From “A Hot Day in Paris”
by Christopher Adamson
Klaus and I step off the sightseeing boat at the dock on the Quai Anatole France and then cross the Pont Solférino under the blazing sun, the river below giving off a nitrous vapor. It’s not much cooler in the Jardin des Tuileries where elderly men wearing blue blazers have laid claim to the few benches that are in shade. I don’t speak German and Klaus speaks French ten times better than I speak English. So we converse in French. Except we’ve hardly said a word to each other this morning.
It’s now a few minutes past noon and we’re on our way to the air-conditioned Pompidou Center. Sweat collects between my breasts and trickles down my sides. It’s been the constant factor in our romance so far, our bodies soaked in it when we met on the dance floor in Knightsbridge…then later that night…and ever since during our epic sessions of lovemaking. Klaus seems to be at ease only when we’re in bed. He looks at me sweetly then. The visor of his Teutonic armor lifted, the iciness gone from those gray-blue eyes of his.
At Châtelet, almost there, I tell him I really don’t feel like seeing any of the modern art in the Pompidou. The truth is I’m suddenly exhausted and need to lie down. I suggest he go on alone. It’ll cool him down. But he insists on coming back with me to our un-air-conditioned hotel room on Rue Jacob in the sixth arrondissement. A twenty-minute walk from here.
The white-hot sun has heated the facades of the buildings on the Île de la Cité to the point you can’t touch them for longer than a second. Two uniformed gendarmes stand smoking in the shade of the arched passageway leading to the bright cobblestone courtyard of the Prefecture de Police. The monumental chestnut trees along the Boulevard du Palais are withering; the sidewalk is littered with shriveled brown leaves as if it were autumn. It’s much too hot to hold hands. Too hot even for the hippies and voyous who usually congregate on the banks of the Seine below the Pont St. Michel. As for the voyeurs who stare at the young women crossing the bridge, they’re out of luck, for there are virtually no passersby.
People who haven’t left the city are living behind closed shutters. The beggars and gypsies are nowhere to be seen, and no students brush past one another on the lower half of Boulevard St. Michel, though the sidewalk trash containers are overflowing with beignet wrappers and plastic bottles from last night. The cafés around Place St. André des Arts are deserted, the waiters in white aprons standing around like undertakers’ apprentices. No sudsy water from the mops of shopkeepers runs in the gutters, for the mayor has issued a plea to conserve water. At the Carrefour de Buci, a panting poodle, discomfited by the heat, seeks out a canopy of shade to do its business. Not a day to be dressed in curly white wool, I think, noticing that the skin beneath the poodle’s coat is bright pink.
Klaus’s cheeks are reddened; sweat puddles and glistens on the back of his bull neck. His eyes are hidden behind large wraparound sunglasses that make him look like an extraterrestrial being. But his passions are of this world—politics and football. Munich, the team he roots for, is playing an important match against Barcelona in Turin at five o’clock. There’s no television in our hotel room. But we can always find a sports café where the game will be televised. If it’s important for him to watch, I’ll go along. Why not? My mind wanders easily. I can always tune out. Which reminds me: I must be more careful with Mariana and David in Hyde Park, make sure I don’t lose track of what they’re up to.
The heat wave has drained the soul of the city. Reminding us of our frailty, slowing the flow of blood through our swollen capillaries. You can see it in the eyes of the unfortunates who must work today, a kind of vacancy that’s partly due to being overheated and partly feigned, a way of staving off hysteria. The retail shops are closed except for those that cater to the tourist trade. A few elderly vendors of antiques, costume jewelry, prints and rare books are open for business, but they seem to have lost the taste for making money; in their darkened establishments, they sit slumped behind desks and stare out into space, remembering how things used to be, or perhaps calculating how much time they have left to live.
At the Crédit Lyonnais opposite the Mabillon métro stop, Klaus withdraws money from a bank machine. Does he do it on purpose to make me feel badly? He’s paid for everything so far—the hotel, our meals, the Eiffel Tower, our excursion this morning on the Seine. His pockets are full of fifty- and hundred-franc notes. Well, Klaus is a software engineer, handsomely paid for his work, whereas I’m a…what?…an au pair who’s used up her savings to pay for the plane ticket from London. At the age of twenty-three, I spend nearly all my time with two American children aged five and three, bathing and dressing them, wiping their noses, washing their clothes, making their beds, putting away their toys, taking them for walks in Hyde Park and making them snacks. French nannies are popular in London at the moment but the Conways could replace me with one quick call to the agency.
