Heat – Short Stories Chapter

by Jane Futcher

Photo of “The Kiss,” by Tanya S. Chalkin

Bagels and Mink

It is a Saturday afternoon in mid-November, and the air is cold but not bitter. I am standing on a tree-lined street in suburban Rye, New York, in front of a neo-Tudor house, about to meet Rick’s sister and brother-in-law for the first time. It is 1972—Nixon has just beaten George McGovern; the Vietnam War is raging, and Rick has told his sister Victoria that our relationship is serious. On the drive from Philadelphia, Rick entertains me with tales of gay life—the bars where queens hang out in Philadelphia, the downtown park where Main Line stockbrokers cruise for teenaged boys. I am excited by the talk—it is my only contact with the gay world. I tell him about the straight woman at work who turns me on when she leans over my desk, her cleavage close to my shoulder, showing me the correct way to glass-mount a slide for the educational shows our company produces.We are both nervous about spending the night with Victoria and Hal. We are trying to be a couple, but we have never slept together, and we are both gay—he actively, me in tortured silence. Under those circumstances, it’s hard for me to feel comfortable with anyone, certainly not Rick’s family.
Now here I stand, in this expensive, upper-middle-class suburb on Long Island Sound, where married people raise 2.2 children and drive dazzling European cars. Here now, close to dinnertime, are Hal and Victoria coming down the steps to greet us. Hal is dark, short and good-looking, wearing starchy Levi’s and a blue chambray shirt—the perfect weekend outfit for a Madison Avenue filmmaker. Victoria is tall and lean, with a suntan, straight brown hair, and huge brown eyes that study me curiously. And why not? I am the first woman her 26-year-old brother has brought home; she is inspecting the package.We shake hands awkwardly and carry our bags into the living room. It is a living room out of Architectural Digest—flowered chintz slipcovers, a polished mahogany coffee table, graceful Shaker chairs. Victoria brings in a tray with tea, then crystal glasses of red wine, still later, Perrier. It is cold in the house, and I am hungry. But there is no food. Hal lights a joint. The others smoke, but I decline, afraid I’d get more uptight than I already am.
“Where are the kids?” Rick asks. He is taller than his sister, but she always dominates, he has told me.
Not to worry, Victoria says. The kids are spending the night with friends and will be home for bagels and lox in the morning. Something is in the air; an unspoken excitement lights his sister’s eyes. Hal taps his fingers against his thigh, then runs upstairs and returns with a silver box and a small slab of marble. He has a surprise for us. Cocaine. Let’s do some lines, he says.
I have never used cocaine and am not sure I want to. I ask Rick what it’s like, but he doesn’t know. He only smokes pots and does the occasional Quaalude. Will I have hallucinations, I ask? Will it make me paranoid? Oh, no, says Victoria, squeezing my arm, it’s fun and kicky. Try it, she says, showing us how to sniff the powder through a straw.
I sniff the powder on the green marble slab as the bare bones of trees scrape against the windows. Hal and Rick are in the kitchen talking about the film business. Victoria and I have moved to a love seat in the sunroom. I notice a bitter taste in the back of my throat, but I don’t feel anything. We are, however, having a glorious talk, gliding toward each other in a conversational Mercedes. Victoria is next to me, her stories drawing me closer. I have never felt so brilliant. But what are we talking about? Nixon’s reelection? The new shopping mall in Cherry Hill, New Jersey? Some nuclear test in Nevada? I can’t say exactly, but it doesn’t matter. I am feeling Victoria’s attention in my heart, which is pounding. I am tingling all over. I realize that I am stoned. Cocaine is not the vague, isolating, foggy high I feel on marijuana. It is sharp and focused and interactive. Has Victoria has awakened in me the longing that Rick is supposed fill? When she touches the back of my hand, I cannot find my breath.
“Are you hungry?” I am startled. Rick stands over us, studying us quizzically. He and Hal want to go out to eat. We are all hungry, but it is hard to move. If we don’t go soon, Rick says, the restaurants will be closed.

The backseat of the Jaguar smells of leather and money. We are driving through White Plains searching for a place to eat. Everything is closed—the Italian restaurant they like, the Mexican, cantina, the Gold Dragon Chinese. Hal and Rick are in the front seat, and Hal is irritable. We consider takeout chicken from Kentucky Fried, but nobody is hungry for that. We drive back to their house and eat Jiffy Pop popcorn Hal makes in the kitchen. He and Rick are tired. I glance at Victoria, who looks at me, then looks away. I am not tired at all, just cold and excited and slightly numb.
I will sleep in the pink bedroom belonging to Victoria’s twelve-year-old daughter, Alice, they tell me. It is large and pretty, with pinups of Vogue models and a girl’s white dressing table and chair upholstered in pink hearts. Rick will sleep in little Harry’s room. He and I say good night on the landing halfway up the stairs. “How are you doing?” he whispers.
“OK, I think.”
“Victoria likes you. She told me in the kitchen.”
My stomach whirls. “I like her, too.” I glance at the Andy Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe on the wall behind Rick. “She’s very warm.”
Rick smiles, and rolls his eyes. “She’s crazy, you know.”
Victoria looks at us from the bottom of the stairs, head cocked to one side. “You’re talking about me, Rick,” she says. “What are you saying, little brother?”
Rick’s laugh is a little too loud. “We were saying how much we love you, Victoria.”
“And I love you.” His sister smiles and winks.
In the daughter’s pink bed, I lie awake. It is a strange family, I think, not eating food, only drinking and smoking pot and sniffing cocaine. I wonder for a minute if he and Hal had sex in the kitchen while Veronica and I talked. Not even Rick, who seems to have gotten it on with every guy he’s ever met, would get it on with his sister’s husband. I take comfort in the clean smell of the sheets and the stillness of the house asleep.
The clock strikes in the hallway. It’s two A.M. I hear a noise. Someone is at the door to my room. Without switching on a light, a figure tiptoes toward me
“Are you awake?” It’s Victoria. She sits down on the bed. The feel of her body next to mine awakens an ancient hunger.
“Listen,” she says softly. “I want to take you for a ride in the Jag.”

“Don’t get dressed, just put on your coat.”
I stare at her dark shape. “Now?”
“Why not? You won’t be able to sleep.”
“I won’t?”
She shakes her head. “It’s the cocaine. We had more than they did.”
Why am I thinking about my mother, who is so hopeful that Rick is my boyfriend.Victoria is on the edge and will take me to the edge if I’m not careful. But why not? What am I afraid of? Don’t I want to go to the edge, do I? I pull off the covers.
“Don’t get dressed. Just put on your coat.”
“Need clothes,” I say, finding my blue jeans and a sweater. The floor creaks as we descend the stairs to the kitchen. My hands sweat. I am afraid that Hal or Rick will hear us, and stop us.
Victoria is seated in the Jaguar and indeed she is naked, save for her black mink coat. I can see her full breasts as she reaches up to click on her remote-control garage-door opener. She backs slowly out of the garage as we move slowly down the quiet, tree-lined street. We drive toward the ocean or the sound, I am not sure which. She is talking, and as she talks she stops at an intersection in Rye. The light changes from green to red, then back to green, but Victoria does not move the car. “You better drive,” I say, “or the cops will get us.”
“Scared?” she laughs, then drops her foot onto the accelerator.
We are parked on a jetty overlooking the water. Or is it the Sound? Victoria is talking about Rick. “He’s gay, you know,” she says.
This is the first mention of gay, anything gay. It is a step, I know, in the direction of my craving. “I don’t understand my brother,” she says. “Do you?”
“How do you mean?” I am cautious.
“I can understand two women being attracted to each other but not two men.”
I inhale and grip the armrest. I feel the heat of her words.
She leans closer. “Have you been with a woman?”
I gulp. “No.”
She says nothing. We sit in silence, the cold more cold because of the cocaine. The tension screams between us. “I am attracted to you,” she whispers.
The cocaine is still racing inside me. I do not feel brilliant anymore, just excited and numb. I have never been this close to a woman. I have stuffed down my feelings since first grade. Since before first grade. I have never allowed myself an expression of my desire. And here, next to me, is my boyfriend’s sister, her arm around my waist, her fingers rising beneath my sweater.
I play with the zipper of my jacket. “I’ve never. . . not with a woman.”
Her breath singes my neck. “Really?”
I want to scream, right here in the leathery car, that I’d like to kiss her, crush her, touch every part of her naked torso. “I’ve wanted to.”
“Hal thought you had,” she says, turning on the ignition. I am blushing. I had not realized I was so obvious.
Victoria is driving slowly, weaving through the town of White Plains. Her diamond ring shimmers in the glow of the dashboard lights. “I find you very attractive. “
I look behind us, afraid other cars might hear us, see us, stop us. “I find you, you know. . . too.” The words creak out of my mouth.
She has stopped the car in the road again and has found a tape of Gladys Knight and the Pips singing a song called “Midnight Train to Georgia.” She is stroking my hair.
“I’d like to go to bed with you,” she says, twisting her wedding ring around her finger.
Sirens whine in my brain. My boyfriend’s sister wants to go to bed with me. The electric clock on the dashboard says 2 a.m. “I would have to have a drink first,” I say finally.
She laughs.
My body is approaching meltdown. I no longer have words. She guns the car and races us back to her house.
In the dark kitchen, we fumble for glasses. Her hands tremble as she pours me a giant tumbler of Chivas Regal. We stand barefoot at the counter, gulping our drinks, careful not to wake the men. The scotch burns inside me, but I feel safer now, as the cold nerves of the cocaine give way to the hot glow of alcohol.
“OK? Better?” Her eyes are hungry, wild, like Rick’s when he talks of the men he picks up in bars. She leads me up the back stairs to her daughter’s room, taking off her coat, dropping it on the floor, lying down on the bed in the darkness. She opens her arms and I slide next to her long, aerobically tuned body. The feel of her skin against mine turns my heart to silk. Her hips move; I am feeling the heat of her. I am handling her, a cowboy coupling with his girl. She allows me, wants me to move on top of her. Marry me, she whispers. Marry me, Yes, I say. I’ll marry you.
This is like the movies, better than the movies because t is happening to me. I feel the voices of all the women—the teachers, the schoolmates, the girls I have longed for since childhood. Each moment rewrites my past and lights my future.
“What is that smell?” I ask. “Like toothpaste.”
She hesitates. “Femme Unique.”
“Vaginal deodorant.”
Vaginal deodorant? I have never smelled vaginal deodorant before. I kiss her thighs, brush my cheek against her legs. Something bristles on my lips.
“I shave there,” she whispers. She shaves her legs all the way up, between her thighs. I blink. Perhaps this is what suburban women do. They shave and put deodorant everywhere. How strange and interesting.
We kiss and hug and pant, but neither of us comes.
“It’s the cocaine,” she whispers. “Not you.”
“I’m happy,” I say. “Delirious.”
She laughs, finally falling asleep in my arms while I lie awake, savoring the pressure of her head upon my shoulder, the heat of her breath against my cheek, her legs wrapped around mine, the herbal smell of her hair. She is Patricia Neal, Jean Seaburg, Greta Garbo, Sophia Loren, Rita Tushingham, Mary Martin, Julie Andrews, Zsa Zsa Gabor rolled into one. She is my lover and my wife. I do not want this night to end.
We are breast to breast when the morning light creeps through the curtains. Against the pink sheets, we make love again, and this time we come. Victoria’s face seems older and more solemn. She looks at me with a softness I did not see last night, and we start again, to be sure this is not a dream.

