She hated him. She gnawed her lips raw hating him. She hated the sour smell of his mouth. She’d seen that face exploding in blood, gristle, brains. She’d wiped that face off her bare forearms. She’d wiped that face off her own damn face! She’d picked that face out of her hair. She was not his. She had never been his. She was an adult woman now twenty-three years old which astonished her, she had lived so long. She had survived them. She was not a terrified child now. She was the wife of a man who was a true man and not a sniveling coward and a murderer, and this man had given her a baby, a son, whom he, her dead father, would never see. She was married, her husband’s name Tignor was one of which she was terribly vain. She was nerved-up anyway, irritable as a horse tormented by flies. She’d almost smashed her hand in a press, that day. She’d lived with brothers, she knew “men.” She wasn’t the shy fearful little-girl type. She was strong, fleshy. She didn’t blame him, really. She’d have only a few seconds, the heavy work shoes would sink her like anvils. She never thought of it now, all that was past. She was vain of being Mrs. Tignor, and she was vain of being a mother. She was the town gravedigger’s daughter, other kids taunted her. She had tried to ignore them, best as she could. She had, though. She had never hurt any of her classmates not really, even the ones who’d deserved to be hurt. She would have to stab it deep into the man’s chest, or throat . . . She’d had to wear a uniform, she had hated it. She wasn’t wearing a watch, never wore a watch at Niagara Tubing. She would pick up Niley at her neighbor’s house just after 6 p.m. She knew of a hiding place somewhere ahead, on the other side of the canal embankment, not visible from the towpath, a foul-smelling culvert: made of corrugated sheet metal, a tunnel about twelve feet in depth, five feet in diameter, she could duck and run through it and into a field, unless it was a marsh, the man in the panama hat would not immediately see where she’d gone and if he did, he might not want to follow her . . . She knew: she must not weaken. She must not show her fear. She would turn and confront him, the man in the panama hat. She would turn, hands on her hips, Tignor-style she would stare him down. She mouthed the words she would say to him: “You! Are you follow- ing me?” She was not a shy young woman, and she was not weak. She was not a very feminine woman. She had a striking face, large deep-set very dark eyes, with dark brows heavy as a man’s, and something of a man’s stance, in confronting others. She did not wish to be Tignor, but only to be loved by Tignor. She was ashamed, infuriated. She never met their eyes. She wondered what would happen during those twenty minutes. She was hardly a child. She was a married woman, a mother. She had a job at Niagara Fiber Tubing in Chautauqua Falls, New York. She was not a minor dependent upon the charity of adults. She was not a ward of the county living in Milburn. She was only twenty-three and already she was discovering gray hairs! She was a married woman, why was this happening to her! She didn’t want to think that time had passed. She was tall, five feet eight. She weighed about 115 pounds. She wondered if he knew her, in some way. She was a strong swimmer! She feared discovering that her body had lost its girlish buoyancy, its youth. Ignominiously she would sink like a rock. She feared that truth-telling you confront in water over your head exerting your arms and legs to keep afloat.
She turned abruptly and saw: the man in the panama hat, at about the same distance behind her. She turned back, and walked faster. She’d been leaving the factory at the end of her shift, 5 p.m., with a crowd of other workers. She didn’t want to think that this man might know Tignor. She’d had the impression that the man, the stranger, had made a gesture to take off his hat. She was weak with doubt, suddenly. She might be imagining danger. She was thinking of her little boy waiting for her and of how she wanted desperately to be with him to console both him and herself. She’d just never seen him before. She could feel him watching her ass, her hips, legs as she walked fast guessing she wanted badly to start running but didn’t dare. She was hopeful of seeing him yet dreaded seeing him for she never knew what emotions she might feel nor could she guess what Tignor might be feeling. She had no interest in whoever it was. She had not wanted to look for Tignor on the street knowing he wouldn’t be there, yet she had looked, her eyes glancing swiftly about, snatching at male phantom-figures. She’d yanked off the damn sweaty kerchief and stuffed it into her pocket. She knew the way so well by now, she scarcely had to look up. She was a country girl, she’d grown up tramping the fields, woods, country roads of Milburn ninety miles to the east, always she felt exhilarated at such times. She would arrive at Mrs. Meltzer’s and there Niley would be waiting for her crying Mom-ma! running at her with a look of such pained love, she could scarcely bear it. She had no reason to think that he might be following her, or that he was even aware of her. She saw, and chose to ignore the fact. She crossed another ditch, that emitted a foul odor like sulphur. She was thinking, in that way that isn’t precisely thinking, not deliberate and not purposeful, that the man in the panama hat, dressed as he was, would turn back soon. She didn’t turn back. She continued on. She was desperate to get to the bridge, to climb up the embankment to the road, and to safety. She would run in the middle of the road to the Meltzers’ house a half-mile away . . . She heard a sound like breaking glass unexpected close behind her: footsteps in dried leaves. She did not look back but ran blindly up the embankment. She clutched at briars, thistles, tall grasses to help pull herself up. She was desperate, terrified. She heard the man behind her speak, he was calling after her, she began to fall, the incline was too steep. She had partly broken her fall with the fleshy edge of her right hand. She could not force it into her pocket. She was flooded with relief, what a fool she’d been to so misjudge this stranger! She was furious with herself, even more.She hated it, the way the stranger stared at her with his queer lashless eyes. She tested her weight on the ankle, gauging if she could walk on it, or run. She brushed at her clothes, that had picked up crumbly loose dirt and burrs. She saw that he’d removed the panama hat, and was turning it nervously in his hands. She wished she could tell Tignor about it, when Tignor called. She wasn’t going to look back. She was shaking, still. She’d had to pass so close to him, he might have reached out and grabbed her. She did not believe a word of it. She would have liked to stab him with the piece of steel, or to try. She hid her face against the child’s warm neck and held him tight. She asked if Niley had been a good boy, or a naughty boy. She told him that if he’d been naughty the Great Spider would get him. She shied from Mrs. Meltzer observing her so closely. She murmured it was nothing, she didn’t know what it was, no she had not fallen. She would have wiped her hand on her coverall except Edna Meltzer stopped her. She was flushed with annoyance for she hated to be told what to do. She was confused, and could not think what to say. She lives in Chautauqua Falls, I think. She had not wanted to defile the handsome printed bookplate. She herself had not been encouraged to spell, to read, even to think until she’d been much older, but she did not intend to emulate her parents in the raising of her child. She loved him passionately, as she loved his father. She’d been poorly educated herself. She’d never graduated from high school, her life had been interrupted. She saw herself stuck in a bog, quicksand to the ankles, to the knees. She woke from her trance. She laughed nervously. She thanked whoever it was. She had a stubborn manner, a certain stiff-backed dignity. She wouldn’t take bullshit from anybody. She’d been terrified, she might go crazy. She had no wish to think about Hazel Jones. She’d have liked to scream into his face. She had to concede, he was a civilized man. She’d been seventeen at the time. She poked her fingers inside the goggles, wiping her eyes. She wanted to cry in frustration. . . . hurt. She saw him, in the corner of her eye; she would not stare, and allow them to know that she was aware of them. She was ashamed of herself, thinking of how he’d been shocked by her, and hurt. She was right-handed. She knew: the man in the panama hat wasn’t in the factory. She must have seen, in the blurry corner of her eye, the plant manager. She wanted to shake him. She wanted to hug him tight, and protect him. She kissed the nerve. She resumed her story. She was very tired. She worried that Niley wasn’t developing as other children developed. She felt at such times that she would drown in the child’s small fevered brain, she was a tiny adult figure trapped in a child’s brain. She had wanted desperately to be a mother. She had wanted desperately to be Niles Tignor’s wife. She took it out, and examined it. She’d have had to stab desperately with it to defend herself. She, Rebecca, was low, primitive in her suspicions. She sank onto a kitchen chair, suddenly weak. She had not heard of any trouble, and so it was best to fall in with Tignor’s tone. She dreaded the child guessing that Mommy didn’t always know. She understood: I must laugh. She understood I am one