Stubborn Testing

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After the fever, Marla’s bones ached like the marrow was seeping out. She wasn’t a malingerer. She refused medical treatment. Her father encouraged her to carry the pain while it piled up like a bank of snow against her body’s unyielding house. She’d been raised a positive thinker.

Though her steps slowed and she took more frequent rests, Marla, an ecologist, worked outside destroying invasive plants and replacing them with native species. She outpaced her co-workers, cheering them, finally collapsing under a tree.

Diagnosed with Lyme disease, she took a desk job. One of the lucky ones, she got better.

Quick, Do Something

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I join other runners crouching into line. The starting gun sounds. A tennis ball stuck at the bottom of my pocket bumps against my thigh, interfering with the rhythm of running.

Then something amazing happens. A Golden Retriever blocks the inside lane. Several people veer to the right, miraculously avoiding collisions. A few scream, one stops. I whistle.

Clutching the ball, I throw overhand into the grassy oval at the center of the track. Cheers go up as the dog bullets away. He’s caught using a doggie treat and we reassemble. The morning headline reads, “Quick thinking saves the race.”

More To It

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Women liked Anton as a friend. Some reminded him of his mother. They had the same sense of humor and quick efficiency. But he felt nothing of the easy affection that characterized the relationship his parents had.

He hadn’t paid much attention to dating. Too busy busting for A’s. By college, he’d started to wonder whether he was different from his father, though he’d always thought they were the same.

A night of drinking and philosophical discussion with his college roommate changed everything. In the morning, he felt confused. And inspired. And in love with someone who loved him back.

Ace and the Queen of Pentacles

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Ace’s mother cleaned houses. His father held a mortgage on a twenty-acre farm. They wanted more for their son and, like a miracle, he got a full ride at Stanford. Everyone smiled for weeks.

Ace worked hard, the way his parents had. He graduated into a computer job in Silicon Valley. Sending money home every month, he spent his leisure time playing on-line games and running an office pool because it gave him an excuse to calculate odds on sports, world events and romance. But, he never saw love coming, even when Lady Luck said the chances were good.

His and Her Solos

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He rode the elevator to the basement parking garage, bracing himself between a metal handhold and a luggage rack filled with their daughter’s wedding gifts. His ex’s musky perfume reached into his past, infusing the stories they traded on the way to her car. She was the only one he loved. Laughing, she told him that the lights on the Bay Bridge kept her company at night. She’d never moved.

He wanted to see the metal span from the window in the bedroom of their old flat. Maybe the view had changed?

She said it was too late for that.

His Solo

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He traveled on business, sending special occasion checks and tuition in Ritz Carlton envelopes. She became custodial parent. He whirled his daughter across a ballroom floor on her wedding night. Sparse wisps of brown, the color of the bride’s thick locks, clung to his head.

The mother, her fading red hair pulled into a matronly knot, held a damp tissue. She danced with the groom beneath twinkling chandeliers while the band played smooth jazz. Stray guests conversed at the buffet. She circulated among them, passing by white clad tables and recessed pillars. He swept past. She turned away, uninterested, unimpressed.

Solo

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Ten years on, perfumed stationary fell as his wife packed his suitcase. In breathless script his new fling wrote, “See you in Chicago.”

Furious, she left the note, as witness, on rumpled cotton sheets that smelled of morning sex, the quick kind that happens between waking, stripping bare, and showering. She placed his empty bag on the pillow. Stepping over soiled clothing piled on the floor where he dropped it, she slammed the door.

She left for the park, where she pushed their daughter’s swing like a mantra. On the way home from the daycare drop, she shopped for groceries she didn’t need and stayed clear until he collected his baggage.

Pas de Deux: Adagio 3

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Her apartment, a one room walk-up covered in flowered wallpaper, occupied a Victorian attic in the Haight section of San Francisco. Propped against a Laura Ashley covered double bed, they ate cherries and drank white wine. He breathed her almond scent, nosing the curve of her neck. Stretching, she touched his face, rough with evening stubble, soft with desire. They cuddled, warm at first and then wet. Wrapped in Peruvian blankets, they talked about childhood, and raising children, and work, and the sensual feeling of skin on skin. When they married, it was as if they had never been apart.