A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Mary’s Stories

The band was playing “Stormy Weather,”

nice and slow. Some fellows can’t talk

     while they dance, they’re too busy

     counting beats. Not Cory.

He laughed, nodding back towards Mary,

her head bent forwards, both guys

     leaning in towards her.

“Quite an imagination

     on that one.”

“Yep, she always topped out in that

     category. When we were kids, she could

     really get me going.”

“I bet.”

“Once she told me this guy down the street

     was a gangster. ‘Look at his hat!’

     she’d say. ‘That’s a gangster’s hat.’ Or, ‘I bet

     he’s got a sawed-off shotgun

     under that coat. The newspaper

     under his arm? That’s just for cover.’”

“How old were you then?”

“Eight, maybe? Nine?”

“And she’s older by a couple years?”

I nodded.

“So how long did you go around

     thinking your neighbor worked for

     the San José numbers racket?”

“Not too long. She really overdid it that time,

     fortunately, and—”


“Yes. When I started sleeping

     under my bed, my parents dragged me out and

     dragged the story out of me. It was worse

     when she convinced me that

     the earth was flat, and teachers

didn’t want us kids to know. They’d tell us the truth, she said,

when we were sixteen. It was a secret ritual,

     a ceremony, at which adults told the truth, at last,

     about the earth, and sex, and where milk came from.”

“Milk? It doesn’t come from cows?”

“Oh, it does, but according to my darling cousin,

     it’s their urine. My mother couldn’t understand

why I took such a sudden and

     intense dislike to milk,

               when I was six.”

Cory practically doubled over, then straightened up

     to spin me one last time.

“What a woman! So tell me:

     Did you ever get her back?”

“As she deserved?”


“You mean, with a taste of her own medicine?”


“N—no. Oh no. Cory, what have you got in mind?”

“I’m not sure yet. But it’s

     something to contemplate.”

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