of these. She whispered in the boy’s ear, he was becoming impatient. She wondered what the man in the panama hat would think, seeing her. She was dazed, exhausted. She stumbled into the next room, sank onto the sofa. She knew he never would. She would take the receiver back from Niley. She told him no no no. She was helpless as he was, to know whether Daddy would really return to them this time. She wanted to recall that it had been her father who’d disciplined her but in fact it had been both her mother and her father. She wanted to recall that the discipline had been deserved, necessary, and just but she wasn’t so certain that this was so. She smiled, as she would smile when she heard it. She wondered: had her mother stood over her, gazed upon her as she’d slept? She smiled to think yes, maybe. She hoped he would take on some of his father’s strength. She wanted to kiss it away. She wanted to brush it away but no, better not. She hated it, that she knew so little. She too would sleep, now. She smiled to think that Niley’s daddy would return to them then. She had a premonition! She was no gypsy-girl, and she was no Jewess! She was having trouble sleeping. She would not think about it. She didn’t feel that she deserved so large a bed. She turned, to lie on her back. She couldn’t hear the music but she felt the beat. She spread out her arms, her armpits were wet. She’d known before she married him what he was. She understood it wasn’t reasonable for any woman of Tignor’s to expect a man like him to be faithful in the way that ordinary men are faithful to women. She lay on her back now. She drew it back just in time. She hugged herself, smiling. She’d had no name and no identity, so young. She seemed to know, even as she shrank from such terrible knowledge, that she, the last-born of the family, the little one, had not been wanted by Jacob Schwart and was an out- ward sign of his wound. She would not know why, a child does not ask why. She would remember her panicked mother stumbling to her crib, clamping a moist hand over her mouth to muffle her crying. She wasn’t in the kitchen, she wasn’t in the bedroom. She had been asleep, or in one of her trances. She licked her lips but did not speak. She would giggle, and squeal in excitement, peeking out. She didn’t want to be invisible anymore. She would not kick or squeal or act silly she promised! She was jealous of her brothers. She would not scratch herself on the damn briars as Pa called them or stumble and hurt herself. She was desperate to help Pa, to make him see her again and make that luscious smack-smack noise that was a noise only for her. She ran, and she stumbled. She would never tell. She was such a little girl, her brain had yet to comprehend that she hadn’t always been. She did. She could not imagine her father kissing Herschel! She would grow up, she would marry one of those others. She could not seem to mimic the sounds her children learned so readily, and even her husband could mimic in his own brusque way: “Anna, you must try. Not ‘da’—‘the.’ Not ‘ta’—‘to.’ Say it!” She would never laugh openly at Ma like her brothers. She heard them! She was a middle-aged woman with fattish hips and thighs, a wide, ruddy face like something rubbed with a rag, and a cotton scarf tied around her head. She was a farmer’s wife who lived about six miles away. She had heard of the Schwarts, that they were from Munich? She, too, was from Munich: she’d been born there, in 1902! She heard her mother talk- ing, quarreling with someone in that forbidden language. She was desperate to be with her mother, wanted to cuddle with Ma, for sometimes Ma did allow that, sometimes Ma hummed and sang by the side of Rebecca’s little bed, sometimes plaiting Rebecca’s hair Ma blew into her ears, blew the tiny hair-wisps at the back of Rebecca’s neck to tickle her just a little; not like Herschel who tickled so rough. She’d been pregnant with their third child then. She had their sons Herschel and August. She had come to see that nothing mattered to her except her children, that they not die. She would not ask him any questions. She was wife, mother. She was a woman. She was his wife, his servant. She must obey. She would never forgive him. She was too young to know such a thing, yet she knew. She was just a baby then. She can sleep in my bed. She had never gotten around to doing all she’d meant to do, she’d been so tired when they first moved in. She would sew curtains herself. She was peering at Freyda, her sister Freyda who (you could almost believe this!) was peering up at her. She seemed to know that Freyda was wearing nicer shoes than she, Rebecca, had. She would tie a scarf hurriedly around her head to partially hide her face. She knew. She saw only her father’s back, a few feet away. She could not now turn to see Freyda pressing a forefinger against her lips Shhhh Rebecca! because Freyda herself was air. She was bare- foot, and trembling. She saw how her father turned to her with a look of annoyance, his face flushed, livid eyes that held no love for her in that in- stant, nor even recognition. She stammered asking what was wrong? where was Freyda? wasn’t Freyda coming? She would wonder what Jacob Schwart saw, in her: what there was in her, a child of five, he so despised. She would be too young for years to consider He hates himself, in me. She ran outside. She whispered, “Freyda—” but it was use- less, she knew it was useless, she was alone now and would be alone, she had no sister. She would hide in the cemetery, frightened for hours. She was barefoot, limping. She had cut her left foot on a stone. She would take to Ma a handful of beautiful pale-blue cluster-flowers broken off from one of the potted plants. She would wonder: was there an owl? She dared not run from him. She is speaking with the dead Rebecca came to realize. She is speaking with her family left behind in Germany. She paused only to look at photographs, occasionally. She told Rebecca and the others that they had souls that were “little flames” inside their bodies, in the area of their hearts; these little flames would never go out, unlike ordinary fire. She woke from her trance, rose and tremulously made her way into the aisle, and up to the lighted stage. She was too frightened to murmur Thank you. She could not clearly see the face of the man who was addressing her, glittery glasses, a striped necktie, she’d been told his name and who he was and of course she’d forgotten. She was ten years old, and a winner of the Milburn School Township Spelling Bee. She had represented her grammar school, that was District #3. For weeks she had memorized lists of words. She was awkward and self-conscious among them, a solitary child without a family. She was headed for a side door marked exit. She was surrounded by adults. She was told to smile, and so she smiled. She had not planned to show the dictionary to them. She’d told her father about the spelling bee and the awards ceremony and he’d scarcely listened, nor had her mother listened. She had forgotten the occasion, she could not have anticipated that anything real would come of the flashbulbs and the jocular, jokey Smile, please! She hurried back to her bed. She would hide it again, beneath her bed. She had been tramping through a sprawling wooded area behind the cemetery, she’d been tramping along the canal towpath watching the barges, waving at the pilots who waved at her, as she’d been forbidden. She’d been at the township dump, too. She paused to watch the slow procession of vehicles from behind one of the sheds, not wanting to be seen. She wore khaki shorts and a soiled sleeveless shirt covered in burrs. She’d pulled a stool close beside it, she was not sitting in Pa’s chair. She was lost in concentration, and did not want to be distracted. She had heard of Beethoven, that was all. She saw that her mother’s soft-raddled girl’s face shone with tears that were not tears of hurt or grief or humiliation. She was too confused to be frightened, at first. She couldn’t remember what the marks were called, something ugly—sounding beginning with s, but she knew what they meant—Germany? She wasn’t a little girl now. She was seeing the ugly marks—“swastikas,” she remembered they were called—through her father’s eyes. She was twelve, in seventh grade. She knew, at the school, that some of her classmates would know about the desecration to the cemetery, they would know about the swastikas. She didn’t want to think that some of her classmates, in the company of their older brothers, might have been involved in the vandalism. She would not ask anyone. She squirmed in her seat, in misery. She’d stopped, and lost her place. She couldn’t remember why. She saw the ugly marks that had so frightened her father. She knew the bruises had formed, she hadn’t yet wanted to see. She liked it that handsome dashing Brom Bones threw the pumpkin-head at Ichabod, and scared him out of Sleepy Hollow forever. She hated Mrs. Krause, never would she smile at Mrs. Krause again. She did not know . . . . . . knew nothing of where Herschel had gone. She wanted to see him! She, too, claimed to know nothing about what her older brother might have done, and where he’d fled. She shook her head wordlessly as the deputies questioned her. She supposed that, yes he was the man the deputies wanted. She is a quiet girl, not so bright. She remembered Miss Lutter’s words, however. She was becoming a feral cat, furtive and wary. She wanted to believe that God would act justly. She was so afraid, Rebecca told Jesus. She’d loved Gus