Saturday, July 31, 2004

Holy Mary!

She's the only kind of woman that could make it to the Dean's List of the Roman Catholic church. A new 'Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World' by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the Pope's favorite theologian, tells us women (and goddesses?) what our basic characteristics and roles are. I'm very happy to be enlightened about these questions by a man who is a celibate, of course. Only adequate distance can provide neutrality and objectivity, right?

Thus quoth Cardinal Ratzinger about women's characteristic traits:

'Listening, welcoming, humility, faithfulness, praise and waiting.'

What, nothing about vanity or competitiveness or greediness or ambition or the hunger for power? Nothing about intelligence, the love of peace, the ability to understand and manipulate people? If we start using all sorts of ancient stereotypes about women, why not add those that the Catholic church used to hold before? For example, that women might be soulless, or especially easily seduced by the Devil or like temples built on top of filthy sewers.

But of course Cardinal Ratzinger knows better than I ever could what women are like. It's the woman's special ability to give birth that molds her in ways totally unknown to men. This ability, according to Ritzinger:

'allows her to acquire maturity very quickly, and gives a sense of the seriousness of life and of its responsibilities. A sense and a respect for what is concrete develop in her, opposed to abstractions which are so often fatal for the existence of individuals and society,'

'A sense and a respect for what is concrete'! Indeed. Abstractions are really hard for us female creatures. We never get them. When I hear stories about Jesus as a shepherd I always wonder why he needed to do magic about the loaves and the wishes; why didn't he just eat his flock for Chrissake? And women certainly mature very quickly. As a religious brother of Ratzinger, one Martin Luther, used to say, girls grow so much faster than boys because weeds mature before valuable plants do.

Given the way women are, meek and passive and meant to think of concrete stuff, what would the Cardinal have women do in the society? Here he goes all feminist on us; he even allows for the possibility that women might hold jobs, though always remembering about the waiting and the humility and stuff. And the main place of women is at home, of course.

Why this sudden feminism? I'm kidding you, sort of. In fact, the letter is an attack on feminism which the good Cardinal views responsible for all sorts of evils in this world. Feminism has:

inspired ideologies which, for example, call into question the family in its natural two-parent structure of mother and father, and make homosexuality and heterosexuality virtually equivalent".

Even more worrying to Cardinal Ratzinger is his belief that feminism can persuade women to become "adversaries of men" and that this can have "lethal effects in the structure of the family". Consider what this statement would sound like if Ratzinger had talked about the Civil Rights Movement as having persuaded blacks to become "adversaries of whites" and as having caused "lethal effects in the structure of the society". Just consider it.

For Cardinal Ratzinger men and women are fundamentally different (remember all that waiting and humility stuff?) and the feminist attempts to increase gender equality have been misplaced because he sees them as trying to erase these fundamental differences between the sexes. But if he's right and such differences are so fundamental, what's his worry? Surely no social movement can erase fundamental god-ordained differences? So why worry about feminism? All our Cardinal needs to do is to bide his time.
You can read the whole letter here.

The Savage Party

Our friendly and moderate wingnut commentator Michael Savage gave us some pearls in his July 28 radio show:

You know something; I'm voting for Bush, I just made up my mind. There's nothing in this for me. I'm a white male, I'm a white, male, married heterosexual -- I don't want the Democrats. Everywhere I turn, there's another hot coal in my eye. For example, today's DNC calendar of public events included lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender meeting, the disability meeting, the ethnic meeting, the American Indian meeting, the Asian/Pacific Islander meeting, the Hispanic meeting, and the African American meeting -- God bless 'em, they're entitled to their meeting, I'm entitled to my vote, they're not my party, end of story. And that's it. I'm not voting for a party of ethnic minorities and women and immigrants. I will not do it. And if I thought for a moment that they had changed their direction, if I thought for a moment there was a new Democrat Party that was more centrist and more focused on the real issues of today, I would have considered, well, maybe sitting the election out, or voting for Kerry -- no, I'm not.

Isn't this fun! The Democrats really should have had a convention where white, heterosexual, married men had at least a tiny role to play. Too bad that they didn't set up a separate meeting for those people; then we could have had Savage, too.

On Feminist Whiners

This is a statement that I often read in various forms from both men and women about feminism:

What (some) women need now is a prominent public figure or two to tell them to quit playing the victim and take charge of their life. Or better yet, figure it out on their own. Yes, there's inequality in every aspect of life. Get over it.

