Today Alice’s students will draw the pheasants. Alice unlocks the props closet in Bantam Hall on the downtown campus and sees the two taxidermied pheasants on a high shelf, exactly where she left them last semester. The pheasants were purchased by the Department of Art thirty-seven years ago, Alice’s first year teaching at Juniper College. She places her tote bag on the floor and opens the brown stepladder in front of the metal shelf with the pheasants on top. She will ask the girls in her 10 a.m.
Intermediate Drawing class to render the pheasants in pastel, but she knows the drawings will turn out poorly because these girls insist on buying the absolute cheapest supplies, garbage with too much filler and hardly any pigment. Bad supplies make bad art. Last week, she overheard a student boasting about paying only two dollars for a box of pastels at Walmart. It is incomprehensible that these students think Walmart is an acceptable place to buy art supplies. One goes to Walmart to buy toothpaste and bug spray and cereal and kitty litter, not to buy the materials for creating art. But the girls in her classes don’t actually aspire to be real artists; Alice knows they think her class is just a requirement to suffer through so they can get their degrees and then get jobs.
“Oh, ma’am, ma’am, let me,” a voice calls out, and Alice turns and sees a boy with a wispy, struggling goatee rushing toward her.
“I’m perfectly capable,” Alice says, and she puts one foot on the bottom step of the stepladder. Why is he calling her ma’am? Isn’t it obvious she’s a professor and has a key to the closet? The boy looks at her as if she’s an old vagrant who snuck into the building to pilfer supplies, but, really, who would want to steal driftwood or cow skulls or cloth flowers? These items might be useful in still lifes but not in real life.
“I’d better do it,” says the boy as he approaches. “I’m Hutch. I’m the keeper of the props closet.”
“The keeper of the props closet?” Alice cannot keep the incredulity out of her voice. Is he being paid to guard a locked closet containing objects of little, if any, monetary value? The closet is a large space—about half the size of a classroom—but it houses nothing desirable to a thief.
“It’s my campus job,” Hutch says, and Alice thinks this boy actually looks proud of himself. But it’s not a necessary job, at least when the other professors in the department take the time to instruct their students about respecting the objects that inhabit the closet. But a quick glance at the mess here—the tablecloths bunched up in a corner, the armless mannequin upended, the brass tea kettle completely dented—tells Alice that no one has talked to students about carefully putting things back in their proper spots after a still life has been disassembled.
“I didn’t realize there was such a job,” Alice says. She is uncomfortable now, with one foot still propped on the step, so she brings the other foot up.
“Oh, ma’am, I’ll do it. I don’t want you to hurt yourself.” The boy has the nerve to reach out and touch her elbow, trying to guide her down the step as if she were a feeble blind person. Alice swats away his hand.
“Do you know how many years I’ve been fetching these birds from this shelf? And the other birds too?” Alice asks, sweeping her hand toward the Canada goose and the pileated woodpecker mounted to a tree stump and the crow with the cracked beak and the sleepy-looking mallard.
“All the more reason to take a break and let me handle it,” says Hutch. He scrambles up the ladder, and Alice has a view of his hairy, knobby knees peeking out from baggy denim shorts. Her students have taught her that denim shorts are called jorts—a portmanteau of jeans and shorts, and they’ve said only the nerdiest boys wear jorts. Her students are all at the Ilium campus—the old, battered campus where no one—especially in the Department of Art—wants to teach anymore. The downtown campus is modern and bright, and the Department of Art is housed in a newly constructed building featuring studio classrooms with excellent natural light pouring in from large windows, a darkroom for traditional photography, a lab with Macs with enormous screens for digital work, and even a 3D printer. The real art degree, the serious sixty-credit major, is housed at the downtown campus.
“Wow,” says Hutch, looking around at the top of the shelf, “it’s dusty up here.” He blows a stream of air onto the top shelf, and a puff of dust lingers around him for a moment.
