ria. Aunt V had forced the gadget on her

and though granny -anyy protestedxsh:3xblar,?x that she heard more

than she cared o hear, she yet gave in and wore it to keep the

peace. They had enough argu:-nts as was, what with Aunt V's

refusal to malk'e up with one of her husbands .ike a good Christian

and raise a large family. Tranny-anny wished for dozens of grand

children. But all3 she had was me, As for her only son, bacrmac

sIiabEdxta.numxnammafinnmamr.iiham.vnl. ie lacked the drive to find him
qnjdi free meals and
self a wife. He played the accordiar for/handouts, i:- :;i-:" :',

at a Hungarian restaurant on Third. She had gone there once to eat,
She said wasn't fit
but. never again. The food they served wasr!,liit'for the pigs rrshbami !,d.
ahart'milnmt m and she
'h-::' I 2. minnrd'mua 3Ihmt( &Ui dx trnTixt ma nxhte 'mihm-{E..K *
in the first place
never would have gone there r i i. .1, if the hearing aid h;;:i't told

her to go.
For that gadget had from the f..n o talked with a voice of

its owvn, as if a dimiinuitive devil vere crackling and cadlirg inside

her ear, putting had thoughts into her head, spreading lies.
to test her endurahce,
Yet she. continued to use it tcehmonletruntriUi., she had it pl'u;ged-

in as we were a'i, through the nilkw-ed stalks in the morning

drizze .. A nmaon in a yellow sli.cler came j.'i ling out from behindc

c. /.
,and said in a crackly voice did she know that her daughter was a

woman lover. I'd heard of him he'd unzip his fly to scare the
saw it I told it to l0li,
little girls, I :L:, ., e (L.i*, ali 1: ,' lie said the ran was.
a pervert hammniuama lad been shot up in the war. His fadce was

hanging froin the dripping tree like a half-eaten pear. -A woman

lover, he c-&e:I
one your piece of land, ma'm,

Qranny-anny shook her head, baffled. Then 'she stamped her

foot and spit on the ground, and jci rin,; the plug out of her ear

she cursed the hearing aid in Croatian and Eglish for having b

bothered her with stupid talk just once too often. You rotten

little devil.The plague on you. We 're through. And she made as th

though she'd hurl tihe gadget into thexw~ri lavender milkwee!. But

instead she, thrust it into her black scratched-up old pnrsc.

She ditift- hold me by the hand on the way hone. Shie loct- ime

run ahead of her through the drizzle. It wvast b till an hour later

that she arrivc-.! soaking wet. Aunt V was waiting for her o: the

porch to announce that halg of the country fresh eir: had, h 3en
a ,a in
delivered broken, and the other ha.lfiw": rotten tqti. A-l

grannyanrny merely .wave her hands and sa W: gluv which is ?roatian

for deaf. r .. c..4. .

Then she" W"Oit to the kitchen to I nn;,Ai andd balk

crumbly dcl.i- u. pastry filled with three different kinds of

her home-rade jam.a She let me licdk the mixing bowl, but she

saI 'i little i f s'-" aid anything, an'id h S;he he :i into the,

Pdyn -'tninqv rncm she -;,, n '. ni, .....'-' : not- sit- dE

with us, She iani nerly w.aite on us, closeplop',thic ande for:. -' as

if she vw'er working ;::i '; as a hired maidi/G;t the Lavenders! -

She hows. She passes' the bsrad and changes the plates and pours

the winee and the water. k-mvA Aunt V uneasy. Thee knife dropf

out of her hand onto the floor and their headscollide briefly

as they booth stoop down to retrieve it. For Christ's sake,' mama

cut it out! .xunt V has blushed, -i-.,. '. li~ ~: wfrr?- Sit down,

mama. Eat, she says, pointing the knife at granny-anny's empty

seat at the head of the table. But granny-anny says ;luv and

shuffles off to the kitchen to ea.t by herself. iln.': Aunt V ta-

the knife to her glass as if she were about to make a speech, KAW

the girls pick at their food glum and oevbarrassed.
rBr It'P' the same story at dinner. S1heamrait wilt not share

the meal with us, no matter how much the girls beg hanri for her

company. And every time before entering with another hot platter

under tbh embroidered napkin she knock5.lthough the door is

standing wide open.

