Monday, March 31, 2014

Remembering Brenda Palmisano

I broke into tears today thinking about an old friend. I was unpacking my art studio and came across a little African bandana that was given to me by Brenda Palmisano after her lover had taken her to South Africa on a final trip in the late stages of her pancreatic cancer. She had worn such cotton fringed scarves tied around her little bald head for that trip. It is old and crumpled now, that bandana, but alive with the power and the love that Brenda represented in my life, up until the end. Fitting that I packed it with the art supplies when I moved, as she was a Muse, an inspiration in my life. And she loved me with a child like loyalty that no-one has ever surpassed in my life.

I did a painting of the two of us, which I gave to her family later. We had returned from a backgammon tournament in Las Vegas, and we flopped on my sofa, akimbo in our Vegas summer duds, exhausted from too much booze and no sleep. I have no photo of that painting nor can I find a print of the photo I used for it. Her family lived in Passaic, N.J. and were salt of the earth. I never met a nicer family.

August 24, 2014 addendum. I found a photo of the painting! (not a very good painting but sentimental memories anyway)

Brenda wanted nothing more than children (which she never had) and her favorite nephew was her joy. "Who's the Precious Boy?" she would coo on the phone. She was full of mischief and glee, funny remarks and fractured English. She was a special light that went out at age 39, way before her time. No painting, but here's a photo of Brenda and I at the tournment, and another of her shortly before she died. Oh, and the poem I wrote for her back when.

I hope she knows how much she's missed. You have to get to the end to look back, it seems. All my dead seem to be calling to me this year.

(1946 - 1985)

She’s a Katzenjammer Kid
Full of funny-paper sass;
She’s a Gummy Bear with bearing;
She is Gidget -- smoking grass;
She’s a fun-house mirror
In a Catholic mass.

She’s a malaproppin’ mama,
who is sure an eyesight sore;
She’s a saboteur of syntax,
She’s authentic to the core.
She’s a private suite
Without a door.

She’s a gingerale and bourbon
In a Tom and Jerry cup;
She’s the tinsel trove of magpies.
She’s the shimmy in a pup.
She’s a fried egg sandwich
Sunny side up.

She’s a mini-skirted Merlin;
She’s a transcendental bawd.
She is consecrated worm food
In communion with the sod.
She’s the third eye
In the forehead of God.

Here is a LINK to an online memorial created. Vivani was, I believe, her real father's name. She adored her stepfather, Mr. Palmisano, however, and used his name throughout her lifetime.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Breeze Cat Litter System by TidyCat

Unless you have a cat(s), don't even bother with this post.

UPDATE: I've lived with this Litter System for one month now. I, the human of the house, LOVE it. But yesterday I put down the old litter pan with a bit of sand in it, on the porch where my cat Henry likes to park on warm days. That box has been used repeatedly, over and over again, as if to communicate his preference. I know my cat. He's not been himself with the new box. I withdraw my ecstatic review below. While the product is wonderful for ME, my kitty did not enjoy it at all. He loves his sand.

I don't often think products are good enough to blog about. OR if they are good, there are several equally good, and you'd already know about them, so why bother? But while shopping at Walmart a couple of weeks ago, I saw a woman buying a bag of "litter pellets" in the cat litter section of the pet department. We got to talking, and she sold me on a new litter pan, a whole new litter system. It's a oner, and worth talking about!

Since I have almost no money these days, (which, by the way, is the ONLY reason I am shopping at WalMart) it was quite a sales pitch. But straight from her heart. She claimed that since buying "Breeze" she never had to scoop and bag those horrendous clumps of soggy sand, and cleanup was a snap. Her cat no longer sprayed litter all over the floor, and the smells (oh, do we know those smells) had all but disappeared. Knowing my cat, Henry, is huge and requires a Boodah (covered) Box to keep my house from being a beach, I was more than a little intrigued. With no certainty whatsoever, I shelled out $38 for a new litter pan (sans any kind of cover! But id DOES have a "wall" around it, keeping the pellets inside) system, the box included a starter pack of pellets and pads.

The way it works is that the urine goes through the pellets (which do NOT absorb it) into a tray beneath which houses an odor-control pad in a pan. The pan easily slips in and out like a drawer (shown open in the photo above). Since Henry always pees with his ass to the rear of the pan, I just reverse the pad after a couple of days, so the clean end is at the other end, and get full money's worth before I dispose of it.

