(This story originally showed up in the December 27, 1999, worry of the magazine.

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Fiona lived in her parents’ home, in the tvery own wbelow she and Grant saw university. It was a big, bay-windowed house that appeared to Grant both luxurious and also disorderly, via rugs crooked on the floors and cup rings bitten into the table varnish. Her mommy was Icelandic—a powerful womale via a froth of white hair and also indignant far-left national politics. The father was an important cardiologist, revered roughly the hospital however happily subservient at home, wright here he would listen to his wife’s starray tirades through an absentminded smile. Fiona had her very own little auto and a pile of cashmere sweaters, however she wasn’t in a sorority, and her mother’s political activity was more than likely the factor. Not that she cared. Sororities were a joke to her, and so was politics—though she preferred to play “The Four Insimmediate Generals” on the phonograph, and also periodically additionally the “Internationale,” very loud, if there was a guest she believed she can make nervous. A curly-haired gloomy-looking foreigner was courting her—she said he was a Visigoth—and also so were 2 or three fairly respectable and unsimple young interns. She made fun of them all and also of Grant also. She would certainly drolly repeat some of his small-town phrases. He believed maybe she was joking once she proposed to him, on a cold bideal day on the beach at Port Stanley. Sand was stinging their deals with and the waves delivered crashing loads of gravel at their feet.

“Do you think it would be fun—” Fiona shouted. “Do you think it would be fun if we acquired married?”

He took her up on it, he shouted yes. He wanted never to be amethod from her. She had actually the spark of life.

Just prior to they left their residence Fiona noticed a mark on the kitchen floor. It came from the cheap black home shoes she had actually been wearing previously in the day.

“I believed they’d quit doing that,” she sassist in a tone of plain annoyance and perplexity, rubbing at the gray smear that looked as if it had actually been made by a grbasic crayon.

She renoted that she’d never have to do this again, since she wasn’t taking those shoes via her.


“I guess I’ll be dressed up all the moment,” she sassist. “Or semi-dressed up. It’ll be sort of choose in a hotel.”

She rinsed out the rag she’d been making use of and hung it on the rack inside the door under the sink. Then she put on her golden-brown, fur-collared ski jacket, over a white turtleneck sweater and tailored fawn slacks. She was a tall, narrow-shouldered woguy, seventy years old yet still upappropriate and trim, with long legs and also long feet, breakable wrists and also ankles, and also tiny, virtually comical-looking ears. Her hair that was as light as milkweed fluff had gone from pale blond to white somehow without Grant’s noticing precisely when, and she still wore it down to her shoulders, as her mommy had actually done. (That was the point that had alequipped Grant’s very own mother, a small-tvery own widow who functioned as a doctor’s receptionist. The lengthy white hair on Fiona’s mother, also more than the state of the house, had actually told her all she required to recognize about attitudes and also politics.) But otherwise Fiona, through her fine bones and also small sapphire eyes, was nothing like her mom. She had actually a slightly crooked mouth, which she emphasized currently with red lipstick—normally the last point she did prior to she left the residence.

She looked simply choose herself on this day—straight and vague as in truth she was, sweet and ironic.

Over a year earlier, Grant had began noticing so many kind of little bit yellow notes stuck up all over the house. That was not entirely new. Fiona had always written points down—the title of a book she’d heard mentioned on the radio or the jobs she wanted to make sure she obtained done that day. Even her morning schedule was created dvery own. He discovered it mystifying and emotional in its precision: “7 A.M. yoga. 7:30–7:45 teeth face hair. 7:45–8:15 walk. 8:15 Grant and breakrapid.”


The new notes were various. Stuck onto the kitchen drawers—Cutlery, Dish-towels, Knives. Couldn’t she simply open the drawers and watch what was inside?

Worse points were coming. She visited tvery own and phoned Grant from a booth to ask him how to drive house. She went for her usual walk across the field into the woods and came home by the fence line—a really long method round. She said that she’d counted on fences constantly taking you somewhere.

It was hard to number out. She’d said that around fences as if it were a joke, and she had remembered the phone number without any trouble.

“I don’t think it’s anypoint to concern about,” she said. “I expect I’m just losing my mind.”

He asked if she had actually been taking resting pills.


“If I am I don’t remember,” she said. Then she said she was sorry to sound so flippant. “I’m certain I haven’t been taking anypoint. Maybe I have to be. Maybe vitamins.”

