Vo l . 7 N o . 1 spreading from the corners of Angi’s eyes. “You were coming after me! You’re one of those angry women, you flock to me, cling to me, you want me to make you happy and loved, I’m the one who deserves to be happy and in love…” “Someone else’s husband won’t make me happy. Some else’s father won’t make Bradley happy.” Angi snatches up Bradley and half runs to her car. Her bangle bracelets flash in the light as she raises a palm to ruby lips, blows Seth a kiss, and calls out, “Thanks for the dances!” She buckles Bradley in and hurries to the driver’s side door amid honks from impatient parents. Seth walks to the edge of the parking lot. He could step onto the road and disappear around its bend. He takes five steps. Ten steps. Fifteen steps. Twenty steps. Drivers yell. Breaks squeal. His face reddens. His gut hurts. The road shimmers with sharp, silver illumination. He’d seen it so many times, streaming down so many roads, that brilliant light that always leaves him nauseous with freedom. Martha leads him back, saying, “Silly girl, listening to that gossip. No one should listen to nonsense.” “What marriage is this?” “A good one. We understand each other,” Martha smiles, but her eyes narrow. She lifts her hand as if shading her vision from the setting sun, all the time watching Seth as she says, “It’s just as you said. She’s jealous. Angry. Forget about her. Let’s get our family home.” Seth sees Hunter watching him. Seth feels his face redden. He never saw his father as Hunter must now see Seth. He doesn’t have the marriage his father had, but that’s a fleeting thought as Seth gets into the Volvo, slamming the door. Martha takes her place beside him. Hunter and Ted get in, roll down windows, yell to friends. Seth drives to the car line. Light fills the windshield, blinding him. He turns off the ignition. He looks into the rear view mirror for refuge only to see Hunter staring at him. He doesn’t have the sons his father had, but that’s another thought for another time. Cars honk. Martha hands him sunglasses. “ About your not working for a year…” “Oh Seth, we give each other what we want,” Martha interrupts. “That’s why we have such a successful marriage.” Seth puts on his sunglasses. Illumination fades to a manageable glimmer. He drives onto the ferry and back to what remains of his happy family, his good marriage.
It was on a Wednesday that I took a lover. This particular ambiguity of time in the structure of my week was fitting so that it did not seem odd—after the surprise of new flesh—to attend to the patterned necessities of wife— and motherhood: the planning of meals, the purchase of meat. Afterward, on the way to the butcher shop that Wednesday, for the sake of romance I imagined I exuded, delicately, the scent of damp sheets and musk. The butcher who years ago and priest-like silently offered up slabs of bloody flesh to my mother became this Wednesday strangely voluble and insistent upon a tray of burgundy-colored liver, its connective tissues a fragile wonderment of pearl sheen. “Fresh like this it gives a woman strength.” His eyes under veined lids seemed for that moment less remote. This remoteness stems from a time of plaster saints when the butcher and the church were inextricably joined in a brotherhood of ritual. The visible manifestation of this joining was the parish calendar, courtesy of Daugherty’s Butcher Shop & Grocery, and its seal was the simple outline of a fish. Each Friday—and on Wednesdays during the atonements of Lent—in response to this spare, attenuated symbol, we suffered the pale flesh of the sea and called it fasting. Once, in the days of processionals and catechism classes, the logical necessity of this penance was explained to me, but I do not remember the words. Perhaps the priests also do not remember, for like the demise of Saint Christopher and the Latin Mass at a later time, the ordering of our days and ways of ritual was adjudged unnecessary—or at least ineffectual. But the fact is we, my mother and I, suffered our peculiarly dual enlightenment before a Papal Bull changed the eating habits of almost half the Western World. We announced this defiantly through the prosaic purchase of a large beef brisket and a head of cabbage at Daugherty’s one Wednesday morning of the Lenten Season. I tend to the belief the butcher blames us for his lost saints. Like the butcher, my lover has no saints. But unlike the butcher, he had none to lose. His grandfather—last in a long and revered line of ritual slaughterers—had unburdened his family first of these encumbrances and then of himself with professional expediency. A
A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim