In the days when I wrote short storiesand still didn't know how dreadful they were,
when I used the real names of everyoneI knew, I could not imagine
anything other than how they dressed,what they ate, and why they did the expected.
And I didn't notice across the riveran overcast afternoon in Manhattan, or see
the girl who's taken to the children's bookstorewhere her favorite author signs his latest work.
Her mother, who's recently divorcedand would never describe herself as impulsive
discovers she's attracted to the man,and while afterward her daughter pretends
to examine the displays of books, the womaninvites him to their apartment for dinner.
The shop where this will happen is smallbut well situated, filling steady orders
from the private schools that seem to beon every other block. The girl, who's seven [End Page 284]
and still loves being read to, is in her roomthat looks across to Riverside Park.
A wall calendar reads 1980,which seems right for the styles of dresses
hanging in her closet, or the pinkrecord player that sits in one corner
and is living on borrowed time. In the kitchenshe has to be told more than once to eat lunch,
but she is thinking about later, and whileshe isn't sure what will happen at the bookshop,
she dreams of discouraging cloudswhich shadow the other children,
that rain will punish their beautiful mothers,though none as beautiful as hers,
and she can see—seated at a table,fountain pen in his long fingers
and waiting patiently, the handsome princewhose story she will write without my help. [End Page 285]
Nesting with Spoons
My friend Peggy would spin these elaborate storiesto explain her absences, her everything;the more complicated, the more I listened.
I used to think I had no choice. Thelonious Monkonce told his producer he was late for a sessionbecause the cab he was in collided with a police car;
Monk understood colorful. My friend Albertdropped from sight for six months, but on returningexplained he'd been treated in Phoenix for cancer,
a large tumor taken from his small intestine, followedby chemo. For a while everyone was sympathetic,then his ex-wife announced he made the whole thing up.
Peggy lied to fill in the holes of missing hoursdevoted to heroin. What Albert really does, where Albertgoes, is never explained. The gaps in his biography—
six months, a year, two years—won't close; the icy draftskeep some of us awake. My favorite Albert taleis known as The Great National Parks Tour:
sixteen months devoted, on a whim, to visitingevery park, but ending when he took a headerdown fifty rickety steps on a mountain in Glacier,
then lying in a coma for months. Still, he healed upgood as new, and if in the mood, he'd lift a pants legand show you an old scar as harmless as high school. [End Page 286]
Before she died at thirty-nine, Peggy had her nose broken twiceand lost her spleen after someone kicked her too hard;they were angry, she said, because she kept falling asleep.
Monk's producer took the police-car story in stride:it was Friday the thirteenth; there was still timeto record four tracks. Everyone had waited.
The last time I saw Albert he was playing blackjackin Henderson, Nevada. His skin looked bad, he was in a trance.The woman being ignored suddenly hissed in his ear.
Sometimes Peggy would shoot up in my apartmentwhile I'd pretend I couldn't bear to watch,and afterward she'd tidy up on her own,
even wash the spoon she had used. The next morningit was back in the drawer, nestingwith the others. This way, nothing was wrong. [End Page 287]
David Petruzelli won the Tupelo Press First Book Judge's Prize for his collection, Everyone Coming Toward You. He lives in New York City.