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RAT CHOICE/E. /. Levy LATELY LISA'S MOTHER has been telling her things she does not want to know. Lisa's mother, who has told her little, now will not shut up. She follows Lisa out to the car, under starlight, to tell her that Lisa's father has been impotent for years. She tells her, at the kitchen table, about the pornographic film he has rented on his doctor's orders, about the penile pump. This afternoon she is telling Lisa about her drawings. They are walking in Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden, less than a mile from the house where Lisa grew up; it is October and the trees are a conflagration. Ocher. Russet. Orange. The drawings her mother has made are crude, scrawled on typing paper in red and black magic marker. The first one is of Clara, the woman Lisa's father had an affair with fifteen years back—an affair he revealed for the first time two weeks ago. Lisa's mother slashed the drawing with lines and words. Slut. Cunt. Whore. Bitch. Then she hung it up in their bedroom. "I told your father about it before I hung it up, so it wouldn't be a surprise," she says, as if consideration were the point here. The second drawing, of Lisa's father, is a stick figure with a huge erection and slavering mouth. Her mother titled it The Unrepentant Rat (Lisa laughs at this); she put that one up in the bedroom, too. "I realized," she tells her daughter as they walk their familiar path through the woods, "that Clara wasn't the one who betrayed me. She didn't know me. She was a slut and a whore for sleeping with a married man, but she didn't know me." What makes her mother angry, she tells Lisa, is not the fact of the affair but that Lisa's father will not apologize. He has told Lisa's mother that he is sorry that the news has caused her pain, but he will not apologize for fucking another woman. He claims not to remember the details—when it happened or for how long. So Lisa's mother, her brilliant mother, her 190-IQ-mother-who-gave-up-a-careerin -medicine-to-marry-the-Unrepentant-Rat, spends her afternoons scouring checkbook registers from 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984 in order to piece together the story Lisa's father will not tell. Her mother has deduced from these that the affair took place while Lisa's parents were in marriage counseling and her father was a consultant for a local electric company where Clara worked. He will neither 122 · The Missouri Review confirm nor deny the allegations, her father, the lawyer, the dick. Lisa wants to comfort her beautiful, brilliant mother. But she does not know what to say. She wants to tell her not to take this personally. That extramarital affairs are like an extracurricular sport in this country . Everyone is having them. She wants to tell her that sex on the side is fashionable these days—that it is to the '90s what Buddhism was to the '80s. It's a sign of the times, not a personal failure. In the '90s, everyone is cheating on something or someone: income taxes, FDA reports, stock holders, personnel, wives, husbands, lovers. We are cheating ourselves . But what can she say on the subject of adultery that her mother has not already heard? The headlines are full of it. There is no comfort for the suspicion that it raises, Lisa knows this well herself: the suspicion that it is her fault that he wandered, that somehow she was not enough, that maybe nothing ever will be. "The last erection your father had was with her," Lisa's mother tells her bitterly. They are walking under pine boughs. A forest out of fairytales . The ground littered with brown needles. The sweet smell of pine and earth. Woodsmoke rises from the chimney of a stone-house visitor center inside the wildflower garden. Lisa has walked these woods with her mother since adolescence. They are not out of them yet. It is a month now since Lisa's partner...


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