by Robert Earle

The Green family grows by a series of adoptions that make no sense. Pity and love drive things along.

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R E T U R N  T O  S T  O N L I N E



1. Coeducation got things going.

          1.1 An Egyptian student, twenty, came to the university infirmary pregnant.

          1.2 Her name was Faiza. She had concealed her pregnancy by the way she dressed and her modesty in the communal bathroom.

          1.3 The nurse who led her to the examining room was gone a long time. Faiza sat on the examining table in a blue paper gown, humiliated and praying for forgiveness.

                    1.3.1  She had lain with a boy from Missouri who pursued her on the pretense of taking issue with her silence in seminars. He said she might not understand the seminar format was designed to test your ideas before the group.

                     They shared two seminars: Orientalism and Origins of American Culture.

                      They met for coffee in the student union three times. He listened to her ideas and complimented them.  He told her he had fallen in love with her. She said that was silly but believed him.

                     In the library she looked up Missouri. "Gateway to the West." "Show Me State."

                     She had read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. It seemed to her that the Mississippi was a more interesting if less historic river than the Nile.

                    1.3.2 Her father had said it would be better to go to Oxford or Cambridge, but when the opportunity to go to America presented itself, that's what she wanted.

                              1.3. 2.1 He knew that she was bright, curious and hard-working. Of his eight children he had the least worries about her.  "You've got a good head on your shoulders. You remind me of myself at your age. I trust your intelligence."

                              1.3.2. 2 It turned out neither Faiza nor her father was that intelligent.

                              1.3.2. 3 In fact she'd decided to take a course called "Intelligence" the next semester.

          1.4 The nurse returned without a doctor. "I told the doctor you're pregnant and almost ready to deliver and he doesn't need or want to see you because we don't deliver babies in the university infirmary. You will have to go to one of the hospitals, but before that, you'll need to see an OBG/GYN. This is a list."  

                    1.4.1 The nurse held the list in such a way that her thumb pressed directly against a name, Dr. Randolph Green.

                     She stared meaningfully into Faiza's  beautiful brown eyes to be sure she understood: Dr. Randolph Green. The nurse added, "He's my personal doctor. Young but terrific. Wouldn't be a bad choice for you."

          1.5 Faiza dressed and walked down the infirmary corridor and imagined herself entering a kind of mystical coin shining in the doorway straight ahead. There was no reason to do anything, she thought, except see this man, whom she assumed was an abortionist.

                    1.5.1 Of course she was weeping.

2. The relationship between men and babies.

          2.1 A man may not feel a connection to the baby he fathers.

          2.2 The word "father" is normally but not always associated with the seed that fertilizes a woman's egg. In biological terms, once a man has done that his job is done, and he often goes looking for another woman's egg to spray with copious emissaries of his ever-productive testicles.

          2.3 The boy from Missouri (who now should be named: Ted) said yes, Faiza would have to abort the fetus. They discussed this at length on a window seat overlooking a grassy quadrangle in the late afternoon. Their cultural misunderstanding was manifold: She sensed a divine intervention in what had happened, Allahs mysterious will.  Ted was a literalist nonbeliever. They had a terrible pushing and pulling. Not everything they said made sense.  

                    2.3.1 Ted asked if she realized how hard it had been to get into the university and what it cost his parents. He couldn't throw it away. He understood she was from a wealthy family, but he didn't want to marry her and wouldn't live together out of wedlock off campus at her parents' expense. She had not suggested this since it was a ludicrous proposition, but he was way ahead of her. He said he'd rather she went to Missouri and raised the child there. People wouldn't ask whether they were married. Nobody's business.

                    2.3.2 She asked if he didn't have any feeling for the child.

                    2.3.3 He said it wasn't a child yet, and no.

                    2.3.4 She waited for him to go on. He didn't go on after he said no.

                    2.3.5 She understood hardheaded boys and softheaded boys and probed to see if he would fit himself into either category. He didn't like the bite in her questions. He had no intention of accommodating her with a self-damning answer.

                     Parenthetically he explained to her that psychologists would say she was putting him in a "double-bind." In other words, damned if you do, damned if you don't. Softheaded wasn't good. Hardheaded wasn't good either. He kept pursuing this topic for a while, "jabbering," as he put it himself. What he wanted to do was kiss her and settle things the way he'd unsettled them to begin with.  She laughed at him.