“Does dusting fall within the purview of the keeper of the props closet?”
“I could dust, I guess,” Hutch says, and Alice wonders if he knows the meaning of the word purview. Hutch descends the ladder and says, “I don’t think I’ve seen you around before. Are you new?”
Didn’t he hear her say she’s been getting the birds from this closet for years? Are his ears clogged? He hasn’t seen her around because she’s never assigned any classes at the downtown campus, so the students here think she’s a stranger. She only shows up at the downtown campus for department meetings and to pick up objects from the props closet. The girls at the Ilium campus—the women’s-only campus of Juniper, the original campus before the expansion downtown—are working toward art-therapy degrees, not fine-arts degrees. They are dabblers, who think art therapy is the easiest degree they can earn which will get them a stable, good-paying job. Alice would love to teach the serious artists who study at the downtown campus, but what can Alice do when her younger colleagues are having gallery shows in New York City and she has done little—beyond throwing herself into her teaching—over her long career at Juniper? Is it her fault that the kind of figurative painting she does has gone out of vogue? And there was more than a decade, spanning her thirties and forties, during which Alice cared for her ailing mother when she hadn’t produced any paintings at all. After her mother passed, it hadn’t seemed terribly
important anymore for Alice to continue her own artistic practice. She’d already earned tenure and could wallow at the rank of associate professor for the rest of her career.
“Can I bring the turkeys to your classroom for you?” asks Hutch, who is standing on the top step of the ladder, a pheasant under each arm. If he is not careful, he will crush their long tail feathers.
“Right, okay,” the boy says, but he seems unbothered by being corrected. This is likely because he is used to being either wrong or uninformed. “Can I bring the peasants to your classroom for you?” He descends the ladder and stands next to Alice.
She will not waste her time educating Hutch on the difference between pheasants and peasants. “Are you an art student?” Alice asks.
The boy nods. “I’m a junior. Photography major.”
Of course he is. Alice has always found the photography majors the most undisciplined; they are the ones who claim they don’t need to learn to draw because it’s not a required skill for photographers. What they don’t understand is that learning to draw trains the hands—and more importantly, the eyes—of any artist. Alice thinks photographers are only a small step above the art-therapy majors. When the school first introduced the art-therapy degree fifteen years ago, Alice told herself art therapy was a noble profession. She thought of her mother, of the dementia in her last years, and she wondered if perhaps an art therapist might have been able to bring her some peace. When the art-therapy degree was first approved by Juniper, Alice soothed herself about no longer teaching actual fine-arts majors by telling herself the art-therapy students were doing something good in the world. But lately the girls have seemed less interested in helping than they are in getting jobs after graduation.
“So where should I bring them?” asks Hutch, jutting his chin toward one of the pheasants he’s holding.
“My classroom isn’t on this campus,” says Alice. “I teach on the Ilium campus.”
“Really?” says Hutch, as if she’s just said something stunning, as if she’s told him Rembrandt is still alive. Scratch that—this boy likely hasn’t heard of Rembrandt.
“Don’t you have a props closet there?”
Alice doesn’t say anything. Of course they don’t have a props closet at Ilium. The one and only remaining art classroom on the Ilium campus is on the fourth floor of Wilty Hall, the building that houses the Department of Theater. There is most certainly a props closet for the theater program, filled with costumes and objects for the dismal plays that the students produce, but not one for the art-therapy students, which is why Alice must raid the one here at the downtown campus every time she wants to set up a still life. There is no elevator in Wilty Hall, so Alice needs to transport any props she acquires from the props closet at the downtown campus to the Ilium campus, haul them up four flights of stairs, and then she must lug them back downstairs and return them to the downtown campus when she is done with them. Because Alice never learned to drive, she must take the ugly green campus-to-campus bus with the taxidermied animals as seatmates.