Vitamins didn’t help. She would stand in doorways trying to figure out wright here she was going. She forgained to turn on the burner under the vegetables or put water in the coffeemaker. She asked Grant when they’d relocated to this house.

“Was it last year or the year before?”

“It was twelve years back,” he shelp.

“That’s shocking.”

“She’s always been a little choose this,” Grant sassist to the doctor. He tried without success to define how Fiona’s surprise and apologies currently seemed someexactly how prefer regime courtesy, not fairly concealing a personal amusement. As if she’d stumbled on some unexpected adventure. Or started playing a game that she hoped he would catch on to.

“Yes, well,” the physician said. “It could be selective at initially. We don’t know, execute we? Till we see the pattern of the deterioration, we really can’t say.”

In a while it hardly mattered what label was put on it. Fiona, who no longer went shopping alone, disappeared from the supermarket while Grant had his earlier turned. A policemale picked her up as she was walking down the middle of the road, blocks amethod. He asked her name and she answered conveniently. Then he asked her the name of the Prime Minister.


“If you don’t know that, young male, you really shouldn’t be in such a responsible job.”

He laughed. But then she made the mistake of asking if he’d seen Boris and also Natasha. These were the now dead Russian wolfhounds she had embraced many years back, as a favor to a frifinish, then devoted herself to for the rest of their lives. Her taking them over could have actually corresponded via the discovery that she was not likely to have actually kids. Something around her tubes being blocked, or twisted—Grant might not remember now. He had constantly avoided reasoning around all that female apparatus. Or it can have actually been after her mom died. The dogs’ lengthy legs and also silky hair, their narrowhead, gentle, intransigent faces made a fine enhance for her as soon as she took them out for walks. And Grant himself, in those days, landing his first project at the university (his father-in-law’s money welcome there in spite of the political taint), might have appeared to some civilization to have actually been picked up on another of Fiona’s eccentric whims, and groomed and tended and favored—though, fortunately, he didn’t understand also this until much later.

Tright here was a preeminence that nobody might be admitted to Meadowlake throughout the month of December. The holiday seaboy had so many kind of emotional pitfalls. So they made the twenty-minute drive in January. Before they got to the highmeans the nation road dipped through a swampy hollow now entirely frozen over.

Fiona said, “Oh, remember.”

Grant shelp, “I was reasoning about that, also.”

“Only it remained in the moonlight,” she shelp.

She was talking around the time that they had gone out skiing at night under the full moon and over the black-striped scurrently, in this area that you could acquire into just in the depths of winter. They had actually heard the branches cracking in the cold.

If she might remember that, so vividly and appropriately, could there really be so much the issue through her? It was all he might execute not to turn about and also drive home.

Tright here was another ascendancy that the supervisor described to him. New citizens were not to be went to during the initially thirty days. Most people necessary that time to gain settled in. Before the dominance had actually been put in place, tbelow had actually been prents and also tears and also tantrums, even from those who had come in willingly. Around the third or fourth day they would start lamenting and begging to be taken house. And some loved ones might be at risk to that, so you would have people being carted home that would not obtain on tright here any type of much better than they had actually prior to. Six months or sometimes just a couple of weeks later, the whole upestablishing hassle would certainly need to be gone with again.


“Whereas we uncover,” the supervisor sassist, “we find that if they’re left on their own the initially month they generally end up happy as clams.”

They had in truth gone over to Meadowlake a few times a number of years earlier to visit Mr. Farquhar, the old bachelor farmer who had been their neighbor. He had actually lived by himself in a drafty brick house untransformed given that the at an early stage years of the century, except for the addition of a refrigerator and a tv collection. Now, simply as Mr. Farquhar’s residence was gone, reput by a gimcrack kind of castle that was the weekend house of some world from Toronto, the old Meadow-lake was gone, though it had dated only from the fifties. The new structure was a spacious, vaulted area, whose air was faintly, pleasantly pine-scented. Profusage and genuine greenery sprouted out of giant crocks in the hallmeans.

Nevertheless, it was the old Meadowlake that Grant found himself picturing Fiona in, throughout the long month he had actually to acquire via without seeing her. He phoned eexceptionally day and hoped to get the nurse whose name was Kristy. She appeared a small amoffered at his constancy, yet she would certainly give him a fuller report than any kind of other nurse he obtained stuck to.

Fiona had actually captured a cold the first week, she sassist, but that was not unexplained for newcomers. “Like as soon as your youngsters start institution,” Kristy shelp. “There’s a entirety bunch of new germs they’re exposed to and for a while they just catch whatever.”