when they were younger, now she shrank from him in disgust. She was begging, pleading. She more resembled him than either of his sons resembled him. She had his sharp cheekbones, and a widow’s peak he’d had (when he’d had more hair). She had his restless hungry eyes. She was intelligent, as he was; and distrustful. She had a melancholy spirit, and she was stubborn. She stared, and could not reply. She had never fully recovered from the third pregnancy, the anguish of that third birth. She blamed him, he felt. She had never loved him, he supposed. She’d been delirious, muttering and raving and striking at him with her fists. She had kept it secret from him, and from Anna. She would grow up, she would leave him. She was Rebecca’s (secret) friend because neither Rebecca’s father nor Rebecca’s mother approved of her having friends. She wasn’t planning on hearing one if she could help it. She was surprised by Leora’s casual question. She mumbled something vague meant to convey no. She keeps to herself, eh? She would not. She could not believe she had uttered those words. She was a young horse galloping, her legs so springy and strong, she laughed aloud out of very happiness, she could run-run- run forever arriving reluctantly at school, nerved-up, sweaty, itching for a fight, bad as Herschel wanting somebody to look at her cross-eyed or mouth Gravedigger! or some bullshit like that, Christ she was too restless to calm down to fit into a desk! She’d stayed away after school for as long as she’d dared. She called for her mother. She was panicked stumbling to the front door that was partly open . . . She’d been running. She was thinking of her mother Anna. She knew: her father was mad. She didn’t require Katy Greb to take her in. She walked out a rear exit not caring who might be watching and would report her. She kept her distance from strangers. She wanted to turn quickly away, but could not. She believed that, if she ran, the reptile-man would become angry and call after her and everyone would see. She was leaning against the bridge railing, staring down at the water far below. In the countryside, the canal was flat and placid-seeming; here at the forty-foot lock, the current was swift and perilous, rushing over the lock in ceaseless agitation, churning, frothy, making a noise like wildfire. She knew how the salesclerks’ eyes would shift upon her, in suspicion and dislike. She must not let Pa see her. She was thirteen now. She liked being thirteen. She wanted to be older, as her brothers were older. She was impatient with remaining a child, trapped in that house. She hadn’t yet begun to bleed, to have “periods”—“cramps”—as Katy and other girls did each month. She knew it must happen to her soon and what she dreaded most about it was having to tell Ma. She believed that her mother no longer listened to music on the radio, for Pa claimed that the radio was broken. She must go home, soon. It was beginning to be late afternoon, Ma was awaiting her. She’d known why her brothers had disappeared, but she had not known why her cousins and their parents had been sent back to the old world. She had no other need to explain herself, nor would Rebecca have wished to ask. She could not. She was calling, “Ma? Ma—” childish and pleading. She had not! She would claim she had not, afterward. She was in the kitchen of the old stone house, and hearing the sound of struggle in one of the back rooms. She was panting, covered in a film of cold sweat. She was forgetting. She’d forgotten having heard gunshots; she could not have said how many shots she’d heard. She heard them. She was in the hall outside the bedroom. She might have turned and run. She might have escaped. She was not behaving with the panicked instinct of an animal bent upon survival. She nearly collided with her father who was panting and moaning, and who may have been muttering to himself, her father gripping the unwieldy shotgun in both his hands, the barrels pointing upward. In this room there was a powerful stink of gunsmoke. She was thirteen years old, a minor. She would be a ward of Chautauqua County until the age of eighteen. She had no relatives to take her in. She would pretend not to remember. She would come to know, in time: the man whom her father had shot in the cemetery was named Simcoe, fifty-one years old and a former Milburn resident and unknown to Jacob Schwart and his death by Jacob Schwart “unprovoked.” She owned not only a carpet sweeper but a General Electric vacuum cleaner. She’d given up expecting her brothers to come for her. She would sing children’s songs to please the minister’s wife, who wore her hair in twisty little bangs on her forehead, and who would tell Reverend Deegan what a good girl Rebecca Schwart was. She knew, and she accepted. She was a ward of Chautauqua County, a charity case. She’d bought silk ribbons for Rebecca’s hair. She was never certain whether Miss Lutter was joking, or meant such extravagant remarks. She loved the swell of the music, that mixed with the roar of the water over the gigantic lock. She did not like to think of the crucifixion, she wanted Jesus to be remote, like an angel; like a beautiful high-scudding cloud, borne by the wind overhead; for the most beautiful clouds were shaped above the lake, and scattered by the wind in all directions; and no one except Rebecca Schwart saw. She would explain to Miss Lutter: for she loved Miss Lutter, and was so grateful for Miss Lutter hav- ing saved her life, having taken her in, a ward of Chautauqua County, a charity case, almost she could not look Miss Lutter in the face, almost she could not speak without stammering. She loved Jesus that he was remote and ascended to the Father but like a willful child she hated it more and more that Jesus was a dead body on a cross like any other dead body dripping blood and shortly it would begin to decompose, and smell. She tried to sit still. She knew! She might be mistaken for retarded but she was an intelligent girl with eyes in the back of her head and so she knew exactly how Milburn viewed her, and spoke of her. She knew how Rose Lutter was admired, and in some quarters resented. She rubbed one ankle against the other, beneath the pew. She would not wait until her sixteenth birthday to quit school. She would be expelled in November 1951, and she would not return. She would break Rose Lutter’s heart, for it could not be helped. She was out, she would not return. She’d had enough of the same faces year following year, the same staring impudent eyes. She’d had enough of school, she would get a job in Milburn and support herself. She told Rebecca that she should not let those ignorant barbarians ruin her life. She had to persevere, to graduate. She had no hope of a decent life. She’d begun to be allergic to chalk dust, her sinus passages were chronically inflamed. She’d been threatened by white-trash parents. She tried to take Rebecca’s stiff cold hands, but Rebecca would not allow it. She loves me . . .She stayed away from church services, too. She could not bear it. She was in her nightgown, a royal blue rayon robe over it, tightly tied about her very narrow waist. She struggled to wake breathing rapidly and sweating and her eyeballs rolled in her head in the agitation of trying finally to see . . . what lay on the floor, obscured in shadow. She could not see. She would see, she must see!—except not clearly. She was missing something! She must begin again. She would believe that she had witnessed the shooting, the impact of the buckshot at a distance of approximately six inches from its soft, defenseless target, yet she had not witnessed it, she had only heard it. She might have fled in panic as an animal would have fled but she did not. She was pleading with him. She knows not what she says. She was free! She would support herself, she would live in downtown Milburn after all. She worked as a waitress, she worked as a merchandise clerk, finally she became a chambermaid at the General Washington Hotel. She asked Leora what the price of a room for one night was and when Leora told her, Rebecca said, shocked, “So much money just to sleep? And you have nothing to show for it, afterward?” She was steering Rebecca through the lobby, toward a door marked employees only at the rear. She said, “Rebecca, people who stay in a hotel like this have money, and people who have money leave tips. And you meet a better class of men—sometimes.” She was hired off the books, and in her naiveté she thought this was a very good thing. She liked it that there were so many employees at the General Washington. She liked it, pushing her maid’s cart along the corridor. She liked best the moment of unlocking the door and stepping inside. She, Rebecca Schwart who was no one. She saw his mouth twisting in derision as he pronounced it. She knew never to unlock any door without rapping sharply on it and identifying herself, even when she was certain the room was empty. She might discover as much as two dollars, she might discover a few nickels and dimes. She might be left a few pennies scattered among soiled bedsheets, or a five- dollar bill folded on the dresser. She might be left a ravaged room. She would live like this, unthinking. She’d left Rose Lutter abruptly, she felt guilt for her behavior. She had made secret plans with Katy and LaVerne, who’d invited her to stay with them and so while Miss Lutter slept Rebecca made up her bed neatly for the final time and left, on her pillow, a brief note. She was taking with her only her special possessions: the prize dictionary