Excerpt from “Hole in My Life” by Jack Gantos

July 15: Today I took a photograph of Hamilton sitting at the wheel with the sun setting1 behind him. He frowned. “Now take a picture of me,” I said, and handed him the camera.

He flipped the camera over, unsnapped the back, pulled out the film, and tossed it over his shoulder into the ocean. “If I find any more film on board it will join that roll,” he said.

“It’s just a photo,” I replied.

“It’s evidence,” he snapped back. This is the first evidence I have had that he even thinks we could be caught.

“Let me see your wallet,” he said.

I gave it to him.

He threw away all my identification except for my fake Florida license. “Might come in handy,” he said.

 

July 16: Dead clam today. Hot.2  The sails hanging limply3  from the gaffs like sleeping bats. At one point I dove overboard and swam around the boat as if it were at anchor. Hamilton threw an empty bottle overboard and we bobbed along next to it for hours. By the end of the day we may have covered a mile. No more. Feel like a sitting duck. Said so to Hamilton. He drifted into a story about his biggest concern on the ocean being pirates, not police. Told me about friends in the business4 who were boarded by pirates who tied them to the masts, and then took their stash. Somehow I find this absurd and can’t stop thinking of Captain Hook and his crew of pirates in Peter Pan. Wish Hamilton would swallow a clock so5  I could hear him creeping.6  He stalks me like a mumbling crocodile.

book excerpt — ‘What Made Maddy Run’ by Kate Fagan

The best four years of her life. That’s what Madison expected. Four years just like high school, except better — because now she’d be living on her own. 7

Actually, not quite on her own, living with a roommate. 2 At first, the room she shared with Emily in Hill — the Penn dormitory — seemed just fine, cozy even. For the first few days, they both kept the room meticulous, desperately preserving the image of college life they’d carried around for years: pictures of high school friends above desks, shampoo and conditioner tucked neatly into a plastic carrying case, roommates moving easily around the shared space with laughter and smiles, music blaring, preparing for a big party. 3

This image soon dissolved. In its place appeared something more real: 4the messiness and claustrophobia of two people who don’t really know each other sharing two hundred square feet, of wet towels left on beds, of books and clothes covering every surface, of neither roommate living up to the expectations of the other, because, well, how could they? This disappointment mattered, of course, but then again so many spaces existed outside that little room in Hill: classrooms, coffee shops, the city, frat parties, restaurants, the track.

… The track.5

In high school, track was fun. That was essentially its point: it was a form of cross-training that kept Maddy from burning out on soccer. Track came after school, and she spent much of the time running with Emma, her high school best friend, who competed for Boston College. Pressure eventually arose, once she became one of the best in the state, but she started without any kind of wild expectations. She just enjoyed running. She loved waking up on the weekend and going to the Celery Farm nature preserve, where she could churn through however many miles and whatever thoughts were on her mind.

But track in college was a different beast. For one, it was not just track; it was also cross-country. For another, it was not just one practice after school; it was also scheduled in the morning before classes. 6 It was, like most Division I sports, a job — with time commitments, with demands, with expectations of performance. 7 And nothing turns enjoyment into dread faster than obligation.

For all of Madison’s life, late summer and fall had meant soccer. It meant walking onto a grass field, cleats in hand, laughing with friends she’d known her entire life. 8The work was hard, but it was collective work, with friends to connect with between sprints with a nod (“We got this”), or a laugh (“Coach is crazy”), or an exhausted grimace (“How many more?”) –each person pulling weight toward a larger goal. 9 Now, late summer and fall meant waking up at dawn in a cramped dormitory room, in a new city, to trudge to practice and run long distances, the person next to you living inside her own head, considering her own times, responsible only for her own motivation. Maddy didn’t have anyone she wanted to show up for.

Maddy just wasn’t enjoying it. The training was so different. In high school, she had been a middle distance runner. She had wanted to stretch to the mile at Penn, but cross-country included races four times that length. Also, when she ran races in high school, she usually won. There were only eight lanes, just seven opponents, but still, Madison routinely finished first. 10 On the other hand, a college cross-country meet included hundreds of runners, all literally corralled at the starting line, released onto the course in a wave of humanity — dense lines of people jostling for running room, fighting to prove themselves with each stride.11 And each of these runners was just like Maddy: used to winning.12

http://www.espn.com/espnw/culture/article/20175159/exclusive-book-excerpt-made-maddy-run-kate-fagan

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

It was cool and quiet under the waves.