          2.6 In the end he profoundly rejected both "husband" and "father" as cultural fictions, and she told him he was stupid and pathetic, a cretin. No matter how hard he'd worked or how much his parents sacrificed,  how could he have been admitted to this prestigious university?

3. Dr. Randolph Green

          3.1 Dr. Green was not an abortionist, but he had performed abortions. His clientele was town-based, not university-based. Before coeducation no university student ever came to see him.

                    3.1.1 Dr. Green, nicknamed Ranny, was thirty-four, athletic (a runner) and recently married to a woman who had waited for him through medical school. Her name was Cygnet, or "Cyn." She went through law school and became a tax attorney, which occupied a lot of her time during her extended courtship with Ranny. She did not like but accepted the fact that he wanted her to understand what went into being a doctor's wife. There would be a lot of interruptions and waiting and times when Ranny would have to just go run instead of hanging out with her. So they lived together for six years and practiced birth-control and were on the eve of deciding (finally, Cyn thought, although she wanted a career as much as Ranny) to see about having a child.

                    3.1.2 Cyn would be a good way to understand Ranny Green because he was a modest, caring, other-directed person who was inept in self-description and excelled in doing things, very tactile.  Better to let Cyn describe him, which she liked to do because she really loved the guy and had strong reasoning and analytic abilities. Cyn saw him as self-sacrificing, generous, a problem-solver, a good lover, sometimes very funny about himself at parties, insisting how stupid he was, and perhaps somewhat lacking in self-esteem. There were these little dark places folded into his personality that leached out sometimes.  He said once when he was being funny, "Oh, we'll get married and then I'll forget where I put her, like my car keys, and look all over the place. Where the hell is Cyn?"  But he bought a lovely painting of two swans and put it on their wall and liked to look at it and say: "Swans mate for life."  To which she would say, teasingly, "Okay, but am I your swan?"  In fact, that's how he proposed to her, "Cyn, will you be my swan?" And in their marriage vows, they had the minister say, "Do you, Randolph, accept Cygnet as your swan?"  and "Do you Cygnet, accept Randolph as your swan?"

                     In case you don't know, cygnet is the word for young swan, as kit is the word for young fox.

          3.2 Dr. Green insisted on having a nurse in the examining room with him, a soft, hugely bosomed woman, probably mother to many children. The nurse stood behind him as he looked between Faiza's legs and listened to her heart and abdomen and finally jellied her and studied the sonogram without showing the screen to Faiza because she'd asked him not to.

                    3.2.1 Faiza worried he might draw a conclusion from this, but she wasn't ready for that weird image. She'd seen enough in the mirror for months now, looked straight on, looked sideways, looked at the mound of her abdomen when she was lying on her back, couldnt see her feet anymore.

                     Egyptian men like fat women with big boobs, asses, and bellies. They'd never really liked Faiza, but they would now. She also had nipples like Belgian chocolate melted in large yummy discs.

                    3.2.3 Dr. Green asked Faiza to dress and come talk to him in his office.

                    3.2.4 In his office he said, "You're due in short order."  Faiza was fluent in English. She understood "short order" meant quickly or soon, but she had a way of smiling when confronted with a phrase whose origins or mere sound were new to her.

          3.3. Dr. Green studied her subtle smile. He assumed she didn't want to abort (which would be impossible in any case given the advanced state of the pregnancy) because she wanted the child perhaps not out of principle and/or religious belief but because some women experience a perpetual ecstasy during pregnancy even when they're throwing up. Faiza had that look about her despite everything, all the trauma, all the confusion, all the self-condemnation and woe because it couldn't workthe baby could be born, yes, butit couldn't workshe couldn't keep the babyhow could she keep the baby?

                    3.3.1 She told Dr. Green she had been sent to him in order to have the baby in a town hospital, not the university infirmary, but she did not want the baby because her father and family would disown her and the baby's father was of no interest to her, a bad choice for a husband and father.  Dr. Green knew the procedure for immediate adoption and explained it to her.  "But you're under the gun," he said, another phrase she understood without being able to contextualize it. "Do you have an imam with whom you can consult?"  "I could never discuss this with an imam," Faiza said.  "Is that what brought you to America, a desire to get out from under Islam?" Dr. Green asked. Faiza said, "No, I really don't know why I'm here instead of England. I thought I did, but I don't. I never thought I'd have premarital relations, but maybe that's why. I don't know how I can trust myself anymore."

