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We Both Know

Everett and Marlene, both seventy-four, both professors emeritus at the University of Vermont, both undeniably eccentric, have been married for fifty-one years. They are the parents of Michael, an ornithologist, Caroline, a botanist, and Thomas, a wildlife biologist specializing in foxes and other small to medium-sized carnivores.

Marlene, her light brown hair now silvery gray, began her studies of butterflies when she was seven by capturing three Tiger Swallowtails and trying to keep them alive in her bedroom for as long as she could. Everett, a former redhead now bald, began collecting beetles when he was eight, and by the time he was twelve had a dozen large terrariums housing hundreds of beetles, each one known to Everett by the first, middle, and last names he gave them, along with their Latin appellations, of course.

Coincidentally, Marlene’s parents and Everett’s parents were all artists. Everett’s father was a sculptor specializing in statues of famous Americans, his mother a potter. Marlene’s father was a painter of nudes, Marlene’s mother a modern dancer.

Michael and Caroline and Thomas agree that Everett and Marlene could only have married each other because no one else could possibly put up with either of them. They agree about this for many reasons, but most obviously because Marlene sings constantly, not loudly or melodically, but noticeably, except when she’s sleeping or talking. She sings while driving, walking, writing, watching movies, reading, listening to other people, and during meals. And Everett hums and whistles, sometimes both simultaneously, concurrently with Marlene’s singing.

As a consequence of their incessant soundings and their loud and unexpected non sequiturs which are only funny to them, along with their mutual tendency to lecture others by asking questions they themselves never answer, to name but a few of their many idiosyncrasies, neither Everett nor Marlene has ever had a close friend, other than each other. And also as a consequence of their annoying habits, their children reflexively sought to distance themselves from their parents and seek refuge in each other and a series of valiant nannies employed by Everett and Marlene to raise the kids while they continued their obsessive studies of butterflies and beetles.

Which is not to say their children don’t love them, but to say their children don’t care to spend much time with them.

So you may imagine Michael and Caroline’s distress when Everett and Marlene announce they are coming to California for the two weeks surrounding Thanksgiving to meet their first and only grandchild Jenna, daughter of Michael and his wife Daisy, and to stay with Michael and Daisy in their new house contiguous with Ziggurat Farm on the outskirts of the northern California coastal town of Mercy.

Caroline, who is living with Michael and Daisy and Jenna while on sabbatical from the University of New Hampshire, is so worried about the impending arrival of her parents, she suggests to Michael and Daisy that they forewarn the adults of the Ziggurat Farm collective about Marlene and Everett’s eccentricities before their arrival a week hence.

And because Caroline and Michael and Daisy and baby Jenna dine with the farm collective several times a week, the meeting takes place the next night after the farm kids have gone to bed. Also present at the meeting are Delilah, twenty-five, the main homeschool teacher at Ziggurat Farm, and Nathan and Celia, an elderly couple who share their home in Mercy with Delilah and are frequent visitors to the farm.

“The good news,” says Michael, who is forty-three and somewhat less distressed than Caroline about their folks coming to visit, “is that our younger brother Thom is arriving a few days after Mommer and Popper and has agreed to take them on a couple overnight jaunts away from here to give us some relief.”

“You call your parents Mommer and Popper?” asks Andrea, boss of the farm’s vegetable and flower garden as well as manager of Ziggurat Farm Productions, publisher of Philip’s two cookbooks and a related line of Philip’s Kitchen and Ziggurat Farm T-shirts and sweatshirts featuring Delilah’s beguiling drawings, and a just-released volume of Nathan’s poems with illustrations by Delilah entitled Exactly Is A Tricky Word.

“When I was two and trying to say Mama and Papa,” Caroline explains to Andrea, “out came Mommer and Popper, and the effect on our parents was miraculous. Not only did they both stop their perpetual singing and humming, they both smiled and laughed and gave me and Michael hugs and kisses, something they rarely did, so thereafter we never called them anything else because we loved it when they stopped singing and humming and hugged us. When Thom came along ten years after me, we taught him to call them Mommer and Popper so he might reap the benefits of those inexplicably effective words.”

“Remarkable,” says Philip, who loves listening to Caroline speak. “Shall we call them Mommer and Popper?”

“No,” says Michael, slowly shaking his head. “Daisy tried a few times and Mommer angrily lectured her for several minutes each time with a cascade of questions.”

“How do you mean?” asks Nathan, who finds all this both silly and fascinating. “Can you demonstrate?”

“I will,” says Daisy, who is forty-one and adores Nathan. “Marlene said, ‘Do you think it appropriate for you to call me the pet name given to me by my children? Do you make a habit of that sort of thing? Who suggested you call me by that name? What did you call your mother? What pet name did she have for you? Would you like it if I called you by the pet name given to you by your mother?’ Etcetera.”

“I see,” says Nathan, finding the situation less silly.

“The other good news,” says Caroline, who loves being three thousand miles away from her parents instead of only a hundred and eighty-six miles, which is the distance between the University of New Hampshire where she is a professor and the University of Vermont where her parents still live, “is they are not thinking of retiring here because they both want to move somewhere warm year-round. We are hopeful of Hawaii if not Malaysia.”

“Surely you exaggerate, Caroline,” says Marcel, Andrea’s French husband and the farm’s wine maker. “You and Michael are both so charming and easy to be with. Your parents must be charming, too.”

“We were raised by wolves,” says Michael, matter-of-factly.

“Imagine a small pretty woman with silvery gray hair sitting at this table with us,” says Daisy, relieved to see seven-month-old Jenna snoozing peacefully in Celia’s arms, Jenna extra fussy of late. “And imagine while the rest of us are trying to have a conversation, this woman is singing, not quite under her breath, an endless song with unintelligible but almost intelligible lyrics. Now imagine there is also at the table a bald man humming and occasionally whistling an entirely different tune than the singing woman, his tune obnoxiously repetitive, and sometimes he hums and whistles simultaneously.”

“I didn’t know it was possible to whistle and hum at the same time,” says Marcel, giving Delilah a questioning look.

Michael demonstrates, the sound a cicada-like drone.

Philip tries to imitate Michael, so do Delilah, Marcel, Andrea, Lisa, and Nathan—all of them bursting out laughing at the strange noises they make—the outburst waking the baby who starts to cry.

“Calmate, hija,” says Celia, gently rocking the baby back to sleep.