It sounds so bracing and simple that I immediately want to join the military, run for the president of the United States and start my own pro-life organization selling automatic assault weapons. After I have finished with my term as the Pope, of course.

This quote is an example of the way anti-feminists who are not misogynists usually argue. Often the quote is embedded in a longer diatribe which specifies that the speaker or writer is a mother, a wife, a successful businesswoman and someone who has single-handedly broken open every "No Girls Allowed" door or glass ceiling. In other words, someone who never needed feminism (or just perhaps didn't notice how feminism had paved the road for her). The diatribe usually ends with an exhortation for feminists to work on something really important, for example the sanctity of life, or to get a life themselves.

The benign interpretation of this message is that everybody can succeed if they only try hard enough or work enough. Of course, the other side of that one means that those who don't succeed haven't worked hard enough or tried enough (or haven't happened to have parents with money and power, or the right markers for a high social position). But it's undeniable that there is an optimism about this message which is sorely lacking in the feminist diatribes about violence against women or sex discrimination.

The less benign interpretation (and the one I prefer) takes a little bit more space to spell out. This is unfortunately the case with many complicated topics: to understand them fully some effort is needed, and the simple soundbites tend to win just by their easy digestibility. So I hope that you will bear with me.

Let's look at the first two sentences in this quote:

What (some) women need now is a prominent public figure or two to tell them to quit playing the victim and take charge of their life. Or better yet, figure it out on their own.

This writer believes that some women (which stands for feminists, really) play the victim and refuse to take charge of their lives. In order to heal this illness the sufferers might need someone prominent to show them the cure, though they might also be spontaneously cured. I'm not sure how one 'plays the victim'; does it involve self-inflicted wounds or some complicated games with ropes? Either one is a victim or one is not, and if one is a victim very little play seems to be involved. The basic thrust of this part of the argument is pretty clear, though: women are not really victimized and could easily alter their lives by just deciding to do so. Like the 'Just Say No' campaign that Nancy Reagan used to advocate as a tool against drug abuse. Women could do the same about crimes such as rapes, perhaps, and they could just shrug off anything like unfair hirings or firings and ride off into the sunset in search of better pastures. But despite this ability that women have to take charge of their lives they still might need someone prominent to remind them. So.

But it is a seductive idea, isn't it? Nobody likes the idea of being affected by external factors beyond our control, and we do indeed have some power over our lives. The crucial question here is how much power. People like the writer of this quote believe that such self-determination is quite easy, but the cost of this belief is the total dismissal of any societal constraints on our abilities to choose freely. These constraints don't bind everybody to the same extent, of course, but they exist and many of them are specifically aimed at women's choices.

The gist of these two sentences is that women are not discriminated against or otherwise especially burdened. It comes as a surprise, then, that the next two sentences turn this argument upside down:

Yes, there's inequality in every aspect of life. Get over it.

Now the writer has decided that inequalities exist, after all! However, and this is a big however, they don't matter, because they exist everywhere! Sort of like saying that AIDS doesn't matter if it affects enough people. And then the brisk air returns, and feminists are told to get over it, it being the grudges feminists are assumed to mistakenly bear.

But there is a deeper meaning to the inequality-argument here, and that is the implication that everybody suffers from all sorts of inequalities. What makes your inequality so special that it should be addressed? Or in the words of one right-wing commentator, why would misogyny be more of a problem than the fact that some people don't like those who have hair of a certain color?

The answer to this one is easy: Some inequalities are based on considerations of power and access to resources, others are more random in nature. Some inequalities have been legally enshrined and embedded in religious doctrine for centuries, others (such as the hair-example) amount to not much more than personal quirks which often cancel each other out. Some inequalities affect a very large number of individuals, others only a few. Some inequalities are pervasive in almost all areas of life, others in only some. And so on.

But of course I have not managed to condense any of this into a soundbite. Maybe I should just try harder?

Thanks to Lynne for the original link.

Friday, July 30, 2004


They are beautiful birds, aren't they? I read somewhere that certain types of swallows don't use their feet to climb into a nest but need a landing pad. This is probably not true, but I like the idea of kamikaze birds crashing on their pads with a nice juicy worm in their beaks.

