Cordie’s Call

Claude Clayton Smith

Short Fiction

The telephone is ringing and ringing. It is nine o’clock in the morning. He is sitting in the Florida room, sitting in the folding chair by the rickety card table, staring through the screen of the open sliding glass door. He sees Ursula on the diving board about to do one of her fancy dives. She has turned the large wheel on the diving board to obtain the maximum spring. But the telephone is ringing and ringing. He lets it ring. 

It is nine o’clock and he teaches at nine. The bell is ringing for his nine o’clock class. Sometimes, if the wind is from the south, he can hear the clock tower chiming on Hawthorne Hall. He imagines the girls scurrying along the white sidewalks to get to class before the last tolling of the bell. But if you are already in the Art Building, the ringing you hear is from the old fashioned bell in the foyer, a black hemisphere high up and flush to the wall, with a quick, tiny clapper. He hears it ringing now. No, it is the telephone on the kitchen counter—beside the sink where his breakfast dishes are soaking with last night’s dishes and yesterday’s dishes as well, in water that is turning green the way the swimming pool does in autumn.  

But the pool is covered now with a tight black tarp, untouched for a year, depressed in the center from a puddle of snowmelt. He has not been near the pool since Ursula died. He cannot leave the Florida room. 

He lets the telephone ring and ring. He does not like telephones. He turns the ringer off when he goes to bed so he won’t be disturbed during the night. He turns it on in the morning after he finishes reading the Roanoke Times. But it rarely rings then. When it does ring it is always a salesperson trying to sell him double-paned thermal windows, but there are enough  windows already in the Florida room and he doesn’t need any more. Besides, the sun keeps the unheated Florida room very warm in winter, so why would he want double-paned thermal windows? Or it is someone calling to say he has won a prize, a free vacation to a resort in Florida where they are selling condominium time-shares. All he has to do to claim his prize is to visit. They are even willing to pay his airfare—it’s a chance of a lifetime and a limited offer. But why does he need a time-share in Florida when he has his own Florida room? He doesn’t need vacation because he’s retired. 

The telephone rings and rings. There is only one telephone in the entire house. He wouldn’t let Cordie and Katie have their own telephones in their bedrooms when they were kids. He even shut the ringer off during dinner because that was when all their friends called. The telemarketers, too. His only concession was to get a long cord for the telephone on the kitchen  counter—the cord that goes from the wall to the base of the telephone itself. He bought another special cord to run between the base of the telephone and the receiver, a long springy cord full of coils that the girls could wind around their fingers as they talked, dragging the phone from the kitchen counter through the wood-paneled family room and setting it on the floor outside their bedroom door. The springy cord full of coils was long enough to reach from there right into their bedrooms. (It still is.) They could close the door on it for all their private conversations. Cordie’s curly coily cord, they called it. Ursula took advantage of the improved telephone cords to teach  her daughters alliteration. Cordie was thirteen years old, four years older than her snotty sister and more than ready for the luxury of private conversations in her own bedroom and able to lobby successfully for the curly coily cord. Cordie is all business—an intelligent no-nonsense kid—just like her mother. 

The telephone rings and rings and rings, but Ursula is out there on the diving board about to spring into the sky. Spring into the sky above Spring Hill in the spring. She doesn’t like it when he shuts the ringer off on the telephone at night. What if someone dies? she says. What if Cordie or Katie is out on a date and has an accident? What if one of them dies? But it is she  herself who will die in an accident, just like his own parents. Only they died in a boat. (She died in a car, that old clunker of a VW Rabbit that she refused to get rid of until it got rid of her). They’ll be just as dead in the morning, he argues, trying not to be facetious, just wanting to protect the family’s privacy, because the girls on campus—their students—have a habit of calling at any hour, to chat about anything. Well, her students, mostly. He has broken his own of  the habit. They’ll be in bed at one or two in the morning and the telephone will ring because their students are still awake at one or two in the morning. Isn’t that inconsiderate, he argues, especially with two little girls in the house, whom they put to bed, right after their baths, at eight  o’clock? No, the girls are teenagers now. No, they’re in college—one in medical school, the other just a freshman. So, he lets the telephone ring and ring. 