The drizzle had turned into pouring, rain. The girls are h vinvg
They have rolled up the Turkish
a ball to) DEiTil & THE iADEN A ,'Ni:.-orn;?nalh mkicaQnnmithxiacny,
rug in t:e living room which Aunt- V calls the fun room,
anny But gran-..

anny calls it t-. -i saloon. ,,r are having our usual game of
monopoly though she insists that we play in the kitchen. She has

shut the door and while I set up the board and Bo'tno";
count .ut thous-,,c's. of -dollars in tov money

a swig o.' slivovitz right from the hottln, the way morn .,;:,
shiM .r vC l iko s to
t, inks It's not granny-a n' y I's way. She uI;:::,~lay sips
from a s aot glass ; ., 1,,'.,.;. ;.. ,. But not ,ing

is the name tonight, not even ou : .*. For thouh sh" alwa'

,.n.. ")"

like Aunt V does in real life, tp a _. + l she'a always

let rin he the winnerl St toi. ht she will beat inm, I o.

Tlk, face is dssappearing, fast behind I .: .;.:Icn :ilc of mo cey

and when it mer igedi into the light, it is riot her face. For she

has taken her dentures out. And as she titles hack her head and

opens her mouth to drink I see the dark empty tunnel.

IHer cheeks have caved in. The eyes are black watchful slits

and the white haiir is like wisps of grass under the green-
r:t: ji hack and forth with the
shaded amn which s :i.ys f r., tkixhibo .': i:, ". ~:;rr:';-,- -ithm

distant echo of the thunder iid-4-n lls.

-You are making me .loae! I wvarn. T start to cry. Jl*t she

merely gri.ns that ttohlcss grin and taih pra3n:themnxmwiS;rifmmxtjh

)a-tiW and takes awavy my last hotel froi me. Then she takes

a hig swig from the bottllo while she buys up two country club,
qnd a banl:
:ti:'Wim:i.i~ .r:: s, and the boardwalk in Atlantic City.

-You :.ook like a witch. I hate you., T bate you IT soh,

At that mornment the door fl ies ope n in the w.ind. The money flies

in a.1 di:-ection, and mnu:.wic comes blaring wvny fast and .lud

fro the .tiun room where the girls are dancing a Scottish reel to

a Croatial records a

It', granny-anny's record. She claps her hands. She flips

the empty bottle over her shoulde' into the garbage, and singing
imus ic
the words to the ranam she gets up ans bursts in on the girls

in the fun roo;:i, where all .the lights e 1 v- :i. tcfhed off and the

only light comes : :' dancing red from tho hig fire in 'the

big fireplace.

-("Keep ~iranci ng r,-l.1i lic a. o to- c- there! shel: cries,
For the girls hvc nt-,--.- nc. ing and stand cornered against

the wall .I vhile she hops alone o, the floor6, clappingU ...I.4....[i

hr. i:.h sin-ing !-1 s, ih .;e bac of her long wide
skirt drown up over head a nd er l _egs in the long gray flaninels are

C likce a hi,; r-,; doll's et m, ra-.; rsnm. At one point she is so

close to the flams I think sh will jump int o the fire. But already'

she ha S. Hard: into the shadows, jeYex x Xm

-Come on .. young ladies!. L.,nce! u~by aren't you dancia .;1

-Stop it, ~ina iau'nt V las jumped up from the couch where she

had ea lyin,1 vith her head in iom's lap. Moi] ins h acked out.

of coIurse0,.S isn't there. -P lease m;a Stop it!

n "ut granny-a. y Inug.s ...x .st.i.,.tafb.oi.~l. and when Aunt V

coimecs, near her per hI.> p?. to grr; her arri, she reaches out and

snlap otr dw r twice acCoss the iouth with the back of her hand.
I no W dancilig
An'ld t inxc only ~ia does she stop vclmanr am3- SuTe pulls th?

skirt down and opens the; windos,to let tle smoke out, she says.,
to nohbody
The room, ha r-".-.v i.nhefmi.f, reeks like a vlwhore house.
/ ''hen as though, nt.hins out of the ordinary had oecuirelr.she

