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50 the minnesota review L. Timmel Duchamp Ms. Peach Makes a Run for Coffee Ms. Peach groped the alarm in silence. When dutifully she pried open her thickly gummed eyelids she saw that sometime during the night the clock-radio had switched to battery power, and belatedly noticed the white noise pouring out of the radio. Another hid on the generator, Ms. Peach conjectured as she searched for a working station. While dressing Ms. Peach listened to the news and weather reports broadcast by one of the two stations owning emergency backup generators. She knew one had to take anything gleaned from impersonal sources as a probable lie, but found any news preferable to that blank emptiness into which rumor and speculation and private fantasy of direst catastrophe inevitably crept. When the possibility of the unthinkable recognizes no limits, ignorance offers no bliss. With mass transit indefinitely down Ms. Peach arrived at the Auvergne Preparatory Academy for Young Women sticky and sweaty from the long dirty walk, though not disheveled—as she observed of two coUeagues sharing her elevator. One could not afford to procrastinate ironing one's clothes or washing one's dishes or body, for one never knew when water and power cuts would interfere with the orderly process of civilized living. Ms. Peach shook her head over the teachers who'd been caught unprepared: Ms. Auvergne would indubitably have something sharp to say to them, and if there were already notes of past lapses in their files they'd be looking for work by the end of the week. The teachers must be at least as neatly turned out as the girls, that stood to reason. "You are living examples to the students," Ms. Auvergne always reminded them at every staff gathering she addressed. "Your appearance and deportment must be exemplary !" Staring out at the faces in her homeroom class Ms. Peach swallowed against the lump in her throat, her eyes watered as she thought of the dozens of clean pressed blouses hanging in these girls' closets. (Does the water ever go offin their neighborhoods?) Never did their blazers show signs of wear and tear or even the spills normal to adolescent clumsiness. (When Melanie was a teenager she never could wear a blouse two days running. And her school blazer was always missing a button orsomething, which I told her was her responsibility, not mine. Their mothers ofcourse have unlimited water and electricity, and probably maids as well.) Ms. Peach frowned down at the print-out of the day's announcements she would commence reading once the signal had been given and the Pledge Duchamp 51 of Allegiance recited. Probably these girls each had spare slacks and blazers. But would her aging quaUty suit last another term? She had better start saving the money for a new one. Ms. Auvergne gave no quarter when it came to propriety and appearance. "If we do not observe the decencies here, who wUl?" Ms. Peach had once heard her say to a tearyeyed teacher under ultimatum to replace her threadbare suit. Who indeed? Ms. Peach wondered as the signal pulsed through the halls and classrooms of the school. Who indeed? At morning break when Ms. Peach entered the Staff Lounge she found her colleagues in fevered discussion of three choice (if not prime) pieces of news. According to the local NBC affiliate the Mayor and the City Council were at that very moment debating whether or not to request Federal Assistance. Colonel Lewis's faction, of course, opposed doing any such thing, and reportedly persisted in citing what had happened in the city of M_______ when FEMA had complied with M_______'s request for assistance. That their Mayor, however, increasingly inclined these days towards bringing in the feds posed no mystery for any of the teachers taking morning break in Auvergne's Staff Lounge. "We just about have a military junta running this city instead of the Mayor or the City CouncU ," Ms. Devine bluntly put it (apparently impervious to the alarmed looks her rashness provoked from her colleagues). Nervous chatter poured into the pool of silence rippling outward from Ms. Devine's solecism, and Ms. Peach soon learned...


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