The term also has other meanings, of course. Like 'to swallow', which you do while eating and drinking if you're a human, or when someone makes you accept something that makes your inner rebel scream and kick wildly. So in this sense some people have had to swallow Kerry's speech which was a really good speech. It covered almost all the important points and didn't sound at all wimpy. In fact, it sounded mature, insightful and strong. And he kicked Republican ass which I enjoyed very much.

Whether anyone outside the Convention or those who watched or listened to the few still-free media outlets will agree depends on many factors, including how much KoolAid the journalists have swallowed and how well they can distract the country with something else when the secret bitter pill is sneaked down our throats (Kerry is a flip-flopper! Look here: a terrorist has been captured! Tax rebates! Death taxes! The end of civilization as we know it!)

I went to Chicago on my recent vacation. Chicago has lovely flower arrangements all over the place and a fun set of twin fountains which spray water from holographic faces. Children and goddesses and snakes can play in the water, so we all had a good time. Then we went souvenir shopping. I had a hard time choosing between a bright orange cowboy hat with a zebra-patterned rim and a t-shirt which stated:"Swallow. Bitch. Swallow." with corresponding pictures of the intended animals. Just in case the buyer didn't get that the t-shirt has nothing to do with hatred of women, noooh.
And if you think so, you can't swallow even the tiniest, weeniest kind of joke.

In case you're interested I chose the orange cowboy hat. It's going to make a charming present for Ares if I ever find him.

The American Fetus

Or maybe this should be entitled "The Handmaiden's Tale: A Preamble"? It was really just a question of time before president Bush's fetal policy would cause something like this to happen:

Lawyers for a pregnant woman who was deported earlier this month have said that she should be allowed to return to the United States because her 32-week-gestation fetus -- which was conceived in the United States -- is guaranteed equal protection under criminal law as a result of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004 and therefore could be eligible for U.S. citizenship rights, the reports. Maria Christina Rubio was deported on July 16 after immigration officials determined that her residency request had been denied two years ago and that she previously had been deported after illegally entering the United States. In addition, immigration officials last week denied Rubio's request for a humanitarian visa to return to the United States because of pregnancy complications that are putting the health of her fetus at risk; Rubio was hospitalized during her fifth month of pregnancy and has reported severe stomach pains throughout her pregnancy, according to Luis Carrillo, Rubio's husband's attorney. Carrillo said that because Rubio's fetus would be viable outside the womb, it should be treated as a U.S. citizen because the Unborn Victims of Violence Act grants a fetus equal protection under criminal law.

It's not likely that Rubio would win on this argument as the U.S. law currently defines citizenship by birth, but the seeds are sown, the seeds are sown, and one day we shall reap. I'm thinking of all the tourism the U.S. could have for conception vacations: happy couples could visit the Disney world and have a brand new American in the family by one single stroke!

Of course the role of the mother as a container would also become more pronounced. We'd need laws about the containers of human beings and how such should act. But those are probably already being written in the hidden offices of the FBU (The Federal Bureau of the Unborn; I stole this from a cartoon in Mother Jones).
Thanks to ms CJ for the link.

The Expected Arrest?

As an earlier post of mine mentioned the Pakistanis were supposed to capture someone important in Al Qaeida, preferably during the first three days of the Democratic Convention. Well, though yesterday was the last day of the Convention, we did indeed get some good news from Pakistan:

A top al Qaeda operative, one of the world's most wanted men with a $25 million price on his head, was in custody in Pakistan on Friday for his suspected role in the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa.
Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani was arrested along with 13 others after a 14-hour gunbattle with security forces at the weekend in the city of Gujarat, about 110 miles southeast of Islamabad, Pakistan Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat said.
"It is a big achievement for our security forces," he said.
The United States had offered a reward of $25 million for the capture of the Tanzanian national, the same bounty offered for al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and 19 others on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist List.
Ghailani is probably the most senior al Qaeda operative caught in Pakistan since the arrest in March 2003 of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
"He is wanted for the death of Americans," said an official in Washington on condition of anonymity.

Of course it's good news if a real terrorist has been captured. Nothing wrong with that. But I would have wanted the date of the arrest not to fall so close to the predicted time slot. Poor me. I have gone all cynical and sour. And it isn't even my fault.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

I'm Baa-a-ack!

But totally frazzled. It's one of the basic rules of vacationing: you return more tired than you left. And there's still unpacking to do and then I have to find out all about the politics of the last four days. But at least the Snakepit Inc. is still standing and as Addams-familiesque as ever. I really need to get into some interior designing soon. The spiderwebs look nice but they're so nineties, don't you think?