                    3.3.2  In fairness, let's go back a moment. Ted from Missouri was a strong, earthy, sexy young man with sexy hands and she had a protracted orgasm before they had sex or he even touched her sex. (She used the word sex both for the act and her genitals, probably she got that from D.H. Lawrence.)  Passion overwhelmed her.  She wanted to have him and be had. She was like a fence that had no gate. Come right in. She would, at that point, have let other boys in, too. (She actually thought of other boys, lots of them shed yearned for in her post-pubescence years, as Ted whipped into her and their thighs slapped together over and over again.)

                    3.3.3  She asked Dr. Green how he knew Muslim clergy were referred to as imams.  Dr. Green said he didn't know how he knew things but he did know things, he wasn't just a doctor.  She asked him what else he was.  He said he was a husband. She asked him, "Do you have children?"  He said he and his wife were "trying."  Faiza understood what trying meant.  In the purely technical sense, it meant repetitive unprotected sex. Beyond that she worried it might mean sex that lacked passion, verging on duty or obligation.  She then did something that startled both herself and Dr. Green, removing her hijab.  He had had his hands on her sex, after all, but it wasn't that. She wanted him to see her resplendent black hair and the full scope of her jaw and its consonance with her sensuous nose, especially the awakened nostrils, and the nobility of  her forehead. (She did still feel something of his touch on her sex, to be honest, but "something" isn't much, not in comparison to what it is to be a person, which was what she wanted him to see: all of her now.)

                    3.3.4  "Would you adopt this baby?" she asked.

4. Cygnet Fuller-Green

          4.1 You don't fall in love with someone intent on becoming an OBG/GYN without having an interest in his interest and findings and reactions.

          4.2 Cyn rather liked Ranny having this specialty because it was constant proof to other women that he was hers despite his hands all over and inside them.  He'd ruin not only his marriage but his career if he got carried away.

          4.3 That said and time having moved along as it does, did Cyn now simply want a child or did she want to be pregnant and have a child? She'd never asked herself that question, but when it was asked of her, it became a legitimate question.  There was a difference, her reasoning power told her, likewise her conscience.

          4.4 As an attorney Cyn spent a good part of the day listening to clients outline their problems and asking them questions that would steer them to good answers upon which she could act.  She worked sixty-hour weeks at this, give or take. She liked it. She wasn't old enough yet to back off so she'd be more relaxed and get pregnant more easily.

                    4.4.1 She didnt really buy the idea that being relaxed facilitated impregnation anyway, not unless it made you more horny, and she actually was more horny when she was wound up, needing the excitement and release.

          4.5 When Ranny told Cyn Faiza's story, she felt an assortment of little physical phenomena in her breasts and groin and throat.  Overall, if a word were to be assigned to these phenomena, it probably would be "dropping." This wasn't dropping as in despair; this was dropping as in sinking into the deeper wholeness of things. Where the hell she came up with that, she didn't know, but ooh, she dropped.

                    4.5.1 They had never discussed adoption. Of course, if trying got them nowhere, there was always that option.  

                     This may not seem like a relevant detail, but it is. Cyn liked to say, "You find the principle in the practice and the practice in the principle."  This proposition certainly pertained to what Ranny was tellingaskingher.  "So say we took this child,she responded. Is that how we'd have all our babies, never one we produced on our own?"  She laughed at this proposition before he could answer.  "Come on, the way we fuck?  We'd have two little nippers on our hands before you knew it." (She felt them both at her breasts as she said this, one cradled in each arm.)

                     But heres something else. When a woman adopts, a scent-like emotion passes through her making her wonder if she's deficient in some way.  Femininity is always a struggle. First you want to be accepted as equal to boys. Then you want to manifest your attractiveness, your appeal. You want to enjoy it, flaunt it, see how it works in noncompetitive situations (or sometimes you are very competitive; time for some truth telling: originally Cyn did in fact see herself up against all these sumptuous women spreading their legs in Rannys face).  But then femininity and maternity intermingle. Femininity is a fact, maternity is a destinationsomething like thatooh, that dropping sensation again, that release into wholeness.  

          4.6  Cyn said she would if Ranny would. Adopt, she meant.

          4.7 Ranny delivered the baby. Cyn took the lead in working out the adoption.  She met Faiza, of course, and then she had a sit-down with Ted from Missouri.  "If you agree, then you surrender all present and future rights as the biological father of this child and agree to initiate no contact with it until it reaches a majority, if then."  

