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The lady’s enemy said, “You have Margie and Margie wouldn’t do that. You’re so smart—I’m going to do everything you do. You have Margie. Is she making hot chocolate?”

“What good can come of that?” said the lady.

In the most unfriendly way available to her, the lady picked up Villas on the Italian Lakes—her picture book. Underneath it was a toothpick broken into parts, plus an insect that had fallen onto hard times. She was cockeyed on her settee—her face considerably close to the cushioned seat. She righted herself, but she dropped the freakish book.

“I told Margie to put that on the library table desk,” the lady said. “I told you it was the second driveway on the left. I hope my son makes a lot of money.”

The lady had covered her figure in a polka dot dress. Her mother had died of typhoid, her sister of parasitic worms.

“He has one hundred thousand dollars he does nothing with,” the lady said. “We were going to go to Los Angeles to see him, but he’ll be in Tampa. He has beautiful manners.”

“Maybe you should remove that crown molding,” her enemy said.

A younger insect entered the room.

A votive candle burned.

The lady had used up all of her extra hair. She had scattered it in the cemetery hills where she had ingratiated herself with a granite boy.

This had been one of the few occasions when she had been charming, cheerful, remarkable, and tactful.

That evening the lady’s husband had shouted at his wife in his usual manner, “Don‘t touch me! Don’t ever touch me!” As the moon took a wrong turn, he had tapped his wife. Finding that there was no response, he had repeated a sort of a tap many times.

The lady’s husband wore his Hadley robe and his shearling-lined, double-soled slippers. He was especially clean. There were bruises on his face. There were bruises about the lady’s face and indications of other injuries upon her delicate structure. Their library table desk was made of sycamore, painted in the classic manner—the type of thing that seems peculiar.


It’s a lifeline my father carries and later when I retell his lewd stories, coming from a woman, they are a little out of place.

Next to me there is this couple that are having a fabulous time and they are lapping it up. They have such a good time, even the surly guy.

The surly guy who is the proprietor at an American manufacturing company has a motto for life: Do the right thing and ah, ah, um, you won’t have to—no! Do the right thing and be afraid of no one. You will never achieve it but it’s worth it to strive for it. Act rightly and don’t be afraid for anybody.

My instinct of fear—I don’t have any idea what should happen next. That’s why it’s not left up to me. It’s left up to Seymour who is in his summer shorts, who has a deep appreciation for women, particularly beautiful women with beautiful legs, and in particular, beautiful women with beautiful legs and beautiful shoes. Seymour loves good food and good wines and anything good—good cheeses, jams, candy, baked goods. He’ll make special trips to the best bakery, the best wholesale market. He has a fabulous memory.

He has one favorite book. It is titled—eh, what is it?—One Year in Havana—My Trip to Havana. It is a romantic story about going to Havana and falling in love there. Every year at a certain time he rereads it and he has a great joy for life.

Some of you may not find an actual guide. I see a person through the window across the street—a person in a brassiere, a boy haircut, white hair, lingerie straps, a brassiere—whose inner qualities are evident, who to her credit, could serve many people’s needs.

1, 2, 3

She was an unrosy person with well-thought-of eyes, who’s likely not going to be friendly. She was ogling our new walnut schrank, asking about changes, and saying to Mary, “Well, we thought it was perfect. Why did you have to change it?” So, she was very shy. I was being polite.

Her haversack was tidy as she was—and that was that. Mary decided to ask her to move in and suddenly we had a social life.

This was the best time of her life aside from when she was young and had been a lady’s maid to the Queen. She ended up having a heart condition. That’s the same as standing on one leg all of the time, which people can and do do.

And here’s where she died, in our gold and cream salon. So I think that she was relatively cherished and that she got talked about a lot. I was sitting on the toilet and didn’t go in to see.

On the ground floor there are adults trying their best to open their hearts. Bushy flowers in a vase have perfume, so if you don’t wear perfume you’re sunk.

Mary had also warned me about Cora. She’s somewhat of a drab doll with quite feverish eyes, with a southern accent. She was checking out the living room and asking about changes and saying to Mary, “This reminds me of the spirit world.” I was being polite, trying to help her around. She was obviously antsy and she was supposed to stay a couple of days, but after the first night she decided she should stay with us for a good long while. So Mary said she should permit me to escort her because this was a late, heavily veiled night.

I think I belong anywhere in the dark, so we took a taxi and then I made sure she ended up with her bus. She had a Mulholland Brothers wheeled duffle, burdensome as an ace in the hole. I saw her one more time. She reappeared in the strongest sense of the word. She was traveling a lot. She ended up having a heart condition and she was on glycerin medicine and, uh, it was difficult for her to remember to take her medicine and more and more difficult for her to get an erect clitoris or to cut the lawn herself. She ended up dead in a helicopter crash. The next one put her faith in philosophy and studied with delight. She was very fond of men and she had eczema. She was conscientious and had sober judgment. She devoted herself to the dangers that overwhelmed her, which often, alas, included Mary and me. She carried her baby on her back, enjoyed sensual pleasures and luxuries, is made of flesh and blood, but has never had the good grace to drop dead, to leave this world, to—what’s that that they keep saying and saying?—to fucking die, to drop dead.


Diane Williams

Diane Williams is the author of six books of fiction and founding editor of NOON.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2008

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