I had a good time on my trip, though, and once I've slept some I'll tell you all about it and show videos, too, and photographs (just kidding here). And I'll tell you what I ate and drank and what the snakes said and so on ad infinitum (not kidding here). So count your blessings that I'm still too tired.

Monday, July 26, 2004

A Vacation Post

I don't know how to say this. It will hurt, however I try to frame it, I know, and I truly wish I didn't have to write this letter. We have had so many things in common, so many memories, so many moments that will for ever stay in our hearts.

But time moves on and sometimes what was the right thing to do yesterday is no longer so today. I know that you understand, even if you can't really forgive me right now....

In other words, I'm taking four days off from blogging! I should be back on Thursday evening. I'm going to put up some really long and boring short stories later on tonight, and you could read a paragraph on each day or something. That way I get visitors every day! So this isn't really about you, of course, but about me and my fear of not being adored if I disappear.

But such are the problems of us goddesses. I'm going to administer some traditional snake-fertility rites on a secret mountain location, and the keyboard is not a sacred object and cannot be backed with all the other paraphernalia. Is 'paraphernalia' a word?
Never mind, you know what I mean: extra food for the dogs and the snakes, swimming suits, nectar and books telling how badly the Bush administation is doing. Also the sacred contained for all the skins to be shedded. And the twelve suitcases consisting of Artful Asp's makeup kit. I sure am glad when this trip will be safely over.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Looking For God

You can read this if you miss me! It could be better, but so could I.

Looking For God

Jonathan is looking for God. He has looked everywhere: in Christianity, in Judaism, in Islam, in Hinduism. He has studied native religions from all parts of the world, studied meditation and shamanism. He has read all the holy texts, but he has not found God. He has talked to believers of all the faiths he has been able to find, and he has found them convinced of their own truths, shiny-eyed in certainty and happiness, and, yet, somehow, very frightening.

Of course, God might not exist, Jonathan thinks as he makes coffee in his kitchen, grinding the shiny, brown beans in the electric grinder. He probably doesn't exist. Jonathan pours the ground coffee in the filter and filtered, clean water in the coffee-maker. He clicks the on-button and waits. Who made the water? Did anybody or anything intend coffee to grow and humans to drink it? Or is the world just a chapter from books on physics, chemistry, geography and biology? And people, what are they? Lumbering apes with small lusty eyes, who can rape and kill, who can break everything with their clumsy paws, who can decode the DNA and go to space, still lumbering apes with small lusty eyes? Who, then is the god? The man with the most Nobel prizes? The man with the most money? The man who killed the most men and impregnated the most women?

Jonathan takes his coffee to the balcony. It is a beautiful morning, birds sing and the sun dapples the grass under the trees below. Here he sits, watching children play, drinking good coffee and drinking in the sun and the birds, the fresh breeze of a spring morning. He doesn't see how this goes with the lumbering ape theory, and, besides, he doesn't believe in lumbering apes. Apes are a mystery at which people gaze through human eyes, a mirror which humans warp to see what they believe is there, what their theory needs to be there.

The wind ruffles Jonathan's hair. It is not a chilly wind. Still, it sends shivers down his body. This is why he needs God: because everything affects him, tells him something, and he can't close his doors against that. A God would let him see patterns, understand what refuses to be understood. Not just why there are wars, holocausts, murders, cancer or airplane crashes. All religions tell stories about this, and although Jonathan doesn't believe in these stories, he is more obsessed with other patterns; patterns so subtle that he can't even see their presence, only sense them in some apparent absence.

He finishes his coffee and sets the empty cup down on the balcony table. The wind tosses a green willow leaf into it. The leaf hesitates a moment on the edge before falling to the bottom of the cup. Was this a conscious act? Anne would have smiled at this thought.

Jonathan picks up the leaf and looks at its intricate veining. Anne found Jonathan's search for God funny and exasperating. She knew that there was no God. They had read the holy texts together, criticized them to each other. She was the first to point out their inconsistencies, their espousal of some values which ancient tribal societies once shared but which now seemed reprehensible. She was the one noting that the god in these texts favored men over women. But they both saw the texts as reflections of what people once had thought god to be, what they had wanted god to say, not as a proof of the existence of God. Jonathan had been disappointed, Anne had been deeply hurt at his disappointment. She wanted to know why Jonathan could still seek for such a god as the texts described. She feared that he needed a heavenly father even if this father had disowned her as an equally loved daughter.