she’d won, and a very few items of clothing Miss Lutter had purchased for her that still fit her, and weren’t too young-looking, and silly on her tall rangy frame. She liked her work less. She saw that the door had ceased opening, at a space of about two inches. She was bare-legged, stockingless. She would not, and did not. She was a good worker. She could lift her own weight. She rarely complained. She was very tired and there was a sharp ache between her shoulder blades and a sharper ache beginning between her eyes. She hadn’t yet cleaned Baumgarten’s room. She had hoped that Baumgarten would be checking out that morning, but he’d hinted he might be staying longer. She would not. She had come to stand close beside the bed, uncertain what to do. She saw veins on the man’s ruined face, like incandescent wires. She was about to lift the phone receiver and dial the front desk when the stricken man slyly opened one eye, and grinned at her. She clawed at Baumgarten’s hands. She would afterward recall the harsh whiskey smell of his breath and a fouler, darker smell beneath of something fetid, rotting. She would recall how close she’d come to fainting. She left her maid’s cart in the fifth-floor corridor, she would retrieve it another time. She would not involve him with the beating of H. Baumgarten in room 557, which police were investigating. Never would she have involved him, who had intervened on her be- half. She’d seen him in the company of the Tap Room bartender Mulingar: he was in his mid-thirties, well over six feet tall, distinctive with his steely hair and deep-chested laughter. She smiled thinking He’s ashamed, he wants to forget. She was sick with apprehension. She was dreamy, and she was agitated. She was unaccountably excited, and she was stricken with an almost erotic lassitude. She had never been involved with any boy or man, until now. She’d been a Quarry Road girl, like Katy Greb. She wanted to think that they had exchanged a glance at the time. She said, “ ‘Ruth’—‘Rebecca.’ She wore a lime-green sweater that fit her bust tightly, and a gray flannel skirt that fell to mid-calf, a “tailored” skirt as a salesgirl at Norban’s described it. She met Colleen outside the rear entrance of the hotel. She stared, suddenly frightened. She was very shy, with Tignor focusing upon her so. She said, “No. I don’t tell stories.” She was sick of always-so-serious, God-damned heavy heart as her friends chided her. She would drink as much as Colleen drank, and she would not get drunk, or sick to her stomach. She wanted to leave the booth, and escape from this place. She managed to say, to Tignor, “I . . . don’t think about it, now.” She felt that she would faint, at the touch. She was a good-girl-learning-to-smoke, she coughed, tears spilled from her eyes. She was a girl learning-to-drink. She was a girl to please a man, not just any man but a man like Niles Tignor, and though she looked like a slut, in her tight sweater and tight skirt and her mouth a lurid lipstick red, and her hair wavy and tangled down her back, yet she wanted you to think she was a good girl, and naive. She knew no one who had ever articulated such thoughts. She picked up her cards, eager but fumbling. She laughed but bit her lower lip, pouting. She had a vision of birch trees, beautifully white birches marked with striations in black, bent to the ground, broken-backed to the ground . . . She had no need to draw, or to discard. She played out the hand. She was too naive a cardplayer to question the odds of such a hand. She’d given up counting their value, she would trust to Tignor to keep score. She was furious with Niles Tignor, suddenly. She felt a savage dislike of him in her soul, in that instant. She would have liked to claw his big-boned face that was so smug. She liked it that she could make Niles Tignor laugh. She had a gift for beguiling men, if she wished to. She felt the thrill of her will in opposition to his. She felt almost faint, exulting in her opposition. She kissed his cheek. She kept Tignor at a little distance from her, she would not sleep with him. She knew: when Tignor was away from Milburn, he forgot her, she simply ceased to exist for him. She’d given him her telephone number, at the Ferry Street apartment. She would ask Tignor where he was, and Tignor would say, “A block up, on Ferry Street at a pay phone. She hadn’t wanted to fall in love with Niles Tignor or any man. She recalled with excruciating em- barrassment how she had fled the Tap Room that night, desperate to escape. She’d had too much to drink, that must have been it. She did. She began to feel excited, anxious. For Rebecca, sexual excitement was indistinguishable from anxiety. She had to be cautious of the man, she dreaded becoming pregnant like other girls she knew in Milburn, high school dropouts, some of them younger than Rebecca and already mothers. She knew that ugly things were said of Tignor. Even Mulingar who counted himself a friend of Tignor’s repeated rumors. She was wearing a peach-colored angora sweater she’d found in a wastebasket in one of the rooms at the General Washington whose stretched neck she hid with a knotted scarf, and a black wool skirt that fitted her hips snugly, and shiny black boots to mid-calf. She sat in a hard-cushioned chair by a drafty window, she would not stretch out on the bed, on an earthen-colored brocade bed- spread that exuded a wintry chill. She hoped he had not splashed up onto the toilet seat or onto the tile wall. She would clean it away, if he had. She would not leave such evidence behind for the chambermaid to clean. She was thinking that she was drawn to Niles Tignor because of his size, he was a man to make a not-small girl like herself feel precious as a doll. She could not believe what she was seeing. She would recall how important it had seemed to her, at this moment, as at the crucial moment when her father Jacob Schwart was trying to maneuver the shotgun around to fire at her, to smile. She had not heard her brother’s name spoken in a very long time and had come half-consciously to think that Herschel might be dead. She was reluctant to touch them for what would that mean? She could not bear to take up the bills, to count them. She wondered why Tignor had surprised her in this way? She was nearly overcome with emotion. She kissed Tignor. She heard herself laughing gaily. She was short of breath as if she’d been running. She was in Tignor’s arms, and kissing him recklessly. She spoke fiercely, she was half-sobbing. She tightened her arms around his neck in triumph. She opened her mouth to his. She would have him now, she would give herself over to him. She hated it, her soul so exposed. She could not bear it, such exposure, yet she would have him now. She wrapped it in tissue and carried it close to her heart, in a pocket of her white rayon uniform. She was not one to speak casually of her personal life. She was not one to laugh and joke about men, as other women did. She hated it, the levity with which women spoke of men, when no men were near. She protested, “He isn’t the man you think you know. He is . . .” She felt confident that Tignor would return to her, for he had promised. She was haunted by the memory of those hours in Beardstown that seemed to be taking place in a ceaseless present to which she alone had access. She understood that Tignor was feeling some repentance. She loved it, that his hand was so much larger than her own. She was naked, and the man was naked. She laughed, and swatted him. She felt the angry hurt throbbing between her legs and yet: the pain was distant, it could be endured. She peered at him, from a distance of mere inches. She lay in its shelter, beneath its numbing weight. She winced, the pain in her groin was knife-like. She would not flush it down the toilet until she was certain the bleeding had stopped, for she dreaded waking Tignor. She was dismayed to see that, yes there was fresh blood seeping from her, though more slowly than before. She was Niles Tignor’s girl, this blood was proof. She would wash, wash, wash herself clean and the man would think no more of it. She’d smiled, years ago seeing how close hymen was to hymn, hymnal. She was certain, now she had time to examine it. She was not pregnant. She knew, she had not doubted him. She’d stood mute and sullen as Hrube scolded her, saying another chambermaid had had to take over her rooms. She knew how LaVerne would complain of her to Katy, and how Katy would laugh, and shrug. She would come initially, but on her own terms. She was wearing the green plaid coat Tignor had given her, of which she was so vain. She’d smeared lipstick on her mouth: a lurid moist peony-red. She would be without subterfuge, lifting her young, eager face to his, the moist red mouth that so aroused him. She wondered if the bottle was empty or yet contained bourbon and, if so, if she would be expected to drink from it. She was smiling, biting her lower lip. She might have reached over to slap him. She might have laughed at him, mocked him. She saw his surprise, his hurt, slow-dawning as physical pain. She saw the men assessing her, and liking what they saw. She would drink ale if she wished, from Tignor’s glass. She was smiling, but wary. She spoke in a strange, exultant, unsettling voice. She felt the triumph of possession, that she knew the man intimately. She knew, she knew what he was doing; he had not telephoned her in weeks, he had forgotten about her. She knew, and would accept it. She would come like a dog when he snapped his fingers, but only