D. E. Fredd
Castleton High was devastated. Principal Collins felt it hit closer
to home than September 11 or the space shuttle Columbia’s
break up. Mrs. Burchstedt had been at the school since her student
teaching days while attending North Dakota State. Before her tragic
death at thirty-eight, she had been a part of the school and the
Central North Dakota community for over seventeen years. Several
young women who had been in Jodi’s physical education or
hygiene classes were now mothers themselves. The athletes on her
soccer, softball and volleyball teams revered her.
If there was a positive side to her death, it was that the spread
of her pancreatic cancer was extraordinarily quick; three weeks
from a diagnosis at the Bismarck Medical Center to a quiet death
at home with her husband of nineteen years, Paul, by her side.
She did not suffer; there was almost no pain.
When the news was announced over the intercom on Wednesday morning,
there was stunned silence. As classes passed, students wept openly,
and Mr. Collins then decided to call the busses and send them
home. School would be open the next day with guidance fully staffed
to offer grief counseling.
* * *
Jodi Burchstedt married Paul during their junior year at North
Dakota State. They were both from Fargo, and it was the joke that
he had initially proposed in the second grade, but it took her
thirteen years to make up her mind. He joined the Castleton staff
the year after she did, teaching junior and senior English. She
took care of the body; he embellished the mind. They were the
king and queen of the school. Boys developed crushes on Mrs. B.
while an equal number of girls swooned when Mr. B. read Yeats
As a couple, they did everything together. They were co-scout
leaders as well as youth soccer coaches. They were avid outdoorsmen,
shooting rapids with reckless abandon and traipsing across the
frozen landscape on cross country ski expeditions. They thought
nothing of going off on long weekends to cities as far away as
Las Vegas or San Francisco. It became painful for anyone on the
staff who endured their own day to day, mundane existence to ask
Jodi on Monday or after a holiday what she and Paul had been up
to. And she was the envy of most of the female staff when she
talked about her relationship with Paul. He helped prepare gourmet
meals, enjoyed ballroom dancing, loved yard sales and didn’t
mind spending an afternoon helping her shop for the house or outfits.
And then there were always the little “Just to say I love
you flowers” delivered to school on holidays, birthdays
The only drawback, if it even was one, was their inability to
have children. Early on, however, they adopted two young girls,
nine and eleven, from Croatia and, despite dealing with enormous
language and adjustment issues, managed to get them through high
school and out on their own into the working and married world.
Then they happily went back to their empty nest.
Three weeks after the funeral, a cold, hard reality settled in
for some of the staff. As impolitic as it was for some women to
think about, there was a very eligible man out there for the taking.
Men in North Dakota, educated men especially, who know how to
treat a woman were not that easy to come by. It was true that
Jodi’s shadow would be difficult to overcome, but the reward
was well worth the effort and, in the Castleton High community,
there were three unmarried women who seriously began to wrestle
with the situation.
Bunnell worked with special education classes. She was twenty-eight
and the most attractive of the three. She was blonde, purported
to enjoy reading and loved crafts. The ten year difference between
she and Paul was a mere bagatelle in her view, and she had even
gone on line to research a list of successful marriages where
there was the same or greater age differential.
Claire Stelzer was a forty year-old woman of devout faith. Her
church was an important factor in her life, and, when Paul needed
comfort, she was there for him. They knelt together in prayer
many times during his ordeal. Her phone calls provided him with
comforting Bible passages to get him through his trial. She also
taught English and helped with his lesson plans when he was out,
although writing and grammar were more her forte than literary
The last of the three was Deidre Vintner, the thirty-six year
old math department lead teacher. It was she who, after evaluating
the data and calculating the odds, deemed it a foregone conclusion
that Paul Burchstedt was the answer to her unmarried plight. In
sports parlance, he was a number one draft pick. He could turn
a franchise, a life around. Break the bank if you have to; in
twenty years it will seem like small change.