Hal is standing in the doorway, unshaven, in a blue terry cloth robe. “You two better get up,” he frowns. “Alice will be home in fifteen minutes.” He studies us quickly, wound in each other’s arms, and closes the door.
I notice the African doll in a woven headdress gazing at us from her daughter’s bookshelf. “Is Hal mad?”
She stretches languidly, then snuggles back into my arms. “Hal? It was his idea.”
“What?” She is so close to me that her face has three eyes.
“He wouldn’t make love with me last night. Said I should try you.”
I swallow, loosening my grip on her waist so I can see her face clearly. “It wasn’t your idea?”
She kisses my ear. “Does it matter?”
I stare at her mink coat in a pile on the floor. “I thought you were attracted to me.”
“Hey.” Her tongue touches my lips. “Don’t let go of me. There’s not time.”
I hold her tight again. I search for words. “You wanted to do this, didn’t you, Victoria?”
The door opens again. Hal is dressed now, and irritated. “Get up, Victoria. Alice is downstairs.” He slams the door.
Victoria closes her eyes, opens them, inhales and sits up, standing naked in front of me.
“I miss you already,” I say. I feel like crying.
“You’re very sweet.” She picks up her coat and leans over to kiss me. “You sure you’ve never done this before?”
I shake my head.
“It was fun, wasn’t it?”
“Very,” I say. “I’d like to do it again.”
“Yes.” She inhales, then closes the door behind her.
I lie in bed, afraid to move, afraid to disturb this mesh of smells and touch and abundance. There is another knock on the door. Is it Victoria? Please, let it be Victoria, coming back to make love again. But it is Rick. He is pale and much taller than I remember, wearing pressed blue jeans and a blue and white striped shirt. His brown eyes reach mine. “Time to get up, sleepyhead. The kids are downstairs. Hal’s toasting the bagels now.”
“Guess what?” I say slowly.
He sits next to me on the pink bed, where Victoria has been, but the feeling is so different. There is no electric shock, no molecular dissolve.
“Try to guess,” I say, sitting up.
“I can’t guess.” His eyes are wide.
He shakes his head. There are blue shadows under his eyes. “Just tell me.”
“Victoria and I . . made love last night.” The sound of my words startles me.
His eyes widen. “What?”
I sit up, pulling the sheets up to cover my naked body. “We couldn’t sleep, because of the cocaine, so she took me for a ride in her car, and we talked about you, and we drank scotch and then she suggested we make love.”

“Really?” I smiled.
He stands up. “Jesus,” he says. “Goddamn Victoria.” He clenches his fists.
“What’s wrong?” I am so happy. Rick’s gay, after all. He must understand this feeling, must know what this relief is like, this glorious undoing of my past and rewriting of my future.
He faces me, all color gone from his cheeks. “She did it to hurt me,” he says, hovering grimly above me. “To hurt me and especially Hal.”
I close my eyes. Did the night have something to do with Hal and Rick? Weren’t we two women, hungry and alive, releasing the caged things inside us? “It didn’t have anything to do with you and Hal.”
“You don’t know her,” he says, closing the door behind him.

In the kitchen where Victoria and I poured Scotch last night, I am now eating bagels and lox and cream cheese Rick, Hal, Victorian and the children—a girl and a boy—who steal shy looks at me. Hal does not speak. Rick is courteous but subdued. I glance at Victoria, who eats nothing, sips her coffee, avoidsing my eyes. The kids tell us about a birthday party at a bowling alley last night. They ate hot dogs and red vines and popcorn and chocolate sundaes. Someone threw up on a bowling ball, and they had a wonderful time. It is strange, the change in Victoria. She won’t look at me. Is Rick right? Did she do it to hurt them? Once, when she is putting more bagels in the toaster over and the kids and Rick cannot see her face, Victoria looks quickly at me without hiding, letting the warmth of last night show in her eyes. My legs soften, my breath races. Then her face tightens and becomes blank again.
Rick puts his dish in the sink and says it is time to drive back to Philadelphia. He is meeting with a producer first thing in the morning and he needs to get his sample reel ready. He and Hal load the car. Victoria offers to show me the garden. We walk arm in arm, finally alone. There is so much I want to say. But the children are watching from the window. We go as far as we can, to the edge of the lawn, and stop to study a pale blue hydrangea that has somehow survived the November cold. I stare at the blossom, heartened by its triumph over the frost.
“Thank you,” I say, squeezing Victoria’s hand.
She glances at the house. “Rick’s furious with me.”
“I know.” I smile into her worried eyes. I love you, I say with my eyes. I am taking you home, holding you next to me. I want to ask when I can see her again. I want to tell her what our night together meant.
Her face contracts and her eyes seem to bulge, as Rick’s do when he talks about his difficult family. “It seems so hopeless. All of them so angry at me.”
Near us, a robin pecks the hard ground. “It was wonderful,” I say. “If they knew how wonderful we felt, maybe they wouldn’t be so mad.”
She cocks her head to one side. I see the beginning of a smile. “It was fun, wasn’t it?”
“Very,” I say. “Very, very, very fun.” I want to ask her to meet me in New York. Or come to see me in Philadelphia. I want to spend a whole night and a day and perhaps another night. I don’t want to leave her. We are married, after all. But I can feel the eyes at the window, and Rick is on the back porch, calling, telling me it is time to leave. Victoria looks at her brother, hesitates, and kisses me defiantly on the lips. Then, wordlessly, she turns and snaps off the head of the hydrangea.

Rick cannot drive home fast enough. He doesn’t want to know about Victoria, about what happened last night, but I tell him anyway. I want him to understand what’s happened. My molecular structure has undergone a complete transformation. Everything looks different, today, beautiful and clear, even the littered on-ramps of the New Jersey Turnpike and the smog-filled skyline of Newark. I have done it. I have loved a woman. I have lost my virginity. I am in love.

For days, weeks after that November night I move in a dream. IRA car bombs explode in Dublin, the U.S. increases its air attacks on North Vietnam, Apollo 17 returns to Earth from the moon. But I think only of Victoria—her body, her voice, her suburban, manicured body. She does not call, and she has asked me, without words, not to call her. I write her a thank you letter, but do not hear back. I imagine that any day she will call. I cannot call her because of her husband and children. So surely she will call me. Perhaps the longing for her lean, surprising body, is the reason I sleep with Rick soon after our trip to Rye. He is a kind, considerate lover in every way. But he is not his sister. Rick and I will never fly together on delirious clouds of pink. Yet it connects me, stangely, with his sister.

In June, I take a job in New York. Spiro Agnew has resigned as Vice President, Nixon has fired Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cos, and Haldeman and Erhlichman have resigned. And I still think about Victoria. Rick stays in Philadelphia, and we are no longer lovers. My transformation is complete. I am in love with New York and the Duchess—a lesbian bar on Sheridan Square—and have met a Southern belle named Bettie Anne at the office where I work. Rick, still hurt, will not speak to me. But he writes to say he, too, is moving to New York. One day, by the Seventy-second Street IRT, when I am going to my women’s consciousness-raising group, I spot him buying a newspaper at the kiosk near the entrance. “Rick?”
He turns and smiles. We talk for a while; he tells me about the film he is making for public television and his new apartment on 74th Street.
Finally, I ask, “How’s Victoria?”
“Ah,” he says, and wipes something from his eye. “Not well. She’s. . . had a breakdown.”
I swallow. “Breakdown?” A homeless man is chasing a pigeon on the sidewalk. “What do you mean?”
Rick’s brown eyes, the eyes of a friend now, not a lover, assess me slowly, then commit themselves. “She flipped out. Ran naked through the streets of Rye, nothing on, yelling that Hal was trying to kill her. It wasn’t true, of course. Although I wouldn’t blame him if he did. A neighbor called the police. An ambulance took her away in a straight jacket.” Rick pauses as a noisy bus passes on Seventh Avenue. “She’s better now. All drugged up but out of the hospital.” A Great Dane with an enormous pink tongue licks an ice cream cone in the gutter while his human companion talks to a man playing the violin. As an afterthought, Rick adds, “The children are living with Hal’s parents for the summer.”
My heart accelerates. “I’m sorry, Rick.”
He nods and bites his lip.
“Should I write to her? Call her? Is there anything I can do?”
He squints down at some broken glass near his feet. “I wouldn’t,” he says. “She’s still . . .”
I feel my throat tighten.
“Very ill. A letter from you now might, you know. . .”
“Agitate her,” I whisper.
“It wasn’t because of what happened that night? In Rye?”
Rick stares at me.
“I mean, she and I getting it on.”
“My sister is crazy,” Rick says. “She thinks only of herself. It has nothing to do with you. She slept with you to get back at Mike. And me.”
“Right,” I say. “I marched in Gay Pride,” I say quickly. “First weekend I was in New York.”
“Listen,” Rick says. “I’ve got a meeting with a producer in twenty minutes. Just came out to buy a paper. I’ll call you,” he says. “If I get the PBS job, maybe you’ll write the script.”
“I’d love to,” I say. He hands me his card and I jot my phone number down on one of his extras.
Then I fade slowly down into the underground.

Fever in Their Bones Chapter

by Jane Futcher

Canadian War Museum, George Metcalf Archival Collection.

Chapter One

Going OverSeptember 17, 1917

“How dashing you look, my darling,” Marjorie said when Thomas entered the sitting room dressed in the Canadian lieutenant colonel’s uniform the tailor had sent.
“Oh, Daddy!” The boys had shivered with delight at the sight their father in uniform, racing upstairs to don their own little soldier suits, sewn for them by their aunts in Ontario. 
Baby Gwendolen, cherubic and unflappable, broke into a wail.
“What on earth?” Marjorie placed the infant over her shoulder, tapping gently on her back. “Nurse! Where are you?”
Nurse rushed in from somewhere. “Right here, Mrs. B,” she cried, scooping Baby into her arms. “Goodness, me!” she exclaimed, seeing Thomas. “How handsome you look, doctor!”
“Feel quite foolish,” Thomas reddened, pulling the wool away from his neck, so very hot and scratchy on this humid Baltimore day.
“Nonsense,” Nurse laughed. “Every nurse will swoon at the sight of you.”
Marjorie poured Thomas his tea, adding cream and three lumps of sugar as he liked it, then glancing at the doorway through which Nurse had hurried off.  “I’m not at all sure she’ll do, Tom.”
“Nurse won’t?” he said, alarmed. “What has she done?”
“She’s scatterbrained and foolish. And she never calls you ‘sir,’ no matter how many times I’ve asked her.”
“I don’t mind, my darling.”
“But I do,” With a sigh, Marjorie returned to the socks she was knitting for the war effort. She had been knitting socks since the Germans had invaded Belgium three years ago. “The Irish are so . . .” 
He stared at his wife. “The Irish?”
“You know what I mean.”
“I don’t,” he said, sitting down next to her.
“They’re so . . . emotional. Feelings running everywhere, like . . . ”
“Potatoes?” he offered, with more sarcasm than he’d intended.
“Don’t, Tom. Not today. I’m far too —“
“Emotional?“ he offered, touching her shoulder. “Aren’t we all a bit . . . right now?” 