initially: he could not make her do anything more. She was”—Rebecca hesitated, not wanting to say Rose Lutter’s name—“very nice to me.” She’d behaved badly to Miss Lutter, she was so ashamed. She’d become warm, discomfited, being in- terrogated by Tignor. She liked Tignor to tease her, yes. She was not crying, but would not meet his eye. She had not tasted Tignor’s ale that evening yet she felt the reckless exhilaration of drunkenness. She hadn’t wanted to be suspicious of Tignor, she hadn’t wanted to think about it. She was so stupidly naive. She had not wanted to question the money, at the time. She’d bought food for lavish meals, for her roommates and herself. She’d bought nice things for the living room. She had never been able to contribute as much to the apartment as Katy and LaVerne, always she’d felt guilty. She had told them Herschel but surely they were thinking Tignor. She saw by the flushed glistening look in the man’s face that he would have liked to murder her. She stumbled, she nearly fell. She would not wear it a moment longer! She cringed against the passenger’s door, her eyes glaring out of the darkness reflecting neon lights like the eyes of a feral cat. She drew back both her knees to her chest, and kicked him. She was so reckless, fighting a man with the strength to break her face in a single blow, Tignor marveled at her. She caught him with a flailing blow, bloodying his lip. She had not forgiven him, for not calling her. She had heard a vehicle brake to a stop at the curb outside, and she’d heard a car door slammed shut with jarring loudness. She was feeling too light-headed to go to the window to look out. She’d locked the door after Katy and LaVerne had left but the lock was flimsy, Tignor could kick open the door if he wished. She had never heard her name uttered with such yearning. She saw the doorknob being turned, frantically. She knew she must, but she could not. She wanted to strike at him again, to slap his hands away. She came to sit on his lap, and kissed him. She was shivering, he would comfort her. She had been Niles Tignor’s wife for less than twelve hours, but already she understood. She’s of age, eh? She is. She’s sixteen, at least? She says. She felt his fist-sized heart beating against her warm, bruised face. She would have closed her arms around him, but he held her fixed, fast. She wrested the box of chocolates out of her husband’s hands (the box had been opened, Mr. Mack was helping himself and chewing vigorously), and handed it over to Tignor like a prize. She was paralyzed, she could not move. She watched as he managed to maneuver the bulky shotgun around in that tight space, to aim at himself, and pull the trigger. She seemed to know, Tignor would give her as much money as she wanted, so long as he loved her. She was waiting to become pregnant. She had never returned to Ferry Street to pick up the remainder of her things. She worried that her friends had come to dislike her out of jealousy. She could not allow herself to read what she’d written. She could not allow herself to imagine what Tignor would say, should he read what she’d written. She was coming to love him, sexually. She would take from him a fleeting sexual pleasure. She did not want to shatter in his arms, she did not want to scream like a wounded creature. She would no more have asked him than she would have asked her father what his income was. She knew: he had married her but had not forgiven her. She drank with him, in the early hours of the morning when he couldn’t sleep. She loved signing this name, beneath Niles Tignor in the hotel registers. She’d come to think she was so smart. She supposed it meant he loved her, no one had ever loved her like this, there was a danger in it, like bringing a match too close to flammable material. She thought of the revolver with the wooden handle. She said, “That’s right. I don’t live here.” She had her dictionary, too. She’d been a little girl, she had known nothing. She put on her coat, boots. She’d had only a vague impression of him. She was alarmed but not really frightened. She walked faster, she began to run. She was a surprise to the salesclerks, exiting at the rear. She doubled back to the hotel, she’d eluded the man in the navy jacket. She thought no more of him. She felt as if she’d been pushed to the edge of something like a parapet, she was risking too much. She had expected him to react with a grunt of disapproval, but he did not. She could feel his brain churn- ing with thought. She was beginning to speak, and to think, in baby-talk. She jammed her fist against her mouth to keep from laughing. She knew how Tignor would screw up his face at home. She wasn’t so lonely with Tignor away, now she had the baby snug inside her. She’d had to look up the simplest words in the dictionary yet she’d managed to misspell residence anyway. She tore the letter into pieces. She included no return address on the little package. She smiled to think this. She was so young, damned good-looking she knew they were saying, nudging one another. She was Niles Tignor’s wife, and she was having Niles Tignor’s baby. She knew: Tignor did not like her behaving in any over-friendly way with men. She was aloof and indifferent to the most innocuous of greetings — “Good morning!” — “Fine morning isn’t it?” —cast in her direction by men in hotel corridors, elevators, restaurants. She would not try to elude him. She had not doubted him. She knew. She was four weeks’ pregnant again, and this time she would have the baby. She was frightened, naturally she asked jokey questions. She was a stout pudding-faced woman with sharp little eyes and a motherly air that seemed to suck oxygen out of the room. She spoke so playfully, not at all accusingly, Tignor could hardly take offense. She wanted to think that one day he would surprise her with a house he’d bought for them, their own house in town. She saw him regarding her with narrowed eyes. She’d uttered these words more than once. She seemed wholly unconscious of were. She was all belly, that hummed and quivered with life. She was oblivious of Mrs. Meltzer staring after her and took no heed for how her neighbor would speak of her to Ike’s wife Elsie behind the counter. She’s a strange one ain’t she! She liked to watch for the slow-moving barges. She had asked him only how long he’d been driving, and was he hungry? She felt his dislike of her, the big belly that interfered with lovemaking. She’d peered into his soul, she’d seen what lay broken and shattered there like glittering glass. She believed that she was strong enough to save him, as she had not been strong enough to save Jacob Schwart. She was not so self-assured now. She was not so pleased with herself now. She had intended not even to show Edna Meltzer the baby for she feared and disliked the woman and yet here she was in the Meltzers’ car being driven to the hospital in Chautauqua Falls. She’d had to call the Meltzers when the pains began. She had no number for Tignor and so she’d called the Meltzers. She would have little memory of this drive except Howie Meltzer in his greasy Esso cap behind the wheel chewing a toothpick and Edna Meltzer grunting as she leaned over the back of the passenger’s seat to grip one of Rebecca’s flailing hands, smiling sternly to show there was no cause for panic. She called for the baby’s father but the man was nowhere near. She gripped her enormous belly with both hands. She cried for help but there was no one. She would stumble to the Meltzers’ house a quarter-mile away. She would plead for help, she was alone and had no one. She would waste precious minutes in a futile search for the Certificate of Marriage in case she had to prove to the Chautauqua Falls Hospital authorities that she was a legally married woman, this birth was legitimate. She blinked to clear her occluded vision. She saw hands placing a naked flailing and kicking infant at first against her flattened, flaccid belly, then up between her breasts. She scarcely heard. She laughed to see how angry it was, and so small; like its father furious, and dangerous; eyes shut and tiny fists flailing. She laughed, she saw the tiny penis and had to laugh. She laughed, her bright harsh laugh that grated against the ear, and tears leaked from her eyes. She had a good supply of diapers, a few baby clothes. She’d been studying some baby pamphlet a doctor had given her. She was lying awake in the dark, hands clasped behind her head. She smiled, yes this was so. She’d opened her body, too, to Niles Tignor. She could not leave him, her heart clenched in anticipation simply of seeing him again. She called the Port Oriskany police to inquire, and was told that the investigation was still under way, and was confidential—“And who are you, ma’am? And why do you want to know?” She hung up, and resolved not to think about it. She hauled the child up inside the covers. She was a practical-minded young woman. She was the mother of a small child, she would learn for his sake to forget. She came to the Meltzers’ to pick up Niley, and was told by Mrs. Meltzer that Tignor had already been there, he’d taken the boy home. She hated it, that Edna Meltzer should see her confusion, and would speak of her pityingly, to others. She left the Meltzers’ house, she ran the rest of the way home. She had expected Tignor the previous Sunday, and he had not come, and he had not called. She had wished to think that he would come to Niagara Tubing to pick her up and drive her home . . . She came to Tignor, who had not moved toward her, and slid her arms around him. She bit her lower lip to keep from crying. She would bathe before making supper. She would bathe, and wash her lank greasy hair, to please him. She walked unsteadily as if she’d been mysteriously wounded. She supposed it was in his suitcase even now. She supposed he’d had reason to use it. She began to shiver in anticipation, but her hand did not slow its movement. She was frightened, her mind had gone empty. She could not think how to behave. She moved stiffly. She might discover Niley barefoot in pajamas trying to pull his shiny red wagon along the rutted driveway, or playing at the thirty-foot well where the plank coverings were rotted, or prowling in the dilapidated hay barn amid the filthy encrustrations of decades of bird droppings. She said, yes she thought Niley was very smart for his age. She was stricken with embarrassment. She was confused, thinking he’d taken the dictionary from her too, and thrown it into the stove. She wasn’t sure whose. She was angry with him, in that instant. She would not give him change from the fifty dollars, she would hide it away in her closet. She could not plead with him What has happened to you? She paused, knowing that Tignor was listening, and that this was good news. She would not re-wash it, only just soak it and hang it to dry and try ironing it again in the morning. She hesitated. She’d missed Tignor, in his absences. She knew, she knew!