.,r-a e.tyi-,- t-afrs ays agnd
ban. ci'g the fire. The rain has stopped. TIhe stars are hanging

bright a'nd, cold in. the windi w, t. -

4~/ I- ~Ai O~

Someone has thrown white paint at the silo. The Q-T hearts are gone. Bat

one arrow remains. Q has washed her hair and stuck her head into the

rain barrel for a rain water rinse rain turning hair softer than

silk, as it is made by weeping angels, she says, man though at home she

uses a vinigar rinse or the yolk of an egg. Iam because the Brooklyn sky
is so polluted. All this she explains to T who is crouching at her feet

in the weeds like a huge warty toad. But she is gahin~/arip a gentle toad.
She gently picks up Q's little foot to paint her toe nails with silver polish -
each toe nail a miniature ikon. I'll never forget says T with a raucous

laughter, how you wrapped me up in your long hair when we had our first

gogo in BANGS' lavabo five thousand years ago. Not quite as long ago as that,

coos 0. A pidgeon flirting with a toad. She has been saving her disability
checks from the Wacs so sh4 and T may sing *hr.-.h the Arabin ri-t.-
prosperously in the guise of two queer sheiks. They'll travers the sandy

waste on a dromedary built for two and sleep in a tent, they plan to leave

next month. But next month they will still be where they are with
their wonderful plans and inx~L..: the WAC checks, and camping equipment.
Harumph. Mom is noisily clearing her throat and spitting tobacco

juice from an upstairs window where she has installed herself as in a swing.

She seems to be rocking in midair. The bathroom windoI makes an orange sail

above her head in the wind. Her dungarees are splashed with white paint.

She hugs one knee to her chest, and knocks the ashes out of her pipe, and keeps

ra2;ing the pipe bowl against the 1;.n?-i sill even as it is empty. But

Q&T don't notice her. They are tsamxrna deep in the desert sand, up

to their chins. Be sure to take extra blankets. The nights will be freezing

cold. But what of the burning hot daystQJ's delicate skin how will it

takmb am stand up against the fierce sun? Don't fear, says T. I'll carry
a parasol for my peachblossom pal. As for my skin, it's thick. Besoldcu I'm

trying tomgrow a beard.

Harumph. Mom spits starts a new pipe and blows perfect smoke circle into

the sky. But Q can't admire them as her face is under the vet veil of her hair.

Our pilgri 3e will lead us where? she asks through the veil. I'll stain my skin

with freshly squeezed walnut juice We'll prostrate ourselves in every other

mosque we pass. You'll have your beard. But I too shall pass as a boy and the
moslems won't mind if I pray with you in the direction of Mecca.
T says she has bought a whole lotS of maps at a bargain price.

Q says her father sent her a christmas check in advance when she told him

long distance that she was going to do missionary wotk with a girl friend

in Saudi Arabia.
Mom's legs are swinging from the bathroom window while Q chants throtlu her

hair how she and T will make a team like the late Bartons, Sir Francis and

his sainted I of the Arcadian Nights.

Aunt V way up at6p a ladder, smoking out a wasp nest at the back of the
house. Nom in the bathtub, asleP ~,i the HiFi blaring Q's Death and the Nah! ,
WII days as an air raid
V is wearing th gasnask she has saved from her dax n~ i~
warden sector cocs~nnder BANGS' district.

That record, death or Mr.Bones cl .r:ig a poor little housemaid right into

her grave, I hate it, I've smashed it once, but they found a new one which is

already scratched like the old one. I flee through cluaps of scarlet dhalias

away from the house which juts out heavy and black in the back stn likes gramnn,

anny's backside when she turned it to the girls in the firelight and told

them in Croatian to kiss it.

Granny-anny kiss my fanny. I thumb my nose at Mr Bones Aunt V

in the smoke. She won't see me through the smoke she'll never know I am
not raking up the leaves the way she told me to or doing push-up for my waist

line or reading Oliver Twist. She won't know about 011i or my talking in

my head to 6garhiy-anny. I can t'do many things at. the-~P-re -time,- 1 walk away

from the house andsstay right there under the tree where granny-anny was
( A /A
mEr.ring knitting a long black shawl, always the same, shawl to cover us all.
E a Her legs were full of swollen veins, a whole geography of rivers mountains,

skin marble white amid blue waters, she showed me the spot where she was born in
t ^.' (.. s c-,
the mountain s, the forests were huge,the rocks full of wandering gypsies ,

and in this monastery-here, she said (pointing at a mosquito bite between two

valleys) there was armonastery where the monks let you drink from a well which

cured arths-tia., varicose veins and distemper.