Jonathan wished that she could be with him on the balcony this morning. He would tell her that the God he is seeking is not a man, is not a father. Probably God would resemble no human being. But if Jonathan had to choose he would have God be a heavenly mother, a Goddess. Anne would raise her eyebrows in disbelief. Still, Jonathan rather liked the idea of a Goddess: a beginning and an end in her dark lap.

Is that where Anne was now, he wondered, in Her dark lap? Do suicides sleep there peacefully? Or is Anne simply gone like her ashes he had to sprinkle into the winds? Would she miss him if she could?

He misses her, the dark twin to his light, as she laughingly once said. They were together from the beginning, sharing the womb together, hardly ever apart even later. Without her Jonathan is unfinished, neither coming nor going, a man with one foot in some other invisible world. He needs God to put him firmly in one or the other.

Anne had taken the leap alone, trusting in the existence of no-one, not herself, not God, not Jonathan. She had been outfought. Her war against the world was an impossible one, and when she knew that she could never be more than half-alive, she had opted for total death. Leaving Jonathan behind, half-alive.

Jonathan picks up his cup and goes indoors. He is not working today and plans to spend the whole day looking for God. It doesn't matter if God doesn't want to be found. It doesn't matter if God doesn't exist. If ancient people could create gods in their own image, Jonathan can surely look for God in his own life. Today he is going to do so by meditating in the park.

The park is full of people. Joggers pass Jonathan as he walks in. Children and dogs run around and the benches are all taken. A kite climbs toward the sun. Jonathan finds a small empty corner and sits down under an oak tree. It must be an old tree; its roots are everywhere. Meditation is something Jonathan learned when he studied Buddhism. He never got enlightened, but he can relax his body, quiet his mind and, for some time, enter a state of emptiness. Should God come calling he'll be at home.

He closes his eyes and the sun paints psychedelic bursts on the insides of his eyelids. His body slowly slips its tension and his breathing gently expands. Thoughts drift in and out of his mind, then stop. Somewhere deep inside him a neutral eye opens and observes. Time passes and the sun moves.

He comes back to ordinary awareness when something earth-smelling and moist touches his face. He opens his eyes, staring straight into the brown curious eyes of a dog. There is barely an inch between their noses. Jonathan doesn't know dogs very well, but this seems friendly. It waves its large plume of a tail from side to side. He gives it a clumsy pat on the head. The dog looks at him with raised eyebrows. Evidently pats on the head are not correct.

The dog steps back a little and then bows to Jonathan. Or whatever it does, that's how it looks. It? He? She? She. She turns around and walks away, stopping and turning her head toward him as if asking him to go along. Who does she belong to? She has no tags or collar. She doesn't act like a dog who belongs to somebody. Jonathan looks around for a possible owner, but the park is now empty. The dog keeps insisting that he follow. Perhaps he should, perhaps the dog will show him what she needs or lead him to an accident victim or to God.

This amuses him as he gets up and starts trailing the dog. Dogs are used to hunt, after all, and he is a holy hunter. And wasn't Artemis, the goddess with the bow and arrows, always accompanied by hounds? Then there are the hounds of hell, of course. Better be careful.

Off they go, the man and the dog, stopping every now and then for her to sniff at an interesting smell, zigzagging across the park in apparently meaningless patterns. Jonathan begins to feel like an idiot, but whenever he tries to turn around and leave, the dog looks at him again with that challenging expression in her eyes.

They finally leave the park through one of the side gates. The street outside is busy and Jonathan suddenly realizes that loose dogs are dangerous in traffic. He lunges at the dog, trying to get hold of her but ends on his knees and elbows, staring at the ground. She must have evaded him at the last moment. He must have imagined that his body had gone straight through hers in its path to the ground.

The dog has already crossed the street, and Jonathan rushes after her. She disappears into the crowd and is lost from sight. Suddenly following her is imperative. Jonathan starts running, bumping into people and objects. He can't spot her and is becoming desperate. He looks everywhere, almost ready to give up. Then he sees her, patiently waiting for him at a corner. She turns to a sidestreet and Jonathan follows.