—she must not provoke him. She heard his footsteps. She believed that Tignor was only taunting, he wasn’t serious. She had a sense of things-falling-away. She would put the child to bed, quickly. She wanted to think that once the door was shut, Niley quieted and in bed, Tignor would forget him. She was dazed, disoriented. It had happened so quickly. She was sickened, humiliated. She’d known. She was tucking Niley into bed, the child pulled and clutched at her. She was certain now that he’d lied about Herschel, he’d never met Herschel in his life, that episode had been deceptive, demeaning. She hated dollar bills being tossed at her yet she tried to smile. She knew it was necessary for Tignor to see himself as amusing and not threatening. She smiled harder, as Niley smiled in terror of his teasing Daddy. She knew she must perform, somehow. She no longer cared about herself, she was so tired. She would not be one of those mothers (in Milburn you heard of them, sometimes) who failed to protect their children from harm. She was desperate hoping that Tignor wouldn’t hear Niley pleading Mom-my! She had no clear idea that it had been a man’s fist or that the man who’d struck her was Tignor. She struggled to save herself, panic flooded her veins.She would believe afterward that she had not lost consciousness. She would hide beneath the stairs, she would hide in the cellar. She would crawl into the cistern (the cistern was dry, the gutters and drainpipes of the old house were badly rusted and rainwater could not accumulate) and hug her knees to her chest, she would never testify against him even if he killed her. She would never! She was still in that room. She had endangered her child out of stupidity and carelessness. She was blind, her brain was close to extinction. She could not breathe through her nose, something was broken, blocked. She moved so slowly, so awkwardly, she expected Tignor to wake, and grab her arm. She went to the child, where he lay on the floor. She could barely see him yet knew: he was all right. She whispered to Niley. She had no strength and yet she lifted Niley, staggered beneath his weight carrying him out of the bedroom. She was certain. She could not know. She washed Niley’s face, and her own. She had known for weeks that she would leave him and yet: she had not acted. She could not think where to go that would not be a mistake, a net to capture her and Niley and return them to Tignor. She shared her father’s distrust and dislike of the police. She seemed to know that these men, men so very like Niles Tignor, would sympathize with Tignor, the husband and father. She would carry him out to the car, she would not take time to change his clothes. She would not even force a jacket on him, only just wrap him in a blanket. She had carried him out to the car in the driveway, and placed him gently in the backseat. She returned to the bedroom where Tignor lay on the bed as she’d left him, snoring. She would not have thought herself courageous enough or reckless enough or desperate enough to return to this room of such devastation, that smelled still of her terror, and yet she had no choice. She had listened to him snore, she had listened to his quieter breathing. She had the car keys. She smiled to think so! She would not take time to change her soiled clothes. She was methodical, determined. She would not touch Tignor’s wallet, however, that lay on the floor where he’d dropped it. She tested the tip of the steel with her thumb. She knew from her biology textbook. She did not think she was capable of such a blow. She was aroused, trembling in anticipation and yet: she might miss. She had no choice, she must hurry. She spoke of what their lives were as keeping-going, for now. She laughed, such delicious wisdom. She had this money, these crumpled bills of varying denominations, she might tell herself she’d earned it. She would supplement it by working when necessary: waitress, cleaning woman, chambermaid. She felt no remorse for leaving the child’s father as she’d done. She felt no regret, and no guilt. She did feel fear. She worried more for the child than for herself, that the child’s father would be maddened with the need to reclaim him. She knew, the man would be infuriated by the theft of his car. She laughed, thinking of the man’s rage. She smiled. She touched the scabs at her hairline, that were nearly painless now. She would not speak of Tignor to the child nor would she ever again tolerate the child whimpering and whining after Dad-dy. She laughed, she kissed the anxious child. She would kiss away his fears. She would never call him by that name again. She must re-name the child, that the break with the father would be complete. She had not dared to stop anywhere she and the child might be recognized and so she pushed on, pain-wracked and exhausted. She kissed the child repeatedly, overcome with gratitude that he hadn’t been seriously injured; at least, she didn’t believe he had been seriously injured. She had saved her son, and she had saved herself. She would see that her life, though mauled and shaken as if in the jaws of a great beast, was blessed. She was so very happy. She was inspired. She would abandon the stolen car in Rome, an aging city beyond Oneida Lake of about half the size of Chautauqua Falls. She would leave the car there to confound him, as a riddle. She reversed the course of their flight. She stroked his silky hair, she pressed her cool fingers against his swollen face.She hoped that he wasn’t feverish, she had no time for such foolishness now. She might have been talking to herself. She had to wonder if he was teasing her, that she might become shaken, tearful; and he might comfort her. She smelled his hair pomade. She had never been in such proximity to a Negro man before, and she had never been in a position of needing help from a Negro man before. She could not think what to do. She had several hundred dollars in bills of varying denominations. She would not have to find work for a while, if she was careful with the money. She would find an inexpensive hotel in Port Oriskany, she and Zack would stay the night. She was thinking it had been unwise to come directly to Dr. Hendricks’s office from the bus station. She should have telephoned to see if the doctor was in. She could look up his telephone number in a directory. She must learn from normal people. She believed this. She’d been a deluded young woman living with a man not her husband. She would not have had the courage to leave this man if she had not met Hendricks on the canal towpath. She would not lie to him. She would not claim to be Hazel Jones. She turned, numbly. She groped for the child’s hand. She was thinking hard and yet no thoughts came to her. She looked like a drowned person. She was staring at their battered faces. She thought she had better get accustomed to it. She thanked the receptionist, pulled Zack with her out of the office and shut the door behind her. She slapped his hand away. She didn’t want to summon the elevator operator, the uniformed Negro with the neat narrow mustache and playful-brooding eyes, knowing how he would look at her with pity, too. She would not scold the child. She would never frighten him. She was determined. She took him for a meal before bedtime at an automat on Owego Avenue. She had been so deluded, believing she’d been happy at the time! She was trying to recall if it had been here in Port Oriskany, or in another city, she’d been followed from the hotel by a man in a navy jacket and navy cap. She wondered for the first time what would have happened to her if she had smiled and laughed with the man, allowed herself to be picked up. She wasn’t sure if that had been Port Oriskany, though. She wasn’t, though. She’d swear she was laughing. She would make her own way, she had no need of him. She was in a very good mood. She had slept the sleep of the dead, and so had the child. She’d led him by the hand and helped him open his pajamas, afterward guiding his hand to flush the toilet. She washed his fair fine thin hair and combed out of it the last remaining small snarls of dried blood. She