The I c~ black shawl, smoke drifting towari- the sky as I run away, each time

for ever I think. And I stumble over the same root always and never fall, -I dis-
,S:- ,-, ,,(:L- '- -. C'
cover the birdnest that fell off artree last year, it still is there though

I had picked. it up and taken it-rith-ame to the city, still .ere it is in
the uncombed weeds./No nothing has changed,;

i/K tired little old butterfly white and yellow hanging on to a milkweed stalk.
tirgd maybe
Too tmadriam mxto fly~ off, even as Olli jumps out of the bushes to scare me, he

.does it every time, I pretend I am scared I am scared. He has been fishing

in the stream. I cans tell him by the fish.smell from a great distance. Daddy-

long legs scrrying swiftly across a tuft of moss. 011i-tread-lightly I

call him. His big toe sticks through his soiled sneakers. He leap]up against

my back and asks where shall I put the groceries, ma'm? Old joke between him

and me. He said it first when he pulled up with his father's pick-up truck
with the groceries for Aunt V. The groceries our code work in the beautiful

S---- 89

p1 Ip il do
stink weeds, skunk cabbage, dwarf colonels too in-smallbaigts. We always li.-:

it standing up in the same spot ManMxt&+_.a;~ ai almost in earshot of Aunt V.

I call him daddy. Bend down, he said, quick, no time to take your underpants

off, just lean over, I'll push them aside and squeeze it in, quick or they'll
"t A ^* C '
catch us, we'll be catching he4;, no, don't lie down, stand, quick.
The first time my head was getting so dizzy I didn't know if I was coming -

or 6ogns where, I almost dropped, but I stood. My face all swollen Up the day
Aunt V asked what happened; child? &/-?d. &
after, I rma:_r23 bnd said I had-f-allen into the poison ivy. Dizzy it- went too

fast, I drowned. He said I was a real cutie.

What if Aunt V chanced by to dump some garbage in the bushes to avoid

p umtftig pollution of her swim pool, what would she do if she saw her big fat

baby do-it--like that every-day, I laugh like crazy, I feel him

deep inside me, his-thing inside me is my baby,. it fills me up, I want

it to last for ever, in and out soothe as can be, sometimes I grab it
from his pantl and shake it before I turn my back for our pleasure, he-doesn t

even suspect that Ixem .aaBhernimmianm it is really uncle G I Ilove, G-doesn t
o, I- ? .. ..--. ---- -
suspect. 0 Olli, once he wanted me to go down on him and suck it but I said

never, not if he were the last man on earth, I must-have him inside me or

not at all. He walked away, the next day he was embarrassed, we never kiss,

no times, I-like-it natural, ws-do-=it like the animals thouI I wonder -

how it feel to have him on top, he's big and red 9nd fast, in school he'~
slovwsays )his father, but Aunt V thinks the-world of him, Aunt-V. once dropped

a ten dollar bill in-the store ani never would have noticed bu he picked it

up for her when he might have stolen it, she gave him a quarter and said

he-a.e presidential material7 ci V-. < --

President Olli McCoffrey, today we do it longer than usurl in the webbed

light I wonder if Aunt V should catch us, would she tell his father, Flo
te)niece my having been
told about Baem:ia knocked up by a honkie, she asked Aun V for a loan to

pay for abortion, Aunt V gave her theemoney and said if that happened to her/

little B, if her little B were mmam raps 1maxm taken advantage off like

hb_-..ue Fio's little niece Roselinda, 'sae'd go after that brute and tear out

his testicles with her bare hands, so help her god. God Olli goes smoothly,
my juice is zmngibn piping like a bird, sometimes we meet nights, more time,

but never undress, then I go back with his juice on my this and sleep
in granny-anny's bed, the juice in the morning dried on my skin like fish

scales. I can dream myself to-slep in the morning while the wind is

roaring through the cockpit of the schooner. I'd like to strip and lie with

him, both of us naked, but he says it's too risky, his dad, my mom, my ass,
Olli he asked was it true we ran a nudist colony on granny-anny's old farm.

Some guy his name was Guy was flying low over our land s~hfthmi in his

little plane his job was to spray usmasm underbrush anmlxzh kill useless

nature so the neighbor's farm could have soai useful pasture land, guy, flying

low enough to see, said he saw thrim the girld jump about in thd raw

and sl.irnidl y in the swim pool and sun bathe nakedy nude &zmm on Japanese

mats like rows of skinned sardines. Olli asks me was guy kidding I said
we are a health club and-it- s'a one of his business.

