Wednesday Jun 19

Stephanie S Stephanie’s work has appeared in literary magazines and anthologies such as Third Coast, Birmingham Poetry Review, Café Review, The Southern Review, Rattle, and The Sun. Her chapbooks include Throat (Igneus Press) and What the News Seemed to Say (Pudding House).  She received an MFA from Vermont College.  She teaches Creative Writing and English at the NH Institute of Art in Manchester, NH where she lives with her husband, the poet W.E. Butts.

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The only time I ever played chess

 

was with Ed. It was a perfect day really. There was coffee. And there was jam even for the toast. And the afternoon sprawled before us in anticipation of him teaching me how to play. Everything was going nicely, until he made a fatal mistake with one of his knights. To our surprise I accidently won, and the pawns and the pieces scattered to the floor, and the board hit the wall making a little nick in the plaster above the lamp. And then I didn’t see him for two days. I drank the coffee and read the newspapers. I remember studying the obituaries for hours, trying to decide who had died from illness, and who from motor crashes, sailing catastrophes, or fire.

 

 

Keeping up with Ed’s intellectual curiosities

 

was difficult. One summer we spent all our weekends walking for miles to the outskirts of the city, squatting for hours at the quarry or by the pond listening to the calls of birds. He would memorize them. Then we would walk back to the two room flat we rented and circle their names in red in his book on North American birds and their habitats. That book eventually joined the stacks of others that crowded those rooms. Books on jazz, books on chess, on Nietzsche, on engineering— precarious stacks, always on the verge of toppling. And most of them were stained— from the cup of coffee he threw at them the morning I accused Nietzsche of being a godless sexist. He was so disappointed in me! And me? I finally drew the line at Bridge. It was not that the game was uninteresting. It was that he chose to play in a local tournament the day of my graduation. The flowers he did not bring me that day sat between us on the table for weeks. They were orange. They gave me nightmares of arson, and they gave me long daydreams of moving to the desert.

 

 

That last morning with Ed,

 

when we rolled out of bed we knew, that sometime between the day we met and that morning, the moon had broken. We tasted pieces of it along with the tin in our words. Sharp shards of it in a gray kiss. And then the coffee pot broke, and the refrigerator was on its last leg anyway, and he closed the screen door firmly. That last image of his back as he rode away on his motorcycle had nothing in common with the cheap reproduction of the Monet we had hung over the couch. Instead, the day turned cold and steep and held fewer words than the Hemingway novel he had left behind.