It is nine o’clock, and if it is nine o’clock it is time for class. It is spring quarter now, when he teaches his advanced photography class—the complete Nikon Digital Total Imaging System (although he detests the digital revolution). It’s the third course in a three-quarter sequence. In the fall he teaches Basic Photography, his favorite class. They begin with the pinhole camera. That’s right, the pinhole camera. The fifteen girls stare at him queerly in the Art Building. You can make it from a Quaker Oats box, he tells them. You can make it from a two pound Maxwell House Coffee can. You can make it from a clean gallon paint can. You can even make a gigantic pinhole camera from a fifty-gallon oil drum. He prefers the Quaker Oats box  himself, because it’s readily available (there is always one somewhere in the kitchen). So he wants them all to go out and buy a box of Quaker Oats. You must paint it all black with dull  black paint. You must paint the entire box dull black, inside and out. There must be no skips or misses, he tells them, or light will get in and ruin your pictures. 

After the pinhole camera, he tells them, we’ll play with Daisy cameras—they’re cheap and easy. Then a simple box camera (it takes six-twenty film). We’ll finish with the Kodak Instamatic, an oldie but goodie. If I gave you a Nikon this early, he tells them (we’ll use the  thirty-five-millimeter Nikon next quarter), your photos would all be blurred—like they’ll be anyway with the pinhole camera or Daisy camera. Because you’ve got to learn to press the  shutter button without jerking the camera itself. You’ve got to learn how to handle the f/stops. You’ve got to learn how to handle the chemicals in the darkroom. But pinhole cameras are fun. Plain and simple. Daisy cameras, too. Photography is fun. It’s not at all about pushing buttons or adjusting f/stops. It’s about learning how to see. What’s right there in front of your nose. Right in  front of your stuck-up noses, he wants to tell them, but he can never quite bring himself to say it.  

“My daddy bought me a brand new thirty-five-millimeter Nikon because I signed up for this course,” one of the girls in the front row objects, pouting beneath her stuck-up nose. Patience, he tells her. We’ll get to that next quarter. All she has to do is pass this quarter. He wants to scare her—scare them all—into putting their brand-new Nikons away for a while. So, he asks her: Did she know that the winning photo in PhotoShoot’s latest annual competition was taken with a Nikon D100? With a Cohin P003 red filter attached to a two-hundred-millimeter f/2.8D AFNikkor lens? The image was cropped and saturations were adjusted with Adobe Photoshop and printed on an Epson Stylus Photo 1280. Did she think she was ready for that? Well? 

“No, sir,” she says, still pouting. 

Well, then. And did they know that Ansel Adams preferred an enormous box camera? He used to cart around all his equipment, including a heavy tripod and heavy photographic plates, on a mule named Andy Gump. Andy Gump not Forrest Gump. (This makes the girls titter. All those tittering tits.) So let’s go easy on the Nikons, shall we? We’ll get to them winter quarter. I  promise. And if you can pass the course this winter quarter, I promise you something amazing in the spring—the complete Nikon Digital Total Imaging System. I’m sure you’ll all want it for your weddings. 

The telephone is ringing and ringing. It is nine o’clock in the morning. Ursula is poised on the end of the diving board. He has to teach his class. But the telephone is ringing and ringing. Finally, he gets up from the folding chair in the Florida room, slides open the screen to the dining room, and makes his way to the kitchen. It is dark in the house. All the light and fresh air are out in the Florida room. He finds the telephone on the counter by the sink, where stacks of dishes are soaking in green water. He carries the telephone through the dining room out into the Florida room—very carefully so as not to trip on all its long cords—and sets it on the rickety card table. He sits down in the folding chair. All the while the telephone is ringing and ringing. He picks up the receiver. 

“Hello?” His voice is tentative. He doesn’t recognize his own voice. 

“Dad! Daddy! Why didn’t you answer the phone? Where were you, out in the yard?”

It is Cordie. He remembers the day she was born. He had wanted a boy—Taylor Franklin, Junior. But Ursula wanted a girl and Ursula won. Not that childbirth is a contest or anything. Girls are wonderful, Ursula tells him with tears in her eyes, the pink and wrinkled baby propped on her breast. Don’t be disappointed. You’re acting like King Lear. Oh yeah, he remembers.  Shakespeare. Wasn’t Lear the one with the three daughters that broke his heart? Yes, Taylor, Ursula tells him, but one of them really loved him. Her name was Cordelia. Cordelia—he repeats the name slowly. What a pretty name. So they name the baby Cordelia right then and there—Cordelia Ursula Franklin. And we’ll call her Cordie, he says, so all the kids won’t make fun of  her or call her Cornelia. She had already broken his heart by not being a boy. But she was named for someone who had really loved her father after all. 

