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Choosing Fruit

By William L. Ripley

He hadn't decided suddenly to do it. He imagined things suddenly but very rarely did he decide anything suddenly. It was even more rare for him to do anything suddenly. Of course, Scott reflected, when it was all over, the whole thing had begun long ago like everything.

Perhaps it began in his old man's garden. His old man, he later discovered by reading books, had never been a "real" father to him. His old man should never have become a scientist. He should have remained a farmer. He loved to work the soil and watch things grow. Scott himself didn't care much for the soil, not to work in it anyway. He was scientifically inclined. But since his father was a scientist, he couldn't accept this inclination either. He felt science was pushed on him. So he had done nothing except sit in his father's garden and read. Scott couldn't remember for sure if pumpkins grew in his father's garden. But the garden at least suggested Pumpkins and, it followed, melon breasted cinderellas. Which perhaps is not too important as Scott quickly pointed out to himself. He did love big breasts, to the point of obsession, but we are an oral culture, he pointed out to himself. The point of what happened is the pumpkin.

Mirna didn't say anything when he brought the little plant into their apartment that summer. She just looked him in his twinkling eyes and let him know that she wasn't about to ask why he brought home a potted plant. He placed it on the window sill and gave it a little water. Each afternoon when he came home form work, he watered the plant. Toward the end of August, he removed the plant from the pot and put it in a wash tub. A week later Mirna said,

"It's a pumpkin, Scott."

"A beautiful baby pumpkin, Mirna."

Scott was, by then, visiting a businessman named Nathan once or twice a week regularly. He had met Nathan in late August, in a bar. At that period in his life, Scott was telling everybody the Truth. Eloquently. He was making an effort to quit feeling embarrassed by his intellect, overcome his shyness, and to really help humanity. So when Nathan offered to buy him a beer, Scott smiled brightly and said,

"Certainly."

"I'm not queer, you know," Nathan said. "I just want to talk."

"Fine. We're all a little queer anyway I myself am a flaming vicarious queer. It's the best I can do."

Nathan was aglow. He had just recently decided to get out in the streets and mix with "real" humanity. Right off the bat he gets an honest, seemingly intelligent, vicarious queer. He respected Scott.

"Judging from you hands, I'd say you change tires," said Nathan.

"Judging from your deportment, I'd say you're a wheel," answered Scott.

Nathan lost his heart and found something to live for in one moment. He had someone he could count on being honest with him. He began to talk. Scott liked to listen and talk. Though he could not initiate things, he loved to put up with them. Pain, pleasure or, in this case, boredom. He might be able to help the guy too, he thought.

"So I've done a lot of thinking," Nathan said," "when I wasn't Working. This peaceful center the movement talks about as Nirvana, love, egolessness and ecetera is possibly more than just a pipe dream. In fact I'm sure it is."

"So am I," said Scoot. "Not that the movement will bring it about."

"Exactly. There is a chance that our nervous systems are capable of a euphoric way of integrating life stimuli."

"And death," said Scott.

"Right," said Nathan. "It takes everything the young people talk about--acceptance, giving, doing, you know everything, not just one cliche but a spirit. It's all of them. It's creative thoughtlessness. It's . . . "

"Tautological" offered Scott and Nathan became depressed. "Maybe faith," he added, thinking about New England.

"In what" asked Nathan.

"In nothing," answered Scott. "In a fecund nothingness. Don't be afraid."

"Yeh, not to be afraid," mused Nathan.

Several meetings and similar discussions later, Scott allowed a brooding expression to drift across his delicate features long enough for Nathan to ask what was wrong.

"I've decided to tell you a secret, Nathan," he said. "I'm growing a pumpkin; Perhaps I shall become a farmer. Maybe you can talk with me about my decision. 'I've always had messianic tendencies and, consequently, I need you to reassure me that, by becoming a farmer, I'm not in any way retreating from a beneficial involvement in the destiny of my species. Am I a coward Nathan?"

Nathan's face darkened. He seemed suddenly older. Scott lowered his head in the poignant silence. He spoke into his empty, neon-reflecting beer glass.

"Please don't answer me right now Nathan. Give it some thought. I've thought about it for some time, a long time, until finally thinking has bitten its own tail and I must act. I must do what I feel. I am lost Nathan."

Nathan's ponderous visage came alive.

"You said that nicely, Scott,' he said.

"Thanks old buddy." Nathan motioned for the waitress. Scott was feeling empty. He had meant to say what he said tongue in check. But it hadn't worked. He grew bitter while Nathan talked.