The fecal waste sits on top of the pellets and is easily scooped daily with the little scoop made for this system, which allows the pellets to fall through a pellet-sized sieve, but not the poop. It's really not even a scooping job, just a quick lift into the trash bag. Easy peasy.

It is SO clean and easy that I cannot even believe it.

Since Henry's bathroom is an alcove of my actual bedroom, I am very odor sensitive, and have had to scoop often before getting Breeze. But I can honesly say that my job has been reduced enormously by this purchase. I am astounded at the success of it.

They even tell you how to wean your kitty off the old system and onto the new system. I doubted that Henry would ever go for it. It took only two days (leaving both pans down, and not cleaning the old one). I finally picked up the old gross-smelling one, giving him no options, and he did the right thing. No problem, no sand, no kicking to speak of, and the pellets are too big to go flying anyway. 99.9% dust free. One bag lasts up to a month. You change the pads weekly. Given the litter than my fat cat went through, this is a bargain for me, and no more heavy, huge containers of litter to lug home. The pellet and pad bags are lightweight and small. Win! Win! I'm telling you, it's the best thing I've found since sliced bread and Trader Joe's $3 Buck Chuck.

To learn more, here's Tidycat's webpage: The Breeze System

## PS. I always kept a spray bottle of Febreze next to Henry's bathroom. Since I have it there, I am giving the pad a quick spray midweek, just for good measure, but when the bottle is gone, I don't think I'll have any need to replace it.

Friday, March 14, 2014

From Twisted Sifter, my favorite newsletter

(You really should follow THE TWISTED SIFTER)

In 2006 Ms. Lockwood, an English teacher at Xavier High School, asked her students to write a letter to a famous author. She wanted them discuss the author’s work and ask for advice. Kurt Vonnegut (1922 – 2007) was the only one to write back and his advice is worth reading. If you can’t make out the text in the image, you can find the letter transcribed beneath!

Dear Xavier High School, and Ms. Lockwood, and Messrs Perin, McFeely, Batten, Maurer and Congiusta:

I thank you for your friendly letters. You sure know how to cheer up a really old geezer (84) in his sunset years. I don’t make public appearances any more because I now resemble nothing so much as an iguana.

What I had to say to you, moreover, would not take long, to wit: Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

Seriously! I mean starting right now, do art and do it for the rest of your lives. Draw a funny or nice picture of Ms. Lockwood, and give it to her. Dance home after school, and sing in the shower and on and on. Make a face in your mashed potatoes. Pretend you’re Count Dracula.

Here’s an assignment for tonight, and I hope Ms. Lockwood will flunk you if you don’t do it: Write a six line poem, about anything, but rhymed. No fair tennis without a net. Make it as good as you possibly can. But don’t tell anybody what you’re doing. Don’t show it or recite it to anybody, not even your girlfriend or parents or whatever, or Ms. Lockwood. OK?

Tear it up into teeny-weeny pieces, and discard them into widely separated trash recepticals. You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

God bless you all!

Kurt Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut’s awesome signature

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

"Falling" by James L. Dickey

A 29-year-old stewardess fell ... to her death tonight when she was swept through an emergency door that suddenly sprang open ... The body ... was found ... three hours after the accident.
—New York Times

The states when they black out and lie there rolling   when they turn
To something transcontinental   move by   drawing moonlight out of the great
One-sided stone hung off the starboard wingtip   some sleeper next to
An engine is groaning for coffee   and there is faintly coming in
Somewhere the vast beast-whistle of space. In the galley with its racks
Of trays   she rummages for a blanket   and moves in her slim tailored
Uniform to pin it over the cry at the top of the door. As though she blew

The door down with a silent blast from her lungs   frozen   she is black
Out finding herself   with the plane nowhere and her body taking by the throat
The undying cry of the void   falling   living   beginning to be something
That no one has ever been and lived through   screaming without enough air
Still neat   lipsticked   stockinged   girdled by regulation   her hat
Still on   her arms and legs in no world   and yet spaced also strangely
With utter placid rightness on thin air   taking her time   she holds it
In many places   and now, still thousands of feet from her death she seems
To slow   she develops interest   she turns in her maneuverable body

