She had warned him she wouldn’t be home till late, but he had said to wake him anyway to kiss him good-night. She didn’t, though. She tiptoed down the back steps to her room. Belatedly she felt guilty for breaking her promise. But now she was in her nightgown and had no way to get in the back door.

So she pulled her wooly car coat over her shoulders, hoisted the hem of her nightgown, and stumbled up the dark, soggy path around the side of the house under a light pattering rain. The eery creaking of the tall bushes around her made her shudder. Zeke had forgotten to turn on the porch light, so she had to fumble for some time with her keys to get the front door open.

When she lay down beside him, he didn’t wake up. The bed shook as though there were earth tremors as Franny tossed against it in her sleep.

“Zeke?” she whispered. He didn’t stir. She called his name again.

“You’re supposed to kiss me to wake me up,” he mumbled. “That’s how it goes in fairy tales.” And he pooched out his mouth ridiculously. Instead she leaned over him, blowing softly into his face, then bit his chin.

“Let me touch you for a minute,” he said.

“OK. But just for a minute,” she said, rolling over to time him by the luminous second hand of his clock. She called out each ten-second interval…but eventually stopped. With his head between her legs, she ran her hands over her own body, which felt ethereally soft. They went into overtime.

“I’ll be back,” he said abruptly, and shuffled off to the bathroom. When he came back, he was wearing a rubber.

“Oh, Zeke, I don’t trust those things. It happened to me once that it came out in shreds.”

“So where’s your diaphragm?”

“In my medicine cabinet.”

He bounded for the door, naked, his flabby buttocks quivering.

“But you can’t go out like that! It’s raining!”

“Why not?” he shrugged. “I’ve got my rubber to keep me dry.”



“I’m so mad at you, I feel like slugging you!” Seely said blackly the next evening.

“Why don’t you?” suggested Zeke.

“Don’t tempt me.”

“No, I mean it.” He stuck out his chest. “I’m tough. I can take it.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“I’m not. I was being a jerk—I deserve it.”

So she did…a resounding thwack on his chest.

“Oof!” he groaned. “Feel better?”

“Yes!” she said, astonished. “I think that’s one of the nicest things anyone’s ever done for me!”



A day came and went and in the evening they watched another movie—in her bedroom on a bank of pillows again. When the movie ended, they were both quiet. Pulling at a broken thread in a seam on her embroidered bedspread, she finally said, “I wasn’t going to tell you this, but…”

She told him about the abortion and her guilt, how she’d promised herself never again to sleep with someone she didn’t love. She admitted she hadn’t been with anyone for five years.

“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” he cried, a pained expression on his face. He was sitting at the foot of the bed beyond her legs, and reached out to rub them consolingly. “I thought you were just being coy—I thought you were acting like a teenager.”

To which, she said nothing, only sighed.

“I’ve never met anyone like you,” he said softly. “Why didn’t you get hard like everyone else?”

Tears began to slide down her cheeks. It had gotten dark.

“Can I hug you?” he asked.

She nodded but lay inert, while he stretched out in the narrow bed beside her,  fitting his arms around her and rocking her. Soon she started to convulse with silent weeping—and each time her body started to rack with pain, she felt his arms tighten around her. Finally she pushed him away a short distance and studied him.

“What are you smiling about?” he asked.

But she pursed her lips and zipped them with her fingers.

From then on he touched her in all the right places. When she told him she couldn’t remember the whereabouts of her diaphragm, he suggested maybe she’d left it at work.

“That’s it!” she cried, “Filed under ‘d.’”

She sat in a slice of light coming from under the bathroom door, rummaging through the boxes of clothes she used as drawers, since she didn’t have a dresser, searching for the small blue compact. But when she found it, she couldn’t remember how much jelly to use, so while Zeke smote his head with mock annoyance, she riffled through her file box, looking for the folder entitled Warranties and Instructions—and read the paper out loud.

Their lovemaking was calm, whimsical. “Aren’t you going to tell me I’m beautiful?” she asked him.

“I don’t usually say that to women.”

“Then your bedroom manner definitely need improvement.”

In the end he never did tell her she was beautiful, but he did say he loved her again. And fell out of bed—twice.



She did…and dreamed and dreamed until she ran out of night. She was making her way around a lushly green but treacherous bank of steep hills, high above a wild valley. Most of the paths had been washed away. There were mud slides to be gotten around, and the ground was so slippery, it was difficult to walk. She came to a narrow ledge under a great overhanging cliff, where a woman coming from the other direction advised her about footholds to use to get to the other side.

Then she dreamed Zeke and Meryl were sitting at the foot of her bed, talking. They thought she was asleep and were planning a tryst. Peeking out from the covers, she noticed Zeke’s face was wrapped in dough all the way up to his eyes. Later she saw he was there alone. He was telling her he wanted her, that it was now or never. But she couldn’t speak or reach out to him because she couldn’t rouse herself from her sleepy torpor. He got up roughly then, turned in her doorway and called her crude names. By this time she was groping, still half-conscious, out of bed, her arms stretched out to him. But he reached down and drew two great pins out of her fur rug and drove them through her palms.



Tense and jittery the next morning, Seely took her time going upstairs. When she finally did, she barely had enough time to fix herself breakfast before work. She found Zeke sitting at the dining table with his papers in neat piles in front of him.

“I dreamed about you,” she said, scrambling herself an egg.

“You did?”

After she finished, she sat down across from him and started recounting her dream. He was enumerating items on a note pad. When she stopped mid-sentence, he looked up and asked, “And then?”

But she couldn’t go on. She couldn’t tell him how the dream ended.

He went back to his work for a while, then without looking up, said, “You know I want to sleep with you, Seely, but I can’t go on like this. If you won’t sleep with me, I’m going to find someone who will.”

She stood up suddenly, with her plate of half-eaten toast. “Just any old someone, huh?”

He stood up too and reached out towards her, but she jerked back and walked in a wide arc around him. He sat down again while she stood by the sink, gnawing savagely on her last cold morsel of toast.



The drive after dance class that night was a mad flight home. She felt reckless, giddy—she took all the back streets at breakneck speed, making only the briefest pauses halfway through the intersections where there were stop signs. She had all the windows rolled down, and each time she accelerated and braked from corner to corner, the warm night air rolled over her in great, slow waves. When she got home, she caught sight of herself in the mirror by the front door. Her face was flushed and her shaggy hairline curled in damp tendrils. Zeke was standing over his bed folding his laundry, turning socks right-side out, picking off the lint, and rolling them into neat little balls. She clambered onto his fur bedspread and wrapped her shimmering skirt around her knees. He stopped in the middle of what he was saying and stared at her.

“I can’t remember what I was saying,” he said.

“Maybe you got distracted by the bed,” she teased him.

“I don’t understand you, Seely. Sometimes I think you’re trying to hurt me.”

Her face fell. “You can’t believe that, Zeke.”

He shook his head ruefully. “What am I supposed to think?”

And before she could say anything more, he added coldly, “Maybe you’d better go now and let me get some sleep.”