hated it, suddenly. She left the child at the automat instructing him not to move an inch, to wait for her. She’d noticed the beauty salon on their walk the previous night, she’d studied the prices listed in the window. She’d come to hate her thick shapeless hair that was always snarled beneath, couldn’t force a comb through it, oily if it wasn’t shampooed every other day and of course it was not shampooed every other day, not any longer. She would have it cut off, all but a few inches covering her ears. She thought He is playing piano, his fingers are making music for him. She was pretty, she looked nice. She signaled the child to follow her. She laughed and joked with her new friends she would never see again after the bus deposited them at a farm just outside Jamestown. She said, “The world is a card game, see? You can lose but you can win, too.” She was Hazel Jones laughing in the new way, shuffling and dealing cards. She was content. She wished to enroll Zacharias in the elementary school next fall. She had been told she’d been born on a boat from Europe, in New York harbor, her parents had been immigrants from Poland or maybe Hungary but she had not been told which boat, she wasn’t sure when it had crossed, she had seen no record of her birth. She knew Willie had a generous heart. She’d be proud of her brother interceding like he’d done on behalf of Hazel Jones, she’d blab and get them into trouble. She’d made him the father of her son. She walked swiftly, her long legs like scythes. She’d zipped up his jacket in haste. She’d tied a scarf around her head. She walked so quickly and so without hesitation people glanced at her in passing, curious. She’d told him there were a thousand islands in that river. She was leaning eagerly across him to look out the window. She was pointing at something outside the window. She didn’t seem to mean the freight cars. She was pointing at a billboard erected above a giant oil drum. She was saying people had been good to them. She was grateful. She would not forget. She wished that she could believe in God, she would pray to God to reward these people. She meant the birth certificates. She’d begun to complain he was getting so damned independent- minded, and not yet six years old! She’d relented and kissed him for Hazel Jones never scolded her child or scared him without a ticklish wet kiss or two to make everything well again. She was distracted, not listening. She was walking more slowly now. She’d released his hand. She seemed to be sniffing the air, alert and apprehensive. She reached for his hand again, but he eluded her. She didn’t seem to have heard, exactly. She might have been any age between nineteen and twenty-nine. She does, now. She was one whose face is transformed by smiling as by a sudden implosion of light. She was looking even more attractive than she’d looked back in September, her eyes were warmly darkbrown, alert. She was possibly half his age. She had to be very young. She was one who executed her scales dutifully, doggedly; kept to the metronome’s pitiless beat almost perfectly. She could not speak.She arrived early at the piano bar, about 8 p.m. She smiled, to soften her refusal. She did not smoke. She sat watching Gallagher, attentively. She smiled vaguely about her not seeing the frank stares of men and as the waiter approached she looked up at him, appealing. She’d left a thirty-five-cent tip, dimes and nickels. She’d come several times, and departed early. She knew no one in the area. She was some- what secretive but an excellent worker, very reliable. She spoke calmly to them, smiled and eased away to call the manager. She’s been through more. She came to me. She, too, was edgy, nervous. She had never heard the flat nasal vowels, herself. She was so vulnerable, trusting. She saw the ends of scenes hours before she saw the beginnings. She saw the beginnings of movies soon after having seen their dramatic endings. She knew beforehand what actors would say, even as the camera opened upon a “new” scene. She knew when an audience would laugh, though each audience was new and their laughter was spontaneous. She knew what music cues signaled even when she wasn’t watching the screen. She had not liked it when the entire class was instructed to make construction-paper Santa Claus figures and paste silky white fluff on them as “hair” and Zack had been clumsy—purposefully, Miss Humphrey believed—with scissors, paper, glue. She had told the child’s anxious mother that Zack read at the sixth grade level and his math skills were even better but Your son has problems of deportment, attitude. She was taking him into the brightly lighted hotel on the river, the Malin Head Inn, he’d seen only from the exterior when, in warm weather, it seemed long ago they’d gathered the special stones along the beach. She can look this wide world over— She’ll never find a sweet man like me. She had insisted upon the lessons with Mr. Sarrantini. She had told Zack more than once that his fingers would be worth a fortune someday. She hated it, the child was eavesdropping on her. She supposed it was inevitable, it was altogether normal. She tried to speak calmly. She felt a pang of guilt, for deceiving him. She wondered if she would know them. She had not many clothes but understood shrewdly how to vary her “outfits”: a long pleated black wool skirt with a matching bolero top, embroidered in red rosebuds; a long gray flannel skirt with a kick pleat in back, waist cinched in by a black elastic belt; fussily feminine “translucent” blouses; crocheted sweaters with tiny jewels or pearls; tight-fitting dresses made of shiny fabrics. She came to love the distinctive smell of the special brand of lemon polish favored by the Zimmermans, an expensive German import sold in the store. She came to love the smell of real ivory. She was an awkward schoolgirl, twining a strand of hair around her forefinger. She must hurry to him in her high- heeled shoes, allow him to squeeze her hand. She could not hold back. She could not wound him. She felt the subtle coercion. She knew, it was through Gallagher’s connection with Hans Zimmerman that she owed her job here, she must be grateful to Gal- lagher as to the Zimmermans and such gratitude was best expressed by not standing about idly like everyone else. She would spend minutes deftly stacking nickels and dimes into rolls for the bank. She smiled to think how astonished he would be, if he could know! She did remember: the Watertown Plaza Hotel. She was certain. She touched his arm to reassure him. She’d told him a man had hurt her. She’d kissed him and drew away from him telling him she had no wish to be hurt by a man again. She’d gotten through the first night on Grindstone Island and she believed she would get through the second night on Grindstone Island and by that time it would be decided. She’d heard him, in the room adjoining her own, whimpering in his sleep. She had not heard such voices in years. She had not had such a thought in years. She rose from bed shaken, frightened. She’d been brushing her hair in long swift strokes in front of the crook-backed mirror. She was not a mother who raised her hand to her child, nor even her voice. She would be mortified, she could not bear it. She wore neatly pressed gray woollen slacks and a rose-colored woollen sweater with a detachable lace collar. She knew, in his heart he was an adult like Hazel Jones. She snatched his hands in hers. She was proud of him, and anxious for him. She took comfort in hearing him practice piano for at such times she understood that both Hazel Jones and her son Zacharias were in the right place, they had been spared death on the Poor Farm Road for this. She could guess what it had been like, living with Gallagher as his former wife had done for eight years. She spoke as if to a very young child. She pulled a sweater over his head, and combed his hair. She kissed his warm forehead. She and Zack could climb onto the bed in which Gallagher slept . . . She was not one to speak aloud even when safely alone. She did not trust any man, not to enter her body in that way. She’d opened windows to air out the woodsmoke and musty odors. She’d straightened stacks of back issues of Life, Collier’s, Time, Fortune, Reader’s Digest. She was uneasy in situations that threatened to expose her. She was shielding her eyes against the sun-glare, looking out. She was not to be baited by Gallagher. She asked if Mr. McEnnis would be coming back the next day. She was hiking uphill with less effort than he, scarcely short of breath. She was sure-footed, eager. She exuded an air of happiness, well-being. She was sure-footed and exuberant as a young animal that has been penned up. She wore a windbreaker and a girl’s rubber boots and on her head was a fawn-colored fedora she’d found in a closet at the lodge. She began to walk faster as if to elude them. She was ignorant of politics, Gallagher supposed. She had not been educated, hadn’t graduated from high school. She knew little of the world of men, action, history. She knows so little. She will protect me. She was waiting for Gallagher where the trail ended in a snarl of underbrush, in the pine woods. She appeared feverish, still excited. She came at once, docile. She was so damned literal-minded! She would believe him without question. She was blinking rapidly, not looking at him. She is not a virgin, Hazel Jones is not a virgin, I will not be forcing myself upon a virgin, Hazel Jones has a child and has been with a man but now, this Hazel Jones was astonishing to