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THE SEPARATISTS/Paw/ LaFarge THE ENTHUSIASTS HAD PLANNED to hold their Eighth Annual Dinner Dance at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Kamileläa, but the Kamileläas were divorced in March, and Mrs. K., who kept the house, refused to host a party to which her husband would have to be invited. So the Enthusiasts' Social Committee went around to every hotel in the city, describing their organization and explaining that although they had no money to rent a ballroom, they would be happy to recommend the hotel in question to their brethren in the National Society and its various local chapters. And anyway it would be for a good cause, the advancement of mutual understanding between all peoples, and didn't the hotel want to help with that? Think what it would do for the tourist trade, the Social Committee said, if everyone in the world spoke the same language. A universal language that would be everyone's second tongue and no one's first. The hotel managers did not think it would do much for the tourist trade. One by one they declined to let out their ballrooms and private dining rooms at anything less than the going rate. Having tried almost every place in town, the Enthusiasts came to Petronelli's, an Italian restaurant in the dim part of the cityby the river, but with a lovely view of the mansions on the opposite shore. The owner told them frankly that he did not give a fig for their universal language. He was a businessman ; his language was money, and he did not believe there was any other. The ex-Mrs. Hugh K. might have felt some misgivings when she promised to tell every Enthusiast in the world what a simply wonderful place it was—the ceiling was too low, and the air smelled of garlic embalmed in some sort of disinfectant—but promise she did, and the back room of Petronelli's was opened for her. It did not have a view of the water, but it was big enough, and when some folding tables were donated by a bankrupt church, she began to think it might do, although it would take some sprucing up with white cloth and flowers. She enlisted her daughters to help with the decorations, and suggested that they go around to the city's funeral parlors to see whether anything suitable might have been left behind. Of course it fell to Lily Kamileläa to get the flowers. Of the three daughters K., Lily took most after her father. She was pretty in a fierce 140 · The Missouri Review sort of way, nearsighted, given to believing in some things long after everyone else had given them up and to giving up other things that everyone else still believed in. Despite or perhaps because of her resemblance to the gallant, hawk-nosed Hugh, she was the one her mother depended on in an emergency. Margo, the oldest, was married to a knife salesman. Everyone needs knives, he said; to sell his cutlery he traveled as far as you could go on regular roads. Afraid that he would betray her, Margo followed him from one hotel to the next, defeating his adulterous expectations and stealing ashtrays at every opportunity. When she came home the first thing she did was to unpack her collection . Tapping ashes into one of the cities she'd visited, Margo would tell her mother and sisters, Maybe I'll stay a little longer this time. I feel so at home here. Then the finances would get tight again, and she'd be gone, following her husband larcenously through the land. Lily's younger sister, Astrid, was hardly a person yet, though if she kept going as she was, in five years she would be beautiful, albeit sullen, illiterate and probably someone's mother. Astrid could not be counted on for anything, and Margo was away, of course. Lily collected the flowers, countless dozens of them, without complaining. On the afternoon of the Dinner Dance, a Saturday deep in the summer, she brought them into Petronelli's by the armload for her mother to reject or approve. Lily...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 140-150
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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