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Lumina Avenue; a noval excerpt Paul Lisicky An overturned teapot; a dropped clutch of peonies. Laura on her back, on the kitchen floor, Joan fixing a cushion behind her head. My women. Just like them to make fun of spectacle, disaster, to laugh at the things that kept them lying awake at night: ghosts bubbling up from the sink; jets falling from the sky, setting fire to the trees. And yet . . . The crusts in the corner of her mouth? The blush? This was no joke. The cup fell through my hands, soaking the rug with coffee. Laura said, "Don't ask." "She collapsed," Joan said. "I tripped." I squatted beside her, laying a hand on her forehead. "My God. You hurt yourself again?" Her fingers felt heavy and limp, as if they'd fallen asleep. I rubbed and rolled them, but couldn't pink up the skin. "I told you he was going to freak." The web between Joan's thumb and forefinger twitched as if she were being shocked: a sure sign she was holding something back and needed to talk. Though she'd no sooner betray her sister than agree to lock her up in some hospital, or push her off the dock with a sack of sugar. "I twisted funny." "You twisted funny?" "It's got to be something with the inner ear. No big deal. I've had it before. Hey, didn't you just make a mess over there?" "No big deal?" I said. "Joan," she said, "get some dishtowels. Help him clean it up. He's going to be upset about it later." "Last week it was raw gums," I said. "The week before that it was a cold feeling in the side." "You're forgetting about the nosebleed," Laura said. "Say what?" 79 Ecotone: reimagining place "Oh shit," she said, covering her face with a hand. Joan stuck out her tongue. "Absolutely out of control. She dripped all over her favorite shirt." I said, "What is going on with you two?" Laura lifted her chin. "None of it's worth reporting, sweetie, because everything's minor. The symptoms, I mean. You're trying too hard to connect the dots. Nothing is wrong with me. I repeat, NOTHING IS WRONG WITH ME. I'm a healthy, vital woman. Now give me a kiss." And she screwed up her lips in a pucker. "You're driving me insane." But the force inside my head did not find its way to my voice. Always that gap between what I thought and my ability to express it. I might have just said, I love you so much that it's murdering me. But did I? I mean, love her so much? If I was walking down the streets of Ocean Springs, and someone pressed a switchblade against my Adam's apple and said, do you love your wife? I'd say, Of course I love my wife. I love her more than good wine. I love her more than my Russian ancestors. I love her three times more than my childhood dog, Ashes, who disappeared into the marsh for good after I'd forgotten to shut the gate. But if given the luxury of deliberation, I'd have to say that "love" felt too small for what we were for each other. It felt detached and deliberate, almost juvenile. What do you say about two people who have used and shared each others' bodies for so long that their skin has started to taste alike? There isn't any word for it. What they are for one another is larger than Jupiter, the spray of stars surrounding it. "We're taking you to the doctor." Then, and only then, I kissed her. "Like hell you are," she said merrily. "This isn't good, dear." I looked up at Joan as if to whisper: I can't do this myself. "It's probably no big deal," Joan said, working hard, terrifically hard, and failing, to sound breezy about things. "It mightbe a little high blood pressure. Something you can take pills for. You like pills." She touched her hand to Laura's cheek, slapping a glow into it...


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pp. 79-85
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