No, he wasn’t out in the yard. He was watching her mother on the diving board. He was teaching his class.  

“No. I—I was out in the Florida room.” 

“I was worried. I called your office and got a message. Your phone’s been disconnected.” Cordie. Such a worrywart. She’s in medical school, at Ohio State in Columbus. She is in her first year of medical school after graduating from Virginia Tech over in Blacksburg. Katie goes there, too—Virginia Tech—her freshman year. They couldn’t afford expensive schools like Bryn Mawr. Then Ursula died, and now the insurance money is sending Cordie to medical school and Katie is at Virginia Tech.  

“You’re such a worrywart,” he says. “You always were.” 

“Why has your office phone been disconnected?” 

“Because I’m not in my office. I—I’m on sabbatical.” 

Sabbatical? Come on, Daddy. Spring Hill doesn’t give sabbaticals.” 

“They do now,” he lies. “In honor of your mother. Courtesy of the Ursula Ford Franklin Memorial Fund. I’m the first recipient. It was a project your mother was working on before she died—getting the Dean to offer sabbaticals. There’s only enough money for one quarter off. But combine that with the summer and I’m free for six months now. I—I go back in the fall.” 

Cordie is silent on her end. She can read him like a goddamn book. (He himself doesn’t read that much. He’s not an intellectual. He just likes taking pictures.)  

“Sorry to let the phone ring, but I couldn’t let today go by without talking to you.’

Today? he is thinking.  

“What’s today?” he says.  

Daddy!” 

“I mean what day of the week.” 

“It’s Friday, Daddy. And I’ve got to cut this short. I’ve got class at ten—way the hell across campus.” 

Don’t you swear, young lady, he hears Ursula telling her. If I ever hear you talking like that again I’m going to wash out your mouth with soap. Do you understand? (Where the hell  does she get a fucking mouth like that? she asks him later.) 

“I mean, what’s the date? It’s April, I know that much. I—I was out in the Florida room.” (Teaching his class. Watching her mother on the diving board.) “Hey. Did I ever tell you that the pool wasn’t here when we bought this house? We built it with the advance I got for my book.”

“It’s April ninth, Daddy. April ninth. Mommy died one year ago today.” 

She goes silent again. He can hear her sobbing, can see the tears in her eyes. No, those are the tears in Ursula’s eyes, when Cordie—their first daughter—was born. He had wanted a son. 

He is out in the Florida room, sitting in the folding chair at the rickety card table, staring through the screen of the open sliding glass door. Staring at Ursula. She is on the diving board and the telephone is ringing and ringing. Cordie’s on the phone! he wants to tell Ursula, but she has already launched into her dive, a forward half twist in the layout position. It’s a simple dive,  mon petit, she is telling him. On take-off you lower your shoulder and move your arms laterally to turn your body on its side. At the peak of the dive your arms are perpendicular to the water. Then you reach overhead to complete the half twist. Entry should be vertical, of course. With nary so much as a splash, as my Bryn Mawr coach used to say. So she enters the water with nary so much as a splash, having hung momentarily in the air above the surface of the pool, above the crest of their five acres, from where you can look across the valley to Spring Hill. 

She is also fond of the back dive. It’s a simple dive, too, she tells him. As you leave the board you drive your legs to your chest and bend your body slightly forward, extending your arms fully. At the peak you grasp your knees just above the shins. On the descent you release your hands and extend your arms laterally while straightening your body. Again, you must enter the water vertically. With nary so much as a splash. She tries to explain diving to him, but he never gets it. The positions—pike, tuck, layout, whatever. The degrees of difficulty, from one to three. The compulsory dives aren’t all that hard, she explains. The front dive in the tuck position, for example, is the easiest, with a degree of difficulty of one. Something like a forward three and-a-half somersault in the pike position, however, is the most difficult, definitely a three. All the compulsory dives have lower degrees of difficulty. 

The telephone is ringing and ringing but she is underwater now, emerging moments later at the far end of the pool, grabbing the small white towel on the deck as she lifts herself out, wiping her face, then trotting back to repeat the forward half-twist in the layout position.  

