In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Avarice
  • Charles Baxter (bio)

My former daughter-in-law is sitting in the next room eating cookies off a plate. Poor thing, she’s a freeloader and can’t manage her own life anywhere in the world. Therefore she’s here. She’s hiding out in this house, for now, believing that she’s a victim. Her name’s Corinne, and she could have been given any sort of name by her parents, but Corinne happens to be the name she got. It’s from the Greek, kore. It means “maiden.” When I was a girl, no one ever called me that—a maiden. The word is obsolete.

Click for larger view
View full resolution


Everyone else under this roof—my son and his second wife (my current daughter-in-law, Astrid) and my two grandchildren—probably wonders what Corinne is doing here. I suppose they’d like her to evaporate into what people call “thin” air. Corinne’s bipolar and a middle-aged ruin: When she looks at you, her vision goes right through your skin and internal organs and comes out on the other side. She mutters to herself, and she gives off a smell of rancid cooking oil. She’s unpresentable. If she tried to go shopping alone at the supermarket, the security people would escort her right back out, that’s how alarming she is.

The simple explanation for her having taken up residence here is that she appeared at the downtown Minneapolis bus depot last week, having come from Tulsa, where she lived in destitution. She barely had money for bus fare. My son, Wesley, her ex-husband, had to take her in. We all did. However, the more honest explanation for her arrival is that Jesus sent her to me.

Two weeks ago I was in the shower and felt a lump in my breast. I actually cried out in a [End Page 138] moment of fear and panic. Then my Christian faith returned to me, and I understood that I would be all right even though I would die. Jesus would send someone to help me get across into the next world. The person He sent to me was Corinne. I know that this is an unpopular view among young people, but there is a divinity that shapes our ends, and at the root of every explanation is God, and at the root of God is love.

I go into the room where Corinne resides, knitting a baby thing. I pick up the cookie plate. “Thank you, Dolores,” she says. She gazes at me with her mad-face expression. “Those were delicious. I’ve always loved ginger cookies. Is there anything I can do for you?” she asks. She’s merely being polite.

“Soon,” I tell her. “Soon there will be.”

You get old, you think about the past, both the bad and the good. You have time to consider it all. You try to turn even the worst that has happened into a gift.

For example, my late husband, Mike, Wesley’s father, was killed by the side of the road as he was changing a tire. This was decades ago. He was the only man I ever married. I never had another one, before or after. A rich drunk socialite, a former beauty queen fresh from a night of multiple martinis with her girlfriends, her former sorority sisters, plowed right into him. Then she went on her merry way. Well, no, that’s not quite right. After she hit Mike, my husband’s body was thrown forward into the air, and then she ran over him, both the car’s front and rear tires. Somehow she made her way home with her dented and blood-spattered car, which she parked in the three-car garage before she tiptoed upstairs and undressed and got into bed next to her businessman husband. She clothed herself in her nightgown. She curled up next to him like a good pretty wife. The sleepy husband asked her—this is in the transcripts—how the evening had gone with her girlfriends, if they had had a good time. Why was she shivering? She...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 138-145
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.