As Deidre analyzed it, Tammy was not much of a factor. Yes, she
was, by Castleton standards, a knockout, but intellectually she
seemed just one step ahead of the special education classes she
ran. She had a tendency to be overly happy, not a sin in and of
itself, but her voice, when meeting anyone, began high and, as
the conversation continued, rose even higher. Her laugh could
shatter storm windows.
Tammy had been asked several times by Principal Collins to dress
a bit more conservatively. Her motto, if left to her own devices,
would be “shorter and tighter.” She saw herself as
a victim of the male hierarchy and was continually seeking opinions
from the distaff side of the staff concerning any outfit. She
had conical breasts, pointy little things which Diedre nicknamed
“tin-tits” in a moment of rancor.
But Project Paul was no slam dunk for Deidre. She was fairly attractive,
educated, a bit of an intellectual, and her mode of dress had
a hint of sophistication to it, not that anyone in the land of
jeans, Old Navy sweatshirts and comfortable running shoes ever
noticed. Her favorite getaway during school breaks was to drive
the four hundred plus miles to Minneapolis, take a hotel room,
shop, visit art galleries and museums and see whatever plays were
in town. Her taste in music was eclectic, and she prided herself
that she had been to see Garrison Keillor’ s A Prairie Home
Companion radio program a half a dozen times.
She had been close to marriage. For six years she and Earl Wintermute
were an item. He had a string of tire stores, one each in Jamestown,
Valley City and another one opening soon in New Rockford. Earl
was in his late forties, divorced, but he had money, and it was
with him that she went to London once and spent a week in Mexico
four winters ago. She was never in love with him but could find
no glaring reason to break it off.
Three years ago he made a TV commercial wherein he portrayed himself
as the Tire Chief of the Dakotas. He wanted her to be in it and
she agreed to play an Indian maiden who needed tires for her Dodge
Dakota. When she saw the ad on channel 36, she was appalled not
only at its political incorrectness but also how stupid she looked
and what a clown Earl was. At the end of the spot, when, attired
in a war bonnet, she viewed his huge belt buckle, pot belly and
deliberate bad grammar so as to relate to his customer base, she
was repelled by him and went back over the many disgusting times
she had endured his body odor and beer breath as he ground his
beefy body against hers.
Since their breakup she had been an independent female. Other
women would accept the first ride that slowed down for them; Deidre
Vintner had her eyes on a BMW even if she had to hijack it.
Getting into position for a run at Paul was the easy part. She
was not in the best of physical shape so she began an exercise
routine. The extra ten pounds she had accumulated on her thighs
and hips began to melt away. She managed to hack her way into
the school computer system and check the e-mails he received in
the weeks since Jodi’s death. There was nothing much but
school stuff and tons of condolences. His library account was
quite active before Jodi’s death. There was a book on archery
which she noted as possibly being decent insider information,
and there were three novels by Anthony Trollope as well as a new
biography on him which she jotted down and ordered on line from
The real problem was--how to have anything more than a condolence
conversation. She had seen him in the faculty lounge a week after
the funeral and spent her ammunition with respect to the “if-you-ever-need-anything”
and “I’m-there-for-you” conversations. Since
then she had resorted to asking him how he was doing on a daily
basis until she sensed he was getting annoyed. She watched with
disdain his first day back as Tammy sprinted down the hall to
hug him, ramming her dagger breasts into his chest so hard that
Deidre swore they left stab wounds as she pulled back sobbing,
“Oh, you poor man” in C above middle C.
Claire Stelzer was the main competition. She graduated from the
University of Mary in Bismarck years ago and had all the makings
of a nun with the exception of her intense desire to have a baby.
At close to forty-five, time was running out. Deidre was fairly
certain, as much as she hated to admit it, that Claire, queen
of the religious pamphlet, was sincere in her dogged message to
Paul that “God works in mysterious ways.” If a psychiatrist
had suggested that her real motive behind sitting with Paul each
day and bringing hot dishes to the house every evening was an
orgasmic and reproductive roll in the hay, she would have fainted.