Now and then Klaus gazes (surreptitiously he thinks) at the pretty, lifelike mannequins in the windows of the chic clothing stores along Boulevard St. Germain. Last night, after an expensive dinner at the Closerie des Lilas, he took me to a nightclub on Rue de la Huchette where an Italian rock band was playing. In between sets, we danced to Huey Lewis and the News (an American group that’s all the rage in Paris these days). As long as the music has a beat, Klaus just has to get up on the dance floor and shake, shake, shake his booty—it’s an American word, his rear end, he means. His eye was wandering last night, I could tell. Well, what of it? My eye wanders too. There’s a field near the Serpentine in Hyde Park where young men play football in the late afternoon. In shorts and bright jerseys, the players are a colorful sight, their laughter and British banter infectious. The children and I often stop to watch for a while. I find myself looking greedily at their muscular legs.
I know why Klaus decided not to go to the Pompidou alone. He wants to make love…it’s all we seem to do. But it’s time to think of more serious things. It’s been fourteen months; long enough, I’m coming to think. It was in May of last year we met; we’ve known a summer, an autumn, a winter, a springtime and now another summer. This is the first time we’ve gotten together where we can really relax. Until now, Klaus has come to London…our trysts have necessitated sneaking behind the backs of my employers. They’d fire me in an instant if they knew that shortly after midnight (by then their lights have been out almost an hour) I creep out of the apartment and take the stairs (not the lift) down to the ground floor and out to the street. Klaus leaves his hiding place among the lilac bushes in the middle of Cadogan Square. Usually we’re too aroused to catch up over a drink in one of the clubs on the King’s Road. So we hail a taxi in Sloane Street and go immediately to his musty, low-ceilinged hotel room in Earl’s Court….
From “The Dark Is Light Enough” by Gloria Vanderbilt
Faraway, Two (2006)
Carol and Her Rose Garden (2004)
Snow (Girl in Red) (1998)
“Where Babies Come From”
by Albert Goldbarth
—that was the book
my parents' generation slyly placed around
the house as if by accident: maybe it would do
the embarrassing job. It didn't;
its Euclidean cutaways couldn't have demystified
a handshake. Anyway, even that young, I
understood how bogus was its offered logic: men enter
women; children come forth; they mature to the point
where men enter women. Talk about
"circular reasoning"! What about the thrumming yearn
of god for swan? of dinosaur for dinosaur?
of protein infrastructure for the zing of loose electrolytes
in the origin-water? of element for element
in the irradiant love in the hearts of the stars in the ever-promiseful heavens?
Sometimes I wake, my wife is beside me
generating the small sleep-sounds of keeping on
unbroken through the break between two days.
If I look long enough, of course—until that earliest
preamble of the sun's—she starts to clarify
as a shape, as if the darkness is giving her
back to the world. Soon, she's less a cipher
and more of a plain true thing. And even so,
for a second every now and then, her shape blurs,
like a figure in a watercolor
overdamped—or like the way a drawing
might indicate speed. The same when she
looks at me. That's right: because
we come from somewhere, and we're going somewhere,
at slightly mismatched velocities.
At the Children's Museum, the walkthrough gawkers
see a working thunderstorm in the "weather chamber"
accrue its full malevolence; they slide
on soft toboggan-disks (as "red cells") through
the chutes of a human's cardiovascular system;
they electro-intertext with a robot family.
For the coddled urban especially, there's
a simulated farmstead, where a sim-cow
can be milked, a sim-wheatfield sown
and harvested in seven minutes of sim-time;
plus a room where hen's eggs—real eggs,
shipped daily—are being candled by hand:
rows of tiny astronauts
who have come to Earth from so far.
by Peter Maloney
Characters: Cassie Jessup
Place: Abu Ghraib prison, Iraq
Time: October 2003
An open area between rows of cells in a prison in Iraq. Industrial lights hang from the ceiling. Electrical wires hang down. In a corner of the space, file boxes broken open, files spilling onto the floor. Old metal office furniture scattered about, a desk on which sits a computer monitor and keyboard. A swivel chair. An armless desk chair, upturned on the floor. STAGE RIGHT, two metal buckets full of water.