Incredibly, he has no photographs of his wife. He is a photographer—an award-winning photographer and the author of a successful book of photographs—but he has no photographs of  his wife. She never let herself be photographed. I’m much better, she insisted, live and in person. Sort of in the way that Zelda Fitzgerald used to drive men crazy. That is what Miss Flavia Finyucane tells him while she is auditing Ursula’s American Lit class. Due to the munificence of  the benefactor—Moira Hawthorne, whose great-great-granddaughter is Harriet Hawthorne herself—Spring Hill allows its employees to audit classes for free (only one per quarter, however, as Dean Hardwick is always reminding everybody). So Miss Flavia Finyucane (retired  now, too) sat in on Ursula’s American Lit class and was shocked, really. Then, like the doctor at the infirmary who gives him his pills, she became one of Ursula’s greatest fans. Did you ever see a good photo of Zelda Fitzgerald? she asks him one day. “There’s none in Milford’s book. Ursula had us read Milford’s biography of Zelda along with The Great Gatsby. I think your wife is like that. She’s not really beautiful. Unless she’s in motion. Your wife is poetry in motion.”  

He doesn’t go in for all this literature stuff. (He’s not an intellectual. He just likes taking  pictures.) And he doesn’t have a single photograph of his wife. She forbade it. Some Zen notion. Or maybe Native American. So they have no photos of their wedding. They were married right  out there by the diving board where she is standing now, about to repeat her forward half-twist in the layout position. Just the two of them, plus the doctor from the infirmary who is the mayor of  Spring Hill and therefore has the power to perform civil union ceremonies, plus his best man, the guy who grooms the horses at the horse barn and coaches the equestrian team, who had lived  there briefly himself, until his wife divorced him and they moved out. A groom for the bridegroom, Ursula had quipped. There was no pool there then. Just the bald back yard of Mt. Baldy, with its view—if you walk out back and stand on the diving board—of Spring Hill.  

Don’t be upset about the lack of wedding photos, he hears her saying from the Florida room. The image of our union will be there forever in your imagination. And then, a few moments later. You know, this would be a great spot for a pool! But where would they get the money for a pool? 

Money. Money for a pool—it comes out of the blue. He is contacted by an agent who sees his Weston Award photo in a magazine. How about a book? he proposes. A book of nudes. Where would I get the nudes? he asks Ursula. No problem, mon petit photographe extraordinaire. You let me worry about that. So she calls in her chips. All those chips owed her by the young women of Spring Hill. For not betraying their confidences (all those nasty things they confess to in their essays in her English classes), for smoothing it over with Dean Hardwick when they sneak in late after curfew, for handing out condoms (see me after class, please) right from her office. And they are glad to oblige. She promises them they won’t be recognized. That the Daisy camera will make them look like a sand dune. Your future husbands, she tells them, will cherish this artistic gift. You have to learn to harness the power between your ears to the power between your legs. It’s a horse thing, y’all. Get it? Harness? So the agent gets him an advance from Plenitude Press—enough for a swimming pool—and Ursula takes care of lining up the nudes. (A pool will be great for exercise, she says. And we’ll want children one day, won’t we? A pool would be great for kids way out here in the fucking country.) 

The book is shot in the basement of their ranch house on Mt. Baldy. Too dangerous on campus, Ursula says. The chain-smoking Miss Flavia Finyucane, with her white hair like George Washington’s wig, would shit. The Dean would have a cow. Or vice versa. So the girls come one by one on separate nights. (Please, Ursula insists. They’re young women.) One by one on  separate nights. They don’t even know who else is participating. Each thinks it’s a photo shoot for herself alone. It’ll be a great gift for your boyfriends, she tells them one by one—for your fiancés—those powerful men of the future who will sit on the boards of banks and corporations and international conglomerates. Men whose little balls you will hold in the palm of your hand and twist in the right direction. 

“How the hell are we going to do this?” he asks her (and rightly so). 

“You’ve got to show me how to use your Daisy camera. Fix it to a tripod. Adjust the lighting. Set the stage and show me what to push. You didn’t think I was going to let you gawk at them, did you? That would be uncouth and unconscionable.” (Where does she get these big words?) “As the Dean says, the young women must be monitored. They’ve got nothing that I don’t have, anyway. Only I know how to use it better.” (She is certainly right about that, although he’s never had any basis for comparison.) 

