She was in the habit of walking straight to his door when she came back from class in the afternoon. When he was there, she would usually go in and ask him if he wanted to take a nap with her. Today she found him sitting in a chair playing his electric guitar without the amplifier, so softly that no one in her room across the hall could have heard him. His hair swayed back and forth in time with the tapping of his foot until she put her hands on his shoulders and bent down to kiss the top of his head.
"I thought you might be home," he said. "In fact, I thought you might be asleep. I was trying to be so quiet."
"I am asleep, I’m so tired," she said, nestling her face into the back of his collar. "I just wanted to say ‘hi’ and then lie down before dinner."
"Wait," he said. "Look on my desk before you go."
She walked to his bedroom door and saw six pieces of paper fanned out slightly in the middle of his desk. Printed at the top of the first page was "Fulbright Scholarship, Institute of International Education, U.S. Student Program Application." She gripped both sides of the door frame and looked down at her feet as she began softly kicking at the floorboards in time with the music.
"Gee, Graham, when did you decide to do this?"
"It came in the mail today," he said without losing his place in the song. "I couldn’t resist sending away for it. My lit professors think I have an excellent chance of getting one."
"But what about the band… I mean when did you start thinking…" She turned back to the living room. "On second thought, wait and tell me at dinner. I’m going to go lie down."
From her room, the tapping of his foot was just barely audible, and hearing it was like trying to touch him from the opposite side of an abyss. When she closed her eyes, she wanted to be lying in the same old four-poster bed she had dreamed of. She wanted Graham to be there, but he would be staring up at the ceiling as he had started to do during their naps when he thought she was asleep. And just this one last time, she wanted the baby to be sleeping in the center between them. She lay down beside them, curling her body around the baby, her hand on Graham’s shoulder. "If you have to leave us, Graham, I’ll understand. I’d let you go right now. As a matter of fact, I wish you’d leave and take this baby with you. Because I have to get on with things. I have to be able to figure out what I’m going to do when I’m alone again after graduation, when you’re off on your Fulbright forgetting me and I have a worthless goddamn BA in philosophy. I have to start thinking about these things some time very soon or I’m screwed." She had never imagined that he looked at her with anything but love in his eyes, but this time she let him roll toward her and look coldly into her face. "You said it yourself, Graham, I’m too smart for this."
This was her fantasy, and she controlled every move that he made. She choreographed every twitch of his facial muscles as he took the pillow from behind his head and gently laid it over the baby. Then she had him take the pillow from behind her own head, never letting go of her eyes, and push it down over her face so that she could finally sleep a dreamless sleep.
The last thing she was aware of, partially deaf and comfortably paralyzed as she always was before she fell asleep, was Graham standing at the end of the couch. She couldn’t so much as lift her head, so she just stared at him. I’m going to dinner, she thought he said, but his mouth was making only the shapes of the words, not the sounds.
MORE BLACK HAMMER AND OTHER THINGS! - As 2017 winds down I'm looking ahead to an exciting 2018 with lots of new projects on the horizon... While ROYAL CITY and DESCENDER will continue I also ha...
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