One might as well accuse her of being a lesbian.
Not that Claire was unattractive. In fact a makeover artist could
establish quite a reputation if he took her on. Her hair style
was—well, one might say she needed a style other than the
quick shower and air dry method. Her clothes made her look dumpy,
but at an end of year faculty picnic Deidre was surprised to see
Claire in a swim suit which revealed very nice legs, decent breasts
and a behind that some men might consider cute. She was banking
on the premise that Claire had little idea of her physical assets
and would sooner take her own life than be perceived as going
after a widower when the wife’s body was not yet three months
in the grave.
Like any good business person trying to find a marketing angle
to sell a product, Deidre, as she jogged, drove, or sat staring
at the TV, used the time to come up with a way to get to Paul.
She did come up with an idea, but almost let it slip by her like
someone panning for gold for hours on end and thinking the few
glistening speck not worth the bother. When she did examine it,
she felt it was just too audacious to work and immediately dropped
it. The next morning, as she prepared for her two mile run before
school, it floated back to the surface like a gangland slaying
victim freed from its concrete overshoes. It was bold. It was
shameless and probably immoral, but it was the best she could
produce and time was a factor. Its rationale was that Paul had
experienced a terrible loss; what if she also experienced a similar
fate. She was an only child. While she was in graduate school,
her parents moved to Nebraska (considered a warmer climate by
many Dakotans) and died within a year of one another before she
had begun teaching. She had never spoken of her family except
to say that she was a Dakotan born and raised, but her roots had
been transplanted to Nebraska. She did go there every now and
then to visit some aunts and uncles on her mother’s side,
but that was the extent of it.
was fairly straightforward then. Her father would die. Cancer
would be nice, and her first choice was the prostrate variety
but a quick internet browse left her with the view that a painful
battle with stomach cancer would engender more sympathy. As far
as she knew, the school never checked on these things. After all,
who would lie about the death of a parent? If she called in Tuesday
night that would give her the rest of the week to the fake a visit
to the funeral in Omaha, return home and be back in school the
grieving daughter by Monday. There was a sublime beauty to the
Mr. Collins, this is Deidre Vintner. I don’t know how to
tell you this but . . . “
The fabricated funeral was on Saturday. To account for the time
she would be gone, she decided to head for Minneapolis on Wednesday,
a city she knew well and could easily kill time in. As she began
the drive, she was depressed. She had never been close to her
parents, her father especially. When he died, it was a relief
because, during obligatory family visits, she had difficulty enduring
the awkward, silent moments after he got past asking her how school
was. There were tears when she and her mother buried him, but
hers were shed more for her mother’s lonely plight than
any mourning for her father.
When she stopped for lunch at a diner near St Cloud, her spirits
began to lift. She would treat the next few days as a vacation.
For the past three months she had been working on Paul’s
case twenty-four hours a day. It had consumed her time physically
and mentally. She lost twelve pounds, managed to read Trollope’s
Phineas Finn and Phineas Redux as well as Zen and the Art of Archery
which wasn’t a bad book at all. She had endured Saint Claire,
Tammy Tin Tits and any number of students for whom Algebra II
was a bit less complicated than turning water into wine.
When she hit her hotel in Minneapolis that afternoon, traffic
notwithstanding, she felt expansive. She upgraded the room, ordered
a bottle of wine and used up all the free bath products in a leisurely
soak. By six she was sitting Indian style, the complimentary terry
cloth robed draped over her shoulders, on the king sized bed surrounded
by the hotel magazine, Where, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
There were any number of art films she had read about that sounded
good, the play Proof, which had a math background to it, and a
touring company of Cabaret. As she lay back comforted by the cultural
bounty spread before her, she thought of what it would be like
if Paul were here to share with her. She let her fingers wander
and began to masturbate to his image. When she was done, she slipped
into a comfortable sleep. It was just eight o’clock.
She spent Thursday shopping. Her mood was still exuberant. She
brought the bags back to the hotel and tried everything on again.
