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mount rainier TNBWhen I first read drafts of your book, you were still thinking of a title. Rollercoaster. “Terrible title,” you said. Dyke Aching. You sent it through Google Docs and I chatted with you. After a break, you were writing again and it was feeling good, raw. New.

Sometimes when we talk it’s like neurons synapsing – we’re going through texts, emails, voice messages, Skype, Google Docs.

“Love it. I love when Finn says ‘I’m a small little animal?’”

“Here’s a link to this John Prine song.”

“I’m drinking a beer with my melatonin.”

“I so suck at letting things go.”

LBalconyBy 1933 the painting is more or less forgotten.

A mad man is rising to power in Germany.

Junior is on his way home to the U.S.

An aging architect of some former renown has no clients or prospects.

And Liliane’s husband has embarrassed her further by paying thousands of dollars to a competing department store (it is this fact that makes her feel most betrayed) to lavish jewels on his most recent conquest.

13592237***

Alice would come shortly. Sandra waited in the breakfast room, wiping her fingerprints off the laptop, her crumbs off the table. She had chosen slacks because it was not quite warm yet and her legs were pale, freckled with brown.

The blog was Andrea’s idea. A blog for Beatrice and Elvin to read about their grandmother before she grew cotton for brains and peed her pants. No, she did not have Alzheimer’s, she would assure Alice. But she was at the age where anything could happen. Jack was not at that age and it had already happened, and it had happened to many of her acquaintances already. One must be prepared.

The memoir pleased her. She had always written, she would tell Alice, here and there when Andrea was born and Jack was still alive.

The blog did not. An idea from a magazine, surely¾her daughter’s entire life was molded by Women’s Day and Better Homes and Gardens. How to baste a turkey. How to have better sex. How to not feel guilty about being a failure.

In the halcyon days of professional mimics, shortly after they’d outpaced their predecessors, the vernacular storytellers, who had, a decade earlier, wrested the comedic throne from the one-liner royalty, it would have been difficult to name a town of ten thousand souls that didn’t possess some venue where performed those artists who made their fame and fortune with stunning mimicry of the period’s political leaders and actors, athletes and musicians, scholars, and men of science. And at every performance inside those theaters, whether located in the Badger or Beaver State, all seats were filled, as were the aisles and exits, prompting accounts of fire marshals arriving with the intent of stopping the show, only to get so caught up in their own laughter and enjoyment that they would forget their professional function as disperser of those bunched so close together as to create a hazard. Even the streets and sidewalks outside the theaters: they would be massed by citizens who’d shown up too late to purchase tickets yet wouldn’t depart; those closest pressed their ears to the doors and relayed to the others the identity of whomever the mimic was, in the parlance of the trade, “doing.” And though many couldn’t hear a word from inside the theater, they could content themselves with memories of routines, reveling in their proximity to the men whose altered voices entertained them during radio and television broadcasts every night.

The same day I met Zachary, my landlord installed a new bathtub faucet. All new pipes, too. I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh, Joellyn, what does that have to do with anything?” To which I reply: Everything, baby, everything.