          4.8 Ted felt like a bank robber about to be caught suddenly making a miraculous escape, but what about the money?  "I'd miss out on a lot if I signed this, and I don't just mean the baby," he said to Cyn. He went on: "I mean getting to know Faiza. It went too far. I know that, but now with this it's erased. I sign, and it's erased. What am I doing?  I don't even know what life is. Getting into college, that's what I thought life was. College is all right, but it's not that great. I just"  He wanted Cyn to talk to him. Cyn kept her counsel, said not a word. A misstep could ruin things or cause a concession that would be a lifelong problem.

          4.9 Ted signed. He never approached the Greens’ neighborhood, though he did know their street address.

          4.10 Faiza arranged to transfer to Oxford.

          4.11 Cyn and Ranny named the baby, a girl, Laura, after Ranny's mother, and they loved Laura.

                    4.11.1 There's something about having an infant in the house that fills it and empties it.  What's full is obvious. What's empty is not so obvious—the impossible fact of the future and the way it will be unknowably conditioned by the augmentation of a couple (in this case Ranny and Cyn) into a triple.

                    4.11.2 But lets not demonize emptiness. When does food taste best?  When your stomach is empty.  What is most stunning about a beautiful work of art? That empty sensation, that queer bewitching moment of aloneness, just you and genius while the rest of the world becomes an echoless, deep-space vacuum. Along with all its negative implications, emptiness is a kind of grandeur, its a kind of suspense, its an incitement to find a way to fill it.

5.  Another child, this time a foundling?

          5.1 One day two years later the nurse at the university infirmary, the one who sent Faiza to Dr. Green and whom we will now reveal was named Elizabeth Betters, found an infant in the staff entryway.  The infant was dressed in pajamas, wore a blue knit hat and was warmly blanketed but lay dangerously close to the metal-edged cement steps leading down to the parking lot.  Elizabeth swept the infant into her arms with lightning speed and almost ran into the infirmary, even had a foot over the threshold, before pivoting and walking back to her VW Jetta.  On her cellphone she called in sick. Then she drove directly to Dr. Green’s office.

                    5.1.1 Why? Because Nurse Elizabeth Betters knew from her own last check-up with Dr. Green that he and his wife hadnt yet gotten pregnant, and they wanted another child. So why not adopt this foundling?

          5.2. Dr. Green couldnt stop her from asking this question but before anything he wanted the infant checked by a pediatrician to be sure of its health. Thats where Elizabeth went and where Cyn Green caught up with her, having gotten the news from Dr. Green, just the news, not a proposal, not a yes, lets do it,just, "Elizabeth Betters brought me an abandoned baby, and I sent her over to Dr. Larson to check it out. Its a boy.For Cyn this was a hugely complicated development.  As an attorney, she knew shed have to act dispassionately, hold herself in check, not get involved emotionally. What role did she have, after all?  None, zero, but  as a woman and mother, there was this spot of utter innocence that needed her as much as she needed it. During the rest of the day she and Elizabeth Betters held discussions with the police, the towns department of social services, the university, and the court. She was advised to stop pressing for temporary custodysimply out of self-protectionbut she wouldnt stop pressing, and Elizabeth Betters supported her.  Cyn told the police that if they found the mother, great, but she knew theyd never find the mother. This infant was at best a week old; it hadnt been delivered in a local hospital; no one had seen it placed outside the infirmary.  The court entrusted the child to Cyn and Rannys care; the investigation would continue, but there would be a point when yes, a legal adoption could be proposed.

          5.3  That night Cyn said to Ranny, "The actual fact is that coeducation has made these prize students with their tremendous genes accidental parents who don't realize what a gift they have brought into the world."  Ranny said it was as though the university's job was to serve as an incubator for late-developing children (meaning the students), sealing them off from the consequences of sexuality while serving it up on a platter.  Yet at the same time, the university was creating optimum conditions for spectacular new human beings.  "I mean, look at this beautiful boy!" he exclaimed.  "Yes, look!" she agreed. She could have said, "Look!" like that for hours and days. Inside she did say it. The baby fascinated her. They called him Lewis, after her father.

6. Two children were enough, a girl and a boy, Laura and Lewis.

          6.1 The kids were two years apart, and they made Ranny laugh a lot. Cyn had never heard him laugh so much. Hed come home and theyd crawl all over him, and he was a wicked tickler, so they laughed like crazy and flirted with him, and Cyn liked everything about her life and believed she was finished with dropping.