That afternoon at home seemed far longer than two weeks ago. Now here he was, wearing the uniform for real, the Sam Browne belt strapped across his chest, gold stripes on his sleeves, his riding breeches and knee-high leather boots snug on his legs. Did all five thousand soldiers who had boarded Olympic in Halifax today feel as uncomfortable as he did, actors in costume for a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta?
Would this were just a bit of entertainment, Thomas thought, standing at the rail of TItanic’s sister ship, Olympic, watching the mountains of Nova Scotia fade into the darkness. Hands squeezing the rail, he could not but think of dear Harvey setting off for England more than two years ago. He was booked on Lusitania’s final voyage two years ago and would have gone down with her had a bureaucratic snafu not delayed his plans by a day. He had written Thomas of the sad and eerie feeling he’d had as his ship made its way silently through the Irish Sea toward Liverpool the day after the Gerries had torpedoed Lusitania. For miles he’d gazed down at Lusitania’s haunting debris floating in the water — clothing, luggage, saloon chairs. Thomas gripped the rail more tightly. Wouldn’t the Gerries love to send this ship filled to the brim with fresh Canadian troops to the bottom of the sea? And there was little to stop them now that Von Hindenburg and Ludendorff had persuaded the Kaiser to resume attacks on any vessel headed to England or France. The Olympic, enormous and conspicuous, would be a perfect target, particularly since it was not traveling in a convoy; no destroyer was fast enough to keep up with the White Star Line’s fastest passenger ship on the sea.
A horn from the top deck blasted so loudly that Thomas felt his heart jerk in his chest. An unearthly groan arose from somewhere near him.
“Dobbsie?” a soldier cried. “You all right, mate?”
“We need a doctor,” came another voice. “Look at the poor fellow!”
Edging forward, Thomas saw a soldier sprawled on the deck, arms and legs flailing, eyes rolled back into his head. Pressing through the crowd, he knelt next to the man, placing his jacket beneath the man’s head as he managed to unbutton the soldier’s collar.
“Don’t let him swallow his tongue,” a man yelled.
“Steady on, my friend,” Thomas said to the seizing man. “You cannot swallow your own tongue.”
“Dobbsie? You all right? Can you hear me?” cried his friend. “Say something!”
“Help me turn him onto his side, would you, man?” Thomas said. “He won’t swallow his tongue but he could choke on his saliva.”
Thomas felt the boy’s pulse, which was rapid but regular.
As the crowd dispersed, the drama over, Thomas said softly, “Private? Can you hear me?”
The boy smiled up at Thomas. “Hello, sir,” he said pleasantly. “Private Willy Dobbs. Seventy-Sixth Ontario Infantry Division, Canadian Expeditionary Force.”
“You’ve had a seizure, Private Dobbs,” Thomas said, relieved that he was coherent.
“A what? Good Heavens no,” he frowned. “I’m fine.”
“You were shaking all over, Dobbsie,” said his friend, a red-head with freckles, barely seventeen. “Never seen you that bad.”
“I’m fine, Reggie,” Dobbs said. “No need to broadcast.”
“Not your first one?” Thomas said.
“Feel fine, sir.” The boy tried to sit up.
“Easy,” Thomas said. “Any headache or numbness? Ringing in your ears?”
“No, sir.”
“Have you a bromide in your kit? Or phenobarbitone?”
“Doc said I was done with them.”
“With your seizures?”
“The shakes, we call them, sir. Nothing to worry about. Started after I hit my head in the quarry. Should’t have been diving there.”
“That was a time, wasn’t it, Dobbsie?” laughed his friend. “Thought we’d lost you.”
“Fit as a fiddle now, I am.”
The danger over, Thomas noticed the smell of alcohol on the boy’s breath and the tiny pink blood vessels reddening his sclera. “Does alcohol aggravate your . . . shakes?”
“Very rarely drink, sir,” Dobbs said.
“But we drank last night, didn’t we Dobbsie?” his red-haired friend laughed.
“Where are you from, private?” Thomas asked. “I know some Dobbses in Saint Thomas.”
“In Ontario?” the boy asked eagerly.
Thomas nodded.
“That’s my family, sir,” the boy cried. “I grew up down the road in London.”
“Think of that,” Thomas smiled.
Dobbs grinned. “My Uncle Harry owns the feed store in Saint Thomas.”
Thomas smiled for the first time since he’d left Baltimore. “Harry Dobbs is your uncle?”
“Bang up to the elephant! That’s him!” Dobbs exclaimed.
“My brothers buy their grain from him. I’m Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Barnes, by the way. Canadian Medical Corps.”
“You’re a doctor?”
“I am,” Thomas said.
“I’ll write my mum. She’ll be over the top.”
“I live in the States now, but my brothers and sister are still in Saint Thomas.”
A handsome, mustached officer slightly younger than Thomas approached, trailed by two medics carrying a stretcher. The major glanced at Thomas, then Dobbs. ”What’s wrong with you, private?”
“Private Dobbs needs a full work up,” Thomas said, rising to his feet. “He’s had a grand mal seizure.”
“Not a seizure, sir,” Dobbs said quickly, pushing up on his elbows but falling back. “Just a few shakes.”
“Can you stand up, Private?” asked the man.
Dobbs did not move.
“Too many beers in Halifax?”
Dobbs looked sheepish. “We all did, sir, going over, saying goodbye to the family. We wanted to celebrate.”
“We did, too,” laughed his friend. “Met two lovely ladies in the saloon and . . . “
“Reggie,” Dobbs cried. “Keep a lid on, mate.”
“Took a chance, did you, boys?” the doctor scowled. “Hope you were careful. You may have another medical problem if you weren’t.”
“Oh, we were, sir,” Dobbs blushed.
The ship’s doctor turned to leave. “Well, a good night’s sleep, something to eat and plenty of water to drink, and you’ll be a new man in the morning.”
“You’re not admitting him, captain?” Thomas said, surprised.
The doctor’s lip seemed to curl as he glanced at the stripes on Thomas’ sleeves. “And you are?”
“Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Barnes. Canadian Medical Service.”
“You’re here because?”
“I was close by when Dobbs seized.”
“Your destination?”
“Liverpool, of course,” Thomas said.
“And after that?”
Why was this man interrogating him? “Orpington, Kent,” he replied.
“Canadian War Hospital Number Sixteen?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact,” Thomas said. “How did you —“
“You’re Thomas Barnes, aren’t you? The new chief medical officer?”
“How did you know?” Thomas was flabbergasted.
“You’re one of Sir William Osler’s boys, aren’t you? From Johns Hopkins?”
“I was his chief resident,” Thomas said quietly, clenching his fists.
“A fine little club, you posh ones,” said the doctor.
“I am the son of a pig farmer,” Thomas said quietly.
“God’s own truth,” Dobbs cried. “His family buys feed from my uncle.”
“And you are?” Thomas said to the doctor, feeling his blood pressure rising.
“Major Raymond Jessup.” He did not salute. “Ship’s doctor for one last trip.”
“Pleased to meet you,” Thomas said, saluting.
“Remember these soldiers. Colonel Barnes,” Jessup said, looking down at Dobbs and his mates. “You won’t see as many healthy men in one place for a long time to come. Half of them will be your patients in a month or two if they’re not already dead.”
Thomas chewed his lip, shocked that a physician would speak this way in front of new recruits bound for the front.
 “The ship’s horn is the last thing I remember,” Dobbs was saying to his friend as he moved his head from side to side as if shaking the sound from his ears.
“You’ll admit him, won’t you, Captain?” Thomas asked. “Watch him over night and take a history?”
“He is not your patient,” Jessup snarled.
Thomas stared at Jessup. “It’s entirely your decision, of course. But if the Olympic’s horn caused this lad to seize, I hate to think what might happen if a Howitzer explodes next to him.”
Jessup’s pale eyes narrowed. “The War Office wants bodies, Colonel.”
“Healthy bodies, I presume,” Thomas replied.
“I’m a healthy body, sir,” Dobbs offered cheerfully.
“I’m sending you down to the hospital, private,” Jessup growled.
“I’m fine, sir,” Dobbs insisted, grabbing Reggie’s hand and standing up. “No need.”
“Private, if Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Barnes from Johns Hopkins Hospital says you should be looked after, you’ll go to ship’s hospital on a stretcher.”
Thomas touched Dobbs’ sleeve. “I’ll check in on you tomorrow, Mister Dobbs.”
“Thank you, Colonel,” the boy said miserably, sitting down and placing himself on the stretcher.

Thomas peered down at the water from the rail. How on earth did Jessup know that Thomas was to be the new CMO at Canadian War Hospital Number Sixteen? And why was the man so disagreeable? Thomas had met plenty of cocksure, arrogant young physicians over the years at Hopkins, but none had gotten under his skin so quickly as this man had. “Aequanimitas,” he told himself. “Calmness amid storm,” the Chief had written in his famous speech to new doctors. “He who shows in his face the slightest alteration, expressive of anxiety or fear is liable to disaster at any moment.”
Thomas looked up quickly as a thunderous clanking sound came from somewhere on the deck. Was it the ship’s engine? Had they veered off course? He scanned the ocean for signs of a German submarine but saw nothing but the vast dark ocean. One or two other soldiers still at the rail did not seem at all concerned. No crew members raced out with orders to man the lifeboats and begin evacuation. Perhaps the queer noise was caused by what the manuals called zig zagging, sudden directional changes to disguise the ship’s course from the enemy. It would end, he’d read, when the ship was one hundred miles from port.
“Pardon me, Sir,” a young seaman said. “Captain is asking all passengers to proceed to their bunks.”
“Of course,” Thomas said. “Everything OK? No Gerries pursuing us?”
“All dilly, sir. Just a precaution.”
Thomas was puzzled as he opened the heavy steel door to the interior. Were they under attack? Or was the threat coming from within, from his nerves? He sat on his bed, reaching for his kit bag and the flask of brandy Marjorie had packed for him. Perhaps a sip or two would take his mind off German submarines and the unpleasant ship’s doctor. He poured himself a shot in the little jigger, feeling grateful indeed when the strong drink quelled the tension in his chest. He opened his leather writing sleeve. Perhaps he’d sketch this first-class stateroom for his wife and the boys, showing them how elegant it was, far more so than any cabin he’d booked for crossings in peace time. He would draw its sleigh bed, marble sink, walnut writing desk, oak wardrobe, and large window-sized porthole, which, alas, was sealed and covered to prevent his light from revealing the ship’s location to the enemy.

Women Gone Wild Chapter

by Jane Futcher

Chapter One

Looking for Land in All the Wrong Places!

We stood before a shingled shack that had been described in that day’s classifieds as a “see-to-believe creekside getaway near the Russian River, with guest cottage and private redwood grove.”

The creek, now barely a trickle, apparently ran through this house in the winter, which might explain why the entire structure listed to one side. The redwood grove was a single looming tree growing so close to the foundation that its roots had hoisted the garage six inches off the ground. We could almost hear the buzz of happy termites munching on the floor joists.

“Keep an open mind,” Erin whispered as we walked into the knotty pine hallway carpeted with an orange shag rug. We’d been together 10 years and a place in the country was the lift we thought our relationship needed. But this place was a downer. To the left was the kitchen, where dozens of teddy bears dressed in pink bikinis dangled from the ceiling. Dead ahead was a bathroom barely large enough for a family of small frogs.

“Fabulous, isn’t it?” A suntanned woman in a white kaftan appeared from nowhere, her eyes unnaturally blue and teeth so white they threatened to blind us. She waved her manicured fingernails vaguely in the direction of the creek, her gold charm bracelet jingling. “This was originally a summer cottage. Could use some TLC, but there’s so much you can do with it.”

“Except live in it,” I mumbled, sneaking a second look at those weird hanging things. “What’s with the teddy bears?”

“Wonderful, aren’t they?” swooned the agent. “The owner is an artist. Very creative.”

“It’s much smaller than we. . .” Erin opened a closet door before slamming it shut fast to keep a ski boot and a cast iron skillet from falling on her head.

It was happening again: real estate hell. Home prices were soaring, thanks, in part, to President Bill Clinton, who had just been summoned by the independent counsel to testify before a grand jury on his relationship with Monica Lewinsky. We were bummed. All the country houses in our price range were a mess: They had dry rot or plumes of methane gas running underneath their foundations or were too close to the road to be safe for our dachshunds, Woody and Luna. This one fit right in. In a corner of the bedroom, the plaster was crumbling onto the head of a six- foot Hello Kitty doll. The paint peeling off the room’s only window reminded me of the blistering sunburns I used to get as a kid.

“Looks like that meth house we saw in Healdsburg,” Erin whispered, pulling me toward the front door.

“Look,” I yelled. Out the back door, three dark, hairy pigs were snorting through a pile of empty Pampers cartons by a corrugated metal shed.

“The guest cottage?” I said to the agent.

“Adorable, isn’t it? Oozing potential.” She winked at me. “I’ve got other listings. Are you the writer or the midwife?”

“My pager just went off.” Erin charged past her and out the front door. “I’ve got a client who’s seven centimeters.”

“You’re the midwife,” the agent called. “So marvelous. To bring new life into the world. Let me give you my card. If I see something. . .”

We roared out of the driveway before she could finish her sentence. Erin’s pager had, happily, not gone off, and moments later we were sipping organic two-percent decaf lattes at the
natural grocery store in the nearby town of Sebastopol, in Sonoma County.

“Don’t be discouraged.” Erin licked milk foam from her lips. “We’re just exploring our options. These outings are little adventures that give us special time together and a chance to see what’s out there. This is a lot more fun than watching the 49ers lose, don’t you think? Or fretting over one of your editorials.”