She was unsure about one dress and weighed taking it back versus
the time she could spend doing other things. She decided to keep
it and took the bundles down to her car in the parking garage
under the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” theory. She
booked a table for one at Madigan’s and splurged on the
surf and turf, Alaskan king crab legs and an eight ounce fillet
mignon, and had two Bombay martinis. She walked up to the box
office and got a center section seat to Cabaret and was overwhelmed
by how good the touring cast was. By eleven she was in the hotel
bar nursing a gin and tonic when Carl Spofford introduced himself
and bought her two more. Carl sold expansion joints used in bridges,
sidewalks and any other place there was concrete against concrete.
The motto of his company, Condex, was “Tread On Us”.
By one in the morning they were in his room, his personal expansion
joint on display until just before sunrise when Deidre slunk back
to her room.
She slept in Friday morning as she was tired and wanted to avoid
Carl who was due to fly home to Kansas. Her phone beeped several
times between ten and one and she ignored it. She ordered room
service at three and by five was headed out to the Cinema Truffaut
for an evening of subtitles.
Saturday brought guilt. It was bound to happen, like a bad storm
the forecasters had predicted days ago, and now the clouds were
beginning to roll in, lower and darken. She had spent close to
fifteen hundred dollars on accommodations, meals and entertainment.
Clothes and accent pieces for the house approached that figure
as well. The drive back on Sunday always seemed twice as long,
and the one woman, Bette Davis-style, funeral drama she would
have to write, produce, direct and star in on Monday was another
albatross around her neck.
She thought about leaving on Saturday afternoon, but the desk
could not guarantee they’d be able to rent her room in which
case she would be charged even if she weren’t in it. So
she stayed in most of the day fearing that, if she did go out,
she would spend more money. She went to see Proof that evening
and would have enjoyed it more if she hadn’t been pre-occupied.
She scanned the hotel bar afterwards looking for another Carl
but gave two would-be suitors the brush-off and was in her room
by midnight. She couldn’t sleep so she flipped the TV on.
There was nothing. In a strange combination of curiosity and ennui,
she used the remote to order movies from the “Blue”
network and channel-surfed between three porn films. At first
they were interesting although she longed for more male anatomical
shots and realized just how sexist these movies were. There were
some eye-opening scenes involving the ancient art of blow jobs
and a few other techniques that were duly noted, but finally she
turned the sound off, conjured up Paul’s image and, together
with the well hung studs on the screen, pleasured herself into
a fitful sleep.
She was on the road by eight Sunday morning. She wanted to make
good time but realized that a ticket for speeding would be verification
she was in Minnesota and not Nebraska. She spent the trip going
over and over her routine. Was there a flaw? Did she mention to
someone fifteen years ago that her parents were dead? Had she
written it down anywhere, perhaps on some application?
Once home in Melville, she left the car in the drive, cleared
the stoop of some condolence bundles and threw her travel bag
into the laundry room. The phone was blinking, and she sat for
several minutes listening to the many messages of sympathy. Claire
was one of the first and read a passage from Coronintans. She
would like to come over and sit Sunday night but would understand
at this moment if Deidre wanted to be alone. She listened to over
a dozen well wishers and was beginning to panic but then it came.
She cupped her hands and held them over her mouth as he spoke.
Her heart was pounding.
God, Dee.” There was a pause and she could hear him breathing
into the receiver. “I don’t know what to say to you,
just, just . . . “ Then there was silence and a static click
as he hung up. She had done it! He had taken the bait!
It was all she could do to stop from calling him, but that would
have been her worst move. She was a World War II sub commander
stalking a prized battleship; run silent, run deep until the time
to surface and strike was right.
Their courtship lasted several months. It began slowly like edging
into the water at Devil’s Lake in early summer. They met
for lunch, ran a few errands together and chatted over coffee.