"Scott I think your life as an entirely does more to effect the destiny of your species than any specific thing you do outside yourself. If you are happy being a farmer you will do more good than being an unhappy president. Create happiness, Scott. To create happiness it must have a solid constant foundation in yourself before you can help the species be happy. All else is a confusion and death. Our symbolic means of communication sprang from confusion, not peace. I think symbols often create further chaos. Think of the Neanderthal. Communication by lovely wave-lengths and perhaps, as you mentioned, faith. No fear, no chaos. Perhaps it works that way." His voice trailed off.

"Lost," said Scott. "Nobody is lost anymore. The word has become a casket, a husk, a monument to various pretentions. That is the way with words. It's popular to be lost now."

"See what I mean," said Nathan triumphantly.

Scott's glass was full of neon instead of beer.

* * * * * *

Last Friday was hot. And Mildred, my secretary, was late to work. The dictaphone kept sticking and played anything it recorded back to me backward. "Nathan Sincerely," Sirs Dear:" Not to mention the far east, the gold and uranium rushes, the stabbing by nail of the nine year old boy, and the discovery of a living Neanderthal in the Massachusetts mental hospital "I'm joking of course. I've got it all backwards. The Neanderthal wasn't Neanderthal at all, he was just a brilliant guy. And besides that he didn't live long. He killed himself by swallowing a spoon after convincing one of the doctors that he was, in fact, a Neanderthal. They let him into the dining room because that was the only place big enough to hold all the consultants and interested scientists. There he was able to kill himself. Bright Neanderthal.

But all that side. I should start from the front. Bullets flying, grown men and a lot of boys crying, rain. The under-ground surfacing in the sound of bombs ad applause. Hop scotch on the rocks. Saturday in my air conditioned studio, I spent most of the time in the dark room WROOMB my little girl calls it. Guess what her name is.

In my dark room, I'm piecing together a number of photographs--to make a whole. All the pictures are of my little girls. She is more alive for me in photographs. Maybe that is sick, but I feel more free to look closely at her then. I have more time to look. At times I fall through her eyes and out darkness is no longer divided. Then we live in one great fear which is akin to love. The collection of photographs is an attempt not only to record but to incorporate the seven years of her life. I realize it is a failure. One photograph, when the time is right, is the complete record and the essence, while the collection is a meaningless shamble. Nevertheless I admit I am incapable of staying at the right time, rather I am incapable of maintaining the proper state of mind to absorb the complete record and the essence of each moment, each photograph. And I know other people can't. And I want them to know they can't and that it is possible that they could. I want them to try. So I've decided on this collection made into a whole. It is not the whole itself, I guess, but a simple symbol of the whole need to reach the whole. That is what I'm trying to do. I need symbols, but simpler symbols, maybe to get rid of them altogether some day. Happy day.

In my dark room, at the moment, I'm working on a picture of Joyce in her crib. She was eight or nine months at the time. In this photo, she's an ungodly mess. Been crying. Scratched her own face. Hair matted with tears and sweat. Wet pants. . . . Her eyes are unfathomably deep. Deep as the eyes of a hypocrite who suddenly discovers he must adhere to one of his fronts to survive. Deep as the eyes of a martyr discovering cowardice. Deep as the eyes of a politician turning from an applauding audience and suddenly feeling that only the chair is real. And maybe, at that routine and commonplace moment of rage, she knew something, felt something like the cutting of teeth, like doom., I'm not going to use the eyes in this photo. I'm using the bars of the crib, blown up. I've yet to select a pair of eyes. She was necessarily looking at me in any good picture of her eyes. All I've selected so far are objects, symbols I suppose. The eyes alone would be enough for me, but others must see what I mean. I've thought of superimposing an enormous set of eyes over the whole works. It is the most satisfactory idea I've come up with, yet I feel it is trite. But I can do no better. When I think of other people looking at my work, I tell myself that I dared to be trite. Anyway, once I work, I cease thinking.

A sense of decay has set in. I find it comforting. Crushed civilizations moonsparkle on breezy nights. Below the waters of forgetfulness run waters of blue and turquoise depending on the light. I found a photo of Joyce siting in a corner with her knees tucked beneath her chin. She's looking at me accusingly. She's not sure what the camera means, and neither am I. I can only explain how it works.

