Dangerous Mountain Roads/Renovations Can Wreck Marriages
Renga could hear the froth of her cappuccino somewhere to her
right. The song had just ended, but another seemed to be attached,
clicked into the first, like the plastic necklaces Patrick had
ordered not long ago for the store.
Pastel-coloured smooth plastic infants, about the size of Renga's
baby fingernail, were packaged in perfect-sounding cellophane
The colours of the LITTLE KLIDS (click and kids combined) bags
would attract anybody, thought Renga trying to justify to herself
something she couldn't identify the first time Patrick had shown
her the new toy.
He was always bringing home toys for her to check out. It had
started when they were first married and Renga had said she wanted
some toys to make her office at the university seem less intimidating,
less stuffy. She'd been remembering how she'd been afraid to go
to any of her professors' offices when she'd been a first-year
student. Afraid of all the offices except Glenn's.
Why was that? she thought without looking at the catalogues
Patrick had handed her from which to select. She was remembering
a particular years-ago late afternoon, early evening, when, on
the small sofa in the office, she had stretched out at the same
instant that one of Glenn's hands found her right breast, and
the other hand found its way up her skirt, removed her underwear,
and had taken up residence inside her as if it had always known
the way and had known she wouldn't mind.
She shook her head.
No, you don't want these catalogues? asked Patrick.
Renga remembered what they were talking about and said quickly,
No, it's not that, really.
She didn't think why she didn't talk about Glenn with Patrick
more than the first one or two times when they'd both talked about
their earlier loves or earlier attempts at something resembling
It's so hard to tell from looking at them, she said, meaning
the ordering material.
Couldn't you just bring home a sample when you get stuff in
Patrick had agreed that would work too. And in not much time
her office had not just her framed doctorate and the frames leading
up to it, but plants, two tasteful lamps, the usual desk and chairs,
and a good selection of tiny cars, wind-up animals, and miniature
furniture whose designs she loved.
She had hinted at the small train set located in the store,
under the glass-topped counter. Customers couldn't miss the tiny
metal set, about the length and width of a twelve-inch ruler,
which ran chuggingly around and around a delicate steel track,
complete with flashing train crossing signs, green and red warning
lights, and raising and lowering crossing gates. As they waited
for their transaction to be completed at the cash register right
above and to the right of the wonder of Danish engineering, three
out of four Lyon's Magic Toy Box patrons would ask, How much?
(Three-hundred and twenty-five.)
Renga could see that Patrick struggled trying to reply. She
could see that he did really want her to have it. But she could
also see that as a business decision, giving her the train (the
only one in stock) (it had to be special ordered) would not be
a smart business move.
Before he had to answer, Renga couldn't bear making him choose
and she said, Oh, but wait, come to think of it, my desk is already
crowded and the train would be too noisy.
She was thinking the whole time she said this about how the
sound on-off switch was actually on the tiny man standing under
a tree as the train passed.
* * *
Chanel was back with a small white cup and saucer.
A beautiful classic design, thought Renga.
She wondered who was responsible for the first tiny vessel humans
drank caffeine from.
She imagined a Danish engineer whose first name was Borge. She
pictured his hands as architectural and design masterpieces in
their own right. Fingers not too long, the top of the hand smooth
with a freckle or blemish or two marking the surface, maybe a
scar. Fingernails not fussed with but even and smooth from the
kind of work they did. Putting together, manipulating to make
things fit, rounding edges, making the straightest line.
The straightest line would be a bridge, wouldn't it? thought
Renga, taking her cup and staring into the frothy liquid.
Hadn't a newspaper since she'd been away from home had a photograph
of the bridge connecting Danes and Swedes?
A blue grey rendering of shadow and span and cable? Grainy water.
The Oresund Bridge, Renga said, nodding her head.
Chanel was taking the cup back after Renga's sip and must have
thought she'd said something expressing gratitude.
You're welcome, Chanel said as if tasting the words while unsure
of her fork selection.
You would like? she said as a question while she ran her fingers
through the conditioner in Renga's hair and talked to the mirror.
Well, began Renga as if she'd said, This is what I'd like to
be, before it.
Well, she began again, and thought, I'd like to begin again.
I want to go short, she said finally and loudly so as to be heard
above the beat which was louder, mimicking a heart beat in the
song, she thought.
She'd liked that song a lot when she bought it in highschool
for Sebastien who was now married to Janet and they had six kids,
two sets of twins. Renga wondered what the other two kids would
feel like, outnumbered.
Sebastien could be seen every evening giving the stock report
on the national news. Renga would watch his lips move and think
how she hadn't really understood him back then either. She wouldn't
probably have thought of him, or known of his remarkable odds
with children, if not for the practice of patter the news producer
had obviously enforced at the end of each newscast between the
talking heads responsible for news, weather, sports, and money.