“You’ve got the touch,” says Daisy, smiling gratefully at Celia. “Thank God.”

“Can’t you ask them to stop their humming and singing?” asks Marcel, who finds the idea of college professors behaving this way rather farfetched.

“Oh you can ask them to stop,” says Caroline, nodding knowingly. “As you might ask the wind to stop blowing. But the wind will not stop because you ask it to, nor will our parents stop singing and humming.”

“I don’t think this is going to be a problem,” says Nathan, looking at Caroline. “I think they’ll stop singing and humming after they’ve been here a few days.”

“Why would you say that?” asks Michael with a touch of anger in his voice. “You don’t know anything about them.”

“That’s true, Michael. And I didn’t mean to imply that I do. But I know you and I know Caroline and… I just have a strong feeling they’ll be changed by being here.”

“I’ll try to imagine that,” says Michael, his anger subsiding. “I really will. And if it comes to pass, I will forevermore believe in magic and that you can see into the future.”

*

When Everett and Marlene arrive at Ziggurat Farm on a cold November afternoon, having missed Daisy and Michael’s driveway as most people do the first time they come to visit, they are greeted at their rental car by three friendly dogs and four children on the cusp of young adulthood: Irenia, thirteen, Arturo, twelve, Henri, eleven, and Vivienne, ten, the kids extremely curious to meet the humming and singing parents of Michael and Caroline.

Everett and Marlene are delighted to meet the kids, and do, indeed, hum and sing throughout the introductions and on their way to the farmhouse.

They continue to hum and sing while meeting Marcel and Andrea and Philip and Lisa, and they keep humming and singing as they shed their raincoats and stand by the fire warming themselves—their combined noises sounding not unlike bees swarming around a hive on a warm day.

“Excuse me,” says Henri, standing before Everett, “but why are you humming?”

“Like to hum,” says Everett, winking at Henri. “She likes to sing and I like to hum.”

“While other people are talking?” asks Henri, ignoring his mother’s urgent gestures and facial expressions asking him to desist from this line of questioning.

“No one usually hears us,” says Marlene, who has a strong Boston accent. “We’re usually alone or just with each other.”

“But we are here now,” Henri persists. “We can hear you and it makes us feel like you don’t want us to talk to you.”

“Oh but we do,” says Marlene, smiling at him. “Just ignore it.”

“I’ll try,” says Henri, shrugging. “But I don’t think it will be easy.”

*

When Michael arrives at the farmhouse a little while later he finds Everett and Marlene sitting on the living room sofa holding hands and listening to Irenia and Arturo and Henri and Vivienne singing a four-part harmony version of The Beatles’ ‘Blackbird’, Arturo accompanying the singing on guitar. ‘Blackbird’ is one of the songs the kids will be performing at the upcoming Ziggurat Farm School Holiday Follies.

When the children finish their enthusiastic performance, Everett and Marlene jump up applauding, Everett exclaiming, “Don’t change a note. Couldn’t be better.”

And Marlene turns to Michael and shouts, “No wonder you became an ornithologist.”

*

 Two mornings later, a light rain falling, Caroline and Marlene walk from Daisy and Michael’s house to the cottage where Andrea and Marcel and Henri live, a stone’s throw from the farmhouse, and where for this morning Lisa has commandeered the living room to give Marlene a massage.

“I’ll be at the farmhouse, Mommer,” says Caroline, handing her mother off to Lisa. “See you after.”

Marlene stops singing to say to Caroline, “See you after,” and immediately resumes her singing.

When Caroline departs, Lisa says, “Would you like me to leave the room while you undress?”

“Undress?” says Marlene, startled. “Oh I don’t think I want to do that.”

“I use body oil that will be very good for you,” says Lisa, noting the stoop in Marlene’s posture and her marked lean to her left. “If you’re not naked, I can’t use the oil. But if you’d rather keep your clothes on, I can massage you without oil, though the massage won’t be as effective.”

“You want me to take off all my clothes?” asks Marlene, who has never had a massage and never been naked in front of anyone except Everett, and even with him she only takes off her nighty when they’re under the covers.

“You’ll be under a sheet,” Lisa explains, gesturing to the massage table made up with blue flannel sheets. “I’ll leave the room while you disrobe and you call me when you’re ready. We’ll start with you face down. The face catcher is at the end of the table. I think I can alleviate some of the pain you spoke of at supper last night.”

Lisa leaves the room and Marlene considers changing her mind and not having a massage, at which moment the pain in her neck and shoulders and back that has persisted for decades expresses itself loudly, and in a little rage of frustration Marlene takes off her clothes, drapes them over the back of the sofa, gets under the sheet on the massage table, and situates herself so she is face-down in the cushioned face catcher.

“Okay,” she murmurs, speaking so quietly she doesn’t think Lisa could possibly hear her, yet Lisa returns.

Lifting the sheet off Marlene’s feet, Lisa says, “I’m going to start with your feet, Marlene. Are you ticklish?”

“Not that I know of,” says Marlene, tensing her entire body in anticipation of Lisa touching her. “I’ve never done this before. But it’s not my feet that hurt, it’s my neck and shoulders and back.”

“I understand,” says Lisa, taking Marlene’s left foot in her warm hands. “But everything is connected. As you will see.”

*

Two hours later, Marlene wakes from a dream of having had an amazing life-changing massage from Lisa, and for a moment she doesn’t know where she is and doesn’t realize she is lying on her back on Lisa’s massage table—the pain that has defined her life for as long as she can remember entirely gone.

“Lisa?” she says, having no idea how long she’s been asleep.

“I’m here,” says Lisa, getting up from the sofa and coming to the massage table. “Need a hand up?”

“Okay,” says Marlene, holding out her hand to Lisa. “I’m… the pain is gone. I can’t believe it.”

“Might come back,” says Lisa, helping her sit up, the sheet falling away and Marlene not caring if Lisa sees her naked. “I’ll massage you a few more times while you’re here. But now… how about a warm bath in the soaking tub with me?”

“Okay,” says Marlene, getting off the table and allowing Lisa to wrap a big towel around her and lead her to the big tub in the bathhouse adjoining the cottage.

*

When Lisa and Marlene enter the farmhouse for lunch, the morning session of homeschooling has just ended and the six students are eating lunch with Delilah at the dining table while Philip and Andrea and Marcel are in the kitchen preparing lunch for the grownups.

“I feel like a little girl,” whispers Marlene, taking Lisa’s hand. “A little girl who has never been anywhere or done anything.”

