Three Stories

Every so often you need an accomplice

Svetlana Bailey, Glasses from the series Once there was there wasn’t. 2016 pigment print. 20 × 25". Courtesy of the artist.

A tumor was removed from my sister’s lung. When she could speak, she said, “I’m still here.” Her voice was croaky from the breathing tube. Before the surgery, I had said, “You can’t leave me alone with Mom.” She said, “Mom is dead. Her ashes are in my closet.”

Beside me on the bench is a man with a small dog. The dog has the extreme underbite of a deepwater fish and a luxuriant coat of Rita Hayworth fur. Dog and man were beside me yesterday and the day before. I write in a notebook. We do not speak.

I found the eyeglasses of the man I live with in a flower pot in the garage when I went to repot a bromeliad. The glasses cost $1,000 and were missing for eight months. My sister asks what I think our parents gave us. I say, “Freedom and no brother.”

My mother used a manual cash register at the health-food store where she worked. When it gave out, my brother-in-law replaced it with an electronic one. My mother said, “I will never learn to use it.” My brother-in-law took her into a back room and taught her how it worked. She was 58 and had never worked before. The nine years my brother-in-law owned the health-food store were the happiest of my mother’s life. People would ask for her when they came in. She was nicer than she really was. We are all nicer when we hear our name called out.

The emotional power of Sexual Politics derives from Kate Millett’s love for the male writers she dismantles in her book. It is possible to learn Danish by watching Borgen. Charlotte Brontë, not Dickens, invented the child narrator who speaks intimately about pain.

The man I live with worries the cats will leave and not return, maybe because it is something he is capable of doing. One day he read me a story by Lydia Davis. The narrator, who is divorced, remembers a fish bone that got caught in her husband’s throat.

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