For a few endless moments, Tally felt only relief to have escaped the searing wind, the thundering machine, the blistering heat of the firestorm. 13 But 2 the weight of the crash bracelets and knapsack pulled her down fast, and panic welled up in her pounding chest.

She thrashed in the water, climbing up toward the flickering lights of the surface. Her wet clothes and gear dragged at her, but 3 just as her lungs were about to burst, she broke the surface into the maelstrom. Tally gulped a few breaths of smoky air, then was slapped in the face by a wave. She coughed and sputtered, struggling to stay afloat.

A shadow passed over her, blacking 4 out the sky. Then her hand struck something—a familiar grippy surface… 5

Her hoverboard had come back to her! Just the way it always did when she spilled. The crash bracelets lifted her up until she could grab onto it, her fingers clinging to its knobbly surface as she gasped for air.

A high-pitched whine came from the nearby shore. Tally blinked away water from her eyes and she saw that the Rusty machine had landed. Figures were jumping from the machine, spraying white foam at the ground as they crashed through the burning flowers and into the river. They were headed for her. 6

She struggled to climb onto the board.

“Wait!” the nearest figure called. 7

Tally rose shakily to her feet, trying to keep steady on the wet surface of the board. Her hard-baked shoes were slippery, and 8 her sodden knapsack seemed to weigh a ton. As 9 she leaned forward, a gloved hand reached up to gab the front of the board. A face came up from the water, wearing some sort of mask. Huge eyes stared up at her.

She stomped at the hand, crunching the fingers. They slipped off, but her weight was thrown too far forward, and the board tipped its nose into the water. 10

Tally tumbled into the river again. 11

Hands grabbed at her, pulling her away from the hoverboard. She was hoisted out of the water and onto a broad shoulder. She caught glimpses of masked faces: huge, inhuman eyes staring at her unblinkingly. 12

Bug eyes. 13

Confessions of a Juggler by Tina Fey

My daughter recently checked out a book from the preschool library called “My Working Mom.” It had a cartoon witch on the cover. “Did you pick this book out all by yourself?” I asked her, trying to be nonchalant14 . Yes. We read the book, and the witch mother was very busy and sometimes reprimanded her daughter for messing things up near her cauldron. She had to fly away to a lot of meetings, and the witch’s child said something like “It’s hard having a working mom, especially when she enjoys her work.” In the heartwarming conclusion, the witch mother makes it to the child’s school play at the last second, and the witch’s child says she doesn’t like having a working mom but she can’t picture her mom any other way. I didn’t love it. I’m sure the two menwho wrote this book had the absolute best intentions, but this leads me to my point. The topic of working moms is a tap-dance recital in a minefield.

It is less dangerous to draw a cartoon of Allah French-kissing Uncle Sam—which, let me make it very clear, I have not done2—than it is to speak honestly about this topic.

What is the rudest question you can ask a woman? “How old are you?” “What do you weigh?” “When you and your twin sister are alone with Mr. Hefner, do you have to pretend to be lesbians?” No, the worst question is: “How do you juggle it all?”

“How do you juggle it all?” people constantly ask me, with an accusatory look in their eyes. “You’re screwing it all up, aren’t you?” their eyes say. My standard answer is that I have the same struggles as any working parent but with the good fortune to be working at my dream job. Or3 sometimes I just hand them a juicy red apple I’ve poisoned in my working-mother witch cauldron and fly away.

The second-worst question you can ask a woman is: “Are you going to have more kids?” This is rude. Especially to a woman like me, who is in her “last five minutes.” By that I mean my last five minutes of being famous is timing out to be simultaneous with my last five minutes of being able to have a baby.

Science shows that fertility and movie offers drop off steeply for women after forty.

When my daughter says, “I wish I had a baby sister,” I am stricken with guilt and panic. When she says, “Mommy, I need Aqua Sand” or “I only want to eat gum!” or “Wipe my butt!,” I am less affected.

I thought that raising an only child would be the norm in New York, but I’m pretty sure my daughter is the only child in her class without a sibling. All over Manhattan, large families have become a status symbol. Four beautiful children named after kings and pieces of fruit are a way of saying, “I can afford a four-bedroom apartment and a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in elementary-school tuition fees each year. How you livin’?”