*

That night as they get ready for bed in the guest room in Michael and Daisy’s house, Everett hums and whistles as he changes out of his clothes into his pajamas.

Now something feels terribly wrong to him, so he stops humming and realizes he can’t hear Marlene singing. In a panic, he turns to where he last saw her, and there she is in her nightgown, standing at the partly open window listening to the rain.

“You okay, Mars?” he asks, wondering why she isn’t singing.

“I’m fine,” she says, her voice calmer than Everett has ever known it to be. “Just enjoying the sound of the rain.”

He joins her at the window in his T-shirt and underpants, and he doesn’t hum and she doesn’t sing, and they listen to the rain together for several minutes, the sound intoxicating.

“We both know you started humming to drown out my singing,” she says, speaking the truth that has gone unsaid for fifty-two years. “I wish I’d stopped singing long ago, but I couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. But now I want to stop and I’d like you to help me by calling my attention to it whenever I start.” She takes his hand. “Will you Ev?”

“Are you sure you didn’t start singing to drown out my humming and whistling?” he says, wanting to share some of the blame.

“I’m sure,” she says, bringing his hand to her lips and kissing his fingertips. “You never hummed until we got together, and I’ve been singing like I do, which isn’t really singing but sing-song talking, since I was a little girl. But now I’m going to stop and I hope you’ll stop with me, and we’ll see what happens.”

“Is this because of the massage?” he asks, struggling to contain his tremendous urge to start humming.

“The massage was the key that opened the box with the treasure map inside,” she says, sitting on the edge of the bed.

“The treasure map?” he says, sitting beside her. “What do you mean?”

“The treasure map to the buried treasure that was me as a frightened girl who didn’t want to hear the horrible things her parents were saying to each other and to her brother and sister, and to her. She wanted to mute those words, but then her singing became her habit and also the way she stayed separate from everyone else, which was the only way she could feel even a little bit safe, and I have no doubt I would have ended up in the loony bin if you hadn’t seen through my singing and fallen in love with me so I could fall in love with you.”

*

The next morning, rain intermittent, Thomas Darling, Everett and Marlene’s youngest son, arrives at Ziggurat Farm, having missed the driveway to Michael and Daisy’s house as everyone does the first time they come to visit.

Thirty-one, handsome and broad-shouldered with unruly red hair, Thomas knocks on the farmhouse door and hears four dogs barking in tones he recognizes as friendly.

The door opens and here is Arturo, thirteen, a fast-growing cutie pie with longish brown hair and olive skin wearing a red Ziggurat Farm sweatshirt and black jeans and neon blue running shoes.

“Ah,” says Arturo, offering Thomas his hand. “You must be Thom. I’m Arturo. Please come in. We’re just finishing up the morning lesson and then one of us will escort you to Michael and Daisy’s. The entrance to their driveway is invisible to the uninitiated.”

Thomas enters the large high-ceilinged room that is living room, dining room, and kitchen all in one, only the long counter that separates kitchen from dining room a permanent divider of the spaciousness. A young woman with short brown hair and four kids ranging in age from ten to fourteen are seated in a big circle around a small dais upon which a twelve-year-old boy holding an accordion and wearing a headdress made of a dozen large feathers is posing for the others to sketch him.

“The greatly-anticipated Thom has arrived,” announces Arturo, returning to his seat in the circle.

“Welcome Thom,” says Henri, the artists’ model. “Or do you prefer Thomas?”

“Thom is fine,” says Thomas, delighted by what he’s stumbled into.

“Welcome Thom,” say the other kids as they continue sketching Henri.

Now the young woman stands up and Thomas’s jaw drops—his previous notions about everything blown to smithereens.

“Hello Thom,” she says, coming to greet him. “I’m Delilah. Do you mind hanging out with us until we finish the morning session? Then someone will guide you where you want to go.”

“Don’t mind at all,” he says, shaking her hand. “Might I join your class? I love to draw.”

“Please,” she says, very much enjoying the union of their hands, as is he.

fin

Forgotten Impulses

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Who Is Your Audience?

Nathan is eighty-five, spry, in full command of his senses, and very much enjoying his less strenuous life after fifty years of pruning fruit trees for a living. He lives with his wife Celia, seventy-nine, a retired nurse, in a little house on the outskirts of the small northern California coastal town of Mercy. They’ve lived in their comfy two-bedroom home since they married fifty-three years ago, and for the last twelve years they’ve shared their house with Delilah, who is now twenty-five. Their one child, Calypso, fifty-two, a nurse at Mercy Hospital, lives nearby with her computer-savvy husband Paul and their teenaged son Carlos.

A poet of some renown in his late twenties, Nathan writes for an hour or so every day as he has for the last sixty-five years. He posts poems and short stories on his blog whenever he finishes one he especially likes. Every now and then he hears from someone who enjoyed one of his postings, and he thinks of these communiqués from afar as the universe kissing him. He teaches writing twice a week to the Ziggurat Farm kids Arturo, Vivienne, Henri, and Irenia, and occasionally lends his editing skills to local writers who appreciate his way with words.

*

On a foggy morning in mid-July, Nathan sits at his kitchen table with Daisy, who is forty and moved with her husband Michael into the house and property adjoining Ziggurat Farm nine months ago, just five months before their baby girl Jenna was born. Daisy has come to see Nathan today to find out what he thinks of her novel she gave him to read two weeks ago.

While Celia carries four-month-old Jenna around in the living room, singing softly to her in Spanish, Nathan asks Daisy, “So who is this book for?”

“What do you mean?” asks Daisy, confused by the question. “I wrote it to try to get published.”

“I understand, but… who did you have in mind while you were writing it?”

“Oh,” says Daisy, frowning. “I guess my agent.”

“Your agent,” says Nathan, surprised by her answer. “Is she a friend of yours?”

“No, I don’t really know her,” says Daisy, realizing she knows nothing about her agent except she’s a literary agent in New York and represents several published writers. “Why do you ask?”

“Just curious.” He sips his tea. “What did your agent say about this book?”

“Well…” Daisy clears her throat. “She sent me a list of things I need to change before she’ll show it to anyone. You know… things like… I need to beef up the romance between Arno and Miranda and make the characters of Harmon and Cid more overtly evil and the characters of Miranda and Jessica more obviously good. But she likes the writing and thinks the plot is strong for the first two-thirds, and then she says things kind of fizzle out and I need to wrap things up much sooner and with more of a bang. To make it more saleable.”