To watch it. She is hung high up in the overwhelming middle of things in her
Self   in low body-whistling wrapped intensely   in all her dark dance-weight
Coming down from a marvellous leap with the delaying, dumfounding ease
Of a dream of being drawn   like endless moonlight to the harvest soil
Of a central state of one’s country   with a great gradual warmth coming
Over her   floating   finding more and more breath in what she has been using
For breath   as the levels become more human   seeing clouds placed honestly
Below her left and right   riding slowly toward them   she clasps it all
To her and can hang her hands and feet in it in peculiar ways   and
Her eyes opened wide by wind, can open her mouth as wide  wider and suck
All the heat from the cornfields   can go down on her back with a feeling
Of stupendous pillows stacked under her   and can turn   turn as to someone
In bed   smile, understood in darkness   can go away   slant   slide
Off tumbling into the emblem of a bird with its wings half-spread
Or whirl madly on herself   in endless gymnastics in the growing warmth
Of wheatfields rising toward the harvest moon.   There is time to live
In superhuman health   seeing mortal unreachable lights far down seeing
An ultimate highway with one late priceless car probing it   arriving
In a square town   and off her starboard arm the glitter of water catches
The moon by its one shaken side   scaled, roaming silver   My God it is good
And evil   lying in one after another of all the positions for love
Making dancing   sleeping   and now cloud wisps at her no
Raincoat   no matter   all small towns brokenly brighter from inside
Cloud  she walks over them like rain   bursts out to behold a Greyhound
Bus shooting light through its sides it is the signal to go straight
Down like a glorious diver   then feet first   her skirt stripped beautifully
Up   her face in fear-scented cloths   her legs deliriously bare   then
Arms out   she slow-rolls over   steadies out   waits for something great
To take control of her   trembles near feathers   planes head-down
The quick movements of bird-necks turning her head   gold eyes the insight-
eyesight of owls blazing into the hencoops   a taste for chicken overwhelming
Her   the long-range vision of hawks enlarging all human lights of cars
Freight trains   looped bridges   enlarging the moon racing slowly
Through all the curves of a river   all the darks of the midwest blazing
From above. A rabbit in a bush turns white   the smothering chickens
Huddle   for over them there is still time for something to live
With the streaming half-idea of a long stoop   a hurtling   a fall
That is controlled   that plummets as it wills   turns gravity
Into a new condition, showing its other side like a moon   shining
New Powers   there is still time to live on a breath made of nothing
But the whole night   time for her to remember to arrange her skirt
Like a diagram of a bat   tightly it guides her   she has this flying-skin
Made of garments  and there are also those sky-divers on tv   sailing
In sunlight  smiling under their goggles   swapping batons back and forth
And He who jumped without a chute and was handed one by a diving
Buddy. She looks for her grinning companion   white teeth   nowhere
She is screaming   singing hymns   her thin human wings spread out
From her neat shoulders   the air beast-crooning to her   warbling
And she can no longer behold the huge partial form of the world   now
She is watching her country lose its evoked master shape   watching it lose
And gain   get back its houses and peoples   watching it bring up
Its local lights   single homes   lamps on barn roofs   if she fell
Into water she might live   like a diver   cleaving   perfect   plunge

Into another   heavy silver   unbreathable   slowing   saving
Element: there is water   there is time to perfect all the fine
Points of diving   feet together   toes pointed   hands shaped right
To insert her into water like a needle   to come out healthily dripping
And be handed a Coca-Cola   there they are   there are the waters
Of life   the moon packed and coiled in a reservoir   so let me begin
To plane across the night air of Kansas   opening my eyes superhumanly
Bright   to the damned moon   opening the natural wings of my jacket
By Don Loper   moving like a hunting owl toward the glitter of water
One cannot just fall just tumble screaming all that time   one must use
It   she is now through with all   through all   clouds   damp   hair
Straightened   the last wisp of fog pulled apart on her face like wool revealing
New darks   new progressions of headlights along dirt roads from chaos