Now, I’m not really one for status symbols. I went to public school. I have all my original teeth and face parts. Left to my own devices, I dress like I’m here to service your aquarium. But the kid pressure mounts for other reasons.

The woman who runs my local toy store that sells the kind of beautiful wooden educational toys that kids love (if there are absolutely no other toys around and they have never seen television) asks me, “Are you gonna have another one?”

A background actor on the set of “30 Rock” will ask, “You want more kids?” “No, no,” I want to say. Why would I want more kids when I could be here with you having an awkward conversation over a tray of old Danishes?

The ear-nose-and-throat doctor I see about some stress-induced canker sores offers, unsolicited, “You should have another one. I had my children at forty-one and forty-two. It’s fine.” Did she not hear the part about the stress-inducedcanker sores?

My parents raised me never to ask people about their reproductive plans. “You don’t know their situation,” my mom would say. I considered it such an impolite question that for years I didn’t even ask myself. Thirty-five turned into forty faster than McDonald’s food turns into cold non-food.

Behind Door No. 2, you have the movie business. Shouldn’t I seize the opportunity to make a few more movies in the next few years? Think of the movies I could make!

“Magazine Lady”: The story of an overworked woman looking for love, whose less attractive friend’s mean boss is played by me . . . when Bebe Neuwirth turns the part down.

“The Wedding Creeper”: An overworked woman looking for love sneaks into weddings and wishes strangers well on their wedding video, only to fall in love with a handsome videographer (Gerard Butler or a coatrack with a leather jacket on it), despite the fact that when they first met they knocked over a wedding cake, causing an old lady (Academy Award™ winner Jane Fonda) to rap.

Next, a strategically chosen small part in a respectable indie dramedysemble called “Disregarding Joy,” in which I play a lesbian therapist who unexpectedly cries during her partner’s nephew’s bris. Roger Ebert will praise my performance, saying I was “brave to grow that little mustache.”

Finally, for money, I play the villain in the live-action “Moxie Girlz” movie, opposite a future child star who at this moment is still a tickly feeling in Billy Ray Cyrus’s testicles.

How could I pass up those opportunities? Do I even have the right to deprive moviegoers of those experiences?

These are the baby-versus-work life questions that keep me up at night. There’s another great movie idea! “Baby Versus Work”: A hardworking baby looking for love (Kate Hudson) falls for a handsome pile of papers (Hugh Grant). I would play the ghost of a Victorian poetess who anachronistically tells Kate to “go for it.”

I debate the second-baby issue when I can’t sleep. “Should I? No. I want to. I can’t. I must. Of course not. I should try immediately.”

I get up to go to the bathroom and study myself in the mirror. Do I look like someone who should be pregnant? I look good for forty, but I have the quaggy jawline and hollow cheeks of a mom, not a pregnant lady. This decision cannot be delayed.

And what’s so great about work, anyway? Work won’t visit you when you’re old. Work won’t drive you to the radiologist’s for a mammogram and take you out afterward for soup. It’s too much pressure on my one kid to expect her to shoulder all those duties alone. Also, what if she turns on me? I am pretty hard to like. I need a backup.

And who will be my daughter’s family when my husband and I are dead from stress-induced canker sores? She must have a sibling. Hollywood be damned. I’ll just be unemployable and labelled crazy in five years, anyway.

Let me clarify. I have observed that women, at least in comedy, are labelled “crazy” after a certain age.

Female Writer: You ever work with xxx xxxx?

Male Agent (dismissive): She’s crazy now.

Female Writer: You know who I loved growing up? xxxxx mcxxx. What about her for this part?

Male Writer: I don’t know. I hear she’s pretty batshit.

Female Writer: I got a call today from xxx xxx.

Male Producer: Ugh. We had her on the show once. She was a crazy assache. She wanted to see her lines ahead of time. She had all these questions.4

I know older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they’re all “crazy.” I have a suspicion—and hear me out, because this is a rough one—that the definition of “crazy” in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to fuck her anymore.

The only person I can think of who has escaped the “crazy” moniker is Betty White, which, obviously, is because people still want to have sex with her.

This is the infuriating thing that dawns on you one day: even if you would never sleep with or even flirt with anyone to get ahead, you are being sexually adjudicated. Network executives really do say things like “I don’t know. I don’t want to fuck anybody on this show.”