No I won't alloy him to-climb .he huge oak and watch-them, what for, he's

mine, I never skinny dive, I o0 go into the pool alone in my white dress to

drown, and granny-arny-she once went in with me up to her hips in her big

navy blue bloomers.

DEATH & THE MAIDEN. I swear iI-ehear it-now. Quick, now, 011i's breath

hard and fast on the back of my neck, his mnuth teeth in my hair NOW

I swear, he says, you got rinky hair like a nigger. Sure your mom didn't
At night .11 cats are black
make a mistkae. Maybe. l~Ir'>: .miulxi L.a:.: wy dad is dead, I say, and

he was a big clack bucaneer from Croatia.
You kidding me? He's zipped up his fly. Olli the reddest, red fuzz on his

arms, his chin. His chest I don't know. Red lashes, cedar rabbit cyco. Qaick

as a rabbit always. My long moan has put out the sun.

4ie1- on'duide'rstand-whya--keepVmoaning. The rusted beer cans, soup cans,
the smashed bottles that lie in enchanted heaps all over around us, begin

to hum. Small insecri humming, I sit down on s pinxnaax torn piece of

foamrubber, bemnants on an old discarded mattress, maybe Aunt V's, I hug my belly

and ask, tell me, do you -really- love me Olli. He tells me yeah, sure, you're
a real cutie. He spits on his hands, slicks down in red pompadour into an I4ish

yamoulka and says I'm really cute, -and n-y-he'd better get on his bike and back

to the store before his dad finds out.and-rai;:e .hcl.
Always on the run, my Olli. I hold my belly in my arms. I cradle my

warm belly and say, Olli, Olli, what if I'm going to have a baby?
What? 'WiJA? He wipes his hand against the shiny seat of his pants and

stares at me. Mouth hanging open. Hakes him look stupid. WIAT?
A cuddly fuzzly olli baby bear in the forgets far away. I have three -ishes.

I 'd like a baby. I hug myself and rock myself on the foam rubber rock. I want.

You off the rocker orzsomething?$But he sounds z scared, sy,;.
L -l i / ---- -" '-
'I must be kidding, the_two of us' just-kids. He kicks a bloody ketchup bottle,
breaks its neck, he flushe redder than red down his red windpipe and sayd,

Gee B, I mean, like I mean,like I say I mean you're not taking chances are you I
mean ge*oe.66 fc6 j(> fl l-
C)F- '
a i^ >ft */ **-

Poor lover Olli squil-rin', worming, stammer stumbling, purple throat

bloated fuzz of almost man- beard standing on end. Like I mean like I say now

you listen Bil mean -4MAi /Shit .

Olli 01lii. You cut your big toe on tt-ketchup bottle. Look, yo /-r

bleeding Olli. Your -to- is bleeding.
(i dl 'j h/ j / ^^-i- ^ -.c-
Vothing,--just ketch-uYp, look-thre B don't-tell me-you've been we've been

doing it like you know what all this without you taking whatever girls take, you're

not going *o do that to me, mAN, fuck you, we've been doing it like that, maybe
l .. ,e 1 iS.
you been doing it with other boys, how do-I know.. 4 /
t. ..'..< ,< <--- -- "= ' He wants to go for his bike, poor Olli, I'm dreaming of a big wedding cake

and mom's old wedding gown she never wore, Uncle G my best man, also the bride,

groom,. no lli in the picture, and'By wedding bouquet is made of hte-and

purple c: rc I'm toesing my bouquet into the air. If Ltoo wou 1

catch it, who will?

t ketchup on my toe. I really sustyge0 Moew-

-'Go, I say, C.ago ,,-

First tell me you was kidding, s.. 7 l

I-was -kiding, 0111i- c --

Why you sitting like this holding your stomach? You sfick?onm ahbing

A'ust-kidding- Olli. I got the cramps, nothing wrong, meet me tomorrow, no

tonight, I- ta'- the pilln six times a day, grandma is calling, I must find

myself a texico tampa tex. Mom calls them cunt rags, that I won't tell

you 011Oi. I too have my secrets and my homelife is not-lknown to. everyone. iC
'- !^-^. *I, J / -. /v
-- We got some tampex on sale in the store. Your-me--you-want-it tonight? (GL'/, "

Tonight with my blood,

,. --. -c'--, c- .*- -t-.