My stomach coiled. At that moment, someone, probably the county hospital’s CEO–a volatile, tenacious woman who taught “Body Sculpting by Margaret” at a local gym–was complaining to the publisher about my editorial in this morning’s paper. We had run a mildly worded piece suggesting that the hospital might want to look into the reasons why someone on the E.R. staff had waved away an ambulance carrying the victim of a fatal car crash.

I slugged down my latte, while wishing the clerk had spiked it with some caffeine and pondering whether Erin and I would ever find rural paradise. How far north would we have to go to find something we could afford? A midwife and a newspaper editorial writer couldn’t telecommute from Alaska, and neither of us was ready to quit our job.

“Can you drive home?” Erin rubbed her shoulder and gulped down some Advil. She’d been rear-ended twice in the past few months, and her neck and shoulder pains were aggravated by the pretzel positions required to coax babies through the birth canal. Her practice was booming, but the long nights, pain from the car accidents, and the traffic in the Bay Area were taking a toll.

“Erin?” We looked up to see a young woman with gold studs riveting her body from her eyebrows to her bellybutton. She wore a skimpy tank top, tie-dyed pajama bottoms and combat boots, and was now charging toward us, a small child running after her. “Is that you?”

“Hey,” Erin smiled, turning to me. “Uh-oh. What’s her name? She has a band, and her cat scratched my arm just as the baby crowned.”

“It is you, Erin.” The woman practically sat in Erin’s lap, suddenly remembering her barefoot toddler trailing behind her pushing a miniature shopping cart as raspberry yogurt dripped down his tiny coveralls. “Paprika, Sweetie. This is Erin, the woman who brought you into the world. Do you remember her, Pappy? Can you say hello? She was your midwife.”

Paprika glanced mutely at Erin, lurching past her to grab a rack of VW camper buses made of toasted marzipan. “Mine!” he yelled, toppling the case and ecstatically loading the marzipan Volkswagens into his cart. “Mine!”

“Silly Pappy,” smiled the woman, righting the case and turning back to Erin.

“How have you been, Tarragon?” Erin said, finally remembering the woman’s name.

“Got a new band,” she said, wiping yogurt off of Pappy’s mouth and pulling a chair over to our table. “I think this one is going somewhere.” As she effervesced about the Icelandic belly dancer that she and Paprika’s father, a flute player, had met and fallen in love with while hamster dancing on the Web, I wandered off to check the store’s sleep remedies. If I got more sleep, I told myself, these little encounters with unsuitable real estate listings and Erin’s former clients wouldn’t be so challenging.

At the checkout counter I noticed a copy of Country Life magazine, featuring color photos of graying Baby Boomers in jeans and fleeces, tool belts slung around their waists, hammering, plastering, and painting their rural dream houses from Nova Scotia to Las Cruces. I chewed my lip. Our country fantasy was nothing but a cliché. Everyone our age was hoping to get out of the rat race and live off the grid. Baby Boomers had made Frances Mayes a millionaire by mainlining Under the Tuscan Sun. Our whole generation had been doing this country- living thing since the Sixties, devouring tomes like The Whole Earth Catalog and Stalking the Wild Asparagus. If I hadn’t moved to New York in the Seventies to live in Greenwich Village, work at a publishing house and become a lesbian, I’d probably have joined a commune in Vermont, raised a few goats, and shivered through a winter before admitting that surviving in rural America isn’t all that easy.

I heard Erin laughing and looked up at her short hennaed hair, green blouse and open, freckled face. She and Tarragon were deep into the topic of love triangles, to the delight of several eavesdroppers. No wonder pregnant mothers loved Erin; her easy laugh, calm competence, and amused blue eyes were deeply reassuring. Plus, she had chutzpah; nursing degree in hand, she’d practiced home birth for nearly 20 years, safely catching nearly 1,000 babies while working in the trenches to rewrite state law so that lay midwives could practice home birth legally.

“Hey,” I said, pointing to my watch, “I thought you had a woman in labor.”

Erin rose. “Tarragon, it’s been great.”

Erin and I walked to the parking lot with Tarragon right behind us–Pappy asleep in her arms–ecstatically extolling the energizing properties of the flotation tank she and Pappy’s dad had been using to increase their Kama Sutra. Wistfully, I watched a storm of 10-speed cyclists whoosh through the intersection in their shiny black skintight suits, sucking their water bottles en route to the Zen Bookstore and the Middle Earth Bakery down the road. Erin and I had mountain bikes, but they’d been hanging from rafters in our garage collecting dust since Erin’s accidents. What was happening to us? Was 50 too old for strenuous physical activity? Were we too tired from our jobs and too stuck in our routines to zoom around anything?

I glanced at Tarragon, all young and exuberant and strong, holding that heavy kid in her arms. Did we really think we could chop wood or put in a vegetable garden if we couldn’t ride our bikes for an hour without tossing down Advil? Would we miss daily newspapers and movies and Castro Street and antiwar demonstrations and Costco if we moved away?

I wasn’t a laid-back California girl like Erin. I was the anxious type. I’d gone to an East Coast girls’ school, been a reluctant debutante, majored in English, moved to New York to work in publishing and stayed away from smoking pot at rock concerts or anywhere else because I got stuck in Edvard Munch’s “Scream” when I got stoned. The most offbeat thing I’d done in my life was become a lesbian, primarily because the alternative was jumping off a bridge.

Erin was born confident and happy near the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets. She’d danced her teens away to the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin at the Fillmore and the Avalon, dropped acid with her boyfriend in Golden Gate Park and at 20 married a wandering Jew from the Bronx 10 years her senior at a wedding in the high desert of Northern New Mexico, presided over by their yoga teacher from the Punjab and attended by a band of chanting, cherubic hippies. She became a Sikh, thanks to her teacher, studied home birth midwifery, had two daughters at home in the ashram, and put herself through nursing school. She divorced her husband when she realized he was never going to get a job, and she embraced change gracefully. She watched more TV on the couch than I thought was good for her, and when I told her so, she glared at me, explaining that being up for days in a row bringing babies into the world was stressful and that I was judgmental and condescending. Sometimes I was.

Back in the parking lot, Erin had finally extracted herself from Tarragon with the help of Luna and Woody, our miniature long- haired dachshunds, who barked so viciously at the sight of
Paprika’s yogurt-covered hand reaching in to the car to pet them that he was now screaming more loudly than Tarragon could talk.

“Good dogs,” I said, patting their happy, licking faces as we headed south on Highway 101 to our house in Marin County. “She was a jolly sort,” I offered tentatively.

Erin laughed. “We should go hear her band sometime. Klezmer jazz, she says. She plays electric mandolin, he plays the flute and clarinet and the belly dancer plays trumpet and trombone.”

“Could be interesting,” I said, as our Magic Genie garage door opened, allowing us to cruise into our clean, termite-free, one- level Western-style tract house in the Northern Marin suburb of Novato. Maybe this was as much of a ranch as I needed. With Trader Joe’s enchiladas bubbling in the microwave, 60 Minutes on the tube and Masterpiece Theatre’s opera-loving sleuth, Inspector Morse, waiting for us, I stretched out on the couch and picked up the remote. Life in the ‘burbs, from where I sat–10 feet away from our 52-inch TV screen–seemed pretty darned good. Sure, traffic was horrible on Highway 101. And, yes, we had neighbors so close their little girls could count the bubbles swirling in our hot tub. So what if Erin’s job was mangling her shoulders and mine hurt my brain. We had a good life. We had two lovable, impossible, hardheaded dachshunds; close friends who lived nearby; jobs that engaged us, and miles of hiking trails right behind our house. I, for one, was willing to let my rural fantasies slip to that familiar mental junkyard where unrealized dreams quietly fade.

And then something happened.

Promise Not To Tell Chapter

by Jane Futcher

Chapter One

I’d been home from boarding school only a few days when it happened. I’d forgotten how bad things are around my parents. My mom gets mad at my dad because his business ventures fail, and my dad yells at her because she doesn’t like sex. When things get too tense, Mom disappears on her horse or flies down to Santa Fe where her best friend lives. Life is calmer for a while, but things deteriorate when Dad’s in charge. He tends to space out on his household duties and forgets Johnny’s soccer practice and Nathan’s doctor appointments.

The atmosphere at home wasn’t exactly light when they kicked me out of school. What I did was pretty dumb, since we had only three more days before the term was over. We’d finished exams, and we were waiting around to get our grades and go, to graduation. Smoking a joint didn’t seem like a big deal to me. A lot of other kids were doing it, but only three of us got caught. The school said they couldn’t let us know till. August whether or not we could come back in the fall. That was fine with me because I’d already decided I wasn’t going back. I was going to high school in Turkey Run, where we live. I’d had enough of boarding school. You have to understand, The Billings School is, sort of a dude ranch for rich kids. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, in the mountains, and all anybody does is ride horses. I’m a pretty good rider, but I can’t stand the sight or smell of horses.

My parents were furious with me. They said I had to go back to Billings if they’d take me. My friends were all in the midst of finals, so there wasn’t anyone to talk to except my thirteen-year-old brother Johnny, who is so preppy I think he was born in a Brooks Brothers shirt and Topsiders, and my six-year-old brother Nathaniel, who’s mentally retarded.

Another problem is that where I live there’s nothing to do. It’s this suburb half an hour south of San Francisco. There’s not even a movie theater in Turkey Run, just these big houses and old estates and people with horses, like my folks. Our house is up on a ridge. There are pastures and a lot of oak trees, and from the kitchen, on a clear day, you can see San Francisco Bay and Stanford University. Behind the house is another ridge, and eventually, after you wind through some redwoods, you’ll come to the Pacific Ocean.

My parents live at the far end of the house, which is all on one floor. Johnny’s room is next to mine, and Nathan sleeps in a little room off my parents’. In back, there’s a swimming pool, and just beyond the house, on the far side, is the barn where my mother keeps her horses. These details are necessary so you can picture the place on the day of my big bad deed.

I have to admit, it was without a doubt the worst day in my life. It started with Mom asking me if I wanted some toast for breakfast. I didn’t hear her because I was reading this skateboard magazine of Johnny’s. Next thing I knew, she was yelling at me, telling me l was going to become a bum and a dropout if l didn’t change my attitude, that I’d be lucky to get into the local community college if l didn’t start listening to her and taking responsibility for my. I said the community college was fine with me, that only ass- holes and preppies went to Yale, where my father went. Dad didn’t blink an eye, just kept eating his English muffin and reading the Wall Street Journal, which made Mom madder. She slammed shut the dishwasher and said she was going riding with her friend Eve and needed me to baby-sit for Nathan.

“I just got home from school, Mom,” I yelled. “I’m on vacation. Why isn’t Nathan going to school?” Nathan goes to school most of the summer because special kids like him are too much trouble for families to handle by themselves all day.

“Teachers’ meeting today,” Mom said, pulling the saddle blanket out of the clothes dryer. She turned around. “Please, Simon, don’t be so rude. Can’t you look after him for two hours? It’s not that much to ask. I’ll pay you.”

I looked at Nathan in his high chair, oatmeal dribbling down his face, his eyes crossed, a goony smile on his face, his head cocked to one side as if he were listening to extraterrestrial voices.

“He’s a pig,” I said.

“Simon, don’t talk that way!” Mom shot me a hateful look. She loves Nathan more than any of us, more than Dad and me and Johnny and even her darling horses. She says Nathan taught her how to love, because he’s brain damaged and she had to love him even though he didn’t live up to all her expectations. She still has plenty of expectations for me and Johnny, and at the time, I wasn’t meeting any of them.

“Well?” She was staring at me. Underneath her anger she looked sort of sad and desperate. I know it upsets her to have a kid who’ll never be able to talk or write or even change his own diapers. About the only thing he knows how to do is climb his plastic jungle gym in the living room. You should see him read his books. He sucks on them and turns the pages over and over in his hands until they disintegrate. My mother has to buy super durable books with indestructible bindings, otherwise he destroys them in minutes. If he loses his book, he has a temper tantrum, so she keeps a few stored away for emergencies. It was a long time before Mom knew for certain Nathan was retarded, and it was even longer before she accepted the fact that he would never be normal. Johnny and.Dad and I knew it a lot sooner, but she didn’t seem to get it, kept dragging him to special schools and doctors hoping his brain would somehow be restored.. But he’ll always be a goon. At eighty~ four, he’ll still be wearing Pampers and listening to Wee Sing and Peter Pan tapes on his plastic yellow cassette player. It’s pretty tragic if you think about it too long.

