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IN THE ROOM WITH SEVENTEEN WINDOWS /Kevin Stein A surprise chUd, born in their forties, had pushed them into this room among the oaks whose twice-trimmed branches stall caressed the house with a drummer's brushed shoosh. A room so new she'd awaken and stumble to the walk-in closet to squat on a John that wasn't beneath her. He'd hear the thump and her cursing, then reach for the switch he'd wired too far from their bed. This time a storm thrashed south of town, so the sky strobed black to white to black, as when a chüd he'd so furiously flicked the Ught switch—whUe his baby-sitter frugged to Meet the Beatles—his pleasure had worn it out. No ctick, no tight. Maybe thafs what made him want to make love, something conditioned into him that night, or something hard-wired aU along: a thought which comforted him as he kissed her neck and shoulders. She lay stiU, eyes focused somewhere above his face. "What's that sound," she asked, "something sawing itself in half?" The katydid, enticing a mate, ratcheted so passionately their bare waUs reverberated with its frantic cranking. She couldn't concentrate, imagining the thing on a branch looking in one of seventeen windows. Watching. She made him flip on the deck tight, thinking that would shut it up. Then a broom to flau low branches and scare it off: he in boxers and Birkenstocks, grass wet, the sky light-switching above, rainwater showering him with each broom swipe. StiU the katydid sang its anthem, 154 · The Missouri Review insistent, hopeful, imploring, a tune which, given his own predicament, reminded him that daüy four people caU Graceland and ask to speak to Elvis. Seriously. No one needed to teU him love was the gods' lascivious joke, so why not—he bent on knee to sing "Love Me Tender" through the window screen, just reaching the last plaintive "... never let me go" as her alarm buzzed and the katydid, resigned to fate, hushed. Kevin Stein The Missouri Review · 255 REVENANT /Kevin Stein That March the factory axed me, a neighbor unclenched my fists with his shovel's consolation. We planted hardy quince and potentUla, juniper and the deücate flowering crab. No, not we—I dug their bottomless holes and grunted each into its appointed place untai his ice-tea-eye winked, there. Bent on knee, I sorted music from static on the Ford's old PhUco, AM crackling with distant storms, Da Nang's body count, a slew of acid-induced rock 'n' roU hymns to the revolution he despised. We hardly talked—my jaw clamped with Seventies' anger, his because mine was— so the joyless task was left to his wife, flushed-cheeked from peach wine, to kitchen-corner me with the story of a boy hidden the day his parents were boxed to Auschwitz. The false waU, the woman's hand that brought cold soup, his piss pot and that single candle. AU this, because he cried amidst blood-red tutips with black eyes and I'd asked why. The innocent why sure to bring on trouble, the why I naUed to the waU this morning whUe framing my son's new room. You know what happens. Ifs a day like any other, then a chUd falls from a fickle oak, the dog at last surprises a squirrel, your father calls to say he's misplaced his good teeth. A day Uke any other, the story goes, until the waU you've bifilt waUs off a face Ut by candletight: a boy on his knees beside the low slot soup bowls sUde through. You close your eyes, or shutter them with gloved hands, hoping the vision wül flee, and stiU 256 · The Missouri Review it blooms: red tuUps with black eyes, red without. You've seen enough to know who clutches the soup, whose Ups kiss and kiss the mottled wrist: your neighbor, your son, never you. Kevin Stein The Missouri Review · 257 WHAT I HATE ABOUT POSTMODERNISM /Kevin Stein As sunrise percolated through spires of black oak, my son has flung banana...


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