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Kaufman 23 Debra Kaufman Over Coffee Afternoons around our table, background to my homework, a concert of women's voices: Roberta in stiletto heels cursed her boyfriend but brandished the icy rings he gave her; Naomi, braid wound tight like a danish, coughed, complained of dust, some injustice; Trudi chirped like a frantic cricket. They gravitated toward my mother, and always they sipped coffee, the drink of women, in my eyes exotic and forbidden as whiskey. I loved their barrage of language: rummaging through words like clothes at a garage sale, picking up a bit of cashmere with the chintz, they knew who was to be pitied, what acts could never be forgiven. The day I first tasted coffee: Roberta, hair flying, threw open the door, eyes bright as dimes, goddamn son of a bitch, I'll kill the bastard. I was sent out into a wind that spun the wren house, hummed the grapevine wire. I watched from the evergreens for a signal, for a frame of light to brighten the house, now blank as a domino. But no one called me back, even as night raced across the sky like greyhounds. So when a branch snapped, I ran all the way to the back door, opened it slow as a thief. I could hear them laughing in the living room. 24 the minnesota review Perfume swirled with the heavy coffee smell, filling the kitchen like secrets. I sneaked my mother's delicate cup and poured the dark drink in. What I sipped: nothing to make me any wiser; just a hot drink, black and bitter, ragged on my tongue. ...


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