And now my lover beams like god's sweet morning and steps behind
a tree to piss. The jet arcs crystal clear. He shakes off the last drop,

beams brighter. Relieved. Jumps on his bike. Everything in apple pie order.

Take ito easy. More's the word. See you at the stroke of midnight. Tonight.

I aquat above his puddle and try to piss too. But nothing comes. The spider web

between to speckled leaves is hung with his dew drops. The red tail lights of

his bike blink at me as he pedals off down thfSandi the dirt road Look. No hands.
His dad has pronirsed him a motorbiks if he graduates from highschool this coming


Thee same old fire roaring in the big chimney in the country parlor or salon.

No granny-anny visible. Mor squatting like a Mexican by the brickwall, her head under
a poncho on which rows of little men black and red stand guard on mmm red and black

stripes. Q in the cellar, stoned on MJ, imagines herself in a secret underground

passage of the enchanted castle t Heidelber on the Wac. I. hear her sing the

&re nd ie, I hope she'll le~the-ja pots alne. They-re-i. How long Cas

she-been down in the cellar? She is a weaving a piece of gold cloth on an in;.;lr..',

loom with her lo-c h~}-r t'h x hair.
Aunt V laiaft opposite T each installed in a huge leather chair by the
on the rug by the Lrandfaither clock.
fire. The leather squeeaks. I'm sitting opr a5l M "2=g r'"ua hrrz:3'.:~ w3i~hcg
I mi-ra t=be inside that clock. Tictoc. Nobody sees ra,

<- -ifti I have an even stranger story, says Aunt V to T, and I wonder what

st5range story I iyAi; ave missed. -Listen to this, she says, I had a typist work

for me last year, a. .re girl, straight as straight can be, divorced or widowed ,

SI forgot. I do remember she had an lover, a young Irish fellow, she mentioned him

| anxra: e:j'wpEi m hathwahEtri'WTht to me once or twice. ^s t^' -

In shod, the gir was strii-hbt inside and out, she acted and looked it, she was.
1.7 tetw.i ., And-this-Is -what-happened -to -her,
you wouldn't believe it, she ..
A--- y -Turne~ gayovernht?aT, s laping her thigh.
S xnor atsWch-m -cop.ate Listen t he- this girl,she had this

incredible dream, and surely a dream it ths-arv been though she er_ ure-

i-f-it hadWt really happened. xmtsmaam I i--give-you-the s, An't laugh,

(t really is serious.

-1's breaking A6 up...

-No, wait, she dmammad was in Queens, in a subway station, she had AhL rge

-;ad' looked for-the little girl's room, you know how filthy they are, but in
this case, and here is miracle number one, she found herself in long antiseptic

uimaikxtM~ men's room, a urinal tiled white and long like the queens

tunnel. A long row of men in business suits and with their backs turned to

hdr where urinating, they all looked alike. U asked herself, what am I doing

here, still she Rai s didn't leave, she couldn't move. The men turned around,

all of them of identical size in identical clothes. T1kpkamxBmYfTmea Their faces

were absolutely minus features, identical eggs, their flies were open but

they lacked, you know, ra I don't have to tell you...

-Cocks, says.T. aiameasarail matter1f -of- factly.
Well yes, if you wish. Poor U, she was veeriag her pants suit, trees chic,

and she looked at her fly and had this terrible certainty that they were all

waiting for her to open her fly and show them her...

-Well, yes, if you wish. She felt frie.'ftriy embarrassed because she

had nothing to show them Lt made her scream, a nightmare, you understand,
she ;oke up with her drunken Irish lover in bed, her scream wooke him up,

he asked what's the matter/but she wouldn't answer, she junn-d out of bed,

got dressed in the same pants suit She put on her best wig, blond down to her
pretty shoulders, real hair from Sweden, put on her false eye lashes and a

lot of lipstick and rougr and whathave you and...

-Went back to bed to surprise her lover?

-Not at all. She went out, down the street where she knew there was a

gay bar full of leather boys and screaming queens, strictly for men...


-But yes, she went in there and in that falsetto voice of hers which has
a southern drawl and god know what other musical connotations, she ordered

a double scotch.

-Prentending to be a queen?

-Exactly. In no times she was surrounded by the tough boys who made up to

her and bought her drinks ...

