Tuesday, April 14, 2009


He had been told what to expect. "She's very exacting," his sister had said. "She hand-picks who gets to stay at her castle - even though they're supposed to allow anyone who's doing the organic farming program - and once you're there, there are rules."

"What kind of rules?" he'd said.

"Oh, you know," she'd said vaguely. "She hates the word 'blanket.' Things like that. You'll see."

When the contessa walked into the room, swathed in a cashmere cape and trailed by a great dane, the atmosphere changed. Everyone sat up straighter. Everyone save a 19-year-old Canadian who had been placed at the castle when his host home flooded, and didn't seem to understand that he was being accorded an honor.

The contessa managed the conversation. At her request, someone recited an oration in Greek. Someone else recounted a French fable. She would ring a small silver bell between courses and an unobtrusive pair of servants would clear silently. Everyone was too on edge to eat much - everyone, that is, but the Canadian 19-year-old.

There was a lull in the conversation. The contessa raised her hand, clearly prepared to conduct the evening's next movement. And then, to everyone's horror, the Canadian 19-year-old opened his mouth.

"So this one time, my cousin -" he began.

"BO-RING!" warbled the contessa. "No one wants to hear about your cousin!"

"But, my cousin-"

"No!" she trilled, holding up a detaining hand.





He left the next day. The rest of the guests performed a Moliere farce.
Two children stood by the Egyptian pond at the museum, gazing idly first at the mosaic of bright and tarnished coins in the pool, then at the panorama of winter park, and back. An old man approached, small, bent, with a roguish gleam in his eye.

"NO SKINNY DIPPING!" he screamed gleefully. "Not you," he said to the girl, "but you!" He pointed a gnarled, accusatory finger at her five-year-old brother. The two children stared up at him in abashed wonder.


“Here’s one for you,” the driver said as soon as the taxi door had closed. “If you’re standing in a house, and every window faces south, what color bear are you looking at?”

She thought. If you’re standing in a house, and every window faces south, what color bear are you looking at? It seemed clear to her that the riddle dealt with a geographically anomalous zone. Probably a pole. Which meant…

“A polar bear?” she suggested.

“What color bear?” he repeated, clearly disappointed.

“Oh. White.” she said. He sighed, deflated.

“Yes.” He said, and they drove in silence for a few minutes.


As the young woman made her way down the fetid, sweltering mass of variegated bodies that was Canal Street in August, gaze down, she suddenly found her progress blocked. Blocked a group of pedestrians who were, in turn, encircling some sort of altercation. As the young woman approached, the scene became clear. She was standing before a kiosk, one of many on the street, selling knock-off Rolexes and Coach bags, New York souvenirs and the occasional dancing doll. An ancient Chinese woman, dressed in cropped cotton trousers, a button-front short-sleeved blouse and slippers, and seemingly the proprietor, was standing pugnaciously before a young Israeli woman dressed in skin-tight white jeans:

“You say fuck you to me? You say fuck you to me? Say it again your pants come off! SAY IT AGAIN YOUR PANTS COME OFF!”

The crowd fell quiet.

“I said nothing," said the combatant dismissively. "I did not say fuck you. I said nothing."

"SAY IT AGAIN YOUR PANTS COME OFF!" shrieked the woman. She lunged at her adversary; at the last minute a younger man ran forward and held her back.

The tourist walked off, the crowd dispersed, the woman, still shouting, continued with her threats.

Monday, April 13, 2009


The girl and the boy sat on the concrete steps. She was dressed all in black, her lank hair streaked with crimson,her eyes circled with heavy kohl, her wrist criss-crossed with black rubber bracelets. Her backpack bore an "Emily the Strange" badge. Her companion, plump, in an oversized trench coat, turned towards her with a coy tilt of his head. "Mee-ow," he purred, extending and then curling his fingers in what was clearly intended to be a cat-like manner. His companion did not respond.
"Mee-OW," he purred more loudly.

"Let's go get a soda," she said impatiently, getting to her feet.

"Purrrr-fect," said the boy. She ignored him.