“Simon?” Mom was waiting for an answer. That crazy look in her eyes scared me.

“Okay. I’ll do it. But promise you’ll be back in two hours. He’1l drive me nuts if it’s longer than that.”

“Great. Thank you, sweetheart. I’ll be back in two hours.” Mom smiled and kissed me and seemed to forget how angry shell been a few seconds before. She’s like that. Her moods change really fast. Sometimes she’s ice cold, other times she’s totally up and cheerful.

Nathan and I followed her down to the barn and watched her saddle up her mare and the quarter horse for Eve. Then they rode off down the trail, and I was stuck with Nathan.

Dad had gone to work and Johnny was already at school. The front door was open, the way it always is when it’s hot, and Nathan and I were sitting in the living room watching TV. Or rather, I was watching TV. Nathan was playing on his jungle gym. He was having a great time. Every now and the he’d come over and sit on my lap and drool on me, and l’d yell at him and push him off and he’d laugh hysterically, as if he were having the time of his life. The first couple of times he sits on your lap, it’s okay, but when he keeps doing it, it becomes very irritating. He’s almost untrainable. He’s worse than a dog that way.

With Mom gone, we had a TV-watching orgy. Geraldo had these amnesia victims on the show, which was cool. Then we saw a documentary on Prozac, a yuppie drug millions of Americans are taking for depression. Then this great movie started, All About Eve, with Bette Davis, about this conniving actress who’ll do anything to become a star. I went into the kitchen to make popcorn, so l could really get into the movie, and as I looked into the fridge for something to drink, I noticed how quiet the house was, I closed the ‘fridge door and listened. All I heard was the hum of the swimming pool filter and the birds chirping on the roof. Something was different. Then I figured it out. Nathan wasn’t making any noise, wasn’t laughing or jumping of his jungle gym. I looked in the living room. He wasn’t there, or back in his room, or leaping off Mom’s bed. I went out the front door and searched for him in the garden. Nathan goes outside by himself all the time; he just hovers around the house and comes right back.

“Nathan,” I called.

I walked down to the barn. “Nathan! Where are you?” I was getting a little uptight. No laughter. No goony, string-bean kid lurching down the driveway. The horses stared at me like idiots. I walked across the road to Mrs. Farber’s, where Nathan likes to chase the ducks. He wasn’t there either.

I was starting to get edgy. How long had Nathan been gone? When was the last time I’d pushed him out of my lap? Was it during Geraldo or the documen- tary or All About Eve?

“Nathan!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. What if Nathan had fallen into the swimming pool? Mom would kill me. She would never forgive me. I tore up to the house.

“Nathan?” I stared into the turquoise water. My stomach knotted. One of his sneakers was floating on the surface. “Nathan?” I called softly. I could see something on the bottom. I dove in fast and reached for the blob with my hand. It wasn’t Nathan. It was a towel. At first I was relieved, then worried. Where the hell was he?

I was racing around in the bushes behind the house when I heard the horses clatter across the breezeway in front of the barn. I walked down trying, to look calm and cool.

Mom smiled. She’s very pretty, by the way. She’s got this fantastic body and she looks like a movie actress, like Sophia Loren some people say.

“Have a good ride?”I said.

“Great. Wonderful. Thanks for baby-sitting. How come you’re all wet?”

“What?” I looked down at my clothes, swallowed, and picked up the old fly swatter. ‘


“There’s been a little bit of a problem.”

Mom dismounted. “What’s the problem? Where’s Nathan?”

I coughed. “He’s … I don’t know where he is.”

Mom looked alarmed. “What’s going on?”

“I can’t find him.”

“What do you mean you can’t find him?” She tied her mare to the post and gripped my arm. “What happened?”

“We were watching TV and he disappeared.”

“How long ago? When did he disappear?”

“I’m not sure.”

Mom threw down her crop and charged up to the house.

“He’s not in the pool, Mom!” I yelled, following after her. “I already looked.” She was pacing through the house’ in a trance. She grabbed the phone and started calling all the neighbors, asking if they’d seen Nathan.

“I can’t believe it, Simon. What’s wrong with you? Has marijuana ruined your brain?”

“I’m sorry, Mom.”

“Did anybody come up to the house? The garbage truck? The vet? Did the school bus come after all?”

I shook my head. “I didn’t see anybody”

Her face was pale. “Simon, how could you?” I think she would have strangled me if the phone hadn’t rung.

“Oh, my God,” she kept saying. “Oh, my God. Yes, thank you. I’m on my way.”

She put down the phone and picked up her purse.

“Mrs. Ballard found Nathan walking down Turkey Run Road. He’s cut his face and bruised his arm. The police are there now.” She looked at me with complete disgust.

“Police?” I whispered.

“I’ll discuss this with you later, Simon. Help Eve unsaddle the horses.” She roared down the hill in her big black station wagon.

Crush Chapter

by Jane Futcher

Chapter One

Our friendship began on a clear, crisp October after- noon one month after the start of senior year. The Warren Commission had just announced that a single gunman, not a conspiracy, had assassinated John Fitzgerald Kennedy. In Jackson, Mississippi, the public schools were integrated without violence. And in a few weeks, the names Barry Goldwater and Lyndon Baines Johnson would be posted in every polling booth in America. But at Huntington Hill, it was the day before the second hockey game of the season, and they had put me back on the team.

They put me back on because Maddy Hansen’s mother married an Englishman and sailed off to England on a honeymoon, taking Maddy with her. Maddy’s leaving had been something of a scandal because of a strictly enforced Huntington Hill rule prohibiting parents from withdrawing their children after term began. Nonetheless, for that very rich woman Randolph Nicholson, the new headmaster, waived a rule that had never been broken during the tranquil thirty-five-year reign of Miss Dunning and Miss Kroll.

Scandal or not, Maddy’s sudden departure made me very happy because they played me in her old position. Actually, center forward had been my position until Maddy had decided she wanted it, and beat me out. Hockey was about the only thing that made boarding at Huntington Hill bearable. I loved playing with the team, working out in the cool fall afternoons, completing a perfect series of passes with the forward line. I was playing well that year, with the wild, loose energy of an animal released from captivity. The ease with which I dodged past the defense, led the forwards down the field, and flicked hot shots over the goalie’s stick amazed me as well as the coaches.

The school felt different that fall. I guess it was a beautiful place — thirty acres of green, forested land nestled in the Appalachian foothills near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Several of the dorms were white clapboard houses left from the days when the land was a dairy farm. On the left, by the Hill Road entrance, were the lower pastures where the school’s horses grazed. On the right were the white-fenced riding rings. Beyond them was the forest, carved with hundreds of rambling, winding trails. Farther along the drive were the dorms, and at the end was the parking lot, shaded by tall elms and bordered by a cluster of other buildings: the brown shingled gym, the small school theater, and Century House, the massive white mansion that had once been the manor house and was now the center of campus life.

This year the school buildings seemed to radiate a quiet, classical elegance. The grass looked greener, like fresh paint oozing from a tube. The other students weren’t as snobby and self-satisfied. Or maybe their attitude didn’t bother me as much because I was playing hockey again and I knew in nine months I’d be graduating. I had almost convinced my parents that it was all right for me to go to art school instead of Vassar, and I was beginning to talk them out of my being a débutante in June. I still hadn’t gotten them to explain why, when they were always talking about equality and civil rights, they sent me to a school that didn’t admit Negroes, Jews, Italians, or anyone not listed in the Social Register, but I hadn’t abandoned the project entirely.

For the first time, life in the dorm was fun. I stopped worrying about clothes and dates and rules. From the time we entered Huntington our lives were determined by rules. Rules about hair length, skirt length, sock length, signing in, signing out, waking up, going to sleep, chewing gum, posture, promptness, and so on. The school was infested with rules that startled you like cockroaches crawling in a dark summer kitchen. Sometimes, during my first two years, I would wake up in a cold sweat, terrified that in the course of the day, I had accidentally broken a rule.

My new roommate, Miggin Henry, was much easier to live with than last year’s, Elizabeth Knight, who was full of stormy moods and sarcastic remarks. If Elizabeth was a thunderhead, Miggin was a light, wispy cirrus cloud. She had gold-red hair and a shining, freckled face. Senior year was going to be different, I knew it. My hunch proved correct.

On the day Lexie and I became friends, there were orange and red and yellow leaves beginning to cover the ground. I remember the grass — still thick and green — and its sweet, aromatic smell as the workmen mowed the playing field in preparation for the game. I could hear the distant hum of their mowers and the exuberant laughter of the children in the Lower School yard as they played tag. When I passed the door of study hall and saw the rows of students poring silently over their books, I didn’t feel the usual anxiety that made me automatically review my list of approaching quizzes, papers due, pages unread in history, biology, French, and English classes. I was easy and relaxed.

A blast of warm air, rich with the smell of paint and turpentine, rushed into my face as I opened the door of the art studio. A Purcell horn sonata exploded from the speakers of the stereo. The pink afternoon sun slanted through the west windows, bathing the room in hot, rosy light. It was a generous room, filled with easels and work- benches, overlooking a pasture that rolled upward to a dairy farm. The ceiling angled sharply down on the far side, giving the impression of an artist’s loft. From two to five every afternoon the studio belonged to students working on independent projects. Most of the regulars were already there.

Nora Grange, the small, blond cheerleader from Atlanta, was drawing animal cartoons as usual, an orange and gray striped scarf from a boys’ prep school wrapped loosely around her neck. Jeepers, a junior from Philadelphia, looked up and smiled, then returned to her huge sketch- book. Jeepers always wore jeans and a blue work shirt, with a Philadelphia Phillies baseball cap on her head, visor turned backward, to keep her hair out of her eyes. She was my favorite of the regulars. Spread out on a workbench were Helen and Christine, two sophomores, who were painting a giant mural for the dining room. Then there was Elizabeth, standing by her easel in the far right corner. Over the summer, Elizabeth had developed some strange affectations. She had taken to wearing a French smock and beret, and she talked in a peculiar English accent, which I think she’d picked up on Cape Cod from her summer dates, who’d picked it up at Harvard.

“Ready for tomorrow’s game, Jinx?” called Jeepers as I pulled my easel away from the wall.

“Guess so,” I said. “Ready as I’ll ever be. You coming?”

“You bet,” grinned Jeepers.

“You bet,” mimicked Elizabeth from the corner. “Wouldn’t miss it for all the shinguards in Siberia.”

“Shut up, Elizabeth,” drawled Nora Grange. “Just because Miss Pennebaker’s not here doesn’t give you the right to mouth off.”

“Well, ah nevah thawt a Georgiah peeech could be sa fuzzy,” replied Elizabeth.

“Where is Miss Pennebaker?” I said. Miss Pennebaker was young and jolly and she usually hung around the studio in the afternoon. When she wasn’t there, we talked too much and didn’t work as hard.

“She’s at a faculty meeting,” said Elizabeth, pulling her beret down over her right eye. “I believe they’re discussing the Maddy Hansen affair.”

“Still fighting over that?” said Jeepers.

My confidence slipped a notch. “Is Maddy coming back or something?” I said quietly.

Elizabeth shrugged. “Who knows? Frankly, I think Mr. Nicholson handled the whole thing most improperly.”

“No one cares what you think,” said Nora Grange, stalking over to Elizabeth’s corner. “Would you pulleese shut up.”

For a while we all did shut up and the studio was quiet. I sighed. Since the summer I’d been painting from old photographs I’d found in a box in my folks’ house in Washington, D.C. I liked the pictures. They were all black and white. Most of them were taken before I was born. There were snapshots of my mother as a girl, at summer camp in Wisconsin, arms draped around her bunkmates; shots of her when she lived in New York. She was dressed in long, mid-calf length skirts and huge, wide-brimmed hats. Her hair was blond and curly and she often posed on the run- ning board of an old Packard, in front of her building on East Sixty-eighth Street. There were pictures of my father too, in college, sailing in Maine, looking young and happy, his collar unbuttoned, arms firmly guiding the tiller. There were others, of people I didn’t know — women walking arm in arm on Fifth Avenue, men dressed in army uni- forms, drinking whiskey at stylish New York bars. There were a few pictures of me, too, and I studied them carefully. In one, I was wearing a pinafore and Mary Jane patent leathers. I stood stiffly against the wall of our house in Washington — a prisoner in front of a firing squad. It looked like I might cry.

