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BUDDY'S BEST WORK /Abigail Thomas THREE SWANS DROPPED dead this week and this morning there was a fourth on the street out front. Nobody knows why. Maybe they are choking to death, maybe it is a sign from God. At first I thought it was a big pile of newspapers just starting to blow away but when I got closer I saw it was a swan with one wing spread out on the road as if it had tried to lift itself up. Poor thing. Already ants were in its eyes. I called Buddy to come quickly I was so upset. I did not know what it might mean right in front of our house and the baby due in three weeks. Buddy said all it meant was that he had to pick it up which he tried to do but the body kept slipping out between the wings, it was hard to get a purchase. Finally he dragged it up on the lawn. I said Td call the ASPCA, but Buddy shook his head. "Virginia," he said. "It's as dead as a doornail." That was the second thing today. The first was that Buddy saw me naked. He came into the bathroom just as I was climbing out of the tub. His mouth fell open and he said, "God. Sorry, Virginia," and I grabbed the shower curtain and wrapped it around myself and stood there like a big awkward package until he backed out the door. He hasn't seen me naked since July. I was so embarrassed. I don't know why, Tm not embarrassed by myself, I love my big stomach, but Buddy never likes to talk about it. Back when the baby started kicking I said, "Quick! Feel here!" But he acted like he'd been burned and snatched his hand away. "I didn't know your stomach would get so hard," he said. So then I told him a Ue which was that Dr. Foley had said we couldn't have sex anymore. I am shy since we got married and I got so big. I was never shy before. In fact, I undid my own bra before Buddy even put his arm around me last spring. I was a virgin, though. I had never gone all the way. I just loved the top part. At breakfast I tried to act like nothing was different, like Td never been naked a day in my life, which I did by taking tiny little sips of everything in a ladylike way. Buddy kept staring at my stomach, and he acted so nice, like he wanted to wait on me hand and foot. He said how much bigger I looked without my dress on. He did not use the actual word, naked. He said he never saw anything so big, how did I manage to stand up 232 ยท The Missouri Review straight? He said what happened to my belly button, "It looks Uke a little nose," he said. He used the word navel, which I can't say. When I found out about the oranges I stopped asking for them. I thought it was naval, I thought it had to do with them coming here in ships. These are words I cannot say out loud: navel, nipple. Not even if I am by myself. It sounds too personal. Anyway, he kept staring at me. I thought he was going to ask if I would lift up my dress and show him again. WeU, he had his chance. Then we had a fight. I have been saving his doodles as he calls them, I caU them drawings. I think he is truly an artist. AU he has to do is pick up a pen and a galaxy drops down on the page: suns, moons, stars, comets, a whole solar system. But Buddy gets mad if I notice something about him that he hasn't noticed yet himself and he probably thought he was stiU making tictactoes. I can't help what I notice, but it puts Buddy in a bad mood. He hated it when I found two gray hairs down south and when I told him...


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