Some light purple, an old piece pulled for my twenty-fifth college reunion. As I recall my workshop classmates disliked this and the discussion hovered on the distinction between a schmuck and a schlemiel. It was 1989. I should have called it Knowing Lois.
The Second Gilded Age was just warming up, and I bet Maya eventually got some decent coffee. We already had the ice cream. I leave this formatted in its mistransliterated glory, probably WordPerfect 4.2 or even the Leading Edge Word Processor.
I know you know He she it knows
After my lunch was spent I leaned in my armchair back to the
angle that Lois had achieved some time earlier and we took in
side©by©side the sights afforded us by the dining hall crowd in
the waning minutes of the lunch hour. I sat solid, contemplating
bored with my arms folded across my otherwise©barren chest, while
Lois sat still yet upright and expectantly animated, her hands
folded demurely in her lap, as her chest overflowethed already.
We sat quiet for a while, and then we sat quiet for a while.
“I feel like I’m sitting on the front porch or something,”
Lois concluded at an appropriate moment. I knew what she was
talking about, but I knew that she did not.
“Lois,” I said, “have you ever really sat on a porch after
dinner, or did you just read about it? I mean, the last time I
sat on a porch it was nothing like this. It was outside, to begin
with, up in the mountains. There was no cigarette smoke, no big
orange curtains, there was just trees and needles and a lot more
trees and needles. And there were no cars going by, no dumpster
full of Tommy’s garbage, there were just big mountains. And
instead of a bunch of strangers sitting here with us being loud
and annoying there were just occasional passers©by, and I would
sit there afternoons on my porch in the mountains reading a book,
and once in a while look up and say ‘why, hello passer©by,’ and
then go back to my book. It was nothing like this.”
Lois wasn’t fooled by my excessive verbiage; I hadn’t told
her the whole story, and she knew it. “Passers©by, huh?” she said
suspiciously. “How many passes did it take?” Of course, the truth
was, it took only one; up in the mountains a thunderstorm was
nothing out of the ordinary, and so it was not so surprising that
I was struck by brazen blonde lightning while just sitting there
innocent on my porch one sunny afternoon. But I didn’t see why I
should cloud my nice little contrast with that fact, which Lois
would probably just load with a bunch of lewd connotation anyway,
“What a cute girl, huh,” I said, not really changing the
subject at all. Lois craned her neck to see.
“Oh, yes, but you know that if you two had children there
would be no hope but for red hair.” Lois seemed to take pleasure
from that genetic log©jam, and I could take no pleasure from her
pleasure from that genetic log©jam.
“You’re just jealous, Lois,” I wagered. “I bet you just
always wanted to be the only redhead in your temple.” She bravely
cringed not, but smiled and changed at least the object, again.
“You know I hate it when you talk about other girls.” Lois
was a flirt of the highest order. “What, you lived in the
“No, I was just there for a summer working at a camp.
Thunderhead Episcopal Camp© named for the flashpan storms that
would hit. Right near Mount Rushmore, you know© just off the
Wyoming border. I washed dishes.”
“Yeah, I bet you worked your ass off. Sitting on a porch all﹤j﹤day reading a book and whistling at the chicks© sounds pretty
“You’d be surprised©© air’s pretty thin up there, you know.
There were lots of dishes, too.” I felt clever.
“Yeah, but I bet there was even more rushing and mounting.”
Lois felt clever. I submitted to the onslaught of her wit only,
I lay stretched languid high atop my bunk©bed that same
afternoon, reading a schoolbook of the highest order and looking
intermittently out my window and down upon Bow street where
occasional pedestrians walked hither, to, yon and fro. Suddenly
upon turning a page I caught a glimpse of a familiar set of legs
curving around the corner, on a path I surely knew led to a room
I surely knew. I reached over to the desk, dialed a familiar
number and let it ring. In another two pages she answered. She
refused dinner at my house as we both knew she would, and set the
time for me to meet her at hers. I talked her ten minutes sooner
for effect, set my alarm for five minutes sooner and rolled over
for my daily forty.
“I can’t believe you made it over here that fast© you must
have taken a two©minute shower. That sucks.” Maya pursed her lips
wry in sympathy.
“No, it was kind of fun, you know? I wish I had more often
cause to rush. Usually whatever I have to do can wait, and things
just sort of drag on.” I poked at my sub©par dinner, wishing
there had been a bit more reason to hurry. Maya and I sat across
from each other at a table set against the expansive sheet©glass
walls of her dining hall. Looking down in the winter twilight I
could see in through the front of Tommy’s Lunch. The neon sign
advertising hot pastrami shone bright in the front window.
“See that neon sign there?” I said, pointing across the
street, “From even the far end of the Adams dining hall you can
see that, through all the windows and across the street and
“That’s amazing. Do you want some coffee or something?” I
shook my head and those same legs whisked off again. I gave up on
the roast beef and cous©cous and watched loose packs of silent
rolling cars pass by on Mt. Auburn. Whoosh. Whoom©whoom whoosh
they went by. Maya returned from the kitchen unsatisfied.
“I would kill for some decent coffee,” she said
“You take killing pretty lightly,” I said. “You know what I
would îùkillïú for, Maya?” I wound up with histrionic intensity. “I
would kill for that feeling of being seven years old in the
summer and freed after dinner until bedtime, and you have nothing
to do, so you just sit there on the front step and the summer day
is just burning itself up and you feel like you’ve just îgotï to do
something, and so you get up and just run around the block for
the hell of it. That’s all I’d really kill for.”
She was unimpressed. “Not even for ice cream? I îknowï you
like ice cream enough to kill someone.” I hadn’t thought of that.
Maybe not just ice cream, but a milkshake definitely. Why run﹤j﹤anywhere when you’ve got a milkshake where you are?
“You know, the last time I had a good milkshake was last
year in Minnesota, when I was teaching summer school and one
night another girl working there went and bought us two big
milkshakes after dinner when the kids were all locked in their
rooms studying.” Maya gave me a dour look. “Yeah, those were some
awesome milkshakes© I got banana and she got black cherry©© big
chunks of real banana, you know? Hers was good, too. Nothing like
a small©town Dairy Queen.”
“Sounds just great,” Maya said unconvincingly.
“Yeah, but I fucked up. Without thinking, I told her I
hadn’t had such a good milkshake since I had gone to that same DQ
a year earlier with her best friend. It was a perfectly innocent
thing to say©© I mean, you know, I wish it wasn’t, but©© anyway,
she got pretty pissed off, even though she didn’t say anything.”
“Kept it to herself, huh?”
“So that was the end of that, huh?”
“You’d better believe that was the end of that.” I rued.
“Sort of precludes any runs around the ol’ block, doesn’t
it,” she said pointedly. I felt her clever. She stirred her
coffee and looked down and out the window. “There’s something
funny about being just a little bit above it all and looking
everyone over,” she said wistfully.
“King David built for himself the highest house in all of
Jerusalem when he moved into town. They used to walk around on
the rooves a lot, so he could look out on practically the whole
city.” It all came together. “That’s what he was doing one night
when he was bored and he saw Bathsheba out bathing naked on îherï
roof, wasn’t it.”
“That was big trouble for him.”
“Yeah. But at least he got some great sex.”
“Yeah, I know.”