I pieced together the family history like an archeologist with pots and shards. Who were those people with their fine city clothes and big smiles? When had my mother changed from an impish kid to a grown-up woman escorted by grown-up men? What about my father? Was he as serious and worried then as he seemed now? Did he know, as he sailed that boat, that he would become a law professor, an expert on maritime trade agreements? And why was I always so sad? So uncomfortable? Where was my smile? Sometimes I felt like a detective. I was solving a mystery, but I wasn’t sure what the crime was — or if a crime had even been committed.

If I’d been drawing myself the way I looked in that studio at school, the picture would have shown a tall, thin girl with skinny legs, light brown hair, and shoulders raised in a perpetual, self-conscious shrug. Skin pale, eyes retreating behind large, round cheeks, and an expression at once questioning and defensive. But I wasn’t painting a self-portrait. I was painting from a photograph taken in 1929 — a picture of the All-County Girls’ Basketball Team of Aretha County, Tennessee. All the girls were white, and they stood on the steps of a high school gym wearing dark bloomer shorts and woolen tops. They looked very serious except for one girl, the captain, who stood on the bottom step grinning and holding a basketball on which the words “Aretha County” were painted in white letters. She was shorter than the others but she had a sureness and style I liked. That smiling girl was my mother. I was working that day on her expression. The expressions were hard because they were so subtle, and the colors were hard because I was painting everything in shades of gray, to create the same flat, ghostly quality as the photograph.

I was working on my mother’s smile when someone came crashing into the studio. Without looking up, we all knew it wasn’t a regular. Regulars tried to enter quietly. The door slammed and a pile of books thudded to the floor.

“Shut up,” hissed Elizabeth.

“Screw you,” came the voice. And there was Lexie — Alexis Nicole Genevieve Yves. She was out of breath. Her hair was mussed and slightly orange from a summer peroxide job. She wore a rumpled raincoat over her blue school uniform and her navy knee socks had fallen to her ankles. Lexie stared at us like a child peering at animals in the zoo.

“Ah, mon Dieu,” she laughed. “I’ve interrupted les artistes. Je vous demande pardon.”

“What on earth are you doing here?” said Elizabeth. Since ninth grade, when they’d roomed together, Elizabeth and Lexie had carried on a vendetta. They were both from New York City, both theatrical, and both sarcastic. But Lexie was a school celebrity, a success. Her sharp tongue had a lovable side; her grades were always better than Elizabeth’s; and her popularity with boys was a legend at Huntington Hill. So was her family’s wealth. Although Lexie was seventeen, the same age as all the seniors, there was something older about her. Her body seemed fuller and more mysterious, her dark eyes more discerning, her attitudes more sophisticated.

“I need a poster for Music Club,” said Lexie, who was roaming the studio, looking over everyone’s shoulder.

“Stay away from me,” screamed Elizabeth.

“You’re painting nuns again, Elizabeth,” said Lexie, holding both hands on her hips. “You shouldn’t be painting nuns. Your mother paints nuns.”

“Dammit, who asked you?” Elizabeth turned her back to Lexie and pulled up the collar of her smock.

Lexie persisted. “Elizabeth, it’s not at all original to paint the same thing your mother paints. It shows a failure of imagination.” Lexie scanned the room to see if she’d missed anyone.

“Ah, Mademoiselle Tuckwell, great star du hockey. Qu’est-ce que tu fais?” Without waiting for an answer, Lexie approached, squinting. I hated people to look at my paintings before they were finished. I was afraid that Lexie might sabotage my self-confidence with one quick remark. But instead, she stood quietly beside me, weight sunk into her right hip, carefully examining each member of the All-County Girls’ Basketball Team of Aretha, Tennessee. The smell of Jean Naté Friction pour le Bain filled my nostrils.

“What is this, Tuckwell?” Lexie’s eyes were fixed on the painting. My eyes were fixed on her.

“It’s the 1929 All-County Girls’ Basketball Team of Aretha, Tennessee.” I pointed to the figure at the bottom. “That’s my mother.”

Lexie moved closer. She sighed. “I don’t know what to say. It’s very…unorthodox.”

“It’s not finished,” I said. I was flattered by Lexie’s interest. She was a star — sparkling and sophisticated. I never thought she’d waste her time on me.

“I don’t care if it’s not finished,” she said, distracted. “It’s a…it’s a fine painting. It’s very moving.” She pulled a Kleenex from her pocket and blew her nose. Then she looked up at me. “My mother died when I was born and my father died when I was six. I have a guardian, Eleanor, and a cousin…Philip.” She closed her eyes. For a moment, she disappeared into another world. The color left her cheeks. Then she opened her eyes. “Philip’s an ass,” she said quickly. “So’s Eleanor.” She held my arm. “You’re lucky to know your mother, Jinx.” Lexie pushed her hair off her forehead.

“Elizabeth,” she yelled, in a colder voice. “Come over here and look at this painting.”

Elizabeth didn’t answer. She dabbed black paint on her nun’s habit. “You didn’t discover Jinx,” she said finally.

I was surprised. Elizabeth usually criticized everything I did — from my choice of subjects to the way I mixed paint.

Lexie cleared her throat. “Tuckwell,” she said loudly, “I would like you to make my Music Club poster.”

Elizabeth cackled. “Do your own dirty work, Alexis Yves. Tuckwell has better things to do.”

“You keep out of this.” Lexie turned to me and held my arm. Her eyes were wide and hopeful. “Jinx, will you help me? I need to announce new girl tryouts.”

Elizabeth hurried to my corner of the room. “She’s a con artist, Jinx. Don’t let her take advantage of you.”

I looked at Lexie.

“When do you need the poster?” I said.

“Don’t, Tuckwell.”

“Shut up, Elizabeth.” Lexie gazed at me. I felt as if her brown eyes might swallow me. “Actually, I need it today — right now, in fact!”

I shrugged. What was there to lose? It wouldn’t take me long. “OK, I’ll do it.”

“Tuckwell, you’ve been had.” Elizabeth retreated to her corner.

With Lexie leaning over my shoulder, her perfume floating by me, I hand-lettered the poster. It wasn’t easy, with so much to distract me, but I did it. I even did something extra — a little drawing of a man and a woman, in 1930s clothes, dancing — Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. The woman was leaning backward in a daring arch. The man’s arm supported her.

“It’s beautiful,” said Lexie. She slipped her arms around me. “The new girls will think Music Club is hot stuff.”

“Jesus,” grumbled Elizabeth, eyeing us suspiciously.

“Know something, Jinx?” said Lexie quietly. “You don’t breathe when you paint. I was watching you.”

“She’s actually a fish,” called Elizabeth. “She only breathes under water.”

“Really, Jinx. You don’t breathe. Here, feel me.” Lexie placed my hand on her stomach. She breathed slowly, her abdomen rising and falling under my hand. “You see, I’m really breathing,” she said. “You should be breathing this way when you paint. In and out, in and out.” Her hands were on top of mine. “When I breathe, my whole diaphragm contracts. Feel?”

“What are you doing to Tuckwell?” Elizabeth was staring at us. Jeepers and Nora and the sophomores were staring too.

“Never mind them, Jinx. Do you feel?”

I nodded.

“You’re white as a sheet, Jinx,” said Elizabeth.

“The point is,” continued Lexie, “if you hold your breath when you paint, you can’t paint as freely. You can’t do anything as well.”

“Like sex, right, Lexie?” Elizabeth frowned.

Lexie laughed. “Well, of course sex is one thing.”

I looked at Lexie. My face was red. I could feel it. “Should I take my hand away?” I whispered.

“Listen to your voice, now, Tuck. It’s way up here.” She drew a line across her neck with her finger and spoke in a falsetto.

“There’s nothing wrong with her voice,” fumed Elizabeth. “What do you know about her voice? Nothing. You’re crazy.”

“I’ve had three years of voice at Juilliard, you creep,” said Lexie. “Jinx, I’ll give you breathing lessons.”

“Listen to her,” growled Elizabeth to Jeepers and Nora, who were still watching us intently.

“In…in six lessons, I’ll have you breathing and painting at the same time.” Lexie’s gaze was direct. “I like you, Jinx,” she said softly. “I’d like to help you.”

I shivered. Lexie was standing close to me. Her body and her voice seemed to be melting into me. Or maybe I was melting into her.

“Are you sure you have time?” I wasn’t sure I did. Her hand brushed my cheek. “It won’t be difficult, Jinx.”

I gulped. “OK.”

“Jesus,” muttered Elizabeth again.

Lexie buttoned her trench coat and picked up her books. “In six lessons, Jinx. I promise. Meet me on Tuesday, Practice Room D.” Lexie grabbed the poster, wrinkling the edges, and banged out of the studio.

“So much for art,” mused Elizabeth.

I laughed. That was the beginning of Lexie and me.

When the studio had emptied, I stood at the sink washing my brushes, warm water splashing over the black bristles and gurgling down the drain. Usually, the cleanup ritual relaxed me, but today I felt nervous; I couldn’t stop thinking about Lexie and the sudden strength of my feelings about her. My legs were trembling. What was happening to me? What was it about Lexie that reminded me of last summer and that conversation with my mother? It was the day that I told her I didn’t want to go to college, that I wanted to go to art school, in New York.

Mother had looked up from the newspaper. “New York?” she said in her Tennessee drawl. “New York is a rough city.” My mother had lived in New York for eight years before she married my father. “You’d get swallowed up, Jinx, coming from a school like Huntington Hill.”

“I might not get swallowed up,” I said tentatively.

My mother folded the newspaper. “People at art school aren’t very attractive.” She was crazy about attractive people.

“What’s wrong with art school people? Aren’t they like anybody else?”

Mother stood up nervously and carefully dropped a handful of peppercorns into the silver pepper grinder. “They won’t be from the same background as you, Jinx. You’ve lived a very sheltered life. You’re too high-strung. People go off the deep end in New York. Particularly at art school.”

The deep end. There was that expression. Mother used it a lot. She seemed to have a special, secret meaning for it.

“What exactly do you mean by deep end?” I said casually. “If I’m going off it, I ought to know what it is.”

“Jinx, I didn’t say you would go off the deep end.” Mother’s hands shook as she poured particles of Calgonite detergent into the dishwasher. “I was thinking of Clarence Brown, Uncle Dick’s roommate at Yale. He went to art school in New York. I met some of his friends. They were kooks. New York is full of kooks.”

“Did Clarence go off the deep end?”

“Jinx!” Mother’s face was red. She sat back down in her chair.

“Mother, how come you could live in New York with all those kooks and not go off the deep end, but you think I will?”

“I need to order a cord of wood,” said my mother suddenly, whipping out the Yellow Pages.

“But it’s summer….”

“New York was different then, Jinx. I lived on East Sixty-eighth Street with my sister and her two roommates from Vassar and we knew lots of attractive men.”

“Did Aunt Connie know Clarence Brown?” I asked.

“Everyone knew Clarence Brown.” Mother’s finger moved down a column in the Yellow Pages. “Clarence Brown was from Greenwich and he was very old Greenwich.”

“What was wrong with him then?” To be old anything was high praise from Mother.

Mother’s face tightened. Her mouth turned down. “Clarence Brown was an alcoholic. He never married.”

“Is alcoholic the deep end? Or never marrying?”

Mother stood by the door, hands on her hips. “Jinx, you’re being rude. You know perfectly well that the deep end is just an expression. It means he got in trouble. Lost himself.”

“Riding the subway?” I offered.

“Jinx, Clarence Brown was a pansy,” said Mother in a whisper. “And that’s the last I want to hear of it.”

