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The Short Form

“The Lover”

Joy Williams


On Action Line, someone is saying, “And I live by the airport, what is this that hits my house, that showers my room on takeoff? We can hear it. What is this, I demand to know! My lawn is healthy, my television reception is fine but something is going on without my consent and I am not well, my wife’s had a stroke and someone stole my stamp collection and took the orchids off my trees.” The girl sips her bourbon and shakes her head. The greediness and wickedness of people, she thinks, their rudeness and lust. “Well,” the Answer Man says, “each piece of earth is bad for something. Something is going to get it on it and the land itself is no longer safe. It’s weakening. If you dig deep enough to dip your seed, beneath the crust you’ll find an emptiness like the sky. No, nothing’s compatible to living in the long run. Next caller, please.” The girl goes to the telephone and dials hurriedly. It is very late. She whispers, not wanting to wake the child. There is static and humming. “I can’t make you out,” the Answer Man shouts. The girl says more firmly, “I want to know my hour.” “Your hour came, dear,” he says. “It went when you were sleeping. It came and saw you dreaming and it went back to where it was.”

We read it in Taking Care.

Originally published in Esquire, Vol 80 #1.