That covered just about everything in life, didn't it?
At least it sometimes felt to Renga that that's pretty much everything
she and Patrick had to talk about.
The bridge had been mentioned in Sebastien's money talk. The
three billion dollar project which had started in 95. An underground
tunnel, an artificial island, a cable stay bridge.
Who wouldn't want to live there? Renga thought one night when
Patrick had apologized for going back to the store.
You can come with me, if you want, he said sitting down beside
her on the sofa and standing up at the same time. Bring your marking.
We'll get hot chocolates on the way.
Renga had wanted to say yes. In her head she did say it.
But Patrick must not have heard, because he had quietly gone
and she was watching an old highschool boyfriend (very brief)
talk at the end of the news hour about his two sets of twins.
If I'd made that career choice, she said standing up to go make
tea and to open a can of chicken-and-salmon slices for Agnes,
I'd be talking about YOU.
I'd be let go, she said, under her breath so the cat wouldn't
Was she letting Patrick go?
She turned up the thermostat, overriding the timer and waiting
for the huge radiators to gently clang on. She thought she should
bleed them but was putting it off.
A ten-mile link joining the two countries. Nothing else like
it in the world, she told herself in her best announcer's voice.
Maybe we should go see it.
Why would I think that? Renga asked the pile of ungraded exams
piled on the diningroom table she and Patrick never used for eating.
You're the only things keeping us here, she tried joking to the
stack, and in the process of trying to punch an imaginary arm,
she knocked the pile onto the floor.
Not as if we have kids, she said, kneeling.
Putting the leaning tower of paper back together exam by exam,
Renga thought about how childless couples appeared in magazines
ChildFREE, said some self-help books.
Beautiful, rich, having sex. The magazine ad's unmade bed suggested
the latter and showed the couple also read a New York paper which
you could have home delivered NOW FOR THE SPECIAL PRICE.
Travelling. Flying Business Class. Driving luxury cars. Owning
a second house on a lake.
What are we doing wrong? asked Renga who had opened the first
exam and had begun the act of evaluating.
* * * * *
Rocky Mountain High/Siding On Older Homes Can Be Difficult
Yes, said Renga more sure of this than she'd been of anything
She nodded to convince Chanel.
You are certain?
Renga had to think about that.
Really, she thought, what does certain mean?
She mentally listed things in her rapid-fire manner which was
firing more rapidly after more caffeine. You couldn't be certain
when you bought another pack or two of LITTLE KLIDS that you didn't
already have the particular plastic infants which were enclosed.
You couldn't be certain the redhead in the pink dress, the curly-haired
brunette in sleepers, or the blond feathery-pigtailed diaper one,
wouldn't show up again in subsequent purchases.
There were hundreds of KLIDS, said the packaging.
COLLECT THEM ALL, you were told in no uncertain terms. JUST
KLICK YOUR LITTLE KLIDS TOGETHER FOR AN INSTANT FAMILY, the bright
There was no mention of having the same KLID twice.
Wouldn't that confuse a child or two who were just trying to
get a handle on the birds and the bees? wondered Renga after she'd
become hooked on the strand of KLIDS she was making since being
introduced to the new toy by Patrick.
He had handed the Lyons' Magic Toy paper bag to her a bit tentatively,
Renga almost thought. And she could guess why --- for a long time
after he'd told her about his vasectomy, there had been no toys.
Not in the house. The store of course continued on as if the world
was exactly the same as before, as if everyday there was a new
and better toy that could not be lived without. But Renga and
Patrick had agreed without much discussion to take a break.
Renga knew that Patrick missed bringing her home these surprises,
which were always a success. Patrick had said the companies should
hire her as their test market if they wanted to always feel they
were on the right track. It turned out though that sales didn't
always correspond to Renga's delight, which the couple reasoned
must mean simply that she was easy to please.
Somewhere during this initial readjustment a bookstore had moved
in next to the toy store, and Patrick would instead arrive home
with foreign magazines for her, the latest publications, which
owing to trends happened to be about architecture and the design
of things to come.
Renga knew that, in a sense, Patrick was to blame.
Without the toys and their painful reminders, there would have
been no bundles of publications. Without these glossy welcoming
pages, there would have been no sperm.
Speaking of sperm, she thought, holding her hair between her
fingers to show how short, she would have to ask someone about
the smell she'd noticed repeatedly on the way to the dininghall.
It wouldn't be easy.
I don't think so, said Chanel.
Lots of women think they want this when they really don't.
For a moment, just the briefest moment, Renga thought she understood
Chanel to mean that women think they want to have children when
they really don't.
Lesley-Anne Bourne is
still west-bound, one hopes.