My wife interrupted me twice in my darkroom Saturday. Both interruptions were due to phone calls. As I walked with her sown the hall to the living room, I noticed her palor. The excess of flesh creeping beneath the clothes she wears. I imagined how her feet felt in her shoes. The call was from an associate agency. They think I'm on to something since. I'm not at the office on weekends anymore.

"Aha!", I said, and hung up.

The second call was the same thing. But it gave me another look at my wife. She and Mildred, my secretary, remind me or each other, despite their difference in age. So I guess the sex drive, mine that is, is waning.

* * * * * *

A gay, yellowish light shone through the closed drapes. The room was a mess. Outside the traffic had its finest hour. The dirty snow festooned the gutters running harmoniously in the dripping dirty water. The quite sound of water filled the room. Pale yellowish toes protruded from the end of the bed, from beneath a tattered blanket. Not that Scott was tall. He had just inched his way down the bed. He wanted to dabble his feet in the sound of running water.

Earlier in darkest night, when the voices vanished, he had crept from the bed. Visions fell from him and hovered where he had lain, buzzing softly next to Mirna. He felt tremendously alone as he tiptoed to the window. Here he practiced ego loss. The yellow street lit luminescence of the drapes sucked his face in and he looked out. A bear drove by in a station wagon. A great big bear's smile left a trial of light. We're in a city, he thought. Us, the walls, the bear, the streets. Our poorly schooled soul looking through the drapes is encased in a cadaverous face. The eyes of the face have no significance save their cheerful twinkle, winkle one night. Out smile is friendly and wolfish. Our teeth nash concepts. The eaten letters are sparkling bits of dirty ice. We don't feel so all alone. Our's is simply the change of space. The place is the same. He saw himself across the street and waved suddenly, remembering that he was not alone. He waved at some bleating sheep folding their fleece in a mauve halo above the city. His arm disappeared. So did he.

Into fecund Nothingness, he thought. If you are bitter about nothing then you are into something. Stop thinking now, he told himself. We have the feeling that such thoughts as these, unless we move quickly, isolate us. He couldn't see himself across the street anymore.

He seemed as though you imagined him, turning from the drapes and walking across the room. He seemed that, if you didn't concentrate and pay attention, he might vanish. He had very thin bones.

He dabbled his toes in the air and stretched. Scott made a noise when he yawned.

What do you want for breakfast?", Mirna asked.

"Enchiladas."

"You want enchiladas?"

"Yes Don't you?"

"I probably will after I make them."

She stood up and walked naked through the messy room out of the door. She made enchiladas. Soon Scott walked into the kitchen.

"Doesn't it bother you? All those people getting killed?" she asked handing him the enchiladas.

"When I think about it." He dug his fork into the enchiladas.

"You don't think you ought to think about it?"

He was chewing intently, hungrily.

"After all," she continued, "it could effect you, you know, the world.

"It would effect me more to consort with everyone who agreed with me and picket everyone who didn't."

"Everyone's too damn stupid for you, aren't they?"

"Right."

"You're nice."

"I am."

"Aren't you ever going to do anything?"

"Yes."

"But nothing that has anything to do with the world?"

"If it wants it it can have it. It might not be good for it."

"I want it."

"Maybe you should get in the bath tub." She turned to leave.

"Let's take the enchiladas," he said.

"Next we'll be taking your books and someone for you to talk to."

They made love in the bath tub.

Monday he want to work. He changed tires. His hands were long and thin boned and they were growing beautiful with the manual work. He envisioned them grasping the quick marble thighs of girls passing down the street. That's where I live, he thought. I live in visions. Each time he actually confronted a new girl he tangled with her mind and initiate no communion with her body. He preferred to explain concepts of the totality and resurrective powers of love, but there was a hole in the middle of his talk. The whole consisted of their talking bodies. He shook his head in disappointment at himself. I live in visions, he repeated to himself. But it is laborious and equally risky living elsewhere.

* * * * * *

Mirna, Scott and Nathan sat in the bar at a table. Scott looked as though he might disappear.

"Quit doing that," insisted Nathan. Scott's disappearance took his mind off his photographs,. And so did Mirna chewing pretzels. He wanted to get across to them the idea of his whole. Scott, he knew, was sparing his feelings. He knew Scott thought the whole idea amateurish.

"You're going to fall right through your whole," Scott one told him.

Nathan looked for a long silent time into Mirna's eyes. Then he too picked up a pretzel.

"But isn't the important thing that we all love each other?" he asked after a while. Scott winked.

"Good luck," said Mirna.

"O", Nathan responded. "You mean my wife. I love her too."

"Isn't if fun," said Mirna.