Incredibly, he has nude photographs of the girls he is teaching but no photographs of his own wife. After spending the night at her apartment for the third time he becomes so obsessed by the lack of a photograph that he talks to the librarian at Spring Hill’s sorry excuse for a library, to  see if she could get him a copy of the Bryn Mawr Akoué, Ursula’s college yearbook. (Ursula is  several years older than he is). Hierusousai, soi, deine akoué, Ursula is fond of singing. Words as strange as Bryn Mawr. He tells the librarian it’s a surprise. She mustn’t tell Ursula. And one day the yearbook arrives by UPS in a van just like the Bridgeport Post uses. Ursula is listed under her maiden name, Ursula H. Ford. (Is she really related to Henry Ford? he wonders. And what does the H stand for?) But there is no photograph of her, just a black rectangle, her name, and Blood Drive, 2, meaning her sophomore year. (Intimidated by the head of the English Department at Bryn Mawr, she abandoned the Blood Drive during her junior year and the participation of her class fell to thirteen percent. She was very fond of telling that story, so proud of the percentage drop.) There is a statement under the blank rectangle, too. All the Bryn Mawr girls get a quote or a descriptive statement. Ursula’s says: She gives blood every day

Incredibly, he has nude photographs of the girls he teaches but no photographs of his own wife. I am much better live and in person, he can hear her saying. No two shots of her would look the same, anyway. She is always changing her hair, always wearing her hair against the prevailing fashion—short in the day and age of long hair, long when everyone else’s is short. A mousy brown, as he recalls. Nothing special. And her breasts, as soft and white as marshmallows. Her former fellow certainly got that right (damn him, damn them all). She is  short, although she appears much taller—something in the way she carries herself on those smooth athletic legs. He tries to picture her holding still long enough to be photographed but can only see her in motion, completing her half-twist in the layout position. Entering the water on the vertical. With nary a splash. 

He has nude photographs of the girls he is teaching but no photographs of his own wife. But he sees his chance with her crazy book scheme. 

“Why don’t you pose for me?” he suggests. “We have to work out the distance, the angles, so you’ll be ready when the girls—the young women—come.”  

“We can arrange all that using pillows for a dummy. Or I can make you a scarecrow, if you like. As I told you the first time you asked, Taylor, I don’t do photos. For you or Bryn  Mawr.” 

Oops. He is shocked now, sheepish. “How’d you find out?” 

“I have my ways.” There is a harsh glare in her eyes he’s never seen before. “I have been at Spring Hill longer than you, Taylor. I have been on this earth longer than you. Please don’t betray me again. Deal?” 

“Deal.”  

And they shake on it.  

So the girls come one by one to be photographed, one by one on separate nights. The girls of Spring Hill. What a coup this would be for Playboy. The Dean would shit. Miss Flavia Finyucane would have a cow. Or vice versa. An issue of Playboy with the girls of Spring Hill would doom the institution for sure, putting Hardwick in his grave alongside the scrawny ass of the benefactor’s great-great-granddaughter. The girls come alone on separate nights but he is not even there. Ursula sends him to campus on these nights, to putter about in his office in the Art  Building, while she leads the young women of Spring Hill down to the unfinished basement of  their green ranch house on Mt. Baldy. In a few short years (how quickly it goes!) Cordie and Katie will be tearing around down there on their Big Wheels while he works in his darkroom, while Ursula tends to their laundry at the washer and dryer at the other end of the basement. It’s a bit musty down there but they have a dehumidifier. They have set up a kind of stage against the  outside wall of his darkroom. An old rug covers an even older mattress set on the boards and cinderblocks from the bookcase in Ursula’s old apartment. The girls are invited to recline on this stage to be photographed. It looks like a set for a pornographic movie. 

A few feet away he has fixed a Daisy camera to a tripod and backlit the set. He wastes a lot of film getting the distance and lighting just right, practicing on the female manikin that Ursula brings home from the Roanoke Mall, its legs sticking out the window of her VW Rabbit. But he develops a few of the shots and they look surprisingly OK—as real as the black-and white framed photograph and of the sand dune out in the Florida room that won him the Weston Award as nude (a typo!) and perceived as such. So, he teaches Ursula how to load the camera and how to push the little button without jerking the camera or moving the tripod. She practices until she gets it right, and when the film he develops from her shots looks like the film from his own—all those sensual shadowy shots of a reclining manikin—he turns her loose, and the girls come one by one, on separate nights. 

