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Fish Dying on the Third Floor at Barneys
The clothes are black and unstructured this fall, enlivened here and there by what appears to be monastic chic: a crucifix of vaguely Eastern prov- enance, a cowl. My friend, fresh out of drama school, explains to me how starkly medieval woolens were cut: few seams, to spare unraveling, the neck- notch centered in a single length of cloth. High season, maiden season at the uptown store, austerity's a kind of riff in suede and silk. Sumptuous charcoals, lampblack, slate. And lest the understatement lose its edge, glaziers have installed these fine aquaria, withing whose bounds, superbly not for sale, not just at present, swim the glories of a warmer world. The sun was always a spendthrift, wasn't it? -- cadmium yellow, electric blue, and lines that parse as eat-your-heart-out. Nature's own extravagance, and functional, in fins and tails. But something's wrong. The angelfish near gloves and belts is on its side and stalled, grotesquely heaving at the gills. Says the shopper to her boyfriend, "What's it doing?" and she's horrified. Frank dying makes a fearful sign of life in here, it puts the people off their food. Your mother, said my father when I teased her once, and nastily, Your mother always liked to save. And who should know but he and I, who'd lived on her prevenient thrift? He didn't say, Uncluttered is the privelege of the rich these days. Or: In a world of built-in obsolenscence, saved means saddled with. He said much later, This (I held his hand) This is a bad business. Nailbeds blue, blue ankles, dusky ears. His mucus- laden lungs and their ungodly labor. Father, while there's air to breathe, I mean to mend my manners.
From The Woman Who Died in Her Sleep, by Linda Gregerson, published by Houghton Mifflin Company. Copyright 1996 by Linda Gregerson. All rights reserved. Used with permission.