“Have you asked Professor Crews to devote some of the department’s budget for props to the Ilium campus?” Hutch asks, as if Alice has never asked the department chair for more funding for supplies, as if she’s never asked to use some of the space currently allocated to the Department of Theater for an art-props closet at the Ilium campus. She knows no funds will be allotted for supplies for her classes; she, like the Ilium campus and her art-therapy students, is an afterthought in the department, and she knows everyone is just waiting for her to retire. But then who will teach the girls at Ilium?
Alice hefts her tote bag up on one shoulder and says, “Please give me the pheasants,” and Hutch hesitantly hands them over. She gets the pheasants settled under each of her arms by grabbing the wooden bases to which they are attached. She is careful not to crush any feathers. Both of these pheasants are males, with bright green heads, white collars around their necks, and coppery feathers on their bodies. They are beautiful birds.
“Do you just, like, put them in your trunk?” Hutch asks.
“I take the Green Bus.”
“Don’t you drive?”
“I do not.”
Hutch closes the stepladder and leans it back against a wall. “I thought everyone drove here.”
“I have transported the pheasants on the bus plenty of times over the years to no ill effect.”
“You need help getting them to the bus?” Hutch asks. The look on his face tells Alice he doesn’t believe she can possibly make her way downstairs and to the corner where the bus will pick her up.
“I am just fine, thank you,” Alice says. Then she realizes both of her hands are full and she would have to put the pheasants down in order to lock the closet. The boy might as well put himself to some use. “Don’t forget to lock the closet when you depart,” she yells as she walks down the hall.
Alice always sits in the same seat on the bus, the one in the first row closest to the door. Years ago, when she first started teaching at Juniper, there was a handsome and pleasant bus driver named Paul who would converse with her during the twenty-minute trip, but after a year Paul got a better-paying job driving buses for the city and now the shuttle drivers are a rotating crew of young men who enjoy speeding through yellow lights and stomping on the brakes each time they have to stop.
Today Alice settles one pheasant on her lap and places the other on the seat next to her. She holds the base of the pheasant on the seat with her left hand so the bird will not tumble into the aisle. Girls trudge onto the bus and most of them look half-asleep. Alice has heard the dorms at Ilium are not as nice as those downtown, and this must be why most students insist on living downtown, even though this requires them to wake up earlier than they deem humane in order to catch the shuttle for morning classes on the Ilium campus.
“Professor!” Susanna Horton says as she climbs the steps of the bus, stopping in front of Alice’s seat and pointing to her oversized men’s undershirt. In sloppy letters written in Sharpie on the shirt are the words capillary pull. There’s a blob of marker beneath the words, the pigment pulling out in all directions, a demonstration of the concept of how ink naturally moves on a surface. Capillary pull is a term Alice taught her Intermediate Drawing class last week, yet she is befuddled as to why Susanna has scribbled it on an undershirt.
“It’s the name of my band!” Susanna says. “We’d been trying to figure out a band name for months, and when you said capillary pull on Thursday, I was like, ‘Yes!’ Jenna and Kimmy from class are also in the band.”
“What instrument do you play?” Alice asks.
“Well,” says Susanna, “the thing is, we don’t really. We went to a bunch of thrift stores and got instruments, but we don’t actually know how to play them.”
“If you don’t play instruments, how are you a band?”
“We’re going for something atonal, so we don’t really want to learn how to play. We just make noise. I got a trombone. It’s kind of rusted, but that doesn’t really matter.”
Alice has tried very, very hard to teach her students that skill is built through practice, that no one—well, maybe Picasso—springs from the womb as a highly skilled artist, and that hard work and constant practice lead to improvement. But it seems all her talking is for naught, because these girls think they can be a band that doesn’t know how to play instruments. Maybe this is analogous to all the people who call themselves artists who don’t make the effort to learn perspective or composition or color theory. If you say you’re something nowadays, if you proclaim it loudly enough, well, perhaps you can convince the world that you are, in fact, the thing you say you are.