This will take a few weeks, he tells himself, so he comes up with a project for himself on campus. Michelle Gonder, one of the girls in his winter quarter photography class (the class in which they get to use their expensive new thirty-five-millimeter Nikons), is on the campus newspaper, the Spring Hill Herald. It’s not much of a newspaper, Ursula tells him when he first asks her about it not long after he came to campus (all those long years ago). The staff puts it out  occasionally, she jokes, just like the staff itself occasionally puts out. (He had laughed at that.) The office of the Spring Hill Herald is in the basement of the Art Building and so he wanders over there one night while Ursula is at work on her Daisy chain of nudes, as she calls it. Michelle  Gonder is alone in the office. She is very serious about being a photographer and takes it out on the Spring Hill Herald. The trouble is, she just cannot see. She is almost legally blind, and lacks imagination to boot. (Imagination, he tells the students in his Basic Photography class. I  contains the word image, and what is an image but a photograph?) But Michelle Gonder does know a thing or two about how newspapers are run and so he asks her how she’d go about researching some articles in an old newspaper—let’s say, for example, the Newtown News, way up in Connecticut. Some old editions from his boyhood. 

Michelle Gonder leaps to the task, just like the librarian at Spring Hill’s sorry excuse for a library had leaped to the task of getting a copy of Akoué from Bryn Mawr. Don’t have them send the Xerox copies to my home by UPS, he tells her. Just have them ship them to me here at the office. No problem, Mr. Franklin, she says. She is most happy to oblige. She’ll contact the editor of the Newtown News and request those issues from the morgue. He should be glad, she laughs, that the paper only came out once a week in those days. It’ll make researching that boating accident much easier. The morgue? he says, astonished. He has never heard that term before in reference to any place other than the one where they lay dead bodies out on a slab and examine them, then shut them up in cold drawers in a huge filing cabinet as big as a wall. The morgue, she explains, is where they keep the clippings of old editions of the newspaper. Would he like to see the morgue of the Spring Hill Herald? But the morgue, he is thinking, is where they laid out my parents after the boating accident at the lake, after they fished them out of the lake with the driver of that fire-engine-red speedboat, the accident his grandfather told him about when he was too young to understand. The one he still has nightmares about. How ironically appropriate. The morgue

Meanwhile, Mary Gross is reclining naked on the old rug that covers the mattress on the board-and-cinderblock frame by the wall of his darkroom in the basement of his home back at Mt. Baldy. Pretend to be a sand dune, Ursula is suggesting to her. She’s too stiff. Relax a bit. Her future husband—whoever he is—will cherish her artistic gift. All she has to do is learn to  harness the power between her ears to the power between her legs. It’s a horse thing. Get it? Harness? 

This gets Mary Gross giggling, she relaxes just a bit, and the Daisy camera clicks off another sensuous sand dune nude. Mary Gross is a large girl. Big boned, Ursula calls her. He calls her a big hooper, like the girls on the Spring Hill basketball team. She is tall with boxy shoulders, more angular than fleshy, with large breasts that don’t go with the rest of her body.  

Unlike Miranda Grothouse, she is not a virgin. He knows she is not a virgin because of the way she laughed in Ursula’s American Lit class when Ursula made that crack about screwing around.  He strains to make out her nipples as the film develops in his darkroom, but Ursula knew what she was doing—all the photographs she takes for his book (their book, really, the advance for  which is paying for the swimming pool that is under construction in the back yard, just across the patio from the Florida room) are surprisingly tasteful. Tasteful, yet alluring. Innocent yet sexy. Like the girls of Spring Hill themselves.  

Their future husbands will have to look hard to be sure that what they’re looking  at is what they think it is, he tells Ursula as he emerges from the darkroom. He doesn’t want these photographs (he tells her) to be like the Soft Touch cards he hates so much, the ones you see at the drugstore, the couples on the cover all romantic and blurry to the point that they look just like the person buying them, with his or her boyfriend or girlfriend.  

With some hopelessly sentimental poetry inside, Ursula adds. No, she concludes, our book will be an act of the creative imagination. And it won’t be in color like those Soft Touch cards, she reminds him in her husky feminine voice. It will be in black and white. Just sit tight and be patient

Which is exactly what he is doing out in the Florida room.


Professor Emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University, Claude Clayton Smith is the author of eight books and co-editor/translator of four others. His own work has been translated into five languages, including Russian and Chinese. His degrees include an MFA in fiction from the Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa. His short story “Helping Padraig Die” won the 2021 Great Midwest Fiction Contest of the Midwest Review. For further details, please visit his website: claudeclaytonsmith.wordpress.com


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