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[Readings]

Feel and Hold

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From How High—That High, a collection of short stories, which will be published this fall by Soho Press.

To get a bit of food, the Rotches went out in the morning. And since the meat at the market didn’t look very appetizing—it wasn’t cut in the same way we cut meat—they chose not to buy any meat.

The hands of the market vendors were much more expressive than our hands—the hands we have at home. For example, when taking up a piece of merchandise, those vendors’ hands could feel and hold at the same time.

When we hold a thing—I am not so sure we feel it.

And at the market, to make the tea that was provided—there was theater involved!

They’d stuff a cup full with mint, put plenty of sugar on top, and then decant the boiling water from as much as two feet above the cup!

Rotch was—did I already tell you this?—my friend Rotch became quite a problem in the end and he fled to some remote part of the country.

What his wife was after was a life of joviality. Jovialityjewelry?

No matter.

They had no carpet on the floor and their floors were all concrete and they always shook out their shoes before putting them on because scorpions might have been in there, inside of their shoes.

In the afternoon at four o’clock, every day in that country, the rains would come and it would rain for an hour, and we could see that the trees had raindrops on them.

Such satisfactions—how in the world did satisfactions ever get into the world?

At the market, Rotch often spoke to a certain man there about a chronic headache or a nightmare. Mrs. Rotch could not keep it to herself either—her affliction—her petulance. Let’s get the food!

It was hard for them to find each other worthy of respect, and Mr. Rotch, I’ve come to think, wanted a reward for his fidelity, which was not forthcoming.

Mrs. Rotch was often seen straight on—against a wall—with her saddle nose pointed skyward, sitting with her hands clasped on her knees.

I should have called on her more often when she lived alone.

I once tried to pull Mrs. Rotch up onto her feet little by little.

A chair was on its side. A wooden urn had cracked.

I took off her wet clothing. There was a hole in her dress and it was my fault. I was unable to move her. Later I looked in and she was in the same situation.

Now her heart gets so much assistance from a pacemaker that sometimes I think she is unable to die.

Among her own family she should have been safeguarded. I guessed how things would turn out for her.

I made a small effort. If only she had been utterly absorbing.

There are those who have watched me return from my sojourns, because I am a little homesick, to my native town—that has just about everything—sex, philosophy, politics, and pandemonium.

Here’s a custom for you—gawking—and it needn’t be heartbreaking.

And even though I am a wispy woman, I believe I have flared up here in Glencoe like a flame—amid my mother, daughter, husband and some friends, and that I cause fretfulness.


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January 2021