"Lay low," Scott interjected. "More beer anyone?"

Nobody wanted more beer. They walked outside. Autumn slithered from the sky and along the sidewalks. It was warm. The three walked into a park and sat on a bench with the pigeons. Mirna studied Nathan's profile.

"You didn't seem that old," she said and turned to look into golden depth. Nathan hadn't noticed she was talking to him. After a while he spoke.

"Who?"

"You," she said.

"Mirna doesn't think you look all that old, Nathan," emphasized Scott.

"Would you two quit it," Nathan said standing up in a flurry of pigeons. "I'm not old. I'm just successful in some ways. You don't have to act like snobs just because I made a little money, married a little money, an spent a little money. Now I don't need money. I'm stable and have time to do what I want."

"Very stable," Mirna laughed.

"And he wants a whole," said Scott.

"His own daughter's," she said.

Nathan was walking away. Mirna and Scott felt the distance grown.

It was a beautiful day.

* * * * * *

"I've put on some new underwear, Mirna."

"Tell it to the pumpkin," she said.

"Big smoldering pumpkin, Scott has got him on some new underwear."

"Scott?"

"Mirna?"

"Why do we keep seeing Nathan. He depresses us a little."

He doesn't depress me as much as he used to."

"Me neither. But why get depressed at all?"

"Do you mean you're never depressed expect around him?"

"Forget it," she said.

"Tell it to the pumpkin," Scott said. "He can't remember."

"You mean clean undewear, anyway," she said. "Not new."

* * * * * *

October is a deathly month. The moon is pumpkin sized and vibrant. In a tiny room in Boston, on a night as black as Boston's sooty buildings, Scott lay beneath the blankets and watched the ceiling change color to the rhythm of Mirna's peaceful breathing. A man ran across a graveyard beneath a moon which changed into his mother's smiling face. The graveyard was full of rows of white crosses which pulled backwards beneath the running man's feet so that he made no progress. But he kept running. The moon kept smiling. Scott thought the moon, perhaps, made his mother force his father into science. She taught us to apologize for him. The crosses whirred by. The father ran in the opposite direction all the time though he did everything his family told him to. The scene vanished. I made the scene, reflected Scott.

Now above some high white tombstones loomed the pumpkin. Scott had nurtured the pumpkin from a seedling to its present ripe state. You are a grown up pumpkin, to told it. Scott wove his way through the tombstones, across the messy room, and came to his pumpkin. He stroked it. He murmured to it.

"Pumpkin are you ready? You are my first step into a new life. Perhaps I'll reach the cross alive, not dead. You will take me out of my dreams so that I might live them. But I must tell you something first, I have lied to someone about you. I mentioned farming. Silly, I know, but I through the guy had some similar drop out in mind and I brought it up to make him feel good. But I started feeling lousy. I was a bum, Pumpkin. And I had to tell you before it is accomplished."

Scott was naked. His moving body might have passed for very light drapes whipping in a slow wind. then everything grew dark as the moon passed behind a thick layer of clouds. Mirna sat up in bed.

"Is it time, Scott?"

"Yes," Scott's voice came softly across the darkness.

"Don't you think you should tell Nathan?"

No one spoke for a long time. then Scott walked back to the bed.

"You're right," he said. "We should ask him over."

* * * * * *

Nathan's wife walked into the office and Mildred mistyped.

"Mrs. Markin," said Mildred. "I haven't seen you for such a long time. Nathan's out for a few minutes, please sit down."

"Thank you." Mrs. Markin sat down in a sky blue, high backed chair. "I see Nathan has hung some new pictures."

"Yes. He says he's now financially independent enough to afford his own state in art instead of his customers.'"

"I see" said Mrs. Markin, studying the shinning poised face, which spoke to her from behind the desk. Mrs. Markin was wondering if Mildred was wondering if the formal reception of the boss's wife betrayed an uneasiness about the boss's wife's presence. I'm not, after all, another businessman, though Mrs. Markin. She envisioned Mildred in a floor length, soft pink night gown. Did the same poised, shining face which looked across the desk, look up that way from a pillow? "O Mr. Markin," would it say, "You've not come like that in such a long time. You better rest now. Here, take this breast." Mrs. Markin smiled politely in the silence and let her eyes drift from the secretary to the painting on the paneled wall. She heard the typing start again.