Then the cold acquired better. She was off the antibiotics and she didn’t seem as perplexed as she had actually been as soon as she came in. (This was the first Grant had heard about either the antibiotics or the confusion.) Her appetite was pretty good and also she appeared to enjoy sitting in the sunroom. And she was making some friends, Kristy sassist.


*

If anybody phoned, he let the machine pick up. The people they saw socially, occasionally, were not close next-door neighbors yet human being that lived approximately the country, who were reexhausted, as they were, and also who regularly went amethod without alert. They would imagine that he and Fiona were ameans on some such pilgrimage at existing.

Grant skied for exercise. He skied around and also approximately in the area behind the residence as the sun went down and also left the skies pink over a countryside that appeared to be bound by waves of blue-edged ice. Then he came back to the darkening house, turning the tv news on while he made his stop. They had normally ready supper together. One of them made the drinks and the other the fire, and also they talked around his occupational (he was creating a study of legendary Norse wolves and particularly of the great wolf Fenrir, which swallows up Odin at the end of the world) and around whatever Fiona was analysis and what they had actually been thinking during their cshed however separate day. This was their time of liveliest intimacy, though there was also, of course, the 5 or ten minutes of physical sweetness just after they obtained into bed—something that did not frequently finish in sex yet reassured them that sex was not over yet.

In a dream he confirmed a letter to one of his colleagues. The letter was from the roommate of a girl he had actually not believed of for a while and was sanctimonious and hostile, threatening in a whining way. The girl herself was someone he had parted from decently and it appeared unmost likely that she would certainly desire to make a fuss, let alone attempt to kill herself, which was what the letter was elaborately trying to tell him she had done.

He had actually believed of the colleague as a frifinish. He was among those husbands who had been among the initially to throw ameans their neckties and leave home to spfinish eincredibly night on a floor mattress through a bewitching young mistress—coming to their offices, their classes, bedraggled and smelling of dope and incense. But now he took a dim see.

“I wouldn’t laugh,” he shelp to Grant— that did not think he had actually been laughing. “And if I were you I’d try to prepare Fiona.”


So Grant went off to find Fiona in Meadowlake—the old Meadowlake— and also acquired into a lecture hall rather. Everybody was waiting there for him to teach his class. And sitting in the last, highest possible row was a flock of cold-eyed young womales all in black robes, all in mourning, who never before took their bitter stares off him, and pointedly did not write down, or treatment around, anypoint he was saying.

Fiona was in the initially row, untroubled. “Oh phooey,” she shelp. “Girls that age are always going about talking about how they’ll kill themselves.”

He hauled himself out of the dream, took pills, and also collection about separating what was real from what was not.

Tright here had actually been a letter, and also the word “rat” had actually appeared in black paint on his office door, and also Fiona, on being told that a girl had suffered from a bad crush on him, had actually said pretty much what she shelp in the dream. The colleague hadn’t come into it, and nobody had actually committed self-destruction. Grant hadn’t been disgraced. In truth, he had actually gained off straightforward when you assumed of what might have actually occurred simply a pair of years later on. But word obtained roughly. Cold shoulders came to be conspicuous. They had actually few Christmas invitations and spent New Year’s Eve alone. Grant got drunk, and also without its being compelled of him—likewise, give thanks to God, without making the error of a confession—he promised Fiona a brand-new life.

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Nowhere had actually tright here been any acknowledgment that the life of a philanderer (if that was what Grant had to speak to himself—he that had not had fifty percent as many type of occupations as the male that had reproached him in his dream) connected acts of generosity, and also also sacrifice. Many type of times he had catered to a woman’s pride, to her fragility, by supplying even more affection—or a rougher passion— than anything he really felt. All so that he might now uncover himself accprovided of wounding and also exploiting and damaging self-esteem. And of deceiving Fiona—as, of course, he had. But would it have been better if he had done as others had done with their wives, and left her? He had never believed of such a thing. He had actually never quit making love to Fiona. He had not remained amethod from her for a single night. No comprising fancy stories in order to spend a weekfinish in San Francisco or in a tent on Manitoulin Island also. He had gone easy on the dope and also the drink, and also he had continued to publish records, serve on committees, make progression in his career. He had never before had any kind of intention of throwing over job-related and also marital relationship and taking to the country to practice carpentry or store bees.