This continued until school let out for the summer, and they had
more free time. Dee “developed” a phobia about being
alone in her own home. Paul stayed over a few nights and slept
platonically on the couch as a short term cure. To thank him for
his kindness, she cleaned his entire house but quickly recognized
that he felt uncomfortable with her at his address. They began
kissing and hugging, but it was just a friendly peck on the cheek;
they were just “mates” as the English would say.
Deidre knew that she had to make another breakthrough. She proposed
a trip to Omaha. There was some legal paper work to take care
of. It would take a day to drive down, an overnight stay and then
zip back the next morning. Nothing was mentioned about sleeping
arrangements until they were well past Sioux City on Interstate
29 when Paul broached the subject. “Would you feel comfortable
with one room or two at the Motel Six?”
She thought she handled it well with a, “Let’s cheap
out for one; we’re teachers, you know.”
The next morning she let him sleep late as she drove into Omaha,
did a little window shopping, bought a manila envelope and stuffed
it with blank paper to make her visit to her supposed lawyer look
official. When she got back around three, they checked out and
began the drive back, getting as far as Sioux Falls, South Dakota
before dinner and the licentious urge to check into another motel
overtook them again.
They spent most every day of that summer together. Their preferred
venue for sex was her home as there were too many memories of
Jodi in his. From Dee’s point of view this was a totally
new experience. Sex with Earl had been a weekend roll in the hay,
Saturday night and maybe a Sunday morning “quickie”
send off. With Paul it was twice daily during the week and the
sky was the limit on weekends. She felt like a pitcher in spring
training asked to go nine innings the first week. He was a conscientious
lover, however, and if her own pleasure was the price to pay for
having him by her side so often, so be it.
They discussed how things should go when school reopened. Her
place in Melville was fifteen miles from his home in Carrington.
Castleton was a regional school drawing from many towns so their
private life was no secret as they had been seen out several times.
She fielded questions from people at school as to what might be
happening and had been circumspect with a “just friends”
But there was no reason to sneak around. They were both unmarried
adults, and Jodi’s death would be a year in October, yet
they still drove to one of the larger cities when they wanted
a special dinner or a movie. They spent the fall months being
cordial to each other at work but passionate in bed in her home
where he now stayed almost every night. The grapevine was bent
double with gossip that needed harvesting. To settle the matter
Paul decided to propose during Thanksgiving break, and Deidre
returned to school with a diamond to the envy of all.
When school let out in June, they went to Fargo and, in a civil
ceremony with Paul’s two daughter and their husbands present,
tied the knot. For the honeymoon they flew to Boston and spent
a week exploring the historical sights, taking in a ball game
and doing the museums. For Deidre it was the greatest week of
her life as she reveled in using the term “my husband”
in even the most mundane situations.
He sold his house in Carrington and used her home as their base.
It was a bit smaller, but the rooms were actually larger and the
lot big enough to support a garden that Paul kept threatening
to plant. He took over the redecorating job, not that her ideas
had been weak, but it meant selecting furniture that would further
bond them. His tastes tended towards a Victorian style--wingback
chairs and heavy looking pieces covered in damask or velvet. He
took over what had been a spare bedroom and made it into his study
replete with built-in book cases floor to ceiling.
He was handy. All she had to do was suggest something and he went
to work musing as to whether it was a supporting wall and, if
they could open up this or that space, a new and grander entrance
way to the dining room would result. One morning her car wouldn’t
start. She was ready to dial the garage when he came out in his
robe, opened the hood and got it going with the admonition that
it was an alternator. He’d pick one up today and slap it
in when she got home.
At school the next year she had a new status. She was the good
sport victor around Tammy or Claire. She played her cards close
to the vest while discussing their home life, but when school
began and the annual homecoming dance was held in late September,
she was on cloud nine when they took the floor as husband and
wife, faculty king and queen of Castleton High.
He rarely spoke to her about Jodi. When he called the kids, he
often went into another room thinking that it might upset Dee.