          6.2 Cyn began working part-time and even then she put in half her hours at home.

          6.3 Ranny still kept impossible hours, but aside from that, there was nothing the Greens couldnt do for their family.

                    6.3.1 The biggest issue was respecting each childs different nature, letting it blossom, while still being Cyn and Ranny. That could be hard, not bending over too far, putting up with too many tantrums or minor episodes of sibling subversion.

                     Cyn endlessly read books on adopted children. Ranny never did. She told him about what she learned. This seemed to bore him a little. He didnt think it was necessary. He was a doctor, after all, and he had this magnetism. To him love was love. The kids got that. Was Cyn missing something from him, not getting it?

                     She asked him, You dont feel having these children has taught you something about yourself?”  He said, Nah, not really. Im what I would expect from me, and youre what I would expect from you.”  “Im not so sure,she said. I want to pin things down. I get anxious. I dont want to make a mistake.”  Ranny said that if anything, that was her mistake.  This upset Cyn.  I didnt ask for your criticism.  Anyway, were done, right?”  “Unless another one comes along,he said, eyeing her.  It wont,she said. Im close to forty. Were just not meant to have one of our own.”  Ranny didnt agree. He pursued her a lot in bed and often caught her. Not always, but often.

7 And then...

          7.1 A student couple struggling to hold onto each other and their baby fell into academic and financial difficulties that overwhelmed them. The couple fought a lot. They chilled with pot. They separated for days, taking refuge in friendly, maybe too friendly, dorm rooms.  As if completely aware of what was going on, the baby failed to thrive.  The mother, a junior, brought it to the infirmary. Sticks for arms and legs. Head too big for a chest that was too puny.  The front desk advised that the infirmary had capabilities to deal only with students, not pediatric issues. However there was a nurse worth talking to if the mother had time for a chat.

          7.2 The mother had time for a chat.  Elizabeth Betters took her into an examining room and told her there could be a solution.  The mother flinched; she was that overwrought.  "This is my baby!" she declared. "Of course, it's your baby, dear, of course." Immediately Elizabeth understood what the mother, nineteen, was thinking: you want me to give up my baby.  This made Elizabeth uneasy about what she really was thinking. How could she approach the Greens with this case?  It wouldn't be adoption of a child; it would be fostering three children: the child, the mother and the father.

                    7.2.1 It was just that the Greens were the most wonderful people Elizabeth had ever met and it seemed to her that they could solve any problem, and if you asked Elizabeth, who was going through a divorce, who she would like to be married to instead of Gary, her future ex, it would be Ranny Green, who didn't even know all the people at the hospital referred to him that way.  Every other doctor was Doctor This or Doctor That. But then there was Ranny.  Has Ranny been consulted? That's not Ranny's patient, is it?  Ranny was becoming too old to have such a boyish nickname. He was graying. But he was still fit, still running six miles a day, still utterly tunnel-vision when it came to a woman's vagina (ha-ha-ha).

          7.3. Elizabeth called Ranny's office and went to see him at seven that evening. He still looked like he'd just walked out of the dry cleaners, fresh-pressed, wrinkle-free.  "They're a mess," she told him, adding, "I mean all three. You'd be taking them in and helping them get straight with their baby so the baby has a chance. It's not thriving."  Ranny asked, "What's the child's name?"  Elizabeth said, "Wendy."  "You saw it?"  "The mom wouldn't let me get near it, but yes, I saw it."

          7.4 The Greens were uncertain.  This could be too much; this was too much, wasnt it?  Cyn said, "When I have a child in my arms and in my house, I love that child like I love you, Ranny.  It's permanent and forever and I'm absolutely unreasonable about it, which drives me nuts because if I cant reason my way through something, Im lost." Ranny said, "But remember it isnt a question of adoption.” “I know that, but adoption is what we know, not forcing adolescents to grow up.” “We forced ourselves to grow up, didnt we?he asked.  Oh, you were born grown up.”  Cyn had said this to Ranny before. He found it paradoxical because she also said he was too childish with the children sometimes.  And then she attributed it to him having had such a mature childhood himself as an only child. Now he was making up for lost time. Or something like that. She could talk forever along these lines, picking him apart, amazing him with her observations, reminding him of things that had happened in his pre-Cyn life that shed ferreted out and hed completely forgotten. Marriages are so interesting.  Ranny's role, in a way, was to say no, which he almost never said.  Cyn's role was to say yes, which she often said. At any rate, Ranny thought it best to retreat, Look, maybe we can't help. I'll have to tell Elizabeth." "No, don't." "Then what do we do?" "I don't know. We've got two kids on our hands, what difference would three more make? God knows we've got room in this house."

