A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Getting It Straight

I wanted to do

     nothing at all, but for the first time in my life,

               I did not, and for the first time,

     he held out on me.

“Cory,” I said into the black plastic speaker, “Cory, we have to talk.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, Cory, I am.”

“What good will it do?”

“I don’t know. Maybe none. But I know

     we have to do it.”

“Okay. Let’s talk then.”

“Not on the telephone, Cory.”

     He didn’t answer.

     “Couldn’t you come over? Edna’s out for the evening.”

After the slightest pause, he said, “Sure. I’ll be right over.”

He was there in fifteen minutes, and sat

facing me across the living room rug, chair tipped back, arms folded.

I knew the pattern in the rug was a maze,

     but I could not see the route that would lead me

     to his side.

So I told him, “I’m sorry.”

What good did that do now, he

     wanted to know. The damage was done.

I took a deep breath and said,

     “I know I made a mistake. I betrayed your trust,” I said,

my voice shaking.

Yes, he agreed; I had.

“But Cory—

     please listen. Cory, look at me, please. Oh Cory—” I kept

     saying his name, as though it were

the salve I applied to the wound of our estrangement.

“Cory, I’m sorry.”

He actually heard me that time; I could see it

     in his face, and so this time when he asked,

“But why did you do it?” a real question now, not

     just an accusation, I cried,

“Because I wanted my mother to think well of you!

Because it was the only thing I said about you

that she heard. She doesn’t care about mountains or Montana,

she only believes in the cowboys

she sees in the movies,

she doesn’t care about your guitar

or your books. It was only when

I said something about the war that she stopped comparing

curtain materials to listen.”

“Then why didn’t you tell me?”

“You were all set to drag it out of me,

     and that makes me stubborn.”

“You were ducking away like

     a guilty kid or something, and it just

got to me. I’m not going to spank you if you

     get the answer wrong.”

“Well, you looked pretty punishing.”

Now he looked shocked.

“Lindy, I’d never hit you.”

“I know that, Cory. I know that. But

there’s more than one way to punish,

you know. Silence works too. And

Cory? I was afraid. You scared me.”

He jumped up so fast I jerked back in surprise,

     as he went to the window, where he stood,

     back to the room. When finally

     he turned, all the flesh on his face had shrunk

     closer to the bone.

“Linda. I don’t want you

     to be afraid of me.”

A little later, it was possible to say,

“You’re right. The damage is done. Worse than you know,

     I think.”

“Well, after all, what can they make of a story?”

“You don’t know my mother,” I said. “She’s not going to let go of this.

     She’ll milk it

     for all it’s worth. She’ll probably introduce you as her


     in one breath, for the next fifty years.”

Cory stared at his hands.

“She’d do that?”

I nodded.

“Even if she knew it bothered me?”

“Oh—she’d keep herself from knowing that

     somehow, since it’s inconvenient.”

“But if she knew it bothered you?”

I laughed. “She won’t let that get in her way.

I can feel her gearing up. And you know what, Cory?

     I can’t stop her.”

Something shifted in his face; when he looked up

     he really saw me for the first time.

     “You tried, huh?”

“Yes. I did try. And it’s as if one word in three

     gets through, if that. She can’t listen. She’s just,


“It wasn’t a bronze star, you know.”

“I know. But she doesn’t.”

His hand curled around the back of my neck. pulling me to him.

“Poor Bindy.”

Then he sighed.

“I just wish you hadn’t told her.”

“So do I,” I said, “so do I.” Then,

     “Cory, we don’t have to go.”

Slowly, he shook his head.

“No. We should go. Besides,

     I want to meet your dad.”

“Okay,” I said. “But, if it’s going to make you hate me,

     I’d rather not.”

“It won’t make me hate you,” he said, arms reaching for me.

     “We’ll do it together.”

We sat a moment, heads bent, leaning our foreheads together.

He sighed again. “Well, come on, Baby; if we’re going,

we’d better get ready.

Looks like we’ll have to cowboy up

and get the job done.”

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