“I see,” says Nathan, looking at the title page of the manuscript: Racing Through Darkness by Daisy Darling. “May I ask who your writing role models are?”

“My favorite authors?”

“Yeah, writers you learned from.”

“Well I decided to be a writer after I went on an Edith Wharton binge my last two years of college. I read everything she ever published over and over again, including her most obscure short stories. And then I had a fling with Thomas Hardy and Dickens, and then I was obsessed with Irish short story writers, and then Bashevis Singer and somewhere in there Steinbeck and Faulkner and Carson McCullers and Truman Capote, and then I read lots of contemporary women writers, and when I finally got an agent—took me seven years to convince someone to represent me—she said I should religiously read the books on the New York Times bestseller list, so I’ve been trying to do that for the last three years.”

“How has that gone?” asks Nathan, sounding concerned.

“Well…” Daisy laughs uneasily. “Interesting.”

“Mostly murder mysteries and thrillers and horror books. Yeah?”

“Not all of them. Every once in while there’s one about a person… you know, overcoming incredible odds and… to be totally honest, I don’t actually read most of them. I skim them. The writing is…” She hesitates. “Not great. Usually.”

Nathan thinks for a moment. “Daisy, I don’t think I can help you. I don’t know anything about commercial writing.”

“Did you hate my book?” she asks, her jaw trembling.

“I wouldn’t say I hated it,” he says, shaking his head. “When you gave me the manuscript you said you felt there was something missing and you couldn’t figure out what it was. And for me what was missing… was you.”

“Me?” she says, horrified. “What do you mean?”

“I mean your voice, your feelings, your take on reality.” He taps the manuscript. “I think this was an attempt to write something you thought your agent would want to try to sell. But I couldn’t find you in here. And I don’t know anything about these kinds of books except I’m not the audience for them. I’m an audience for the radiance of your soul. And though that may sound grandiose, it isn’t. I listen to you talking and telling stories and you flood the world with the radiance of who you are. That’s what I’m an audience for. That’s what makes a good poem or a good story for me. Not the plot. Not the genre. Not imitations of tired old formulas, but the miraculous nature of life expressed in words.”

“But they won’t publish the radiance of who I am,” she says, crying.

“Aye, there’s the rub,” he says, nodding. “They used to, when all those writers you named got published. They used to hunt for books and authors full of the radiance, and that’s when all sorts of weirdo geniuses got published. But now the radiance has got to get through in other ways, which I’m sure it does, just not very often through conventional channels.”

She stops crying and looks at him. “You’re saying I wasted twenty years of my life.”

“Not at all,” he says, shaking his head. “You know how to build a house now and you can build another one if you want. And I’ll bet you if you build it for someone you know and love, they’ll want to live there. And I probably will, too.”

She takes a deep breath to dispel her tears. “Sometimes I’ll be writing and go into a kind of trance, and I’ll write pages and pages that have nothing to do with the book I’m trying to write. And I’ll read those pages and be amazed, though I never think they’re anything but transcriptions of waking dreams.”

“That’s the boss stuff, Daisy.”

“You think so?” she says, turning to watch Celia standing at the window with baby Jenna in her arms, the fog giving way to sunshine.

*

After graduating from college with a degree in English, and until she inherited a fortune from her mother two years ago, Daisy worked as a secretary in the Biology department at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where her husband Michael was a graduate student, then a lecturer, and most recently a professor of Ornithology and Wildlife Biology. Daisy worked on her short stories and novels in the evenings and on weekends, and belonged to a group of writers that met every two weeks to share their writing and encourage each other to keep going.

Daisy and Michael were saving money to buy a house and have a baby and give Daisy two years as a stay-at-home mom when Daisy’s mother unexpectedly died and left them a huge pile of money.

Now they own a beautiful house on three acres adjacent to Ziggurat Farm on the edge of a vast forest of redwoods and firs and spruce and hemlocks. Michael is completing his third book about owls and beginning research on Ospreys, their baby Jenna is happy and healthy, and Daisy, until a few minutes ago, thought she would soon be starting another rewrite of her novel following the directives of her literary agent.

But now, as she sits in Nathan and Celia’s living room nursing Jenna and waiting for Michael to come drive her home, she knows she will not be revising her novel and may never write another one. And though she feels sad about this ending to a very long chapter of her life, she also feels profoundly relieved, as if some part of her always knew she wasn’t meant to be an imitator.

She closes her eyes and surrenders to the lovely sensation of her daughter suckling, the fire crackling in the fireplace, and when she hears Nathan open the door and greet Michael and invite them for lunch, she doesn’t open her eyes until Michael kisses her forehead and whispers, “Shall we stay for lunch, darling?”

“We shall,” she says, seeing how tired he looks from the months of getting up three times a night to bring the crying baby to her. “Guess what?”

“You had a good time with Nathan,” he says, relieved to see her happy again after weeks of anguish.

“Yes,” she says, nodding, “and I’ve decided to let my novel go and start anew. Only from now on I’ll write what I want to write and not what anyone else tells me to write.”

*

A few days later, Daisy puts Jenna in what Michael calls the all-terrain stroller, the most heavy duty stroller they could find, leashes their Golden Retriever pup Figaro, and takes baby human and baby dog on the path to the one-acre terraced vegetable garden where Andrea and Lisa and Irenia and Vivienne are working, all of them wearing long-sleeved shirts and shorts and sunhats.

Irenia and Vivienne ask Andrea if they can take a break from weeding to visit with Daisy and Jenna, and Andrea says, “Of course.”

Vivienne, who is a few months away from turning ten, lifts four-month-old Jenna out of the stroller—Jenna chuckling with delight because she especially loves Vivienne.

“Hello my darling precious new person,” says Vivienne, kissing Jenna’s cheek. “You who are possessed of the softest skin in the entire universe.”

Irenia, who is twelve and a foot taller than Vivienne, stands nearby waiting her turn to hold the baby.

“She’s growing so fast,” says Irenia, making no attempt, as she sometimes will, to hide her Russian accent. “Every time I see her she is a different person, and I just saw her two days ago.”

“I wonder if she would like a strawberry?” asks Vivienne, kissing Jenna again before handing her to Irenia. “Not to eat, of course, but to suck on. We’ll be very careful.”

“That’s fine,” says Daisy, sitting on a small wooden bench next to an expanse of voluptuous scarlet and burgundy gladioli.