And night   a gradual warming   a new-made, inevitable world of one’s own
Country   a great stone of light in its waiting waters   hold   hold out
For water: who knows when what correct young woman must take up her body
And fly   and head for the moon-crazed inner eye of midwest imprisoned
Water   stored up for her for years   the arms of her jacket slipping
Air up her sleeves to go   all over her? What final things can be said
Of one who starts her sheerly in her body in the high middle of night
Air   to track down water like a rabbit where it lies like life itself
Off to the right in Kansas? She goes toward   the blazing-bare lake
Her skirts neat   her hands and face warmed more and more by the air
Rising from pastures of beans   and under her   under chenille bedspreads
The farm girls are feeling the goddess in them struggle and rise brooding
On the scratch-shining posts of the bed   dreaming of female signs
Of the moon   male blood like iron   of what is really said by the moan
Of airliners passing over them at dead of midwest midnight   passing
Over brush fires   burning out in silence on little hills   and will wake
To see the woman they should be   struggling on the rooftree to become
Stars: for her the ground is closer   water is nearer   she passes
It   then banks   turns   her sleeves fluttering differently as she rolls
Out to face the east, where the sun shall come up from wheatfields she must
Do something with water   fly to it   fall in it   drink it   rise
From it   but there is none left upon earth   the clouds have drunk it back
The plants have sucked it down   there are standing toward her only
The common fields of death   she comes back from flying to falling
Returns to a powerful cry   the silent scream with which she blew down
The coupled door of the airliner   nearly   nearly losing hold
Of what she has done   remembers   remembers the shape at the heart
Of cloud   fashionably swirling   remembers she still has time to die
Beyond explanation. Let her now take off her hat in summer air the contour
Of cornfields   and have enough time to kick off her one remaining
Shoe with the toes   of the other foot   to unhook her stockings
With calm fingers, noting how fatally easy it is to undress in midair
Near death   when the body will assume without effort any position
Except the one that will sustain it   enable it to rise   live
Not die   nine farms hover close   widen   eight of them separate, leaving
One in the middle   then the fields of that farm do the same   there is no
Way to back off   from her chosen ground   but she sheds the jacket
With its silver sad impotent wings   sheds the bat’s guiding tailpiece
Of her skirt   the lightning-charged clinging of her blouse   the intimate
Inner flying-garment of her slip in which she rides like the holy ghost
Of a virgin   sheds the long windsocks of her stockings   absurd
Brassiere   then feels the girdle required by regulations squirming
Off her: no longer monobuttocked she feels the girdle flutter   shake
In her hand   and float   upward   her clothes rising off her ascending
Into cloud   and fights away from her head the last sharp dangerous shoe
Like a dumb bird   and now will drop in   soon   now will drop

In like this   the greatest thing that ever came to Kansas   down from all
Heights   all levels of American breath   layered in the lungs from the frail
Chill of space to the loam where extinction slumbers in corn tassels thickly
And breathes like rich farmers counting: will come along them after
Her last superhuman act   the last slow careful passing of her hands
All over her unharmed body   desired by every sleeper in his dream:
Boys finding for the first time their loins filled with heart’s blood
Widowed farmers whose hands float under light covers to find themselves
Arisen at sunrise   the splendid position of blood unearthly drawn
Toward clouds   all feel something pass over them as she passes
Her palms over her long legs her small breasts   and deeply between
Her thighs   her hair shot loose from all pins   streaming in the wind
Of her body   let her come openly trying at the last second to land
On her back   This is it   THIS

                                               All those who find her impressed
In the soft loam   gone down   driven well into the image of her body
The furrows for miles flowing in upon her where she lies very deep
In her mortal outline   in the earth as it is in cloud   can tell nothing
But that she is there   inexplicable   unquestionable   and remember
That something broke in them as well   and began to live and die more
When they walked for no reason into their fields to where the whole earth
Caught her   interrupted her maiden flight   told her how to lie she cannot
Turn   go away   cannot move cannot slide off it and assume another
Position no sky-diver with any grin could save her   hold her in his arms
Plummet with her   unfold above her his wedding silks   she can no longer
Mark the rain with whirling women that take the place of a dead wife
Or the goddess in Norwegian farm girls   or all the back-breaking whores
Of Wichita. All the known air above her is not giving up quite one
Breath   it is all gone   and yet not dead   not anywhere else
Quite   lying still in the field on her back   sensing the smells
Of incessant growth try to lift her a little sight left in the corner
Of one eye fading   seeing something wave lies believing
That she could have made it at the best part of her brief goddess
State   to water   gone in headfirst   come out smiling   invulnerable
Girl in a bathing-suit ad   but she is lying like a sunbather at the last
Of moonlight   half-buried in her impact on the earth   not far
From a railroad trestle   a water tank   she could see if she could
Raise her head from her modest hole   with her clothes beginning
To come down all over Kansas   into bushes   on the dewy sixth green
Of a golf course   one shoe   her girdle coming down fantastically
On a clothesline, where it belongs   her blouse on a lightning rod:

Lies in the fields   in this field   on her broken back as though on
A cloud she cannot drop through   while farmers sleepwalk without
Their women from houses   a walk like falling toward the far waters
Of life   in moonlight   toward the dreamed eternal meaning of their farms
Toward the flowering of the harvest in their hands   that tragic cost
Feels herself go   go toward   go outward   breathes at last fully
Not   and tries   less   once   tries   tries   ah, GOD—

James Dickey, “Falling” from The Whole Motion: Collected Poems 1945-1992. Copyright 1992 by James Dickey. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press,

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Poem by Tony Hoagland


Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries

like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:

trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.

by Tony Hoagland
from Poetry, Vol. 194, No. 4, July/August, 2009

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Journal Entry - Dec. 22. 2000 (The Loose Fish Examines the Past)

It is Friday and Boojum, my cat, and I are curled on the fainting couch, listening to Mozart symphonies. It's a gray day in Blue Lake, CA, but the gas fire is cozy. The Christmas tree cheers me. My chest is heavy with the melancholy of Christmas, (my annual malady), but Harry died on November 25 of this year and the world is never to be the same.

It seems now there should be a course offered in grieving. I clearly don't know how. I fear I will come apart, like a jigsaw puzzle, dropped from a table, if I allow myself to feel. Anything. I'll scatter and never come together again. I call Sonny "Harry" (his real name) now because it helps keep him a bit distant from me. It hurts just a little less with the formal "Harry." Even though the more intimate "my Harry" resides there, than to say Sonny.

Oh see? It undoes me, I lose composure, just talking about it.

There. The movement of the symphony ends. A new movement begins. Boojum chews and licks her paw. Life goes on.

I have been in Blue Lake for five months now. I am hardly here at all yet. I've moved like a tourist through the public streets. It is only in my private house that I am at home, shuttered with Boojum from the world.

The process of flying apart or at least the fear of it, began before Sonny died. It started when I got sick myself and lay in a bed for five months with noone to care for me. The child in me gave up all pretense of responsibility and courage, went into severe withdrawal from the world. Sonny, sick for years with diabetes, went into the hospital for kidney transplant (which failed) and amputations; Erna went to Florida to tend her ailing father; Gloria, already in her 80's, couldn't climb my stairs; and Valerie, my business partner, was busy tending her work and mine. None of them were to be blamed, doing exactly what they needed to do, but it made me finally understand once and for all that I am truly alone. Not just some alienation neurosis, but ALONE.

This is not a oomplaint, not self-pity. It is an awakening, a "knowing" without doubt that nobody is going to "save" me, help me, keep my life from ekeing out of me-- but me. And I know I am truly free. All else chains me to people. Gratitude, indebtedness, codependence, illusions of intimacy that don't really exist. A string is pulled and the puzzle breaks apart...just like that.

A voice inside says "find a safe place and do what you want to do." Not what I should do or could or ought to do, but what I WANT to do.

Oh, dear. The future (albeit not terribly long) looms. Mozart lives. Let's hope I shall. RIP, dear Harry. You were so good to me, always. I loved you so dearly.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Loose Fish says Goodbye

I was very surprised to get an email from an old high school boyfriend, Steve, last year, 50 + years since we had seen each other. I was astounded to find out he lived very close to me. He and his wife (they met at the University of Oklahoma and married young) retired in Naples where I live, and took me to lunch and then to dinner. They were odd meetings, but most enjoyable because Steve was a totally different man than the boy I remembered from high school. He was outgoing, very cheerful, charitable with his income, and had succeeded in life with a beautiful wife and several grown and successful children. They were kind to me, and I looked forward to a friendship. But they made a trip to visit their kids, and after that I never heard from them again. I guessed that the whole relationship was just too strange. This kooky old single woman pal-ing around with the high-end power couple in their Cadillac at the country club. An unlikely combo. I was a little hurt however. I was a little pissed. But I forgot about it. Sort of.

Last week, I got a terse little email from his wife saying that Steve had died of cancer on Feb. 20, 2014. My emotions are having quite a romp.

When he contacted me, he had said he wanted to connect with old friends and was searching the internet. Now, I wonder if he already knew he was ready to depart.

RIP, Steve. You had a good life, from what you told me last year. I feel very sad. Life is so...complicated.