They had an open, communicative relationship and so she brought
it up to him that, if Jodi’s name were mentioned, she wouldn’t
go around the bend. He thanked her and did gradually begin to
talk about the past which, in large measure, included Jodi.
had grown up together no more than three blocks from each other
in Fargo, dated exclusively in high school and college. They thought
about getting married in their junior year when Jodi felt she
might be pregnant. When it turned out to be a false alarm, they
went ahead with it anyway.
They had a happy marriage for about ten years and then things
began to hit the doldrums. He grew contemplative here and then
offered up that they had worked through that patch and things
were the better for it. Dee pressed him for what they had done
and he was vague on the matter. When the time was right he would
divulge the secret to a good relationship.
years later they had settled into a nice routine. Dee met the
girls Jodi and Paul had raised. They and their families were polite.
It seemed strange to think of Paul, in his forties, as a grandfather,
but he took kindly to the two small girls. They flew to Hawaii
and spent a glorious two weeks during one summer vacation and
seriously contemplated leaving Castleton and moving out there
for good. She was not concerned about carrying on a teaching career
as her math background set her up well for a job change, but he
was not so sure, aside from sales, that English degree was worth
Sunday morning after a long lovemaking session with breaks for
pastry, Paul posed a question that more than surprised her.
you think we’re getting stale in the bedroom department?”
immediately ran through the past weeks to see if she could locate
anything that had given him cause to bring this subject up. “What
do you mean?”
her mild distress, he dismissed the remark but under her pressure
cooker questioning finally knuckled under.
and I started doing it regularly when we were sophomores in high
school. After the girls left, we began to get into a rut as it
were. I knew every inch of her anatomy and she certainly knew
mine. I guess it was like having the same carpeting or kitchen
wallpaper for fifteen years; there’s nothing wrong with
it, but you want a break from it, a change.
talked about things that could spice us up, but then Jodi did
something that changed our lives. It was my thirty-second birthday,
and we flew to Las Vegas for the February vacation. Our second
night there she surprised me by hiring a prostitute. I was stunned
and refused but then she said she’d stay in the room if
I’d be more comfortable. I was still against it but had
to admit that it was a terrific turn on. Anyway we did it. When
it was over and we were by ourselves again, we had the greatest
sex ever even though we had each shot our wads so to speak on
began a whole new life style for us. Everybody at school thought
we were taking trips to kayak the rapids on the Colorado or hike
through Yellowstone. We were lying like hell. We joined a swingers
club and went to their meetings and swapped mates. A few times
we got daring and invited friends to our house and partied.”
was not listening anymore. She was tracing back to images of Jodi
at school, at bake sales and chairing the annual blood drive and
had hit a road block when picturing Paul and her groping another
know this is a big shift for you, but it brought Jodi and me closer.
I’ve kind of kept in contact with some of the folks, professionals
like us and very clean. They were there for me when Jodi was sick
and even came to the wake. I don’t want to do anything behind
your back and, if you say no right now, we don’t ever have
to discuss it again.”
you just went to peoples’ house and screwed.”
not like that at all. There are cookouts, trivia contests, maybe
watch a DVD; it doesn’t have to end up in bed at all.”
don’t want to be with anyone but you.”
you would be with me; that’s the whole point. Do you know
how many people cheat on each other--thousands. And you never
do anything you don’t want to; that’s the golden rule.”
was up from the bed now, pacing the room. It was like she had
severely stubbed her toe and was waiting for the pain to stop
so she could assess the damage.
you wanted we could get into this gradually, maybe just meet the
people. Lennie and Carrie from Williston are a great couple. We
could get to know them first, if that’s what’s bothering
went to comfort her and was surprised when she reached out and
held his hand. “Do you really want this?”
Dee, I can’t tell you how liberating the experience is.