(To any exec who has ever said that about me, I would hope that you would at least have the self-awareness to know that the feeling is extremely mutual.)

It seems to me the fastest remedy for this “women are crazy” situation is for more women to become producers and hire diverse women of various ages. That is why I feel obligated to stay in the business and try hard to get to a place where I can create opportunities for others, and that’s why I can’t possibly take time off for a second baby, unless I do, in which case that is nobody’s business and I’ll never regret it for a moment unless it ruins my life.5

And now it’s four o’clock in the morning.

To hell with everybody! Maybe I’ll just wait until I’m fifty and give birth to a ball of fingers! “Merry Christmas from Tina, Jeff, Alice, and Ball of Fingers,” the card will say. (“Happy Holidays” on the ones I send to my agents.)

I try to think about anything else so I can go back to sleep. I used to cling to the fact that my mom had me unexpectedly at forty, only to realize a couple of years ago that I had the math wrong and she was thirty-nine. A world of difference, in my insomniac opinion.6

My mom was conceived in the U.S., born in Greece, and brought back here as an infant. Because of this, she never gets called for jury duty.

She grew up speaking both English and Greek, and when I was in elementary school she volunteered to be a classroom aide, because a lot of the Greeks in our neighborhood were “right off the boat,” as she would say, and needed a translator. Sometimes the teachers would ask her to translate bad news: “Please tell Mrs. Fondulas that her son is very disruptive.” And my mom would nod and say in Greek, “George is a lovely boy.” Because she knew that if she translated what the teacher really said the kid would get a beating and the mother would hate her forever out of embarrassment.

Little kids’ birthdays in my neighborhood were simple affairs. Hot dogs, Hawaiian Punch, Pin the Tail on the Donkey, followed by cake and light vomiting. (Wieners, punch, and spinning into barfing would later be referred to as “the Paris Hilton.”) I would always complain to my mother after the Greek kids’ parties, because they served Italian rum cake. Covered in slivered almonds and soaked in booze, Italian rum cake is everything kids hate. No one ever ate it. It just got thrown away.

Cake Time is supposed to be the climax of a birthday, but instead it was a crushing disappointment for all. I imagine it’s like being at a bachelor party, only to find that the stripper has overdosed in the bathroom.

My mom finally explained to me that the reason the “Greeky Greeks,” as she called them, got the Italian rum cake was that it was the most expensive item in the bakery. They wanted the adults at the party to know they could afford it. Anyway, is that what I’m trying to do with this second-baby nonsense? Am I just chasing it because it’s the hardest thing for me to get and I want to prove that I can do it?

Do I want another baby? Or do I just want to turn back time and have my daughter be a baby again?

Some of you must be thinking, Well, what does your husband want? He’s a part of this decision, too, you know! He wants me to stop agonizing, but neither of us knows whether that means go for it or move on.

Why not do both, like everybody else in the history of earth? Because things that most people do naturally are often inexplicably difficult for me. And the math is impossible. No matter how you add up the months, it means derailing the TV show where two hundred people depend on me for their income, and I take that stuff seriously. Like everyone from Tom Shales to Jeff Zucker, I thought “30 Rock” would be cancelled by now.

I have a great gynecologist, who is as gifted at listening as she is at rectal exams. I went for my annual checkup and, tired of carrying this anxiety around, burst into tears the moment she said hello. I laid it all out for her, and the main thing I took away from her was the kind of simple observation that only an impartial third party can provide. “Either way, everything will be fine,” she said, smiling, and for a little while I was pulled out of my anxious, stunted brain cloud. “Everything will be fine” was a possibility that had not occurred to me.

That night, as I was putting the witch book in my daughter’s backpack to be returned to school, I asked her, “Did you pick this book because your mommy works? Did it make you feel better about it?” She looked at me matter-of-factly and said, “Mommy, I can’t read. I thought it was a Halloween book.”

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

At 1:28 a.m. a policeman opened the door of the cell and 7 told me that there was someone to see me.

I stepped outside. Father was standing in the corridor. He held up his right hand and spread his fingers out in a fan. I held up my left hand and spread my fingers out in a fan and we made our fingers and thumbs touch each other. We do this because sometimes Father wants to give me a hug, but I do not like hugging people, so we do this instead, and it means that he loves me. 2

Then the policeman told us to follow him down the corridor to another room. In the room was a table and three chairs. He told us to sit down on the far side of the table and 3 he sat down on the other side. There was a tape recorder on the table and I asked whether I was going to be interviewed and he was going to record the interview.