They walk on for what seems like hours to him. The streets begin to look alien. There are fewer and fewer people about. Jonathan is getting tired. Their tempo speeds up. She seems to know where she is going, now, and he can barely keep up. Storefronts whizz by and the occasional pedestrian on the street looks frozen in place. They go faster and faster, turning corners recklessly, crossing streets without checking for cars. Jonathan needs to catch his breath but they go on. He develops a stitch in his side. They keep going. He is sweating freely now, and his legs tremble and ache. They must have run for miles; the dog always at the same easy trot, Jonathan more and more haltingly. Finally he simply must stop and rest.

He stands leaning against a lamppost, drawing in ragged breaths. He doesn't know where he is, the shop windows are full of writing in some foreign script. He doesn't see any people. The dog sits at the next street corner, a vague blurry shape. She hasn't released him yet.

Jonathan closes his eyes and notices that they are full of tears. Is he that tired? The tears fall down his cheeks. He hasn't cried since Anne's death. She didn't care for tears; she managed her emotions by acting them out, by violently throwing books into the wall or by lifting weights until she was exhausted. Jonathan didn't want to cry for her but now he does. He wants her back alive and he wants God to arrange it.

The dog is coming towards Jonathan, stopping once to pee on something on the sidewalk. She is not a handsome dog, her ears don't match and her coat is tangled and matted. But she has something Jonathan needs. Perhaps she knows God.

She sits down nearby and waits until his tears are done. Then she gets up, tells him to follow and trots off.

Jonathan is hollow and light, empty to his bones, but he follows. They pass through streets he never knew existed, cross rivers marked on no map. They walk by odd, distorted buildings, by traffic signs with constantly changing wavering messages. He doesn't understand any of them.

The sun is setting and the mounting shadows take the shapes of plume-tailed dogs. Jonathan thinks that he may have walked like this not for a day but for a year, an eternity. He no longer feels tired, he can now walk tirelessly, softly like a dog. Anne walks by his side, sometimes smiling, sometimes turning her head away. She tells him stories which he doesn't understand. She storms ahead in frustration, then waits for him in mock resignation.. She takes his hand, her eyes fill with love and then she becomes ashes, scattered by the winds. Jonathan looks at his empty hand.

The dog has led him into a deep forest. He has to bend down to avoid the tree branches as he makes his way in. The needles of evergreens sting his cheekbones, the roots try to snare his ankles. The dog is a dim light ahead, still moving deeper into the darkness. Jonathan follows. Finally they emerge into an open area, a hollow, a bog surrounded by trees. The air is scented with something pungent, earthly. The ground beneath him gives on each step, squishes liquid and musky half-remembered smells as he forces his weight on it. A full moon is centered in the sky.

The dog leaps into the bog, splashing water everywhere, her four legs dancing in the air as she rolls onto her back. She rolls back on her stomach and lies there, panting. Jonathan can hear her panting; it is the only sound.

He sits down against a tree trunk and waits. This is where God will speak to him. The dog gets up and shakes herself. Suddenly she starts running. Not the way she moved before. Now she runs in the air, rising up in impossible arabesques, twisting around in slow motion. She chases her own tail high above Jonathan's head, chases imaginary cats around the moon, bounces and leaps through Jonathan's heart. She is all motion; a gentle, piercing song of air, a wild howl of pirouettes. She runs and turns into a golden shower of ashes which rains down on Jonathan. She becomes a dog again, lies down next to him, panting, and starts licking her paws in order. She turns her head and looks at him again with that unfathomable message. Anne turns her head and looks at him, her eyebrows raised. He almost gets it.


He opens his eyes. He is sitting under the oak tree in the park. It is night and he is alone. His body is stiff and numb; it takes a long time before he can get up. His clothes are wet and cold and there are pine needles in his hair. He walks home trying not to think. He takes a scaldingly hot shower still not thinking, changes into dry clothing and makes coffee.

He sits down at his desk with the coffee cup and pulls open a drawer. Somewhere in there is a picture of Anne and him, looking at the photographer through sun-squinted eyes. They are smiling in that picture, wearing matching T-shirts with 'twin' emblazoned on the front. Jonathan had hidden the picture in his grief. Now he needs it. He pulls open another drawer and finds it. He props it against the cup and looks at their faces, first hers, then his, then both of them together. He thinks of the dog. He almost gets it.

After a while he gives up and goes to bed, taking the picture with him. He places it on the pillow next to him and closes his eyes. Tomorrow will be a new day. Just before he falls asleep he hears, from somewhere far away, a solitary dog howl.