Dream Lover Chapter

by Jane Futcher

Chapter Three

Kate tumed onto the live-lane freeway, heading south for Turkey Run. Three weeks had passed since the strange evening in Mill Valley with Ellie and her friends. Despite the dazzling house and the sexual innuendos, seeing Ellie again – so suburban and even matronly – had been almost anticlimactic. But since that evening something inside Kate had shifted. Kate’s energy and concentration increased as she painted. She’d begun a new Gina painting from photographs, a Rousseau-like dream portrait of both of them standing side by side, a jungle of birds-of-paradise, bougainvillea, and tiger lilies closing around them.

When Ellie called, Kate put her off, then finally agreed to have dinner with her in Turkey Run, spend the night, and go riding in the moming. If nothing else, Kate supposed, the evening would be an interesting escape from the studio.

The air cooled as Highway 280 curved around the long bluereservoir at Crystal Springs. Hay-covered pastures had replaced the rows of houses of Daly City; the sweet smell of grass, horses, and the country emanated from the far ridges of the Coastal Range mountains. Kate’s curiosity about Ellie and her married life increased as she drove. What would Nicky Webster, Ellie’s childhood sweetheart, be like after all these years? Would her house be a glass castle like Hope and Raphael’s?

On the surface at least, Ellie appeared to have followed most of the rules laid down by Miss Downey and her successors. She had married, had children, lived in a posh suburb of San Francisco. Miss Downey would not have approved of the ménage with Hope and Raphael, if that’s what it was, but, on the other hand, Miss Downey allowed the rich and well-connected certain…eccentricities.

Glancing into the rearview mirror, Kate brushed a hand through her spiked hair and wished she did not look so much like she’d spent the last three weeks indoors, which is exactly what she had done. “To be rather than to seem” had been the motto of Miss Downey’s School, but in actuality the school’s philosophy was the opposite – the appearance of goodness and propriety was at least as important as the real thing. Kate had not lived by all of Miss Downey’s rules, but she knew them well. Six years at the school plus six years of ballroom dancing classes and Sunday dinners with her aunts and grandmothers had taught her the cardinal rule of polite society: Keep your deepest feelings under wraps.

Kate obeyed. In seventh grade, when she first met Ellie Sereno, she realized with dismay that she was not “growing out ol” her crushes on teachers and upperclassmen, as conventional wisdom suggested she would; her crushes were intensifying. In ninth grade, with the arrival of glamorous boarding students from places like New York and Califomia, she struggled hard against her unruly impulses. While her classmates held hands, hugged, and groomed each other as unself-consciously as gorillas, Kate remained apart. An act as neutral as sharing a hymnal with her seatmate, Claire, at moming prayers made her hands sweat and heart race. More intimate contact was out of the question. As far as she knew, no girl in the history of Miss Downey’s School, perhaps even the world, had such attractions. And then came the weekend in New York with Ellie.

As different as they seemed now, she and Ellie had had some things in common. They were both day students, both good athletes, both artistic. Kate’s love was painting; Ellie’s, music. They waited in the same parking lot for their car pools, attended the same stuffy ballroom dancing school in Georgetown, served on the board of the school literary magazine. But the three-year difference in their ages was a chasm they never crossed until New York.

Kate’s heart raced as she entered the postcard-perfect cowboy town of Turkey Run, which she’d illustrated years ago for a story on Bay Area riding stables. Many of San Francisco’s wealthiest families had built summer homes here after the earthquake of 1906 and had later escaped there to avoid San Francisco’s cold, foggy summers. Today the town looked like a carefully crafted stage set from the Wild West. The local bar had swinging saloon doors; the Wells Fargo bank belonged in Gunsmoke. At the hitching posts by Edward’s Store, the rarefied grocery patronized by former debutantes and horse trainers, barefoot adolescent girls straddled their horses, sipping Diet Pepsi.

On the trail flanking the road, Kate watched a teenage boy, a dead ringer for Dylan on Beverly Hills 90210, rein in an enormous Thoroughbred; a palomino bearing a woman in full rodeo gear came from the opposite direction. A mile beyond the town, beneath the lush overhang of oaks and bay laurels, Kate ascended, passing horse bams and long drives that led to hidden houses. At the top of the hill, paddocks bordered both sides of the road. On the left a low red-shingled ranch house stood at the top of a fence-lined driveway, framed by a flower bed of marguerites, daisies, purple asters, lavender, and orange nasturtium.

Kate was surprised to see several cars in the driveway. Ellie hadn’t mentioned any other guests, said it would just be them. Were her flip-flops, jeans, and blue-striped jersey nice enough?

“Hello’?” Kate stood on the brick steps in front of the open door.

Dotty Henry, the blond bouncy cheerleader from Kate’s class at Miss Downey’s, hugged her. “Hey, Katie. You know Charles, my husband.” She introduced a man as blond and cheerful as she was. “Ferguson, Andy, say hello to Kate Paine.” Two cheerful five-year-old boys in sailor suits dutifully extended their hands.

Kate tumed. Ellie kissed her on the lips and looked inside her paper bag. “Diet Cokes. How divine! Kate doesn’t drink,” she said to Dotty. “Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Super,” said Dotty.

“What can I get you?” Ellie was wearing a jumpsuit, this time an orange one, and her Mexican sandals.

“You didn’t tell me this was a party,” Kate whispered.

“It’s not a party. It’s a Miss Downey’s reunion.”

Kate rubbed her forehead, aware now that until she talkedprivately with Ellie about what had happened years ago, shewould feel uneasy in her presence. A tall man in khaki pantsand a pink Brooks Brothers’ shirt came out of the kitchenholding a bottle of red wine. His graying hair was swept backoff his head and slicked down in a European, sort of Claus vonBulow way. No doubt about it. This was Nicky Webster, theformer crew star from Saint Paul’s and Yale.

“Nickers,” Ellie said, “do you know Kate Paine? FromDotty and Claire’s class at Miss Downey’s.”

“Pleased to meet you.” He pumped Kate’s hand warmly.

“Would you like some wine?”

“Thanks. I’1l have a Coke.” Kate took a seat in front of thefireplace, across from the blond family on the sofa. The housewas furnished simply – wicker chairs and sofa, brass lamps,and a few antique chairs that looked like they might havebelonged to somebody’s great-aunt. Redwood beams staineddusty white stretched across the ceiling. Above the fireplacewas a stuffed tropical bird frozen in a dramatic, predatory posewith wings outstretched.

Ellie saw her staring. “That’s Pilar, our cockatoo. Nicky hadhim stuffed.”

“He looks dangerous.” Kate pinched one of his talons.

“I know. The taxidermist misrepresented his personality. Hewas utterly adorable. His only words were ‘I love you.’ ” Elliemimicked the bird’s funny lisp. “My son Simon let him out oneSunday, and he flew up into the redwood tree by the bam andwouldn’t come down. We tried everything. Even had the firedepartment. He just sat there for days saying ‘I love you’ untilhe starved to death and fell to the ground.” Kate found herselflaughing at the macabre story. Ellie was still very funny.

“Ellie? Nicky‘?” Claire and Jamie Ramsay were at the door.Kate was glad. Claire had been her seat mate for two years atMiss Downey’s. They rarely saw each other in San Francisco,though Claire made a point of coming to Kate’s shows andevery now and then invited Kate to one of her fancy SanFrancisco dinner parties. Claire was an attorney, had hugebrown eyes, and was dangerously thin; Jamie owned radiostations.

“Thank God, you’re here,” Claire said, pulling Kate into abedroom off the living room. “We never know what to expectat Ellie and Nick’s.”

“Why?” Kate followed behind her.

“They’re both a little” — Claire puckered her lips in themirror — “unpredictable. Nicky’s latest enterprise is a crystalmine in Arkansas. Keeps wanting Jamie to invest in it. Itmakes no sense, and he’s exhausted his trust fund trying tomake it work.” Claire sat down on the bed. “Which is too badfor Ellie. They live on a shoestring.” Having four horses and ahouse in Turkey Run was not the kind of shoestring Kate wasused to. “And you know how Ellie is.”

“I really don’t.” Kate searched for the source of the children’s music she heard playing in the distance. “I haven’t seenEllie since Miss Downey’s.”

“Well, she’s exactly the same.”

“But what was she like then?”

“You knew her better than I did,” Claire smiled, squinting ata cracked tile in the bathroom floor. “She’s a party girl. Likes
to have a good time. I love the fact that she and Nicky smokepot.” It always surprised Kate that her old friend, an ambi-tious, high-achieving San Francisco socialite, loved nothingbetter than to get stoned and listen to the Grateful Dead.

A child’s laughing voice seemed to come from the doornext to the bathroom. Claire removed a joint from her pocket,lit it, inhaled, held her breath, offered it to Kate, who declined,then rubbed it out in the sink. “Ellie’s,” she exhaled, “largerthan life. I can’t explain. You know about the little boy, don’tyou?” She pointed to a photograph on Ellie’s dresser, a snap-shot of a skinny smiling child of about six, ready to dive into a swimming pool. “He’s retarded, I think. It’s terribly sad. She
puts him away when company comes.”

Kate glanced at the room off the bathroom. The little boy was in there, she realized, listening to music tapes.

“We only see them once a year at the most.” Claire headed for the door. “I’m totally starved. Ellie doesn’t have any help. Insists on these picnics. I hope we don’t have to wait for hours. I’m trying not to drink.”

Ellie offered no food, and Nicky poured more wine, lecturing them good-naturedly on the business of harvesting and selling crystals.

Without waming, Ellie jumped up, pulled the little boys off the sofa, and announced she was taking them riding.

“Now?” Claire pushed her black Dior jacket up her thin arms.

“Come with me, Kate,” Ellie said. “Help me saddle up.”

Kate knew nothing about horses, but getting outside in the fresh air might help relieve this tension. She watched Ellie expertly saddle a calm red quarter horse named Monkey, leading him across the road to a ring where Dotty and her boys were waiting. The view was tremendous: San Francisco Bay before them, the mountains behind, the sun just now dropping in the west.

Ellie hoisted the younger boy up on the red horse, guiding him around the ring in her bare feet. As Kate watched she was startled to see for the first time a glimpse of the beautiful, fearless athlete she’d known at school. Ellie trotted alongside the horse, delighting the children, looking young and happy and pure. She was Artemis now, goddess of the untamed wilderness, at ease with her body, at home on the earth. Kate ran to her car for the old Pentax she kept under the seat. She photographed Ellie lengthening the stimlps for the older boy, trotting him around the sandy ring, hoisting up the other child.

“Don’t waste your film,” Ellie grinned.

Away from the others, Ellie was charming. Kate liked the fact that she wanted the kids to ride, to enjoy their trip to the country more than she cared about feeding the adults.

“Can I help you with dinner?” Dotty called, seeing that Ellie was about to take the younger boy around a second time. It was almost completely dark.

Ellie seemed surprised. “Are you hungry‘?”

“Very,” Dotty said politely. Ellie and the children put away the red horse while Kate returned to the house, which was dark and very cold.

“Where is she?” Claire whispered.

“They’re unsaddling the horse.”

“Unbelievable.” Claire shook her head. “Is she planning to feed us?”

Nicky passed around a hunk of raw crystal as his guests stared dismally into the unlit fireplace.

At 10 P.M. Ellie pulled a roast chicken from the oven, stirred some noodles into a pesto sauce, and dressed the salad “Dinner,” she called, sticking a loaf of warm French bread in a basket. She hadn’t needed to shout; all the guests were hovering beside her, plates in hand.

On pillows around the fireplace, the men discussed jamie’s new antique motorcycle. Dotty leaned toward Kate. “Are you doing another book of photographs?”

Kate sliced her chicken. “I’m painting again. Not taking pictures right now.”

“I bought her book in Palo Alto,” Ellie said brightly. “It’s fabulous, Dotty. Have you seen it? All women. Some of them are kissing.”

Suddenly the room grew silent. Nicky sighed audibly.

“I’ll show you,” Ellie said, disappearing into the bedroom. She returned with the large paperback, holding up the pictures Kate had taken of lesbian couples across the country.

The other guests were silent. “Lovely,” Dotty said. “Are they. _

“All lesbians,” Ellie smiled.