Andrea and Lisa are thinning carrots several terraces up the gently sloping incline, and Lisa says something that makes Andrea laugh and Daisy hears They are a farm of women. Not that men don’t come to visit, they do, but the men rarely stay for long because they are not wanted here save for sex and to make the occasional child, male children sent away to the farms of men when they are no longer little boys.

*

When Jenna goes down for a nap in the early afternoon and Michael and his sister Caroline go on a hike, Daisy sits at the kitchen table and writes down the words she heard in the garden. But when she tries to write more than what she heard, nothing comes out.

“This is when I start forcing things,” she says, speaking aloud. “Trying to make up what I think should come next. But I’m not going to do that anymore. I’m not going to worry the words, as Nathan says.”

Thinking of Nathan and his invitation to come write with him, she goes in search of her phone. After looking in the bedroom and kitchen and living room she remembers she left her phone in the all-terrain stroller they store in the foyer where they hang their coats and keep their outdoor shoes.

As she’s fishing her phone out of the pocket on the backside of the stroller, she feels an urgency, almost a panic, to turn those lines she heard into something big and sensational, a book her agent will want to sell to a publisher, and she realizes that as long as she is ruled by this compulsion, she will never hear more of the story.

*

The next day after breakfast, Daisy nurses Jenna, leaves her with Michael, and drives to Nathan and Celia’s for tea and talk by the fire, the town of Mercy cloaked in dense fog.

Daisy tells Nathan and Celia and Delilah about her experience of hearing the beginning of a story, writing the lines down, and then feeling desperate to write more but only being able to think of what she describes as derivative guck.

“So what are you gonna do?” asks Nathan, sipping his tea.

“I guess I’ll have to unlearn my compulsion to force things,” says Daisy, having no idea how to do that.

“I think you’ll have to replace your compulsion with something else,” says Delilah, nodding thoughtfully. “I’ve been reading about brain maps and how we create synaptic patterns, actual maps in our brains, by repeating physical and emotional patterns, and these maps are the drivers of our neurology, our operating system, so to speak. And it seems the more we repeat something, the more deeply etched the brain map for that particular thing and the harder it is to override the commands of that map. But if we create new brain maps by repeating new behaviors hundreds and thousands of times, and we stop repeating the old behaviors, our old brain maps eventually grow fainter and less dominant, though they never go away completely.”

“Which is why we can still ride a bike even if we haven’t ridden one in twenty years,” says Nathan, trying to remember the last time he rode a bike. “The brain map we made when we learned to ride is still there.”

“I think also,” says Celia in her quiet way, “you need to end your connection with your agent.”

Daisy gasps. “Oh no. It took me so long to find someone to represent me. She won’t care if she doesn’t hear from me for a few months.”

“But isn’t she the grand manifestation of your compulsion?” asks Delilah, going to heat more water for a second round of tea. “Isn’t she fueling the urgency that causes you to force things?” She cackles. “The wicked witch of the east.”

“Oh let’s not make her wicked,” says Nathan, laughing. “Let’s just say she may be keeping you anchored somewhere you’d rather sail away from.”

“I really don’t think it’s necessary,” says Daisy, terrified of not having an agent.

“Then stay with her,” says Nathan, simply. “See how things go.”

*

A few nights later, Michael and Daisy and Jenna and Caroline are having supper in the farmhouse with the seven farm residents plus Irenia, the feast prepared by Philip with assistance from Henri and Irenia.

Mid-supper, Arturo, who is about to turn twelve, describes something that happened as he and Vivienne were closing up the chicken coop for the night and gathering eggs.

“There are two hens,” says Arturo, his story-telling style modeled on that of an erudite British fellow who used to be a mainstay of the collective. “One is Marilyn Monroe and the other is either Queen Elizabeth or Marie Antoinette. I never can tell those two apart. In any case, they are always the last hens to go inside to roost for the night, and sometimes we have to shoo them in, which we had to do tonight, which is when we saw the fox.”

“We think the fox was a she,” says Vivienne, taking up the tale, “because she was not very big, but definitely not a kit and certainly big enough to kill a chicken.”

“She was just sitting there in the high grass on the edge of the clearing,” says Arturo, looking at his father Philip. “Calm and unafraid and waiting patiently for the right moment to leap over the fence into the scratch yard and grab one of those hens.”

“Where were the dogs?” ask Marcel, Henri’s French father. “Don’t tell me. They were in here by the fire. Old dogs in retirement.”

“Alexandra was with us,” says Vivienne, speaking of her five-year old Golden Retriever, “and she definitely saw the fox, but she didn’t even bark. It was very strange, as if she and the fox had come to an agreement.”

“So we need to start getting the hens in a half-hour earlier,” says Andrea, who would hate to lose either of her premiere egg producers. “I’ll write the new closing time on your chore sheets.”

“Our brother Thom,” says Caroline, who loves living here and never wants to go back to New Hampshire where she is a professor of Botany, “wrote a book about foxes. He considers them a higher form of life than humans. He wants to come visit soon and meet Jenna and see what we’re all raving about, but he’s teaching summer session and then fall classes start soon after, so it may be a while. He’s in Ithaca. At Cornell.”

“We’d love to read his book,” says Henri, who has a secret crush on Caroline, though she is thirty years his senior. “Can we get it from the library?”

“I doubt it,” says Michael, who is constantly amazed by the sophistication of the farm kids. “I have a copy. It’s rather technical, but you’re welcome to borrow it and I’ll be happy to translate the jargon for you.”

“Thom is working on another book about foxes for the general public,” says Caroline, giving Henri a big-eyed smile, “but that won’t be out for years, assuming he can ever find a publisher.”

“I love the word jargon,” says Arturo, looking at Henri and Vivienne and Irenia. “Lets name our next dog or cat Jargon.”

“I think it would be an excellent name for a male,” says Irenia, holding Jenna on her knee and gently bouncing her. “But it doesn’t sound right for a female.”

“You’re right,” says Henri, raising his voice as he always does before he makes a joke. “The female version would be Jargonella.”

“Excuse me,” says Daisy, getting up from the table. “I’ll be right back.”

While the conversation rages, Daisy hurries to the all-terrain stroller, gets out her notebook, and writes The talk turns to naming the new dog the women got from Old Martha who breeds Malamutes with wolves to make protectors for the farms of women.

When Daisy returns to the table, Michael takes her hand. “You okay?”