This is the wonderful thing about being a secretary, thought Mildred. Typing and copying, copying and typing, you look totally intent on your work yet it is all mechanical. Your mind is free, perhaps even freer because it is chained to the mechanical process and cannot emote idly. Just the thinking part is left open. You get to think about your boss's wife thinking about you. Naturally she's convinced that you fuck him to death. But she won't ask you. You can't come right out and say he's tried but he hasn't tried hard enough. You have to live with the silent assumption that you fuck him and you have to pretend you're both making the best of it. Her greatest fear is that it is love making instead of fucking. She figures any animal must fuck, so he's tolerated for that. It is making love he gets hated for. And Nathan, or course, does neither. What he does is take you out to lunch and drink. What he does is tell you what an excellent secretary you are. What he does is tell you that you are beautiful, and you grow more beautiful after each drink. He speakers idealistically. He worries about particulars. Did you get your car fixed? How in your mother? Then you go back to the office. You copy and type, type and copy. You go home at five. Your listen to Beethoven. Does he really listen to Beethoven? Do you? Do you? Do you?

I walked into the office and Mildred was typing and my wife we listening. The new paintings jumped off the wall at me because my wife was there. I was gone longer than I had expected because I met the son of a friend of mine. The boy had just returned from the war, and I asked him to have a drink with me. One would expect he wouldn't want to had been in combat. One would expect he wouldn't want to talk about it, so I told myself, before asking him, that I wouldn't bring up the war. Yet of course that was why I wanted to talk to him. He was drafted upon graduating from high school, by his won choice he said. He could have gone to college and been deferred. The war, however, was the only thing he could get his teeth into. In a way, he said, it made sense. Next to high school football, the war was all we had to talk about. I was surprised at how healthy he seemed, and how little effected he seemed by the holocaust in which he had been a living part. No deeply anguished eyes. No haunted expressions. No nothing. He had accepted it and I haven't. So essentially, it was war adventures that kept my wife waiting. Waiting placidly.

"Hello dear," she said.

"What a surprise, been waiting long?"

More than a few minutes. Mildred said you'd be gone only a few minutes dear."

"That's what I told her. But I rain into Marv Johnson's son."

"O how nice. I thought he got killed."

"No you must be thinking of someone else."

"I guess I am. Do you have a few minutes?"

"Certainly. Let's go back to my office. We can have a cup of coffee."

The paintings drifted into memory as we walk down the short hallway. She sat facing me with her back to the only painting in the room. I poured her some coffee.

"I came down to ask you about the dress," she said. She was wearing a new dress. I knew she didn't come down for that.

"I like it. The color suits you."

"Good I guess I'll buy it then."

We continued to chat mechanically. I've learned how to do that with her. I can think about things. Johnson's boy said his patrol caught a young Vietnamese girl smuggling information in a bamboo shoot inserted in her vagina. She was on the way to the Viet Cong. Gooks he calls them. The Gooks had just murdered some Christian missionaries, so there was considerable ill feeling at the time. His patrol raped the girl. Then they have some guy shove an M-16 up her vagina and keep his finger on the trigger. My wife works for planned parenthood on Thursday afternoons. So soon she said she must be going.

"I do like that dress dear." I told her as she left. She's a good wife. The phone range.

* * * * * *

Scott gave Nathan a call at work, the day before he almost began his new life with the pumpkin. Had it not been for Mirna, he might have ruined his relationship with Nathan. He would have had to tell Nathan he had lied to him about farming, for there would be no more pumpkin. Now he could simply say he changed his mind, which in a weak sort of way was true. He could say he uncovered a string of truths about his relationship with the pumpkin and his father. At any rate his relationship with the pumpkin and his father. At any rate

"Hello."

"Come over tonight Nathan. You've got to see this. I've discovered something."

"What is it Scott?"

"The pumpkin."

"Ah. The pumpkin."

"About 8:30."

"See you then."

Nathan put down the phone and looked out his office window. The sky was bright blue.

Several seconds passed before his voice penetrated the chatter of the typewriter. When Mildred looked up, she was looking into Nathan's serious eyes. Now, she though.

"Mildred, I think you'd be interested in meeting some friends of mine."

The windows were rolled up. The air conditioner hummed. Otherwise no sound broke the silence as Mildred and Nathan drove through the city in the night. Nathan had had several drinks. Mildred had been drinking since five. The neon went past.

"A sense of decay has set in," said Nathan., "I find it comforting. Crushed civilizations moonsparkle on breezy nights. Below the waters of forgetfulness run waters of blue and green and turquoise, depending on the light."

Passing neon changed Mildred's face. She smiled.