“Your friends?” Dotty asked sweetly.

Before Kate could answer, Nicky steered the conversation away from lesbians to Jamie’s new transmitter, then to Maine, where Ellie’s parents owned a house, and on to the price of real estate in the Ozarks. The women pored over the book. “Oh, God,” Ellie leaped up. “The dessert’s on fire.” Kate watched her pull two pies, black and smoldering, from the oven.

Jamie stood above Kate, offering her his hand. “Let’s play Ping-Pong.” On the terrace, by the swimming pool, they slapped the little white ball across the low green net. Just doing something made Kate feel better.

Ellie approached, eating pie with her fingers. “I’ll play the winner.” She winked at Kate.

Kate accepted the dare. Spinning the ball into the corners, she surprised Jamie by beating him with drop shots and backhands that pulled him out of position. “Your tum, Ellie,” he surrendered.

In the half-light by the pool, Ellie and Kate rallied. How many times, Kate wondered, had she watched Ellie play hockey, basketball, tennis, admired and cheered the athlete with the drop-dead body? Now here they were, two middle-aged women who had loved each other as girls, meeting again at a Ping-Pong table. It was the first honest moment she had had with Ellie since their meeting three weeks ago. As they began to play in earnest, their small talk stopped. Kate felt an unbearable tension building in her chest; she was fourteen, on the field, close to Ellie Sereno, feeling that longing, wanting Ellie Sereno to notice her. Kate hoped the others couldn’t see how nervous she had become, couldn’t hear her heart pounding.

As Kate looked up, Jamie snapped their picture with Kate’s camera. Ellie took the lead. Kate caught up, smashing a shot to the corner of the table that bounced wildly, out of Ellie’s reach, into the swimming pool.

“You win,” Ellie cried. The dinner guests clapped as she put down her paddle, wrapping an arm around Kate’s waist.

The sudden warmth of Ellie’s touch sent a jolt through Kate’s legs.

“You should play Ping-Pong more often, Ellie,” Nicky said, patting Ellie’s back. “You look happier than I’ve seen you in ages.” Jamie took their picture. Ellie drew Kate closer. Nicky poured more wine.

“I only lost because I’m drunk.” Ellie pushed her bangs from her face. “Who wants coffee?”

The others had had enough; in minutes the living room was empty. At the front door Nicky extended his hand to Kate. “Nice meeting you.” He’d forgotten her name.

Kate swallowed. “Actually, I think I’m staying here tonight.”

Nicky glanced at Ellie, who was clearing glasses from the living room. “Kate’s riding with me in the morning,” she said coolly.

His hopeful expression changed. “Well, I’m going to bed.”

“You might at least help clean up the —”

“Do it in the morning,” he said, loosening his tie. “Too tired now.”

“Too drunk now,” Ellie hissed to his retreating back.

Marin: The Place, The People | Prologue

by Jane Futcher


The sweeping spans of the Golden Gate Bridge reach northward toward Marin County, their orange cables brilliant against the hills beyond. Far below is the mile-wide channel where San Francisco Bay joins the Pacific Ocean. To the east is the widening mouth of the bay, punctuated by an island of rock —Alcatraz, once America’s toughest federal prison, now a tourists’ mecca; to the west lies the Pacific.

Before us, where the bridge bows and rests, are the rugged cliffs of the Marin Headlands. Three million years of geological upheaval, of folding, faulting and uplifting created those ridges, which are part of California’s Coast Range mountains. The cliffs drop abruptly into the churning surf of the Golden Gate Channel. We descend more slowly, rolling onto the Headlands like a whisper-jet arriving in another country. The city is behind us, the chilling fog is gone. The sun breaks through the clouds, casting white light on the stucco homes of Sausalito. Wind flattens the grassy fields of Tiburon, Strawberry Point, and Angel Island. The peaks and sloping ridges of Mount Tamalpais stretch before us. We have entered Marin.

Marin. A triangular peninsula whose western shores are flanked by the Pacific Ocean and whose eastern shores are formed by San Francisco Bay. Her only neighbor is Sonoma County, to the north. Marin. In land area, fourth smallest of California’s fifty-eight counties; in population, twenty-sixth smallest; in median income level, number one; in per capita income, number four. Affluent Marin. Beautiful Marin. Home of Muir Woods and virgin redwoods, of Point Reyes National Seashore, of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, of Mountain Tamalpais and vie other state parks. One-third of the county is public parkland, all just a bridge ride from San Francisco, little more than that from Oakland, Berkeley, and the other cities of the East Bay. No major metropolitan area in the world enjoys such a large and dramatically beautiful public space so nearby.

“I live in Marin,” someone tells you at a party. You nod; perhaps you even smile. For already you imagine a bubbling hot-tub, a plump portfolio of stocks and bond, a redwood deck landscaped wit red geraniums and marijuana plants. You are speaking, you assume, to an upper-middle-class professional with a job in San Francisco and liberal political leanings. Your Marinite rides a ten-speed on weekends, attends aikido class on Tuesday nights, and puts bean sprouts on Big Macs. If married, has been divorced at least once, and has recently left primal therapy for receptive-listening classes in Mill Valley. If you stick around long enough, you will probably find that on a few counts you have guessed correctly.

There is a stereotype of Marin County and its residents; occasionally you will meet someone who fits it. But your stereotype will prevail only if yo refuse tenaciously to explore the county’s coastal hills and rural interior; only if you avoid her tiny fishing villages and friendly, sunlit cafes; only if you never speak to anyone you meet and keep your eyes firmly to the road.

For if you look more closely at Marin, if you walk through the sunken valleys of Point Reyes, talk to an old-timer on the streets of Novato, or stop for a drink at Sausalito’s no name bar, you will find your stereotype vanishing. You will see that Marin is more than a playground for the rich.

You will find militant political activists as well as dilettantes, newly arrived organic gardeners as well as dairy ranchers whose families have lived in Marin for over one hundred years. You will discover Marin’s colorful history: her early days, when the county was proud to be one of the original twenty-seven created by California’s first state legislature in 1850. You will hear of the railroads and ferries — in the 1880s and ‘90s —that opened the county to developers and summer residents from San Francisco, many of whom would settle permanently after the 1906 earthquake and fire. But it was the completion of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937 that made Marin the accessible bedroom community it is today.

Marin County is a curious mix of affluence and idealism, of isolationism and innovation. Socialites and houseboat artists lie down in front of bulldozers to protest the invasion of Sausalito’s waterfront community by profit-seeking developers. Business and Zen Buddhists attend public hearings to discuss the fate of a coastal valley. Single mothers and senior citizens tangle with county supervisors over the need for low-cost housing.

Perhaps that’s just affluence California, some say, where people have the time, money and freedom to get involved in community affairs. But in California there are many affluent counties, and they are not like Marin. Their affluence has brought rigidity and, very often, indifference to social issues. Marin, on the other hand, has more than its share of involved, dynamic citizens willing to fight for causes others eschew. It has been estimated that there are 99 organizations in Marin dedicated to social causes—Mill Valley’s Bread and Roses provides free entertainment for prisoners and shut-in; Sausalito’s Commuter Connection has developed a car-pool system to replace solo commuting.

How do we account for the contradictions that seem to abound in Marin? Perhaps the temperament of Marin today is the legacy left by earlier generations: the spirit of cooperation, a blessing left by the peaceful Coast Miwok Indians; today’s geniality and love of luxury, the legacy of the Mexican dons who welcomed visitors to their ranchers and entertained lavishly. Perhaps the fortune-seekers from freewheeling San Francisco brought to Marin’s small towns a liveliness and sophistication most communities lack. And Marin’s Swiss-Italian and Portuguese immigrants, who so cherished the county’s mild climate? Perhaps they gave their love of the land and the sea and of the burning summer sun. The fierce individualism and ambition? Perhaps these traits came from the Yankee settlers who arrived in the Gold Rush and never left.

And today’s settlers? What have they brought? The young people and activists? The singles? The families with children. Perhaps their gift is their mobility, the flexibility that gives them a knock for finding new solutions to problems that seem hopelessly complex.

And perhaps, above all, it is the land itself that makes Marin unique. Poised at the edge of a continent, at the edge of a culture, the Pacific shores, the interior hills and valleys, the bay shores inside the Golden Gate, all have their own character and appeal. The land has welcomed ranchers as well as conservationists, professionals as well as poets, backpacks as well as briefcases.

But, as unique as Marin seems to many of us, in some respects it is typical of every county in America today. Marin too is threatened by the very residents it has welcomed. Developers carve up rural valleys to build houses only the rich can afford. Soaring real estate prices are driving out the poor, the senior citizens, the artists, who have given Marin its heterogenous, quirky constitution. Industrial pollution endangers bay marshes, and freshwater streams are damned for reservoirs.

How Marin will survive the transition to the twenty-first century is of interest to all of America. How the county will deal with the polarities between rich and poor, young and old, profit-makers and conservationists, may be a lesson for all of us. And if there is a land that deserves to survive and a people willing to fight for its future, they can both be found in Marin County.

Heat – Short Stories

by Jane Futcher

Photo of “The Kiss,” by Tanya S. Chalkin

Ever been seduced by your boyfriend’s sister? Made love with your mother’s best friend? Gone home with a stranger when someone you love is dying? You’ll find it all, and much more, in Jane Futcher’s Heat, a collection of short stories from Bushfire, Hot Ticket, Bedroom Eyes, Heat Wave, Uniform Sex and other anthologies. You’ll laugh and cry with the characters, who’ll leave you wanting more, in Heat.

“Jane Futcher’s ‘Past Lives’ powerfully illustrates how a loving relationship can enable a woman to confront the past and heal.”
Karen Barber, editor, Bushfire

“In Jane Futcher’s ‘Caribbean Wave’ the marriage of childhood fantasy and the erotic is made specific.”
Linnea Due, editor

Bagels and Mink

It is a Saturday afternoon in mid-November, and the air is cold but not bitter. I am standing on a tree-lined street in suburban Rye, New York, in front of a neo-Tudor house, about to meet Rick’s sister and brother-in-law for the first time. It is 1972—Nixon has just beaten George McGovern; the Vietnam War is raging, and Rick has told his sister Victoria that our relationship is serious. On the drive from Philadelphia, Rick entertains me with tales of gay life—the bars where queens hang out in Philadelphia, the downtown park where Main Line stockbrokers cruise for teenaged boys. I am excited by the talk—it is my only contact with the gay world. I tell him about the straight woman at work who turns me on when she leans over my desk, her cleavage close to my shoulder, showing me the correct way to glass-mount a slide for the educational shows our company produces.We are both nervous about spending the night with Victoria and Hal. We are trying to be a couple, but we have never slept together, and we are both gay—he actively, me in tortured silence. Under those circumstances, it’s hard for me to feel comfortable with anyone, certainly not Rick’s family. Click to Read More

Marin: The Place, The People

by Jane Futcher

Marin County in California, whose western shores are flanked by the Pacific and whose eastern shores are formed by San Francisco Bay, has been satirized and stereotyped, and the so-called Marin life-style has entered into contemporary mythology – hot tubs, peacock feathers, marijuana plants on the redwood deck, bean sprouts on the salad. Now, the actual Marin, as it is and as it was, is celebrated in a beautiful book that does full justice to the place itself in all its astonishing variety – sea, mountain, ranch lands, isolated villages, commuter suburbs—and to the remarkable diversity of people fortunate enough to live there.


The sweeping spans of the Golden Gate Bridge reach northward toward Marin County, their orange cables brilliant against the hills beyond. Far below is the mile-wide channel where San Francisco Bay joins the Pacific Ocean. To the east is the widening mouth of the bay, punctuated by an island of rock —Alcatraz, once America’s toughest federal prison, now a tourists’ mecca; to the west lies the Pacific. Click to Read More


“The text and photographs are superb; we feel that your book has filled a definite need both for the residents of and visitors to Marin County.” Marin County Historical Society, 1981

“There is information here, and it is, at least by my rigorous spot checking, accurate. Futcher convincingly blends old Marin with the hot tubbers; her comments on the Marin City tragedy are sharp and to the point.” Stephanie von Buchau, Pacific Sun, 1981