Uit: Music for Torching
[Their own home damaged by a fire, Elaine and her husband, Paul, are staying with their suburban neighbors, Pat and George. It is a weekday morning; the kids are at school, the husbands left for work hours ago.]
Elaine is awake. She is embarrassed to have slept late. She lies in the bed thinking that what she has to do now is get up, get dressed, and go home. She has to fix the house, fix herself, and focus on what comes next. She has to plan for the future. Her plan is to go downstairs, have a quick cup of coffee, and then go home.
Pat is in the kitchen. She is on the phone and also ironing. “Good morning,” she whispers to Elaine.
“Morning,” Elaine says.
The coffeepot is on. Elaine pours herself a cup and leans against the counter. Pat is still in her robe. Her hair is a mess. On the table is a bowl of pineapple slices, left over from the night before — no muffins, no warm morning pastries, no fresh-baked bread. Elaine checks the clock — ten A.M. How odd.
Pat in her robe, Pat serving leftovers. If Pat can’t keep it together, who can?
Pat is smiling at Elaine, practically grinning. Why?
“What?” Elaine asks.
“You’re so lovely,” Pat says, and Elaine isn’t sure if Pat is talking to her or the person on the phone.
Elaine sits down with her coffee and begins reading the paper. In the background Pat is ordering lamb. “Page forty-three. Could I have three racks and then one leg?”
Elaine had never heard of anyone having meat mailed to them.
“Over the phone. Door to door. Hardware, underwear, shoes, food, everything,” Pat says as she’s hanging up. “It saves me so much time.” Pat sprays starch on the last of the shirts and digs in, wrestling the wrinkles“
A. M. Homes (Washington DC,16 december 1961)