From: The Loose Fish Chronicles:

There are about six Jewish kids in all of Lincoln High. There's probably twelve in all of Lincoln. I wonder about my affinity for Jews. Perhaps there's some blood lines way back that Mama doesn't know about. I'm drawn to them. Maybe it's because Pete doesn't like them. Steve Levy is half Jewish, besides being gorgeous. He has pronounced cheekbones and what Mama calls "bedroom eyes." I think he looks like he has Indian blood in him, with smooth skin and full lips. Steve pronounces his name like "levie" instead of "lee-vee" which is the correct way. The Girls say that nobody really knows anything about Jewish names around here, so his family probably thinks they're passing. Passing? Well, it is Lincoln, Nebraska, small town, small minded. It doesn't fool my stepfather, Pete though. It turns out Pete likes him, which is never good news to me. I don't understand it at all.

Steve's a football player (albeit, second string) and I wear his letter jacket over my shoulders between classes. He doesn't say a lot, and he doesn't dance. It doesn't take long to discover his home life is weird. His mother converted to Judaism and is adamant that he date only Jewish girls, so he has to sneak around to see me. I can relate. But Pete, oddly enough, doesn't seem to mind me dating "The Jew." I can't predict my stepfather's reactions or his craziness. There is something about this boy. I try to talk to Mama about his moodiness, his quiet intensity. She says Still Waters Run Deep which isn't terribly helpful. After Russ Meyers' cheerful openness, it is hard to grasp Steve's dour moods, his lack of playfulness. He won't let me teach him how to dance. He tells me he doesn't really like to hang around with my friends. He has Jewish kids that he sees at synagogue and their youth group that understand him. I think he knows this hurts me, but I try to be understanding. He brings me a beautiful white orchid for Senior Prom, but we stand on the sidelines and watch other couples on the dance floor and that old feeling of having no roots and not belonging returns.

Steve gets a new Buick convertible for his birthday, bright red, gleaming with chrome. I shop for fabric and in Home Ec. make us matching shirts in a floral Hawaiian pattern. The shirt I make for him is an unimpressive gift next to a car, but I am excited about it anyway. It's the kind of shirt that shows off Steve's big shoulders and makes him look like a worldly playboy in my eyes. It takes hours of work, ripping out mistakes and resewing to get it perfect. Steve is a bit of a perfectionist, and I make sure it's perfect.

We decide to go to the Dairy Queen on his birthday. There's not a lot to do in Lincoln, and we're tired of miniature golf. It's a sunny day and he picks me up with the top down on the Buick. We sit in his car in my driveway while he opens his present. He immediately takes off the sport shirt that he's wearing and puts on the new shirt. I'm already wearing mine, and we laugh because we look like a couple of Honolulu tourists. His enthusiasm thrills me, and I know I've hit the mark. We could be a magazine ad for his big red car. On the way to the DQ, I ask him if he is going to wear the shirt home. He shakes his head and we get into another argument about his parents. I keep thinking they will like me if he only he would let them meet me. The same way Pete likes Steve well enough once they're face to face. A clean cut young man, Pete says to me, even if he is a Jew. Steve is adamant about keeping me a secret from his folks, and this is an ongoing battle we have.

I offer to buy the ice cream since it's his birthday, and he waits, still sulking, while I go to the window. I get double cones and as I return to the car, he leans over the passenger seat to receive his. I am having trouble balancing them, and his quick move startles me and one of the cones drops right onto the windshield of his new car. In the sunlight, it immediately melts in big chocolate drips down the glass and onto the wiper blades. I see Steve's face turn from a sulk into a fury and I panic.

"Wait, I'll get towels," I say. My heart is racing as I watch him jump out of the car. I try to hand him the other cone, but he swats it out of my grasp onto the pavement of the parking lot. I gasp as he takes his shirt off over his head, wads it up like a rag and begins to mop the ice cream off the glass with it. Something inside my head explodes and I yell at him, "I didn't do it on purpose!" but he ignores me. He goes to the water fountain and wets the shirt and continues to sop up the chocolate. The hours of work that I put into that birthday present and the pride and pleasure I took in it, dissolve in an instant. He tosses it in a big wire basket before getting back into the car. I tell him to take me home, keeping my voice as normal as possible. When I am alone inside my room, I tear off my own shirt and rip it into two pieces while I sob in rage. A feeling like a fluttering of bats shifts in my stomach and I see now why he and Pete get along so well.