“Fine,” she says, smiling at their daughter so happy with Irenia. “Just wanted to write something down before I forgot.”

*

The next day while Jenna is napping, Daisy carries her phone out on the deck, gazes at the fabulous forest descending to the sea, and taps the number of her agent in New York.

“Daisy,” says Gwen, coming on the line. “Call you back in ten.”

“Okay,” says Daisy, knowing the universe is providing these ten minutes to test her resolve.

As she waits, Daisy thinks of her mother Doris who raised Daisy single-handedly and cheerfully while working in a Ford assembly plant, how proud she was of Daisy for being a writer. “Takes courage to do something with no guarantee you’ll succeed,” said Doris a year or so before she died. “But it’s what you love, so go for it.”

Daisy answers her vibrating phone.

“What’s up?” says Gwen who is simultaneously answering emails.

“I’ve decided to stop working with you,” says Daisy, bracing herself for an angry retort.

“No, that’s my line,” says Gwen, laughing a little and ceasing to type. “Too much baby, not enough writing time? I’m happy to wait for the smoke to clear. Hate to lose you when we’re getting so close.”

“I’m going in a different direction now,” says Daisy, smiling at the truth of that. “I really appreciate all the help you gave me.”

“No problem,” says Gwen, curtly. “I’ll email you the quit document to sign and… good luck.”

*

On a warm morning in mid-August, Daisy and Nathan are sitting opposite each other at Nathan’s kitchen table, Celia carrying five-month-old Jenna around the garden visiting flowers with her.

Nathan and Daisy are writing together, each writing two lines of a story on a sheet of typing paper, then exchanging the papers and writing the next two lines of each story, and so on, back and forth until they reach the bottoms of their pages and wrap their stories up with two final lines.

When they finish writing, they each read aloud the story they ended up with. One of the stories doesn’t do much for either of them, but the other story…  

*

Frederick wasn’t sure Amelia wanted to go out

with him, so he didn’t ask her for fear she would

say yes and turn out to be a psychic black hole

and suck all the joy out of his life and make him

want to become a monk, something he often

had nightmares about. You see, Frederick loved

wearing flamboyant colorful clothing and having

sex with women, and Amelia was just exactly

a woman, which was just what Frederick was

looking for. She had two arms, two legs, two

adorable dogs named Gormag and Fitzroy

and her voice was husky and warm and when

she laughed the earth shook and made Frederick

whimper like a dog hearing fireworks exploding on

the eve of the ascension, not to mention

making him wildly amorous and ready to

throw caution to the wind and sleep with

someone he knew had slept with

German aristocrats, rock stars, and women

who enjoyed dressing as men and behaving

like Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca. Yet

he didn’t ask her out, though he wanted to

more than anything he’d ever wanted, except

for one thing: to play boogie-woogie piano

naked on a warm summer night for a

gathering of his favorite writers, most of

them dead, but resurrected especially

for the occasion.

fin

Whoopsie Doopsie

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Beauties

Raul Neves is one of the most famous chefs in the world. Born in the Portuguese coastal city of Aveiro, Raul is the ruggedly handsome son of a fisherman named Goncalo and a waitress named Beatrice. Goncalo was lost at sea when Raul was seven. A year later Beatrice married the owner of the restaurant where she worked, and Raul gravitated to the restaurant kitchen where he proved to be a culinary prodigy.

At fifteen Raul went to work in the kitchen of a fine restaurant in Lisbon, and at seventeen became sous chef in an excellent Paris restaurant. His rise to culinary stardom was only impeded by his uncontrollable temper, and when he was twenty-three his fight with two men in a bar was judged a felonious assault and resulted in Raul serving two years in a French prison.

Upon his release, he returned to Lisbon and underwent a year of intensive psychotherapy, the fruits of which were the cessation of his violent outbursts and a new way of thinking about life. He moved to London, established himself as a premiere chef, and then moved to San Francisco where his spectacular cuisine and his appealing persona made the restaurant estuaire famous and launched Raul’s second career as the paramour of movie actresses.

When Raul was fifty-two his mother died and he became severely depressed. He decided he had to get out of the city, any city, and accepted the offer of a wealthy couple to create a restaurant in the remote northern California coastal town of Mercy, the restaurant to be housed in an exquisitely restored two-story Victorian perched on the headlands overlooking Mercy Bay. That restaurant is the peerless Ocelot, the name coming to Raul in a dream.

*

On a fine spring day in the middle of May, Raul and the movie star Kristen Carlyle cruise two miles inland in Raul’s new red Tesla up a winding road to Ziggurat Farm, home of Philip and Lisa and Marcel and Andrea. Marcel and Philip are both part-time waiters at Ocelot, and Andrea and Lisa are masters of the Ziggurat Farm organic vegetable and flower garden, source of much of the produce and flowers used by Raul at his restaurant.

Raul and Kristen are going to lunch at the farm—Philip a superb cook, Marcel a maker of exquisite wine, Andrea also a fine cook, Lisa a charming hostess—forty people expected for Nathan’s eighty-fifth birthday party, Nathan’s life deeply entangled with the lives of those who live on the farm.

“What a beauty,” says Kristen, as they turn off the highway onto the farm drive. “Must be worth a fortune.”

Kristen, twenty-eight, a busty brunette known for her steamy sex scenes in violent thrillers, has enjoyed her brief affair with Raul but has no illusions about their liaison lasting much longer.

Raul, who is twice Kristen’s age, has never seen any of Kristen’s seventeen movies because he prefers books to movies, particularly the classics, his current endeavor A Tale of Two Cities.

“This is a farm of beauties,” says Raul, parking amidst the other vehicles. “Beautiful women, beautiful men, beautiful children, beautiful dogs, beautiful cats, beautiful flowers, and incomparable vegetables. I would live here if they’d let me, but I’m afraid to ask for fear they might say No.”

“Are you serious?” asks Kristen, wrinkling her famous nose.

“Always,” says Raul, tired of Kristen after their few days together, their intellects and senses of humor severely mismatched.

“I didn’t know that about you,” she says, thinking she’ll end things with Raul tomorrow or the next day so she can get home to Los Angeles and rest for a couple weeks before a long shoot in New York. “You seem so easy going.”

“I am seriously easygoing,” he says, smiling at her. “Come. Let us go consort with the beauties.”