In the dark, SOUND of iron doors slamming shut. Echo of men shouting in Arabic. SOUND of dogs barking somewhere in the distance. In very dim light, a figure is pulled to CENTER STAGE from UP RIGHT by a strap stretching off DOWN LEFT at floor level.
CASSIE: MOTHERFUCKER! Hey! Get back here, you!
SLAM. LIGHTS UP on CASSIE JESSUP, holding with one hand what we now realize is the end of a long nylon leash. In her other hand she holds a baseball. She jerks the leash, the pulling stops. She looks at us.
'Scuse my french.
Cassie is in her twenties. Southern. Cute, in a kind of dirty way. Sweating. Hair cut short, like a boy's. She wears US Army fatigue pants in a camouflage pattern and an olive-drab tee-shirt. Combat boots. Cassie smiles and there is a bright flash, as if someone has just taken her picture.
First thing is, you gotta show ’em who's boss. With a dog like this one… An’ he's a big dog… Aren't you? Yes you are, you're my big boy. With a dog big as this one, you got to let him know you're in control. At all times. He may be bigger'n me, but he knows who's in charge. Don't you boy? Hey, hey, HEY!
The leash tightens and she is pulled off balance. With both hands she pulls the leash until she is once again CENTER.
That's why it's important you got the right leash. Thisn's nylon web. Tie-down strap I found on Tier 2. Leather makes a good leash. It's got some give to it. Canvas is good. You can throw canvas in the washer when it gets all slobbery and disgustin'. Now, some folks like a chain, but a chain is heavy. Big dog, pullin' you this way an' that, you gotta ask do you want to add to the weight by using a heavy chain as a leash?
Then there's your collar. Before you choose your collar, you gotta think about what you're tryin' to do. The purpose of the collar is to what? To guide your dog. And when you got to, to check your dog.
She jerks on the leash.
Like that. That's called abstention training. Make your dog stop doin' somethin' he wants to do but you don't want him to. Like a bitch snaps at her nursin' pup, he bites down on her teat too hard.
She jerks on the leash.
That's a check. Hey! Fetch!
She tosses the baseball once into the air, catches it, then pitches it OFFSTAGE in the direction of her captive. Waits.
You don't wanta fetch?
I had this dog one time? Clyde? He was a mutt. All my dogs're mutts. Pure-breds're too high-strung. Clyde only had three legs. He was cool, though. Only thing is, he didn't like blacks.
I had this one friend. Jewel? Well, Jewel couldn't come into my yard at all without Clyde goin' ballistic. Barkin', snarlin', just about pullin' the back porch off the house. We kept him chained to that wrought-iron trellis deal Tommy made for Mama. 'Course Mama wouldn't let Jewel come in the house. An' Daddy didn't want me goin' to Jewel's house. So I didn't see too much of Jewel. Hey, what're you doin'? Fucker!
She grabs the leash with both hands, pulls hard.
Gotta nip that kind of behavior right in the bud.
Lot of folks say you gotta be friends with your dog, that punishment'll backfire on you. But I've had lots of dogs and in my experience it don't hurt for him to be a little bit afraid of you. I mean, come on, who's the boss, you or him? Listen, discipline is not cruelty. That's my opinion.
There's a place and a time for everything. Isn't there, Abdul? And this is not the place for you to do your business. Place stinks to high heaven already from all you dogs. What the heck would it be like if we let you make a mess wherever you wanted? Right? That's right!
See, animals respond to routine, and one of the first things you gotta do is let your dog know where's the right place and where's the wrong place for him to do his business.
An' we take you to the latrine, and what do you do? You refuse to go. An' then what? We take you back to your crate and you make a mess and then we have to clean it up and we get upset, don't we? Or we don't clean it up, and you get upset. Either way, one of us gets upset, and we don't want that, now do we?
The leash has gone limp. She turns to shout over her shoulder.
Orin! He's smoked! He's tuckered out! And so am I! I think he’s gone asleep! Or else he's dead.
She looks OFF LEFT.