In the evening they went down to her room—it was chilly, so they turned on the heater in the hall, as well as the portable heater in her room. He brought down all the pillows from the sofa upstairs and banked them against the wall, and they snuggled together in front of the TV to watch Casablanca.

He had said to her, “Even if we don’t sleep together, couldn’t we just fool around some time?” She had the impulse now to take his hand and guide it under her shirt to her breasts. Instead, she held his hand, caressed it, examined it. She wanted him to make the first move. But after all she had said to him, she knew he didn’t dare. As she watched him, he turned to look at her, and they stayed that way, until, suddenly, he put his hands over his face with real shyness.

“Why did you do that?” she laughed.

“I was embarrassed—thinking lascivious thoughts.”

“What?” she asked.

But he didn’t answer.

They went back to being quiet until a Volare ad come on, and she broke, full-voiced, into the chorus, “Volare! Oh-Oh!”

“You know,” he said, “I’m yours. You can do anything with me you want.”

“I can?” she asked, then drew his hand to her breasts. And they fooled around a little.



One late afternoon they were sitting at the dining room table with a bowl of old apples between them, she lolling on her elbows after a long day at work. She finished her sandwich and picked up the small glass plate to lick off the spilled peanut butter and jelly.

“My granny always said I was uncouth,” she lied.

“I was going to take you out to dinner tonight, but I’m seriously reconsidering it,” he said, unseriously. Then, “I have a question for you.”

She threw up her hands as if to ward it off.

“What’s going on between us?” he asked.

The room was getting dark, she noticed. She began picking at the splintering edge of the table top.

“Oh, Zeke…I don’t want to get involved.”

“Give me one good reason.”

“Because you’re going away…because you’re on the rebound…because we’re too different…”

“Three strikes and I’m out?”

She sighed roughly.

“But I love you,” he said quietly.

“You do?” she asked.

“Well, maybe not the forever kind of love—that takes time,” he red face got redder, “but, yes, Seely, I do.”




Seely woke up the next morning in a whimsical mood. She lay on her side with her knees tucked up to her chin, croaking a little tune and pumping her feet in time. Then she was quiet, listening. She could hear soft, padding feet overhead—Franny was up— then clomping—Zeke and his clogs were on their way to the bathroom. She smiled to herself, then determinedly frowned, “It’s ridiculous!” she said out loud. “He’s red-faced, balding, and squat…and he looks like he belongs in a butcher’s apron.”

When she went up to breakfast, Zeke was holding his head in his hands and staring around rather wildly.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I’ve got to get this place cleaned up,” he cried. “I’m supposed to show it tomorrow! Franny, out of the way!”

Franny lay with her bewhiskered muzzle on her paws, looking woeful as always, but stood up expectantly when she heard her name.

“Aw,” said Seely, “She wants to help.”

Whereupon Zeke lifted Franny’s front paws and stood her at the sink.

“You wash, Kiddo,” he directed, “and I’ll dry.”

Seely made them scrambled eggs. Later, when Zeke went off to the bank, she examined the floor. I looked like it hadn’t been scrubbed in years—there was a layer of grease around the legs of the old-fashioned stove so thick she’d have to scrape it off with a pancake turner. She twisted her long hair into a pony tail and stuck it down the back of her sweatshirt to keep it out of her face, then got down on all fours with a bucket of water and an assortment of scouring pads. She worked with a will, determined to have the whole thing done by the time Zeke got back to surprise him. But when he finally did, it was still only half-done.

“What are you doing?” He looked aghast.

“Cleaning?” she suggested hopefully. For the old linoleum was so discolored that, minus a greasy sheen, the after looked no different than the before.

“Ah, Cinderella,” he said plaintively, pulling her up by her blanched and puckered hands. “Why are you so nice to me?”





My sun porch bedroom, I discovered to my dismay, was so hot in summer it might as well have been a barbecue pit, so cold in winter a meat locker. For this reason—and also because I wanted to be nearer the college—after eight months on Hillegass, I moved to a little house built into a hillside in a rustic neighborhood—with an architect, Rick, and his other roomer Lisa, who spent most of her time at her boyfriend’s place. It was December, and I promised Rick I’d look after his English wolfhound, Frieda, while he was in Chicago for the holidays. What he failed to mention—until he got back—was that he was planning to sell the house, relocate to Chicago, and buy a seat—for $200,000—on the Chicago Board of Trade.



“My first evening in my new home, I lugged the double mattress Rick had recently bought into the laundry room to make space for my single mattress in the tiny basement bedroom that only briefly, I would learn belatedly, would be mine.

“But once I was tucked into bed, I got spooked, what with the whole house creaking and windows rattling, it was such a windy night. So I dragged Frieda downstairs and posted her by my bedside to protect me. When she whimpered so loudly I could even hear her through my earplugs, I reassigned her to the hall—and still I woke up only a few hours later to pitch blackness. Too agitated to go back to sleep, I decided to fix up my room.

“Naively, I sawed down my old bookcase boards to fit the far wall, unpiled my books and treasures onto the shelves, and custom-trimmed my matchstick blinds with pruning shears. When I carted my fake fur rug into the laundry room to wash it, there in the middle of the floor, beside a contrite-looking Frieda, was a big puddle of dog piddle. Blearily, I started the washing machine, leaving the bleach bottle on top, thinking I’d add the bleach when the machine had filled—and went upstairs to hunt up a mop.

“I must have been gone longer than I thought because when I got back, I found the bleach bottle on the floor—it must have shimmied off the washer when it started agitating—the cap had come off, and now a gallon of bleach and urine was oozing slowly down the slanted floor toward Rick’s new mattress.

“Unable to breathe, the smell of chlorine was so overpowering, I struggled to open the window behind the washer, but it was hard to reach and I couldn’t budge it. So I tried to bang the frame a few times to loosen it, missed, and shattered window instead, gashing my hand.

“With only seconds to spare, I ran for a rag to wrap up my hemorrhaging hand, and when the puddle was maybe a millimeter from the mattress, I hoisted it in the air, like Atlas, and started to carry it over the puddle. The mattress was so heavy, however, my knees buckled, and it folded around me like sandwich bread around a slice of bologna. Suffocating, I heroically I held on, nevertheless—and delivered it to safety.

“As soon as the stores opened, though I was dead on my feet, I bought some putty and a pane of glass, only to discover when I got home that the putty was blue. Too tired to return it, I puttied in the window anyway and decided to worry about what tall tale to tell Rick…later.”