What They Read
Theodore Schmidt read a science fiction paperback novel that featured gee-whiz rocketry and malevolent, telepathic aliens. He read in the basement as he smoked Dutch Masters Panetelas, enveloping himself in a cloud of foul smoke that warded off his wife, Jean Ella and his older daughter, Amy. His younger daughter Peggy, undeterred by the smell, carefully opened the basement door, sat on the wooden steps, leaving the door cracked open just for the light, and started to read her own book, her favorite book—her mother's undergraduate textbook on Abnormal Psychology—especially the section on the schizoid personality. The dachshund Fritzie shoved his silky head under her hand. Peggy had once read that schizoids spent time with animals because they could not talk to people and rather liked the idea that there might be something wrong with her. Theodore had a habit of speaking to himself as he read. Peggy heard him mutter, "Jesus Pete, look out, he's got a phaser." As a young man in college on the GI bill, Theodore had wanted to work for the space program and often spoke at the dinner table of hurtling through the solar system to colonize Mars. Peggy had decided she would be an English land owner when she grew up and signed her Christmas thank-you notes, "I remain, sir, your obedient and humble servant, Peggy Loraine Schmidt, Esq." Jean Ella was not reading. She was smoking and watching the neighbors across the street from behind the blinds. She only read at 3 a.m. when she could not sleep. Upstairs in her bedroom, having dropped a tab of acid an hour before, Amy sprawled on her pink lace canopy bed reading the epic of Gilgamesh, as the King of Babylon tried to throw him from a high tower; she gripped the bedpost, to keep herself from falling out of the castle herself.
These days, I am a connoisseur of sadness: I select only fresh, locally grown sadness—nothing tinned or flown in.
Broiled entrée of sadness, marinated in a sauce of light self-scrutiny, brushed with hindsight and garnished with butter-rosettes of regret? Delicious!
At times, only the drama of pan-seared sadness will do and I enjoy preparing a vinegary crust cut with spite and bitter herbs, hiding a surprisingly moist filling, a caper-studded, tender sadness;
but eating so much sadness—I was betrayed and the rupture, the lesion, still corrupts my heart—I find that without a mélange of seasoning: a little caraway, a little rue, a little paprika laced with chagrin;
without a little fantasy, without wishing for knives and murder (begging, blood, the shrieking), sadness quickly grows bland.
Stylish presentation is crucial—
the sleekness of my Sadness Julienne would bowl anyone over—and when I'm furling-furling-working it, I'm Gloria G., I'm the eternal Summer,
my love-finger tight on the trigger—who wouldn't admire my flouncy, sassy strips of dancing sadness?
studies writing with Philip Schultz at The Writers Studio
, where she also teaches. Her first chapbook, Nectar
, was published in 2012 (Encircle Publications
). Her poems and short prose have appeared in TriQuarterly, New Ohio Review, Massachusetts Review, Southampton Review, Chautauqua
, among other publications. She won the 2008 Fugue poetry prize. She lives in Brooklyn and Upper Jay, NY, with her family.