*

Raul and Kristen are greeted at their car by a mellow old hound named Jung and a friendly Golden Retriever named Alexandra, the dogs followed by two girls in summery dresses: Vivienne, a darling nine-year-old with shoulder-length brown hair, and Irenia, twelve, her long black hair in a braid festooned with white carnations, her face so lovely to Raul he has to take a deep breath to calm himself every time he sees her.

“Bon jour Raul,” says Vivienne, avidly studying Kristen. “You remember Irenia, don’t you?”

“Of course,” says Raul, bowing to Irenia. “How are you?”

“Very well, thank you,” says Irenia, who is learning to speak in the manner of the children of Ziggurat Farm, their vocabulary and conversational style influenced by years of tutelage from two verbally flamboyant upper crust Brits. “May we perchance know the name of your most attractive companion?”

“This is Kristen,” says Raul, turning to Kristen. “Kristen this is Vivienne and Irenia.”

“Are you British?” asks Kristen, easily fooled.

“Alas, no,” says Vivienne, sighing dramatically as she thinks of Constance and Joseph who moved back to England several months ago. “We are but pale facsimiles.”

“We have come to inform you that hors d’oeuvres and wine and grape juice are being served in the garden,” says Irenia, admiring Kristen’s dangly diamond earrings. “Lunch to follow in the farmhouse.”

So the quartet of humans and the two dogs make their way along the path bordered by lilacs and lavender and rose bushes to the magnificent terraced vegetable and flower garden where the guests are gathered around two picnic tables in the dappled shade of a live oak, most of the women in dresses, most of the men wearing colorful shirts, Marcel and his ten-year-old son Henri playing accordions at a distance from the gathering to add ambience but not interfere with the myriad conversations.

Raul seeks out Andrea, the boss of the garden, and gives her a hug and a kiss before he gestures expansively to the burgeoning vegetables. “I cannot wait to pilfer from this magnificence. My God how things have grown since just last week.”

“I’ve got employees now,” says Andrea, pleased Raul came to her first. “The children all want to work in the garden now that Irenia works for me on weekends.”

“Raul,” says Philip, approaching with Irenia’s father and mother—Boris tall and big-bellied, Maria plump and a foot shorter than he. “I want you to meet Boris and Maria, Irenia’s parents.”

“A pleasure,” says Raul, shaking Boris’s hand, both men large and strong. “I recognize you from the garage. You revived my dying Mercedes and then I sold it and bought a Tesla.”

“Tesla,” says Boris, with a thick Russian accent. “I am just now learning to fix these electric cars. I am trained mechanic not electrician.”

“A pleasure to meet you,” says Raul, bowing to Maria. “May I present to all of you my dear friend Kristen.”

“Hi,” says Kristen, giving everyone a little wave. “This place is amazing.”

“You are movie star,” says Maria, gazing open-mouthed at Kristen. “We just see you in movie with Dylan James.” She looks at Boris. “What was name of movie?”

Madness?” guesses Kristen, having made three movies with Dylan, Madness their latest.

“Yes,” says Boris, emphatically. “Madness. You were… you were…” He frowns, his English vocabulary failing him.

“A psychotic prostitute,” says Kristen, matter-of-factly. “And it wasn’t the first time.”

“Yes, you are crazy person,” says Boris, growing uncomfortable. “Very crazy.”

“Wine?” says Philip, coming to the rescue. “Grape juice? Yummy nibbles, as we call hors d’oeuvres around here? Follow me.”

At the picnic table, Raul kisses Daisy on her forehead, Daisy a curvaceous gal with reddish brown hair in a summery yellow dress holding her two-month-old baby girl Jenna.

“May I?” asks Raul, miming rocking a baby.

“Of course,” says Daisy, carefully placing her baby girl in Raul’s big hands—Raul the reason Daisy and her husband Michael came to Mercy eight months ago, to dine at Ocelot, and now they own the house and property contiguous with the farm and hope to live here for the rest of their lives.

Raul gazes into the eyes of the infant and feels his life turn upside down.

*

As the fabulous luncheon draws to a close—the revelers seated at four large tables filling the farmhouse dining room and much of the living room—Nathan and Celia’s daughter Calypso stands up and clinks her wine glass with a spoon to ask for silence.

“Now is the time to say whatever you’d like to say to Nathan,” says Calypso, a nurse at Mercy Hospital where she helped deliver the farm children Arturo, Henri, Vivienne, and the new baby Jenna. “I’ll start.”

She turns to Nathan who is sitting at the head of a table with a view of all the guests. “Papa. When I was thinking about what to say today, I remembered when I was sixteen and you got angry with me for taking the car without asking permission. And I realized that was the only time you ever got angry with me. In fifty-two years.” She starts to cry. “You are the kindest person I’ve ever known. Right after Mama.”

When the applause dies down, Celia’s brother Juan, a portly fellow in his seventies, stands up. “Amigo. I want to tell everyone how you hired me to prune trees with you fifty years ago when I really needed a job. We had two little kids and no money and the rent was due. After my first day of work you gave me four hundred dollars and said, ‘This is your signing bonus. I’ll want you to play shortstop and third base.’ So… after you saved us, what could I do? I had to introduce you to my sister.”

When the laughter dies down, Henri stands up.

“Every week,” says Henri, who is ten and not the least flustered by speaking in front of forty people, “the thing Arturo and Vivienne and I look forward to most is going to your house after school to write with you and have piano lessons with Delilah.” He looks at Arturo, who is eleven, and Vivienne, nine. “Now we’d like to recite a poem we wrote for you.”

Vivienne and Arturo join Henri, the trio standing shoulder to shoulder.

Arturo: One day Henri asked you ‘What exactly is a poem?’ and you said exactly is a tricky word, and asked us the question, only without exactly and ending with to you.

Henri: ‘A poem,’ said Arturo, ‘is words telling stories or describing something.’ And you replied, ‘How is that not prose?’

Vivienne: ‘A poem is poetic,’ said Henri. ‘You know. More musical than plain prose and less concerned with punctuation.’

Arturo: Then Vivienne said, ‘Though lines of poems don’t have to rhyme with each other, they usually do inside themselves.’

Vivienne: ‘So maybe,’ you said, smiling your biggest smile, ‘a poem is lines of words sounding sweetly to the poet.’

The children sit down to loud applause, after which Delilah, one of Mercy’s great beauties, her brown hair very short, her green Ziggurat Farm T-shirt tucked into baggy brown trousers, goes to the upright piano at the far end of the living room and says before playing, “Dear Nathan, I could never put into words what you and Celia mean to me, so I thought I’d play the story of meeting you and coming to live with you twelve years ago.”

