A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Sunday in October

There were only three of us that morning, or maybe

     things might have been different. Nora was talking, talking.

“He wanted it

               so much. I almost gave in.”

“Why didn’t you?” Mary finally asked.

Nora was shocked. “What?”

“Why didn’t you

     just do it?”

It was as though Nora

     understood the words, but not

     their meaning.

“What?” she said again.

“Did you want to?” Mary asked, but now Nora

     just looked puzzled.

“Never mind,” said Mary, and blew her cigarette smoke out

     over our table. Then, she put her elbows on the table

and told us

     all about it—the dance, the walk past curfew time, dodging guards,

how he held his hand

over her mouth to stop her giggles, her back

against a wall as the guard walked by, how she bit, and he

     removed his hand

to cover her mouth with his own. “Oh, he was smooth,” she said,

lighting another cigarette.

“You’re shameless!” Nora cried. “And heartless!”

“You’re just as bad,” I said, and I was

     not quite teasing.

Mary barely glanced at her. “At least I get some fun out of it.”

Nora focused on me. “What do you mean? Mary’s just flirting, I’m—“

“Yes? Just what are you doing?”

“At least I know what I’m doing,” Mary said, still looking out

     over the other tables.

“What,” Nora said, “do you think I

     want them to propose?”

“Well if you don’t,” said Mary, “why go on all those

     moonlight walks with them?”

“That was only twice!”

“True,” said Mary, “but then there was the

     ‘Let’s-look-out-over-the-Pacific-towards-the-land-where-I-might-die’ guy, and

     the one you met at dawn at the top of Lombard Street, so you could walk

down as the sun rose, and see it rise again from the bottom,

     right? What was

     that about?”

“It was his last wish! What was I

     supposed to do, say ‘no’?”

“Say yes, say no, whichever you please,” Mary snapped.

“Just don’t pretend

you have no choice.”

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