-And tabxhauxiamnbmdmxm tried to make her...
They tried. But
-Nlnitmqum. She acted very upety-up, they liked that, shexuaethaiei.r I

eaxq menx~rintm hmxitx really queened it over them, it~mxlariA m it got the

other queens into a rage One of them grabbed at her bosom, wanting to tear out the

falsies, but it was a real bosom, ffImx-mbhadf in fact I never saw such...


-Well yes. Anyway, you can imagine the brawl. They beat her up they broke

her nose...

-So back she went to her lover boy.

-God know she ended up in a hospital, int h~ ,siaz .. rr first

for surgery and then in the pycho ward beca use she kept insisting that she was

a male homoseruel.

-Maybe she was?
-1 tell you, she was straight and very feminine indeed, never made a pass

at me or

-Or thy neighbor's ass?

-It was on her, my name, I mean to say, she had me down on her identification

card as the nearest mi kin .

-Aha. Brothers under the skin.

At any rate the hospital notified me. Poor dear, she was swathed in

bandages when I went to see her. Mm She couldn't talk. I got the story later from

Iba the resident psychiatrist.
-He might have made it up. How do you know it's not his story.
To have this happen to U of
-It rings too true. Still it's incredible. Whtmdmxpaxa~?LmhazmiM

all people.

Big toad T puts on her scholarly face and pronounces that U is clearly

a victim of thm male superiority. Couldn't accept here sexual identity. Thought

herself to be inferior. Didn't have the guts to me normal like the rest of us

ge "a.fellows, She moral of the story: Always be true to your own self.

-The moral of the story, says mon, her head abaik appearing suddenly from
the in the borough of Queens.
under the poncho, stay away from 4ubway toilets oSmas~s.

What's become of Q? She too lost underground like U2 Or are the two letters

one person?

Aunt V has lost a good typist. None typed as fast as U. They ask what

has become of U since the accident, and have there been other similar accidents mAV

since? But nobody asks about her Irish lover. For all they know he might

be still in her bed, waiting fro her to come out of the nightmare and back

into his red arms. Nobody asks me about my iS&b Irish lover He never was in my

bed. Shall I tell them about hin -now?

I say OLLI and now the grandfather clock starts coughing, the

pendulum swings faster back and forth, Aunt V cries, don't tell me the child
is still up, but I am still down on the rug. Girls my age need 8 hour? sleep.

I'm still growing in all directions and why haven't I gone to bed? The rats are dancing
along the waterfront
a jig in the cellar where Q is screaming LET ME OUT for Aunt V, organized tnmmif

mity but often absentminded in the hills, has locked the cellar door from the outside.

Where, where on god's green earth, she cried did I put the key?
Everybody helps with the search, yes even mom, she & rummages through
the woodpile, the trashcan, piles of last years Sunday Times, still rolled up
as they were delivered, she passes amobat through the cellar window to calm down
Q while the hunt continues, aa.tiiT-Ij_ xz.rmed : ,= -arad-J T stomping about

meanwhile with an axe. and an eye on the wristwatch. If the key doesn't turn up

within ten minutes she will use the axe on the door.
Good night good night I say to all and undry I've smado a duc~y from
old rags and things with a face like my own like a dumpling. I put it to sleep

in granny-anny's bed. If I weighed less, I'd risk sliding down the rainpipe

for my date in the underbrush. But I take the backstairs, safer, and no one will
see me or miss me, that I know, for they are busy with their nightLly rihtni'e

drama. I and the dummy, we're safe. Mom wor'n-d c`ft' to my room to kiss the

dummy goodnight.

No I will never go the country with them again. They're welcome to

take my dummy instead she's lost the seven pounds I gained, I weighed us both.

I'm finished with the hills. Goodbye granny-anny, you've danced your last jig by the

fire, and Olli you won't know with whom you do it, with me or the dummy, I don't believe

you even 1 looked me in the face once.You never show your face when you come to the

city to baby sit for your married sister, her baby. I baby sit with my transistor

baby. The rain is raking waves around the moon.
Sound waves. The latest lunar bulletin. We're out of oxygen. The flag can't
breathe. I breathe. listen inside me. But from the fighting room below not a ripple

of sound Mhm speechless after her most recent flight and capture. Her face a silent
disembodied moon. c 9
meoaonhmxB: sxnmboa -j u My swollen belly is.atwhite moon in-the-night. I tun my palm
across it in gentle circles. Behind me three bloodless month. I've been checking off the

days on the wall calendar the way Aunt V did when mon was missing from the house mgai~

for ever. MC COFFREY'S FOODSTORE. FREE DELIVERY. I got the callen4ar fron O01i's

father. It has a picture of thmranxBA Old Glory and the bull.