A virtuoso pianist, Delilah plays three minor chords to begin, expresses the chords again with their separate notes played in quick succession, plays those separate notes again and again until they begin to vary and grow into a rapturous melody supported by an intricate rhythmic pattern of bass notes, the song resolving into single notes and ending with three comically major chords.

Amidst shouts of Bravo, Delilah hurries back to her seat next to Celia who is sitting next to Nathan, and when the applause subsides, Philip stands up and says, “An impossible act to follow, but someone must, so…” He gazes at Nathan and takes a moment to quell his rising tears. “As of today we’ve gotten seventeen good reviews of my cookbook, and nearly all of them use the words poetic and lyrical when speaking of the writing, which is entirely due to your helping me rewrite my original text. You will deny this and say you merely helped me see what was already there, to which I say, ‘No, Nathan, you breathed magic into my words just as you breathe magic into our lives every day.’”

*

After the many accolades for Nathan, the party continues and Raul leaves Kristen speaking to Delilah and sits down beside Nathan at the dining table.

“I would like to give you a birthday gift of supper at Ocelot for you and Celia and Delilah,” says Raul, who had no idea Nathan was so important to so many people in the community.

“I won’t say no to that,” says Nathan, who is greatly relieved to just be one of the partygoers again and no longer the center of attention. “Philip tells us the food is quite good, and he’s no slouch of a cook.”

“He’s brilliant,” says Raul, enjoying Nathan’s jest. “I can assure you I will steal several things I learned from eating his food today.”

“My wife Celia is quite the cook, too,” says Nathan, his eyes twinkling. “We’ll have you over for chicken enchiladas and fish tacos some time.”

“Nothing would make me happier,” says Raul, taking a deep breath. “May I tell you something that happened to me today?”

“Yeah,” says Nathan, who hears the beginning of a poem that goes something changed him today, something he never expected.

“When I took Daisy’s baby in my hands,” says Raul, feeling he might cry, though he hasn’t cried since he was a young man, “and I looked at her face, she wasn’t seeing me at first, you know, but then she focused on me and our eyes met, and I felt certain I was holding the container of a soul who lived before. And whether this is true or not, in that moment I realized the folly of living alone as I do, save for sexual liaisons that never last, and I felt desperate to find a wife and have a child and live with them until I die.” He laughs incredulously. “Or maybe I’m just losing my mind.”

“Or maybe the universe was showing you what love is,” says Nathan, liking the sound of that.

“And what is love?” asks Raul, his heart pounding in anticipation of Nathan’s reply.

“Love is devotion to the miraculous nature of the other, whether the other is a baby or a tree or a woman or a wave breaking on the shore.”

*

Three weeks later, on a sunny day in early June, Raul and his assistant Maurice, a large man with a shaved head, are in the vegetable garden at Ziggurat Farm with Andrea seeing what they might harvest for the restaurant today and what will soon be ready to harvest. As they consider the burgeoning broccoli, a small blue pickup truck pulls up to the barn and a woman jumps out and strides to the garden gate.

“Hello,” she calls, her voice deep and confident. “I’m Caroline Darling, Michael’s sister. Daisy said if I missed their driveway, which I apparently did, I should come here and someone would help me find my way to their house.”

“Oh Caroline. Welcome,” says Andrea, turning to Raul and Maurice. “Excuse me a moment. I’ll be right back.”

Raul guesses Caroline is in her thirties, though she is forty, and he finds her enchanting. Tall and athletic with short brown hair, she’s wearing a sleeveless blue T-shirt showing off muscular arms, khaki shorts revealing long muscular legs, and leather sandals—an amazon with only a spear missing from her ensemble.

*

A few mornings later, Raul comes alone to Ziggurat Farm to get lettuce and eggs and cases of wine for his restaurant. But before he loads his truck with produce, he walks the path to Daisy and Michael’s house to visit baby Jenna as he does every week now in his newly acquired role as Jenna’s godfather.

On the path, he meets Caroline walking with Daisy and Michael’s new Golden Retriever pup on a leash, on their way to the farmhouse where the pup—Figaro—will play with the farm dogs while Caroline has tea with Lisa and Philip.

“Bon jour Caroline,” says Raul, bowing to her before kneeling to receive the puppy’s kisses. “How nice to see you again. Have you joined the collective?”

“At least for the summer,” she says, finding him formidably attractive.

He stands up and looks at her, finding her surpassingly lovely. “And after the summer?”

“Not sure,” she says, wondering if they might have a fling. “Did Daisy tell you I’m on sabbatical from the University of New Hampshire? I’m a botanist. We’re a family of scientists, Michael and I and our brother Thom, our parents entomologists.”

“Insects?” he says, hoping he’s guessing right.

“My mother butterflies,” she says, nodding. “My father beetles.”

“My father was a fisherman, my mother a waitress,” he says, liking everything about her. “Scientists, too, in their own way, and I suppose I am a scientist of food.”

“So I’ve heard,” she says, feeling pleasantly dizzy.

They part ways saying they hope to see each other again, both feeling hopeful of sex with the other.

*

In the many-windowed living room of Daisy and Michael’s house, Raul sits in a rocking chair holding baby Jenna and listening to Daisy talk about her novel she’s planning to rewrite.

“I wrote three novels before this one,” says Daisy, taking yet another picture of Raul with her baby. “I know the first three were practice and nothing anyone would want to publish, but this one… I think the story is so compelling and…” She frowns. “I don’t know. Something’s missing, something I can’t figure out.”

“Have you shown your book to Nathan?” says Raul, making a goofy face at Jenna and waggling his head to make her gurgle in delight.

“What a good idea,” says Daisy, feeling daft she didn’t think of that.

“I would be happy to read your book, but I know nothing about writing,” says Raul, looking up from the baby. “I dictated my memoir to a writer who concocted the book, and I pay people to write my recipes from my scribbles and then I polish them before they go to the publisher. But you’d better hurry. Nathan is eighty-five. Time does not go backwards.”

“I can’t tell you how happy we are that you’re our friend,” says Daisy, gazing in wonder at Raul. “We came here to eat at Ocelot, and now…”

“Now I am your daughter’s doting godfather,” says Raul, feeling he has finally arrived, to paraphrase Stevie Wonder, exactly where God wanted him to be placed.   

fin

Here Somewhere