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    October 2010

    40. The Continuous Yearning of Walter Rush

    By David Cotrone

    Every morning when he wakes, he lies in bed and waits for one of his toes to twitch or spasm; the moment he feels one of them thrust forward, he gains courage to test his legs. He grimaces either way: one more day of walking, one more day until loss, one more trip to the sea. He says swimming in the ocean is as good a treatment as any for MS. It has to do with routine, he tried explaining to his wife, Martha. But the water’s so cold, she worried. It’s part of the routine, he said.

    He knows salt water is useful when treating shallow cuts and flesh wounds, and that a high enough salt concentration provides buoyancy. In fact, he had once read about a woman who treated her skin disease by traveling to the Mediterranean twice year in order to float in the Dead Sea. Because of its salt content, it is impossible to sink there; everything floats; nothing can drown. But it is so thick with saline and brine, so packed tight with buoyant material, that within it, nothing can live.

    Still, Walter imagines this woman. He imagines the warm water lapping against her splotchy flesh. He imagines her hair wrapped up in a bun, her arms extended and her legs reclined straight out, her on her back, the sun beating upon her eyelids, so that from within her head she does not see the black of her closed eyes, but instead the color of rust. He imagines her feeling of weightlessness, of restoration, of salt.

    “What will you do when the winter comes?” Martha asked. “Huh? You thought of that?”

    Though she did not share her speculation with Walter, she predicted he would lose control of his legs within the next few years. Already he had woken up with a tingling sensation in his shins, a harsh burn that could last for hours. Other times his vision would waver or his speech would skip and stutter—effects of degradation. . . . Read More.

    39. Probate

    By Joyce Carol Oates

    “Excuse me?”

    It was the third day of her new life. This life was diminished as in the aftermath of brain surgery executed with a meat cleaver yet she meant to do all that was required of her and to do it alone, and capably, and without complaint.

    She was in Trenton, New Jersey. Whatever this terrible place was—the rear entrance of a massive granite building, a parking lot partly under construction and edged with a mean, despoiled crust of ice like Styrofoam—and the winter morning very cold, wet and windy with the smell of the oily Delaware River a half-mile away—she was struck by the fact that it appeared to be an actual place and not one of those ominous but imprecise nightmare-places of the troubled sleep of her new life.

    In a brave voice she said, a little louder: “Excuse me?—I’m sorry to trouble you but is this the rear entrance to Probate Court?”

    The girl peered at Adrienne suspiciously. She had a blunt bold fist of a face. Her eyes were tarry-black, insolent. She was about eighteen years old and she was wearing an absurd faux-fox-fur jacket. In her arms she held a raggedy bundle—a very small baby—she’d been rocking, and cooing to, with a distracted air. For a full minute or more she’d been openly observing Adrienne shakily approach the rear of the courthouse along a makeshift walk of planks and treacherous icy pavement as if fascinated by the older woman’s over-precise cautious-careful steps—Does she think that I am drunk? Drugged? Is she concerned that I will slip and fall? Is she waiting for me to slip and fall?—but now that Adrienne stood before her, in need of assistance, the girl blinked as if she hadn’t seen Adrienne until this moment, and had no idea what her question meant. . . . Read More.

    38. A Lady’s Story

    By and Celebritized by Ben Greenman, Anton Chekhov • Adapted

    Some years ago Justin Timberlake and I were riding toward evening in fall time in Louisiana to get some coffee.

    The weather was magnificent, but on our way back from the coffee shop we heard a peal of thunder, and saw an angry black storm cloud coming straight toward us. The storm cloud was approaching us and we were approaching it.

    Against the background of it my house and church looked white and the tall poplars shone like silver. There was a scent of rain. We should have gone inside but we stayed out in the front yard. My companion was in high spirits. He kept laughing and talking all sorts of nonsense. He said it would be nice if we could suddenly come upon a medieval castle with turreted towers, with moss on it and owls, in which we could take shelter from the rain and in the end be killed by a thunderbolt.

    Then the first wave raced through the front yard, there was a gust of wind, and leaves went round and round in the air. Justin Timberlake laughed and twirled around in the weather.

    “It’s fine!” he cried. “It’s splendid!”

    Infected by his gaiety, I too began laughing at the thought that in a minute I should be drenched to the skin and might be struck by lightning.

    Standing outside during a storm when one is breathless with the wind and feels like a bird, thrills one and puts one’s heart in a flutter. By the time we decided to go inside, the wind had gone down and big drops of rain were pattering on the grass and on the roofs. . . . Read More.

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