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THE LAST TIME I SAW RICHARD/ Marshall N. Klimasewiski THEY WERE IRRESISTIBLE, each in her own way, each in her middle thirties, counting down, each with deep, untapped maternal stores. In fact, they were too maternal to make good lovers; or maybe he was too . . . something. Oedipal? Sensitive? Accustomed to the raunchy approach? They were always folding him against their bosoms and mussing his hair and licking toothpaste from the corner of his mouth (a negligence he didn't remember being prone to in the raunchy days) until his edges were rounded and his points dulled and he couldn't always muster a full sail, an embarrassment that whipped their nurturing instincts into a further froth. This was their common element—the three women—but it was only revealed over time; initially, their attractions were diverse. Grace had that extraordinary flirtatious token: a closed-Up smile and shy squint accented by a dip of her chin toward one shoulder. The endearing space between her teeth. She was a painter, with Mars violet smears beneath the fingernails of her strong, coarse hands. At parties she was the instigator: clamoring for attention; telling bawdy, self-deprecating anecdotes; launching the wide-open laugh that boldly displayed her toothless gap. But at home she was often somber and lazily beautiful, with her dark eyes suspiring and the wiry bundle of her little body inert. She lived, inexplicably, in Flushing; which was itself winsome, if inconvenient. Emily had preceded Grace, and though they met in a gallery in Provincetown, he knew she was Pacific before she had the chance to tell him: she was taU and gainly and broad-shouldered in the lissome manner of Joni Mitchell (whom he thought of as so definitively Californian that her Canadian birth could be discounted as a cosmic gaffe—perhaps the two names were adjacent in some alphabetical prebirth register). Beneath her crepe-paper shifts and blouses exhausting the cement spectrum, her body was a vessel built for speed rather than cargo. Her breasts, for instance: small wonders of flesh and physics: petite and entirely assertive, with dime-sized roseate nipples that often conspired to upstage her. ("Look at this," she would teU him, gesturing to her sweater with exasperation. "They could cut glass this morning .") Yet they were hardly the sort of mammillae that lent themselves The Missouri Review · 138 to the suck of infant gums. But if her body did not speak maternity, it was nevertheless the dominant language of her nature. She was constantly feeding him, undeterred by the limited dimensions of her culinary repertoire, and she tended her garden with coos and pets and whispered encouragement as much as with trowel, loam and water. But first of all there had been Andra: twice divorced, born in Poland, visiting from Frankfurt, with an accent like clotted cream and a suitcase full of silly, endearing hats. Like Carl she was a musician, a pianist, with nimble fingers and a fluent touch. She was the first to introduce the unorthodox proposal that would come to define his Hfe as a lover. Her stay in New York was only three weeks long but the third week was the right one—strategically ovulatory—and like the others who would foUow her, she was short on time and eggs. Her husbands had each proven inadequate, the first a lush with toxic sperm and the second an earnest lover with a well-tuned instrument but neither the soul nor the chops to hit the necessary high notes. The fact was, she had never really been interested in any but the briefest relationships with grown men, she told him. Her husbands had been children, charges as much as lovers, which was the source of both her initial attraction and, ironically, her ultimate frustration. She had determined to go it alone; she timed this trip according to her feminine calendar; she had chosen Carl the day she met him. Of course he would never see her again, nor hear from her, and he would bear no responsibility toward nor official association with his issue, who would not even speak his language. It was a plan she might have carried through without his knowledge...


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pp. 138-150
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