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INTERPRETERS/Bflrfora Klein Moss THE CHILD IS THOMAS', not his. She knows this, just as she knows it was Thomas she tempted, Thomas' seed she wooed that first night in the house. She had answered the last of the visitors' questions at her door instead of leaving by way of the fields as the two of them usually did at closing. She had taken off her cap and let her hair flow down her back. She had sashayed up the empty road, swinging her hips like a trollop, and gone straight to the joinery, where he was planing the legs of a chair. "Be gone, woman, can ye not see I'm busy?" Thomas had said, but he had come with her without too much coaxing, and taken off her clothes by the fire, and spread her hair over her shoulders like a cloak, and made love to her for an hour, while the chicken she'd roasted grew cold on the spit. Not that Thomas didn't fight off the pleasure, or pretend to. Thomas is a man of scruples, and as the heat grew between them she could almost hear them crack, a slow giving-way like stones being crushed. "No, no, no," he'd moaned at the moment of surrender, crying wolf to the devil. But all the time she knew that Thomas had planted the seed as surely as he drove a nail into wood. She could feel it snag, feel its tiny shaking as it settled into its nest. And like the joiner's wife she had become, she thought, tongue-andgroove . They met her second year at the community college, in the endless registration line for American Civilization. He was standing behind her—a dark, fine-featured man she had noticed around campus, a little older than the average student—and he took her hair in his hands, just lifted it as if it were a length of yard goods or the sleeve of a shirt on a rack. So delicately, with such a sure, impersonal touch that she wasn't even startled. "Is this color real?" he asked. Yes, she told him, that shade of copper ran in her family; her grandmother had been a redhead too. But not until a week later, when he saw her fiery thatch of pubic hair, did she think he truly believed her. She went with him to the space he rented above the organ factory where he worked. There was nothing in it except a broken-down couch, a mattress and a large wooden chest set in the center of the concrete The Missouri Review · 151 floor, where a table should have been. What looked like pieces of trash had been placed on the window ledges: a shoe horn; a milk bottle with a pinched neck to hold cream; rusted iron tongs; an egg carton, its lid propped up with a stick; two Coke bottles positioned to catch the light that struggled through the thick, pitted glass. The Coke bottles were forty years old, he said. He had been incredibly lucky to find them; they were from the Golden Age, before the company had changed the design, long before the descent to cans. As he took her around, she learned that even the most ordinary objects had had Golden Ages. The world had fallen not just once, as she'd been taught in Sunday school, but piece by piece, again and again. She wasn't sure why it mattered but was certain that it did. No one had ever talked to her about such things before. The chest was for tools, he told her, modeled after one he'd seen in an antiques store. He had squatted on the floor for half an hour, examining the construction of the compartments inside, turning the whole thing over on its back while the clerk glared; then he had gone out to find the wood. She didn't say a word when he led her to the mattress. Their first time was very different from what she had known with her only other lover: the fevered groping in the back of the car, the quick, violent climax. He undressed...


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