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The Brochures

From: The Missouri Review
Volume 36, Number 2, 2013
pp. 58-67 | 10.1353/mis.2013.0033

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It says that the porch we're sitting on is one-eighth of a mile long." Gordon gave the inn's brochure a little wave but didn't pass it to his wife, even though Dora was holding out her hand. "That's about the length of the porch of the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island," he said. He'd always admired porches—the Old French word Porche.

When she waved her hand again, he wondered how many seconds would pass before she simply reached over and snatched the brochure from him. He had been playing this game, hiding brochures from her, since they'd arrived. Little games like this had amused and sometimes aroused him in the first months of his retirement a year ago, but now less so. He had persuaded her to go on this trip two months ago. Finally she'd allowed him to make the reservation for a room, if it had a water view.

He read on: "The Inn was built in 1923 and rebuilt in 1956 after a fire destroyed the main building. During the renovation, the original French windows were moved from the south wing to capture the spectacular views of the dramatic cliff walk that made the original Inn so famous." He glanced over to see if she was listening. She was. "Charlie Chaplin said it was the closest thing to his beloved Swiss landscape that America could offer."

"There's a photograph of the cliff walk?" his wife asked, finishing her martini's third lurid olive. He himself tolerated only a wisp of lemon peel. They were awaiting the grand dining room's noonday Sunday dinner. "In the European tradition," the brochure read.

"One photo of the cliff walk. It looks very manicured. No doubt for old people like us," he said. Hah. He liked to remind her that they were the same age, though oddly his retirement had made him feel older. He set his white wicker rocking chair to rocking. Dora's chair did not rock. He put out his foot and abruptly stopped. He longed for the afternoon's cheerful dose of sun.

"The hotel is so empty," Dora complained. "Who would have thought that 'off-season' meant there would be only one other couple? I mean, at a famous hotel that"—here Dora's dismissive gesture took in the vast empty porch—"'in season plays host to one hundred guests.'"

"Now, how do you know that?" he asked.

"Oh," she said. "Here." She swooped into the string bag she always carried and came up with an identical brochure, waving it just out of his reach.

So, she'd had a brochure all this time. Unnerved, he said, "Shall we dine?"

His own martini finished, he lurched from his rocking chair. Lately, he'd begun comparing which of them was fastest out of the starting gate, so to speak—rising from couches, dining chairs, the BMW's low bucket seats—and was dismayed that he always lost, though Dora seemed unaware of the competition. Before he'd retired, he hadn't noticed that she went to the gym two days a week, leaving the house in shiny, tight leggings and returning in totally different outfits—a suit or sundress. There was a lot he hadn't known—her book club meetings (though he did remember seeing various frivolous-looking novels with Booker Prize stickers on their covers), her appointment to the town's Parks Board, her Zumba lessons. How luncheon hostesses at better restaurants seemed to know her. It was disconcerting.

He tucked his brochure into his seersucker pocket; he considered his seersucker suits a charming idiosyncrasy, though Dora had pronounced them merely out of style.

"Come along, Gordie," she called over her gray silk shoulder. It was the name from their long-ago courtship days, but it didn't conjure up the same excitement it once had. Now, he thought, "Lordy, Gordy," every time she said it.

"Wait up, Dora," he called after her. His right knee was stiff, but he'd be damned if he was going to take up golf or fishing as his doctor had...



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