                    7.4.1 They lived in a gray Victorian with wrap-around porches and scalloped siding and gates at the top and bottom of every set of stairs and two as-yet unused bedrooms plus a potential apartment over the double garage between the house and the apple orchard. The house wasn't drafty; Cyn saw to that. The house was spick and span; Cyn hired really great cleaning people. There was a double living unit in the basement for a nanny plus an au pair.

          7.5 Elizabeth brought the boy and girl and baby to meet the Greens.  The girl, named Jane, and the boy, named Jordan, came out and said it: "You've done what you've done, and here we are, failing at everything: Being married, being students, being parents." Actually Jane said this.  She was a small girl who really did hold tiny Wendy tight.  Jordan said, "It's like we didn't know we were diving into a swimming pool with no water. I hurt all the time. I feel broken."

                    7.5.1  Ranny was the one with the strongest reaction to their encounter.  He felt somewhat knocked ajar by Jordan's wild, remorseful but determined recklessness.  He was an art student who wanted to make a living as a painter.  He looked a bit like a Hollywood Jesus and played the guitar which he actually brought along and when the baby became restless he quietly strummed it calm, as if the guitar and the baby were one and the same thing.  Ranny thought, "Where the devil is his father in all this,  his real father? What am I doing taking on another mans grown child?" Then Ranny assessed Jane, who had the edgy, frazzled quality of an overloaded mother who needed to do other things because she wasn't finished becoming whoever she was going to become, apparently an architect. She had dandruff; she had ridges on her fingernails; she had some kind of dry cough; she wore those thick framed raccoon-like glasses, too big for her face, sort of a mask.

                    7.5.2 For their part, Jane and Jordan observed the free flow of Laura and Lewis racing through the house. Laura had a wild black mane and liked to show off dance moves and handstands and things that drove Cyn wild with fear—whipping down the banister, for example. Lewis tip-toed, but fast. He liked his hair in a buzz cut. He loved to be picked up by the feet and swung upside down like a pendulum.   

          7.6 Jordan asked, "Are you devoutly religious or something? Are you Catholics or Mormons or"

                    7.6.1 Ranny said, "None of the above. We adopted because we adopted.

                    7.6.2  Cyn said, "Well, I dont know. I'm convinced there is some force. There has to be, and we did it because we did itdoesnt really work for me. Theres more to it than that.  Destiny, maybe?  Good luck?  Simple chance?  I go into things. Ranny doesnt. Anyway, we didnt adopt because a church encouraged us to.

                    7.6.3 "We are in deep shit," Jane said, trying to not lose what she saw as utter salvation, not wanting Jordan to mess things up poking at these people's belief, which had to be good, whatever they were.  "I want to have a life!  I want this baby to have a life! My parents have cut me off. My brother says it's hopeless reaching them, and he can't help, either."

          7.7. Elizabeth had been silent until now. She had to get some things said. "Wendys a few pounds underweight. I think Jane is verging on anemia, if she isn't there already. Jordan has been told one more D at the university and he will have to take a semester off."

                    7.7.1 "What's your nanny called?" Jane asked.

                    7. 7. 2 "Phyllis," Cyn said.  "The au pair is Claire, but she's leaving, going back to Denmark for college. I don't know why we call them different things when they do the same things. Just their age difference, I guess."

                    7.7.3 "When is Claire leaving?" Elizabeth asked.

                    7.7.4 Cyn said, "In two weeks."  She and Elizabeth exchanged a look that seemed to mean something.

                     Ranny noticed their look but focused more on what he assumed were the yes workings of Cyn's mind and less on what he didn't realize was the yes workings of Elizabeth's desire for him, all of him.  For her part, Cyn thought that given Elizabeth's impending divorce and the many long talks Elizabeth and Ranny had had over the years she might want to take Claire the au pair's place. Yes, that could be and was what Elizabeth was imagining.

          7.8  "But Ive got to say this isn't the college experience I had in mind," Jordan said.