He said, ‘I don’t think there will be any need for that.’

He was an inspector. I could tell because he wasn’t wearing a uniform. He also had a very hairy nose. It looked as if there were two very small mice hiding in his nostrils. 4

He said, ‘I have spoken to your father and he says that you didn’t mean to hit the policeman.’

I didn’t say anything because this wasn’t a question. 5

He said, ‘Did you mean to hit the policeman?’

I said, ‘Yes.’

He squeezed his face 6 and said, ‘But you didn’t mean to hurt the policeman?’

I thought about this and said, ‘No. I didn’t mean to hurt the policeman. I just wanted him to stop touching me.’ 7

Then he said, ‘You know that it is wrong to hit a policeman, don’t you?’

I said, ‘I do.’ 8

He was quiet for a few seconds, then he asked, ‘Did you kill the dog, Christopher?’

I said, ‘I didn’t kill the dog.’

My Last Day As A Surgeon- By: Paul Kalanithi

My Last Day As A Surgeon

By: Paul Kalanithi, January 11, 2016

By the time we finished the repair and removed the compressive soft tissue, my shoulders burned. The attending broke scrub, offered his apologies 9 and said his thanks, and left me to close. The layers came together nicely. I began to suture the skin, using a running nylon stitch 2 Most surgeons used staples, but 3. I was convinced that nylon had lower infection rates, and we would do this one, this final closure 4, my way. The skin came together perfectly, without tension 5, as if there had been no surgery at all.

Good. One good thing.6.

As we uncovered the patient, the scrub nurse, one with whom I hadn’t worked before, said, “You on call this weekend, Doc?”

“Nope.” And possibly never again.7

“Got any more cases today?” “Nope.” And possibly never again.

“Shit, well, I guess that means this is a happy ending! Work’s done. I like happy endings, don’t you, Doc?”

“Yeah. Yeah 8, I like happy endings.”

I sat down by the computer to enter orders as the nurses cleaned and the anesthesiologists began to wake the patient. I had always jokingly threatened that when I was in charge, instead of the high-energy pop music everyone liked to play in the O.R., we’d listen exclusively to bossa nova. I put “Getz/Gilberto” on the radio, and the soft, sonorous sounds of a saxophone filled the room 9.

I left the O.R. shortly after, then gathered my things, which had accumulated over seven years of work—extra sets of clothes for the nights you don’t leave, toothbrushes, bars of soap, phone chargers, snacks, my skull model and collection of neurosurgery books, and so on.

On second thought, I left my books behind. They’d be of more use here 10.

On my way out to the parking lot, a fellow approached to ask me something, but his pager went off. He looked at it, waved, turned, and ran back in to the hospital—“I’ll catch you later!” he called over his shoulder. Tears welled up 11 as I sat in the car, turned the key, and slowly pulled out into the street. I drove home, walked through the front door, hung up my white coat, and took off my I.D. badge. I pulled the battery out of my pager. I peeled off my scrubs and took a long shower.

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With heavy hearts… by Teri Orr

First, we grieve. 12

Two young boys, friends just 13, died here this week, days apart. They enjoyed their skateboards and dirt bikes and stuff newly teenage boys enjoy. They did not die from a car crash or a fire or a terminal illness. They died from bad judgement. From making a bad decision they thought they could outlive. There is no indication they meant to die from experimenting with a dangerous substance that they did not know was highly lethal.

There will be time enough for the conversations about drugs in our schools/our community/the times we live. Brutal, tough conversations, perhaps finally now, about the number of deaths in the past two years in our town, of young people under the age of 30, that were all opiate related. Deaths whose cause have been whispered about but not discussed. Because make no mistake — 2 these two boys were part of an epidemic here of massive drug abuse in our town among young people.

And there might even be blame to be dealt to who supplied the drugs to those children. We all carry a piece of the burden for not paying closer attention to the neighbor’s kid. Not asking questions when we understood there to be changes in their friends and lifestyle choices. There will be time for all those questions to be asked.

But for now, just for this week, we grieve. With one heart we mourn the dead child that could have been ours, because they all make questionable choices — even bad choices — and by some measure of grace most survive. We open our hearts to those moms and dads who will spend the rest of their lives grieving their sons, their boys who will not grow into men.