him, gripping him tightly, drawing him to her, deeply into her. She, and the child who was her own purpose. She knew, though she was not his wife and would not be. She spoke hesitantly. She is remembering another man, the man who hurt her. She has lied to me, is that it? She spoke with such pained sincerity, Gallagher could not doubt her word. She’d smiled, and winked so that no one else could see, and Zack had blushed, looking quickly away. She would regain her composure, smiling her polite, wary smile. She had no right to treat him as if he was five years old! She paused, panting. She seemed about to say more, but could not speak. She could hear, at the other end of the line, an intake of breath. She managed to speak, in choked monosyllables. She had to lie down. She was dazed, dizzy as if he’d slapped the side of her head only just a few minutes ago, the ringing in her ear was high-pitched as a deranged cicada. She would call Mrs. Meltzer back, another time. She had no idea what he meant: mysterious? She could not imagine herself in that water, she felt a wave of faintness at the prospect. She saw only her own faint and insubstantial reflection. She saw it, the fleeting shadow. She was stricken by a sudden shyness, reluctant to speak Chet Gallagher’s name in his father’s presence. She spoke evenly, just slightly coquettishly. She smelled his old-man odor, the airless interior of the old stone cottage. She came to assist Peppy as he helped Thaddeus into the pool, at the shallow end: this was a Hazel Jones gesture, spontaneous and friendly. She would pretend she had not heard. She’d gone only to examine a lattice of crimson climber roses, against a cream-colored stucco wall. She shivered but did not pull away. She would not say. She saw in the old man’s face an expression of shock, triumph. She didn’t think so. She promised. She did love him, she supposed. She said, “He seems sad, Chet. A lonely old man fearful of dying.” She held him tight, gravely she intoned, “ ‘My son is a man of integrity, I wish that he would let me love him.’ ” She felt the heat of her lover’s skin, she lay very still against him. She had not expected such a response. She felt a pang of guilt, if Gallagher should know. She threw the letter away, she would not reply to it. She supposed that he would be true to his word, he would not confront her or Zack. She had not given a thought to Byron Hendricks, M.D., for eleven years. She had lived with her family in the country out- side New Falls and had supported herself by “babysitting, waitressing, housecleaning” locally. She was not pretty but “striking”—almost, you might say “exotic.” She must know the full story even if she would not wish to recall it. She would not faint! She would not succumb to fear, panic. Instead, she heard herself laughing. She who lacked an ear for the subtleties of piano interpretation could not have said if the sonata she heard bore a profound or a merely superficial relationship to the recording by Artur Schnabel she’d heard twenty-five years before in the parlor of the old stone cottage in the cemetery. She listened, wondering if the choice of the sonata had been a mistake. She became excited, almost feverish in listening. She could not console him with a kiss, for the shock she’d caused him. She knew. She understood that Zack was defying her, not Gallagher. She felt the sting of that gesture as she felt the sting of the purposefully chosen expletive fucking, she knew it was aimed at her heart. She fled from both the son and the stepfather. She could not bear it, such exposure. As if the very vertebrae of her backbone were exposed! She was not crying when Gallagher came to comfort her. She was deeply grateful to this man, who prized her as the other had not. She did not want to be comforted, really! She’d looked up Schwart in the local telephone directory and called each of the several listings but without success. She began to be anxious as she had not been anxious before the earlier competitions reasoning He is young, he has time for now her son was nearly eighteen, rapidly maturing. She could not bear it, that her gifted son might yet fail. She smiled, they’d been happy then. She saw that his new bifocals were smudged, removed them from his face and deftly polished them on her skirt. She’d tuned to perfection, like one of Zack’s effortlessly executed cadenzas. She did not point out to Gallagher It isn’t your life, it’s Zack’s life. She would speak only lightly, without reproach. She knew, if she even touched him he would recoil from her. She must not stare too hungrily at his young unshaven face. She knew! She was a student at the Conservatory, a cellist. She realized she hadn’t replied. She had even seen the girl with Zack though the two had not been alone together. She’s the one. She’d expected him to be secretive, circumspect. She smiled frequently, her teeth were large and perfectly white, a small charming gap between the two front teeth. She was so animated! She brandished her beautiful cello as if it were a simulacrum of herself: her beautiful female body. She felt a vague fluttery panic, this was happening too quickly. She had a nervous mannerism of wetting her lips, breathing through her mouth. She was assured of being cherished. She heard herself ask if the young people would like something to drink? She had noticed the polished hardwood floor, the scattered carpets, the brightly colored pillows arranged on the window seat, the tall windows overlooking the vividly green back lawn where in wet weather (it was raining now, a fine porous mist) the air glowed as if undersea. She would go away marveling Zack’s mother is so . . . She knew she should leave the young musicians to their practice but another time she heard herself ask if they needed anything from the kitchen and another time they politely declined no.She much preferred the cello to the violin. She went away. She had work to do. She re- turned, lingering in the hall. She was losing him. She had lost him. She really believes it!She could not cry, there was only futility in crying. She could not hear when the girl left. She could not hear if Zack left with her. She knew to keep her distance. She, too, had become strangely happy in San Francisco, in the fog. She would wear black satin pumps with it. She would wear a cream-colored suit in light wool, with a crimson silk scarf, one of Thaddeus Gallagher’s more practical gifts, tied around her neck. She could not help but feel that the little family was headed for an execution and yet: which one of them was to be executed? She’d heard hardly a note of music, she had not wanted to realize how talented her son’s rivals were. She was in a state of suspended panic. She could not breathe, her heart had begun to pound so rapidly. She had told herself repeatedly, Zack could not possibly win in this competition, the honor was in simply qualifying. She knew that he would not, she had absolute faith in him, yet she was in dread of a catastrophe. She was becoming faint, she’d been holding her breath unconsciously. She could not recall what it was, where it was headed. She saw that others in the audience were staring at the pianist, fascinated. She was desperate to hide it, that no one would see. She managed to cover part of her face, with one hand. She opened her eyes that were flooded with tears. She knew. She knew this fact. She was one whose childhood language has been taken from her, no other language can speak the heart. She wouldn’t take time to dress, she was in too great a hurry. She picked it up and placed it in a closet beside its mate. She would not turn the knob, gently: she knew it would be locked. She had a room elsewhere in the hotel and she’d come alone to San Francisco and if she and Zack were alone together in any bed, exhausted now in the aftermath of lovemaking, they would be in her room. She would not think of it. She was no one’s daughter now, and she would be no one’s mother. She would say, You can live your own life now. She’d brought with her, to San Francisco, the most recent of Thaddeus’s letters. She was excited, jubilant. She would take money with her, several twenties from her purse. She would take several items from the mini bar: miniature bottles of whiskey, gin, vodka. She would take the playing cards, dropping them loose in a pocket of her coat. She stepped into the empty corridor. She pushed open the door, and stepped inside. She laughed, they would see that she was in a festive mood and would not send her away. She would not recall how many men there were for at least two continued working, at sinks; another came in later by a rear door, yawning and stretching. She would tell them only her first name which was a name strange to them: “Hazel” pronounced as if it were an exotic foreign word. She’d taken the playing cards out of her pocket and stacked and shuffled them. She knew that her hair was disheveled, her mouth was a cloudy smear of old lipstick. She was so hoping to see her sister again. She did not speak
much afterward to any of us and was often sick. She died in May 1949. She played piano, as a girl. She doesn’t need to love me or even know me or give a thought of me. She was not quite the Amazon-mother of Back From the Dead . . . She was not a kapo but one hoping to cooperate with the Nazis to help her family (of course) & other Jews. She was a good organizer & much trusted but never so strong as the memoir has her. She did not say those cruel things, I have no memory of anything anyone said to me except orders shouted by authorities.