"Poo Poo," she said very quietly.

They arrived at Scott's apartment.

"Here?" she asked.

"Here," Nathan said.

"Poo Poo," said Mildred quietly.

Scott came to the door. He liked the way Mildred looked, rather soused, and he greeted Nathan warmly. He guided them into the living room and told them that Mirna was fixing bourbon and water since that was all they had. The pumpkin sat in its wash tub in the middle of the room. Nathan and Mildred sat on the couch.

"Bourbon and water are great," said Mildred.

"Great," said Scott. She had large breasts, he noticed, but she was wearing a bra. She enjoyed being looked at, he could tell, yet he was embarrassed looking at her.

"I'll go help Mirna with the drinks," he said. "There's the pumpkin Nathan."

"The pumpkin," replied Nathan.

Scott left the couple alone in the living room. Mildred thought what the hell and leaned her head on Nathan's shoulder. Nathan was frightened, and placed his arm around her as if to comfort rather than caress.

"Have I told you about my collection of photographs?" he asked.

"No," she said.

"I'm trying to incorporate the experiences of seven relatively innocent years into a whole." He waited for a response, but received none except that now he felt her slow pulse in her neck against his shoulder. "I've got a lot of pictures of my little girl and I'm mixing them all up you see." He found that he tensed at the mention of his daughter, not she. "One picture is good enough for me, your see. So I guess I'm really not doing it for myself. I'm trying to communicate my sense of the whole, because I think it would offer solutions to many problems in the world see. Everything feels peaceful at times, and yet still functional. Why can't it be like that all the time I ask myself." Her pulse was slow and sleepy against his shoulder. Scott and Mirna walked in with some drinks. Scott introduced Mirna to Mildred. Mirna sat down by Mildred on the couch and Scott sat in a chair by the pumpkin. Nathan was relieved and anxious to talk to Scott.

"What about the pumpkin old buddy?" he asked. Scott blushed and looked as though he might not speak. Then he said,

"Well, it's a long story. Perhaps it dates back, as I have said, to my father and it is entwined in my relationship with you. The come-up--ance of the whole thing is that I'm going to fuck it."

"You are definitely giving up the idea of farming?" asked Nathan.

"That is not really what I meant, though I have slowly giving up the idea for a long time. The process has been deep, unconscious you might say, and I couldn't talk about it. What I mean is that I'm going to fuck it."

"Everything you mean?" asked Nathan sitting happily on the edge of the couch. He was happy Mildred could hear him converse in simple earthy language about important things, "You mean you are just going to quit worrying about everything and say fuck it. Fuck the works. I see."

By now Mildred was leaning on the edge of the couch herself. She watched Scott intently. Mirna had an aloof, slightly contemptuous look on her face which she directed at Scott. Scott looked subdued and in pain.

"Yes. In a way I'm saying fuck the works, my works. Fuck the things that have hung me up. I'm going to beat them, beat myself sort of. Something must be done. You know that. And I don't know how to tell you this Nathan. I've sort of out you on I guess, unintentionally. I feel bad." Scott felt terrible; he wished he could disappear. "In short, Nathan, I'm going to fuck the pumpkin."

"Come one," said Nathan, half mystified, half ready to laugh, and fully unconscious of Mildred's presence for a moment. "Come on now. What do you mean?"

Mildred took a drink and continued staring in fascination at Scott. Mirna continued looking at him coldly.

"I mean," said Scott, "that I'm a coward, and I have always though that I could get round it by admitting I was a coward. But I can't. I've spent most of my life reading and imagining and talking. This makes me as happy and as sick as most other people are who do their things. But something is pushing me on, or away. I'm getting out of my book bag."

"Yeh," Mirna said a if from a great distance, "He thinks fucking this pumpkin will help. You're really sickening sometimes Scott."

"I know it Mirna, "Scott looked like he might disappear. "But this is the first pitiful step. Something must be done. You know that." He started into bourbon and water. Mildred took a drink. Nathan leaned back in the couch. A brooding expression came across his face and did not leave. Then there was a long silence while Scott stared into bourbon and water and Mirna's face slowly softened.

Later Scott stood up and was at the record player. Some records were put on. Nathan was still silent; he stared at the drapes across the window. Mirna and Mildred sat quietly side by side, their arms touching, and they talked occasionally.

Nathan came almost immediately when he entered Mildred on the couch. She said it didn't matter and that next time would be better. So her rested his head against her breast and she gave herself up the effects of the drinks and the restless darkness.

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