                    7.8.1 For some reason Ranny felt the full weight of the boy's despair and self-contempt. He told himself he wasn't this boy. He fought against it hard, but the kids style and flow and honesty swept into him.

          7.9 Next Jordan asked, "Are you allI mean you two and Elizabethlike, I don't know how to put this... Excuse me if it doesn't sound right. But, like, in cahoots?"

                    7.9.1 Elizabeth shocked Cyn and Ranny; she had a position she now claimed; in the midst of her divorce, there had to be something she could be proud of and she unveiled it, asking no one's permission, letting so much of her frustration burst out of her. "Yes, we're in cahoots. We're in cahoots against disaster, and you two, I mean you three, are already there. Take this offer or something terrible is going to happen to you."

          7.10 "What do you mean terrible?" Jane said, frightened and offended.

          7.11 "I mean awful, life-ruining, as bad as things get. For goodness sakes, I know it's going to challenge you all, but that baby and you both need something holding you up."

                    7.11.1 Cyn said, "Yes, yes, I agree with all of that, but I need to say something too. For me this is it. I can do this, and I want to do this, but no more, I can't handle more, and when you're ready to move on" she was talking to Jane and Jordan "then you move on, but I'm not rushing you. Dont get me wrong.  I'm okay. Just no more."  She said this last bit more to Elizabeth than to Ranny, telling her to stop coming up with potential miracles, but perhaps feeling what Elizabeth was feeling for Ranny, who was sitting there, looking at the two of them, and realizing that poor Elizabeth couldn't have the refuge she wanted, too. She'd be dangerous in the same house with him. That's what Cyn was saying.  

                    7.11.2 Because Ranny did suddenly find himself really interested in the idea of making love to Elizabeth.  He knew her fine body in one way. What about another way?  What about...? He had to stop this; he couldn't think this; he had to tell himself no, and it stung.

          7.12 Cyn said to Jordan and Jane, "You can live with us. We will buy the groceries. We will help you be parents and get through the university, but the door is closing now.  You're the last ones who can come through as far as we are concerned."

                    7.12.1  Silently Ranny blessed Cyn.  All right, he'd said no to himself and could claim that, but the truth was that this no of hers was a bigger no, a no so big it was a yes, a yes about him, a yes about them, swans forever.  

          7.13 Jane began to crack. "But, oh, I don't know how to say this either. I shouldn't be a mother. I'm still a girl.  A girl who got pregnant.  What would you call us?  Would you be adopting us all?  Would we be called Green, too?"

          7.14 Everyone else realized that Jane had lost her mental moorings.  Even little Lewis glanced at her as if she were out of her mind.  She was trying to get out of a deep swirling confusion, an awful plummet into pieces and fragments moving too fast to grasp, some of which were causing her real pain such that her tears now were falling on the baby's face.

          7.15 Elizabeth swiftly recovered and became the Elizabeth of always and of old, daring to speak for the Greens and for the world at large. "Jane, dear, you and Jordan just move here. The place is yours. These people have to have you now.  I've never approached them with anything they didn't have to have.  If you don't join them, they'll be lost, they'll feel as bad as you will.  Please, just leave it at that because names don't mean a thing. Love means everything, and this is where you'll find it. Can I put it any simpler?"

                    7.15.1  Jane said, "No, I get it."

8. What happens happens, logical or not.

          8.1 Jordan and Jane and Wendy stayed with the Greens for three years. Then they moved up to New York where they struggled and had another baby but made their way, Jordan painting at home and Jane working at an architectural firm. They went down to see the Greens at least once a month. Wendy loved Cyn and Ranny and Laura and Lewis, whom she regarded as siblings.  Once in a while Cyn and Ranny went off together and Jordan and Jane looked after the whole herd with Elizabeth's help.  No one could really figure things out or explain some of the sharp edges of defiance Laura and Louis displayed as adolescents or why Elizabeth married another man she quickly divorced. No one could explain the infiniteness of who they all were. Nothing made sense in the way that phrase is used.  

          8.2 Life was just fact after fact after fact.



Copyright © 2014 Robert Earle

A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R:

With more than sixty stories in literary journals, Robert Earle is one of the more widely published contemporary writers of short fiction. He also is the author of two novels—The Way Home and The Man Clothed in Linen—and two nonfiction books, one about North America and the other about Iraq—North American Identities and Nights in the Pink Motel. All four books now are available as Kindle versions, but Amazon also markets hard copy editions.

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