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As much from compassion as from love, Will Brenner has married a desperately neurotic woman, Laura. After the suicide of Laura's father, Will and Laura parented Laura's much younger sister, Jo. In this excerpt Will plays squash with his medical partner, Jerry, and is forced to acknowledge both his anger at Laura for her self-destructive acts and his passionate and (for him) unthinkable love for the eighteen-year-old Jo. Janet Beeler Shaw's collection of short stories, Some Of The Things I Did Not Do, was published in 1984. FROM TAKING LEAVE I Janet Beelér Shaw //?/OU LOOK LIKE hell," Jerry said to Will with good-humoured JL bluntness. "But then so do I. What are we doing here at this ridiculous hour?" It was six-thirty in the morning, and, except for the one they'd just entered, the squash courts were deserted. Jerry slammed shut the heavy door and adjusted the elastic that held his glasses. Will pulled his sweatband down to his eyebrows and swung his arms tentatively. His body ached, his head ached, and he hadn't been able to eat any breakfast. After a dream of Jo, followed by nightmare of falling, he hadn't gone back to sleep. "I had a hard time sleeping last night. What's your excuse, Jer? Booze or a gal?" " 'Gal' is an out-moded term. I've been instructed to say 'woman.' " "Ah, a woman, then." Actually, Jerry looked good; his face was ruddy, his dark eyes shining with no circles, underneath. "Whoever she is, she seems to agree with you." Jerry stretched first one leg, then the other. "She agrees with me that I'm terrific." He wasn't ready for Jerry's banter. He'd prefer silence, but Jerry usually set the tone when they were together. "You left the warm bed of your woman to come to this dismal squash court?" "She went back to the warm bed of her husband several hours ago." He kneaded the cold squash ball as he watched Jerry stretch. "I thought you didn't date married women. ? matter of principle/ you said. 'Singles should stick to other singles.' Am I quoting you correctly?" Jerry bent forward to pull his arms up behind. He'd dislocated his shoulder last year in a beach-party volleyball game; now he tried to be careful. "Not really a date. Betsy's an old friend of mine who comes to me with her troubles." "An altruistic lay. That's a new category for you." "I don't need an excuse." "Help out an old friend. Screw her and fix up her shaky marriage." "Hey, she knows where I'm at. Why the hell do you care, William?" "Her husband knows where you're at, too?" He caromed a forehand shot just above the tin. It rebounded toward Jerry's side of the court. Jerry let the ricocheting ball pass and continued his methodical warm-up. "Her husband's a nice guy. Sells insurance. Raises shelties." Will hit himself a few hard ones, an easy one thrown in now and then. "One big happy family. Everyone understands." "It works out." Jerry stretched, arms over his head. "Damn shoulder's stiff. Advanced age." The Missouri Review -229 "You're doing fine. Just fine, Jer. Want to get going?" He was light-headed, but didn't want to say so—he should have had some juice, at least. His mouth was dry and the pressing headband numbed his forehead. "Slow down," Jerry said. "Take it easy." But he hit the ball, grimacing, when Will tossed it to him. Will smashed it so that it came back hugging the wall. When Jerry missed it he felt an intense satisfaction. What in the hell did he have against Jerry? No one was straighter with him than Jerry—he never lied. "You should be locked up for wife-molesting." Will tried to convince himself that was a joke. Jerry let the smash go by and rubbed his shoulder. "Old shrapnel wound." "Let's play." "In a minute." Hands on his hips, Jerry did slow side-twists. His gold chains chinked softly. "After I get some...


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pp. 118-127
Launched on MUSE
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