It removes all the sham, the artifice from a relationship.”
we just go to a nudist camp for a day and let it go at that?”
we tried that actually, but it’s just not the same as being
with a bunch of other like-minded people who just want to get
it on. Those so-called nature camps are really very conservative,
not much goes on except a lot of RV talk.”
do you mean by a bunch of other people?” She pushed him
away. With each sentence she was drawing images of something akin
to Rome in Caligula’s time.
there’s just one couple but at other places there are many
people wandering around, and you just do what comes naturally
whenever you feel like it.”
went over to the bed and sat on the edge. If this were a film
from the fifties this is where she would have, with all the sang-froid
she could muster, lit a cigarette, inhaled, crossed her legs and
said something extraordinarily witty. As it was she was trembling
both in fear and anger. “Is there anything else I should
know about you, Jodi and your friends?”
that sometimes some of the people are into other things. Jodie
and I never went that way. But it’s crazy what floats peoples’
boats—golden showers, fisting, that sort of thing, but no
underage stuff if that’s what you’re thinking.”
had no idea what any of those terms meant. So this was what she
had worked so hard for. She thought back to the guilt of her half
a dozen one night stands in Minneapolis and to her lying in this
bed not so many years ago masturbating while picturing the very
man who stood naked before her. She thought of Claire and how,
but for the grace of her religious fanaticism, she was not sitting
here now flipping through the Bible for guidance on the golden
shower issue. And Tammy with The Rocky Horror Picture Show spiked
breasts--how would Tammy’s special education training have
prepared her for this. Suddenly the Earl Wintermutes, Carl Spoffords,
porn channels, quadratic equations, Homecoming dances and a dream
vacation to Tuscany seemed so remote and way too innocent. She
was about to begin a new voyage but, instead of a luxury cruise
ship island hopping throughout the Caribbean, she would be introduced
to tattooed strangers in leather masks, flagellation and anal
glanced up at Paul. He looked ridiculous standing there naked.
He was developing a paunch. She stared at his penis, already in
the early stages of arousal. She got up and went to him.
right, if it’s what you want.”
heard the breath moan out of him and then roar back in filling
the vacuum. It was as if he had been under water all this time
and finally surfaced. He began hugging her, kissing the nape of
her neck and murmuring indistinctly. She drifted back to when
she was fifteen and those bleak Dakota winters where, on Sunday
afternoons, the local TV affiliate ran Rock Hudson-Doris Day movies,
Lover Come Back, Send Me No Flowers and Pillow Talk. She and her
mother loved them as they curled up together on the couch protected
from the chill by a communal throw. It had been one of their few
bonding moments. Years later and just after her father’s
death, she wanted to duplicate that safe haven for them so she
went out and rented the films. When they sat down to watch, she
was instantly sickened by the knowledge that Hudson was gay. She
could not get past the first scene. Every word, every movement
was etched in dramatic irony. Her childhood sanctuary, her teenage
dream of romance had been destroyed by this perverted Hollywood
icon. And now that she was an adult, it was happening again. She
would never see anything the same way again. She glanced at their
naked reflection in the dresser mirror trying to imagine how they
might look to an outside observer. No doubt his swinging friends
would want to commemorate their escapades on video tape, the better
to get their jollies off when the weather made weekend assignations
too difficult. If that were going to be the case, she knew she
would need to take off a few more pounds for the camera and perhaps
consider a different hair style, one that was easier to take care
of, less time consuming, and she would definitely need to add
some highlights and soften the color. The saddest aspect, however,
and one that was already gnawing at her, was that she would never
again be certain whether what happened to her in life was a reward
or a punishment. Not that it mattered.
E. Fredd lives in Townsend, Massachusetts. He
has had or soon will have fiction appear in several literary journals
including in The Transatlantic Review, The Southern Humanities
Review, Rosebud, The Armchair Aesthete, Word Riot, Prose Toad,
Tribal Soul Kitchen, WriteThis, LitVisions, Grasslands Review,
Verb Sag, Bullfight, The Pedestal, 3711 Atlantic, Megaera, Double
Dare, Slow Trains, Pointed Circle, Raging Face, Cautionary Tales,
Poor Mojo and SNReview. Poetry has appeared in The Paris Review,
The Paumanok Review and the Café Review. He teaches Writing
and Literature courses part time at New Hampshire Community Technical
© 2006 by
D. E. Fredd