Wednesday, June 01, 2016

I never did post a blog in May, although  I intended to. So right off the June bat, here are two short fictions for the book I’m working on when I’m not working on the other book because sometimes a poetry person just wants to write prose, you know? This new one is going to be titled “Women in Cities,” and it is indeed about women in cities or at least, big towns.

Across a Cozy Room

I was staying at The Green Hollow House, not the most frugal choice I could have made, but I believe that sometimes a few extra dollars a night is worth the stretch. This guest house was splendid compared to the one I’d had the summer before, with the pipistrelles zig-zagging just over my head every time I stepped outside in the evening.  My bed was tucked under sloping eaves, from my desk I had a view of the Stratford-upon-Avon town center, and since I was there in the Royal Shakespeare Theater’s off-season and before any sunshine at all could be counted on, the house was fairly quiet.  I didn’t mind the January weather or short days and long nights because I was in Stratford to do research. The less tempting walks along the River Avon were, the more work I’d get done.

My plan was to spend my days reading original source material, wherever I found it in the region, and nights at my computer. All this eyestrain would someday lead to a Ph.D. (my thesis was on the outbreak of the bubonic plague in 1596—the one that took Will and Ann’s eleven year old, Hamnet) and then a plummy teaching job to keep me going. When I had time off I’d travel to sunny places; clown around with Italians, dance with Greeks.

As it happened, I got almost no scholarly work done whatsobloodyever, as I get a kick out of saying.  Another American, a scientist who studied bats and was taking observations and photos of their hibernation roosts, took a table at my B&B every morning. He’d turned a rented artist’s studio into his lab and his kitchen was completely repurposed. So he walked across the cobbled street to eat my hosts’ excellent English breakfasts. I don’t think my thesis had a chance. I fell for this guy immediately. No, I mean it. The first meeting of our eyes, over plates of eggs, stewed tomatoes, sausage, beans, and in his case kippers, and I was done and dusted. His eyes were neither large nor small, eyelashes as usual, one of those blues that could tend to green with the right clothes, but they radiated heart-stopping kindness, generosity, humor, and warmth.

At least, I think they did. Maybe not. Maybe I didn’t get all that from the moment we met. Could be a case of hindsight, eh? I am sure that by the time I met Andrew, I had long been aware that I was starving for more grace in my life. I’d been needing to drink from the cup of abundant love. The stereotypical history drudge who muddles along through their first decade or so of adulthood with their nose in musty tomes, brain thick with academic jargon, was, like stereotypes of all kinds, flawed, shallow, stupid and not, I knew from tip to toe, not me. This is a happy-ending story. I saw the future that cold morning in that doing-the-sixteenth-century-to-death town, whilst nibbling my fry-up.


4:45pm, Philadelphia
He stays a couple of yards behind me as we slog uphill. I try to diffuse the tension with a coy toss of head, slip on wet leaves. My ankle rolls and I splat noisily down. From my new angle his beard looks less stylish—bristles straggle all up his neck. He maintains a steely-eyed glare but handsomely offers his hand and I'm glad he's wearing leather gloves because my own hand is filthy with bits of gravel and gutter stuff. He grunts as he pulls me up. (I'm heavier than I look.) I curse in Swedish and he looks startled. My crappy orthostatic hypotension kicks in and, whooshing, I swoon into his arms. I catch his smirk and try to throw it back but I'm too dizzy. He pushes me down onto a nearby row house stoop, and forces my head between my knees. I rest, take stock. I feel better, almost crafty, and stand up, carefully. With a grim wave of his iron gray gun he points toward the bridge in the dim mist up the hill. I slink on, again ahead of him, plotting. I try again to diffuse the tension with a coy toss of head, slip on wet leaves, my ankle rolls, and I splat but less noisily. From my new angle the Russian's beard looks silly. He rolls his eyes but offers his hand. As he pulls me up I knee him, kick the gun out of his hand as he goes down on the wet, slimy, leafy, sidewalk. The gun goes off, hits nothing that I'm aware of. The bastard curses in English, (he's been deep cover) glowers up at me. I pick up the gun and gloat in Swedish.