Editor’s Note: By way of an introduction, we’ve included two previously unpublished stories by Diane Williams, ‘Beauty, Love and Vanity Itself’ and ‘Velvety’.
Beauty, Love and Vanity Itself
As usual I’d hung myself with snappy necklaces, but otherwise had given my appearance no further thought, even though I anticipated the love of a dark person who will be my source of prosperity and emotional pleasure.
Mr. Morton arrived about seven p.m. and I said, ‘I owe you an explanation.’
‘Excellent,’ he replied. But when my little explanation was completed, he refused the meal I offered, saying, ‘You probably don’t like the way I drink my soda or how I eat olives with my fingers, do you?’
I only wish I could be so smooth.
He exited at a good clip and nothing further developed from that affiliation.
I remain prayerful – Praise be to Thee, Praise be to Thou. Nothing fancy.
Understand I am not that needy, but I am greedy and it would be snobbish to refuse anything. Even a polite refusal might be viewed as ungrateful, for example: ‘I just don’t think he will make me happy’ or ‘I must decline this type of jam because it contains high fructose corn syrup.’
The real thing did come along. Bob – Tom spent several days in June with me. He always said, ‘How do we do?’ when I met him and as so often happens in life, I also kept up with books and magazines and went along the funny path pursuing my vocation.
I also went outside to enjoy the fragrant odour in an Illinois town and went along the thoroughfare that swerved near the fence where yellow roses on a tawny background faded out at the end of the season.
I never thought a big cloud hanging in the air would be crooked, but it was up there – grey and deranged.
The fence was making the most of its colonial post caps, patterns of diagonals and its big swaying, double-walk gate.
I should go whole hog, I thought to myself, and go through the wide entryway quickly.
And isn’t looking into the near distance sometimes so quaint? — as if I am re-embarking on my large number of love affairs, recurrent jealousies, an occupational change, legal action — or I am right back consuming again last night’s hash.
For the rest of the time I was poolside at The Marriott Courtyard, wearing what others may laugh at — the knee-length black swimsuit and the black canvas shoes — but I don’t have actual belly fat, that’s just my stomach muscles gone slack.
I saw three women go into the pool and when they got to the rope, they kept on walking. One woman disappeared. The other two flapped their hands.
‘They don’t know what the rope is,’ the lifeguard said. ‘I mean everybody knows what a rope means.’
I said, ‘Why didn’t you tell them?’ and he said, ‘I don’t speak Chinese.’
I said, ‘They are drowning’ and the lifeguard said, ‘You know I think you’re right.’
More needs to be said. Let me tell you where all eyes and minds are for the moment on the surface.
For my part I would let that alone and how relieved I was. I am.
She carried her own bundle of food into the dull outside and she knew she’d find him by a tree.
A man said, ‘Why are you here?’ and she greeted Caspar.
Her own shabby experiment was to touch Caspar, much like deciding what to put between her two pieces of bread. She never gave it enough thought.
‘Don’t touch me!’ he shouted. ‘You must be crazy! Are you crazy?’
For the readjustment – for the supposititious resuscitation – but that is crazy! Supposititious! It is too crazy a word!
For she had intended to keep – to meet up with Caspar in the parkland, near the pair of trees, to come to a reconciliation by degrees, to express the long way to go.
She had carried her own picnic fixings – the rolled and the ribbon sandwiches – and she had found Caspar as predicted, chatting with his friends beneath the hornbeams.
He had such nice flesh – Caspar. His pupils were dilated and a man named Arthur had taken her arm, turned her around, and patted her on the head.
She and Caspar, what a bond they had had! – plenty of everything had come of it, including a temper for him that was even more violent than hers.
How she came again to the flame of Caspar’s candle and perched unevenly on its burning wick – this was another day’s discovery. She found him in Big Y Foods – with his jar of Reese Jellied Mint Sauce and the vanilla extract.
Her own new brand of experiment was to do something else of consequence about him.
The light outside was still poor – and the darkness had begun falling in one-layer thin sheets out in the street.
This time Caspar had a please-come-back-to-me shirt on and a you’re-my-favourite-person pair of trousers. Such friendly messages were also abundant in the eye frames and in his footwear.
She picked up a cauliflower, but she did not say a word to Caspar, who turned away.
A drawback. But Caspar had been deliberating over the potatoes and handed one over to her. He said, ‘Here. You’ll need this much more than I do.’
This was a ruby crescent – a low-starch sort – with rose-coloured skin, a slender shape, distinct eyes and a certain melts-in-your-mouth capacity. She had put herself forward, taken all her licks, that is – the risks and she has been voluptuously deserted.
And, she has gone on researching one way and yet another to keep on upending the dilemma of the end of her love story.