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"The Rulers of the Hertz", excerpt

Tuesday 11/26/19

Good.


***


The morning routine was inviolable, solely hers. Make Cassie’s lunch. Animal crackers, granola bar, apple, cheese, yogurt cup, piece of candy for a treat, always first, before she made coffee for herself. Harry would have what was left, which was not much, but he only took half a cup anyway.


On the mornings when she was so groggy that she started the coffee machine first, smelling the blueberry tinge of the beans, she’d catch herself, turn the machine off, mid-burble, putting an extra piece of candy into Cassie’s lunch. Sometimes she’d wonder if her daughter ever wondered why there was a touch extra, but nine-year-olds didn’t think that way, they just thought that the day was a little bit better.


The sun had yet to rise on these mornings. The first stirrings of dawn—when the sky begins to blush to purple—had not commenced. The kitchen blinds were down, and despite the dormancy of the dawn, Karise had come to learn how morning darkness has its own forms of shafts and beams that give light, or a glow, anyway, by which one can see, in the manner of a reflection in coal or a spilled puddle of pop.


She’d feel a sensation of wetness around her ankles. As if they were shiny, and she could feel the shine, because they were flecked. Spritzed. She’d touch the skin. It might be clammy, but otherwise dry. Wayward gaggles of nerves, bundles slightly awry. Cassie called loose groupings gangles. She liked to invent words. Gangle of nerves. Ditch the gaggle. Leave them to the geese. Maybe they’ll cool it, she’d think. Maybe they have risen up too close to the surface of my skin. I am getting older. My gangly nerves.


Then she’d reappraise, her lips retreating from over the top of the mug where she had just dispersed her breath, pulling in the darkness, thinking how she could read by this form of it if she so desired, owning the fullness of her moment. I’m not that old. I am young yet, she concluded. Even if they had had Cassie when she was thirty-nine.


Or was it forty? Conceived when she was thirty-nine. Harry was forty. The years of trying and it never happened. They’d have plenty of happiness to go around, they’d say. A final attempt. Into the breach. The breach being the baby-producing way, not the way Harry had oft-preferred in the past.


They would make a weekend out of it. Diptych of days. Duo days of debauch. Harry kept a piece of paper on the nightstand. Come the end of Sunday night, he said, “I have now fucked you twenty-one times this weekend. Personal best.”


“By how many?” she had asked, remaining on her back, her knees pulled towards her chest, stack of pillows under her rear, everything pooling inside of her.


“By about fifteen, I should think. I’ve never officially tabulated these things, you know.”