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KNOCK, KNOCK, LEAVE ME ALONE /Paul S. Brownfield //Hp HERE WAS A TIME in my life when I was addicted to X non-profit organizations," Evie confessed, gazing at her audience. There were plates of nachos at some of the tables, people digging in. It made her feel like the exhibitionist in the family, or TV, something you watched while you ate. "I canvassed for everybody—Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Earth First, Pluto Second. I can tell you about my problem now, but that's only because I'm better. I can say, 'Hello, my name is Evelyn Singer and I. . . I. . . I want you to sign my petition.' I'm not fully recovered, I still collect signatures. Not for any specific cause, I just collect them. I still protest against things, but little things. Like the other day, I saw my boyfriend Ray throwing out half a banana and I screamed, 'Save The Fruit! Save the Fruit!'" "'Save the Fruit!'" Evie said into the mike one more time; it came out as a high-pitched squeal. She still had a tendency to repeat her punchlines, just to make sure. She used to think they were laughing at a heckler loose out there, who was making funny rebuttals in some special heckler's language that only audiences understood. She used to spot her imaginary roommates, careerminded Nancy and macrobiotic Phil, sitting at a table smack in the middle of the club and glaring back, insulted that she was using them in her act. She used to doubt her jokes and so she read a manual. "If three audiences in a row don't laugh," it said, "throw the material out." She'd had a lot of three-audiences-ina -row at first. But now, no more hallucinations about hecklers speaking in coded tongues. She had this regular Thursday night spot at Ziggy's, in the Financial District, playing to San Francisco's jaded urban professionals. They liked her; she was jaded, too— though, she assured herself, only for career purposes. In three weeks, she would be on a cable special. "I met my boyfriend Ray in a class that guaranteed we'd be fluent in Swahili in six weeks. I had a dream about going to Africa and feeding people. Ray, he was just fed up with the English language, said he was shopping around for fairer grammar rules. Now when we make love he moans in Swahili, conjugating verbs." The Missouri Review · 109 Evie looked out at the audience, spotted a couple. She could always tell a first date by the way the man and the woman looked at each other after every punchline to see which one was laughing. Evie was their common denominator. If they both liked her act there would be a second date. And then a third and then a fourth, when the sex would be "good enough"—like a rough draft—and then they would be married. Evie knew she wouldn't be invited to the wedding but she did expect a card, something with vines and flowers on it that said: "Thanks for bringing us together. Love, Harry and Jill." It went something like that, anyway, what she did for a living. After her show, Evie went to dinner with her boyfriend Terence, a graphic artist. They'd been seeing each other for two years and had already talked about which organs they'd give each other in a medical emergency. They were in love. They were. Tonight they went to a Thai place that had just opened south of Market, and after an hour of waiting the food arrived—tiny food. "It looks like an aerial view of Chinese hieroglyphics," Evie said. "Can I ask you something, Evie?" He would ask her to marry him. He would tell her to move out of her apartment, move in with him, get married and have kids. He would tell her that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, that he loved her. Either that, or he'd ask where the bathroom was. That was what Evie loved about their relationship— the suspense. "You know," Terence said, "I can't remember the...


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pp. 109-121
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