We need to stop talking about what makes a community and be a community. Nobody needs another casserole — they need compassion. A handwritten note. A single flower, hand delivered. A full-bodied hug. And what each of the families needs is that you not forget them — three weeks from now, three months, three years — after all the attention and stories have faded from the news cycle. 3

Every day the school is trying to educate students in the basic subjects and in basic living skills to keep them safe. The teachers work impossibly hard — Bob and Julie and Nancy — to provide them with educational tools and basic living tools, even, often, personal hygiene products. The superintendent, Ember, takes her tender heart to work each day and tries to find where fair intersects with fear. And how to help the students and teachers and parents navigate the choppy waters of adolescence. Our police chief, Wade, and fire chief, Paul, and our sheriff, Justin — and their staff — try to holster emotions and wrangle the real bad guys and redirect the real dumb guys. The delicate balance in a resort community is a complicated dance between law and leisure.

Mistakes kill us. And dumb decisions kill us. And ill winds kill us. And fate kills us. And old age. And disease. Adolescence wasn’t meant to kill us. Maim us a little, yes. Toughen us. Define us. Bruise us. Inform us. But never actually kill us. 4

And the platitudes….” You’ll feel better in time.” “God’s will.” “ Better place.” 5 Stop! 6 Just be sad with these families. Cry with each other. Acknowledge this is rare and abnormal and out of the order of the universe. Hold each other. Touch is good. Let your children see you sad. Let them see how it would break you to have them gone. Let them know they can talk to you about the messy stuff. Or they can talk to another adult. There are bunches in town — at school, at various organizations and churches and charities and the neighborhood — who are ready with a hug and a beverage and a conversation. Everything is fixable if you share the problem. It is the bottled up stuff that creates the pressure that seeks release.

We can’t heal if we can’t grieve. Hearts filled with heavy sorrow are painful but not empty. Young boys who lived among us just days ago are forever gone now and we need to grieve them — and grieve with — each other.

The boys were friends. Grant and Ryan. They belonged to us here in Park City. They grew up here. Played on our streets, rode bikes on the jumps, skateboarded uptown. They were floppy-haired boys in sweatshirts that last week looked like all the other floppy-haired boys in sweatshirts.

And now they are dead. 7

To everything there is a season, the Bible tells us. “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn …” This week we should allow sadness to cloud our conversations. We should acknowledge there are apparent mysteries that cannot be understood by a forensics report. Layers of mystery and decisions and judgements and perhaps eventually somewhere, grace. The grace that will lead us home. Together. Not yet, not today, but somewhere down a mountain road….some Sunday in our Park… 8

 

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Disappearing by Monica Wood

So I went back. And floated again. My arms came around and the groan of the water made the tight blondes smirk 9 but I heard Good and that’s the crawl that’s it in fragments 2 the redhead when I lifted my face. Through the earplugs I heard her skinny voice. She was happy that I was floating and moving too.

Lettie stopped the lessons and read to me things out of magazines. You have to swim a lot to lose weight. You have to stop eating too. 3 Forget cake and ice cream. Doritos are out. 4 I’m not doing it for that I told her but she wouldn’t believe me. She couldn’t imagine.

Looking down that shaft of water I know I won’t fall. The water shimmers and eases up and down, the heft of me 5 doesn’t matter I float anyway.

He says it makes no difference I look the same. But I’m not the same. I can hold myself up in deep water. I can move my arms and feet and the water goes behind me, the wall comes closer. I can look down twelve feet to a cold slab of tile and not be afraid. 6 It makes a difference I tell him. Better believe it mister. 7

Then this other part happens. Other men interest me. I look at them, real ones, 8 not the ones on TV that’s something else entirely. These are real. The one with the white 9 milkweed hair who delivers the mail. The meter man from the light company, heavy thick feet in boots. A smile. Teeth. 10 I drop something out of the cart in the supermarket to see who will pick it up. Sometimes a man. One had yellow short hair and called me ma’am. Young. Thin legs and an accent. One was older. 11 Looked me in the eyes. Heavy, but not like me. My eyes are nice. I color the lids. In the pool it runs off in blue tears. When I come out my face is naked. 12

The lessons are over, I’m certified. A little certificate signed by the redhead. She says I can swim and I can. I’d do better with her body, thin calves hard as granite. 13

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