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North Carolina Miscellany

She dropped the envelope in the campus mailbox and headed for the hall. She pictured herself walking. “Is that nonchalant?” she wondered. “Is that what people mean when they say ‘nonchalant’?” She hoped not. Nonchalant would not have been exactly right. Almost as soon as the deed was done and she was out in the cool hallway, she had a strange perception. It was as if she stood before herself, two persons, one version of her regarding the other from uncomfortable proximity. One of them was Kristen. One of them was Dorinda. Kristen had done a hard but necessary deed, and now Dorinda was judging her for it. Nobody but the two of them was in the hallway, so she said aloud, “I will not be judged.” COURTESY OF THE ARTIST

Chasm by Kimberly Wheaton (oil and cold wax on cradled wood panel, 36x24)

N C L R ONLINE

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She didn’t look to see if Dorinda had gone away. She made her way to the car. As she half expected, Dorinda waited in the car for her. “I will not be judged” had worked pretty well the first time but lost some of its punch the second. Besides, Dorinda was herself, and the scrutiny of the self would not be called judgment, but rather conscience. Kristen looked into the rearview mirror and said, “New and better lives arise from disappointment. I am miserable here. I am on the verge of making Billy miserable. Maybe that’s happening already. He is the sort who can be happy anywhere. Nothing came from outside to help, so I am doing it myself. It is the right thing.” Dorinda received the speech silently, as she had before, but her gray eyes in the mirror seemed ready to tear up. Kristen looked quickly down at the dashboard and started the car. The house was empty. Kristen puzzled for a moment, then remembered that Billy was out of town, at a professional conference. The department provided money for people on tenure track to present at conferences, but not adjuncts, which was a shame, Kristen thought, for her reflections on Commedia dell’arte and the dramaturgy of Susanna Centlivre would have been a perfect fit. She repressed the impulse to stew about this, for the blow against the system she had just delivered was the evener of many grievances. She opened the refrigerator door and pulled out lemons as the foundation for a cooling drink. Their schedules were different, so it wasn’t as though she never had the house to herself, but now the solitude was more extreme. He was not only not home, but two hundred miles away, and, if she knew him, with his phone inaccessible under a pile of notes and programs. In their room, the bed was made. He was the bed-maker. She would have been content to wrap up in the tatters of last night’s sleep, but while she was having her first coffee, he would be tucking in corners and fluffing pillows. It seemed an odd pursuit for a man not otherwise very fastidious, until she realized he was doing it for her. As with all kindnesses, the fact that it was unnecessary, maybe even a little irritating, was never mentioned. As she regarded the neat bed, an unexpected image came to mind. She stood back watching herself enter the seminar room that first day of Early Modern Pastoral, when everything was beginning and every deed might have happy consequence through decades yet to come. She had graduated from a not particularly good Midwestern college, and she was a

Profile for East Carolina University

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

North Carolina Literary Review Online 2019  

A literary review published online annually by East Carolina University and by the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.

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