Was it possible, I asked Uncle D in C Park, for a girl my age to go through the change

of life? He understood me wrong, thought deep and hard He put a finger to his pointed

nose and sighed before he said life was perpetual changed at any age from the womb to

the tomb and yes at this very second momentous changes were occurring inside and

around us, chemical evolutions or dissolutions. It was a matter of semantics. It was

a freat.

Vita somnum breve. He wrote it down for me on the back of a sky blue envelope

addressed not tom him, but to a Monsieur de D Ram-, posted restate. How had it gotten

into his safari pocket? he asked, unfolding a laundry fresh handkerchief, >At too

sky-blue, and embroidered with a blue J. More mysteries. Mixed in with last we k's pillow

slips he had found a lady's flimsy undergarment. Life was a dream short or long
/ I

said Uncle D, and he mustn't forget to question his Chinese laundry

or rather the laundryman's son, a drop out and former student of


VST. But our sitting here on this central park rock in

earshot of the barking s4als and roaring lions doesn't strike me

as a dream, not by a long shot. I needn't even pinch myself. It's

real. It's mother day, at least for me. If mom hadn't taken off

again without notice, I hardly think I would have had this date

with Uncle D. D Day. I love my mrmmitn mom.
-Ple-se D take hf off my hands for the day, Aunt V had wailed

over the wire as she had stood deserted in her gray body stocking

in the gray mourning, gray-faced for want of sleep or love, and

clutching the receiver with both hmm hands. -Her mother has deserted

her! she cried in a tone of amazement as though this were the first
all the time
time mom had gone AWL when it happened r-nrnxmnftwxihEFPmot of course

except this time she was gone for the longest time and the callendar

showed more absence marks than lunar cycles.

No D, said V, J hadn't been drunker than usual, in fact she

may have.been more sober, she hadn't even slammed the door, had just

slipped out, leaving no message', except her key under the welcome

mat, 0 D, rEi cried V, she was my child, ias.mfr my sister & brother,

put it together and it spells mother, my therapist syRmyix pins down

the trouble to the bare fact that I was hmned breast fed for too long

and she was only bottle fed. Ih,;at do you suggest?

I listened in on my extension princess style. Uncle D wqs

murmuring cor. olat ons, b4 e-R iigsar-s.proimising-to tai=we-of
_7 L


Poor trusting V. But surely the dichotomy, he murmured, would
kept the
not be of lasting duration and might reoccur unless she bh;v.; ?.-'1i

windows and doors.harred.
-The zoo migihi amuse her, I'm speaking of B, said Aunt V.
-A little exercise and laind refreshments. Cakes, cokes, malts,

tarts and splits strictly verboten. 0 I), my J's gone over the hills

I'm dying of anguish.

Aunt V's protracted death. Mom's gine bottles have gathered

dust. The kidney shaped bar in the talking room is a deserted

altar of double mirrors. in search of a clue,

Talk talk. Day night Aunt V has been hanging on the phone,/
answering calls berating the mp.aatimw in Ashland for giving

her Phoenix; dialing from coast to coast and ship to shore.

The girls have a nationwide underground network, hut the wires
Mystic operator
get frequently crossed and the cs;ptpiu~Lc:',ilin' eJi yirio speaks with

the voice of Creve Coeur. Jfr%'lu:::; .i U i\N :..,l*',j i : i;1.1. l>;.)Iljx1.,%I FJe

aN rbhflLnTh:-:hi) rfnn.lri.tnxrtbhmxmaup lHurricanes, cyclones, snow

storms and sandstorms swoosh through my princess style extension
chases after mbn's footprints, finger
phone as Aunt V skipaxannd:-in'hrrPT
prints, a T shirt with the laundry mark cut out, a short

blond hair in the soup. U.S.United Sisterhood. -Your J, says

K in L.A. has taken off with mine-. y car is gone. So is my

checkhook. Mfnmi My J-and yours were last seen in St.Jo, patron

of cuckolded husbands, forgive me V, I can't stop the giggles,
am high as a kite, know less than nothing, I bet you Q |i;..:'t
a thing or two, hang on, I'll find you her n-mber...

A needless reminder, stab in the wounded heart Aunt

V knows Q's number by heart she's dialed it so many times