“I guess I should sit down,” says Susanna, glancing back at the line of girls that has formed behind her. “But I just wanted to say thank you for naming our band.”
Alice most certainly did not name Susanna’s band, but she nods at Susanna and doesn’t argue. Susanna shuffles to a seat near the rear of the bus, and Alice watches the rest of the students straggle onto the bus. As always, half of them are still wearing pajamas, as if these are acceptable clothes in which to attend class. Alice wonders what they think of her, riding the bus back and forth between downtown, where she lives, and the Ilium campus. She wonders if they feel sorry for her because she does not drive, but, really, it’s possible to get by without driving if you live within walking distance of a supermarket and a drug store and a library. Where else does Alice really need to go? When she was much younger, when her mother was still alive, there was an art-supply store a five-minute walk from Alice’s apartment, but it has been closed for decades now. It doesn’t matter, though; she hasn’t bought new supplies in a long time, and if she is somehow overcome by the urge to paint again, she can order anything she needs online. She never learned to drive because there simply was never a need. Even when her mother was sick, there was the shuttle that came to get her, for free, to bring her to the hospital for her mother’s treatments.
Alice is the only professor who takes the bus between campuses, and she wonders if the students find her sad and pathetic. She is not married—never married, never had children. When she was a child, she played the card game Old Maid with her mother, never reflecting on the meaning behind the name of the game. But now, she supposes, the students must think of her as an old maid, an old woman with no car and no family who cares far too much about things they find unimportant, such as paper texture and paint quality. And they must think she cares so much about these things because there’s nothing else in her life to care about.
Alice looks out the window as the bus passes through downtown. She likes to be driven, not to have to pay attention to directions. Being driven allows her to observe her surroundings in a way that would not be possible if she were the driver. Alice believes artists should work on their observational skills, but as each year passes, her students spend more and more of their time with their noses in their phones and hardly any time looking at the world around them. Alice surveys the city through the bus’s windows. In some areas, the city is crumbling. The bus passes many homes with signs affixed to their exteriors that indicate the building is condemned, a red square with a white X through it. Many of these homes were once stately—once good, respectable places to live, but now are uninhabitable, with the glass panes of the windows gone and the stonework crumbling.
As they near the Ilium campus, Alice sees a group gathered outside Wilty Hall, and as the bus gets closer, she sees the group consists mostly of students from her Intermediate Drawing class. She checks her watch and sees there are still ten minutes before class. The bus pulls into the parking lot across the street from Wilty Hall, and Alice waits as the students file out of the bus, and then she hefts the pheasants under her arms and disembarks. She walks toward the crowd and sees Tabatha Hanson, a junior colleague who teaches mostly upper-level classes at the downtown campus. What is she doing at Ilium? Tabatha goes by Tabby Handz in the art world, a name Alice thinks is better suited for a cat than a human. Alice served on the committee that hired Tabby, and all the other members overruled Alice’s concerns about Tabby’s obvious lack of skill: They all insisted Tabby would breathe new life into the program. Tabby is standing near the large brick wall of Wilty Hall that faces the street. Dozens of cans of spray paint are lined up by her high-top-clad feet.
“Hi there!” Tabby calls out as Alice marches toward her. Alice’s progress is impeded by the two pheasants she is carrying, but she moves as quickly as she is able to. Tabby is wearing a white jumpsuit covered in paint stains, and Alice can’t tell if they are the result of creating art or if they’re an affectation, like the rest of Tabby. Tabby’s head is completely shaved on one side, and the hair on the other side is long and dyed magenta. Alice’s students look adoringly at Tabby, and Alice knows this is because they have seen her face on the cover of Artforum, and also know about the group show she participated in at the Brooklyn Museum of Art last year. These students don’t particularly care about art, but they do care about success.
“What are you up to?” Alice asks.
“We’re tagging this wall. Urban art, you know? Public art,” Tabby says. Tabby’s cover letter for the position at Juniper mentioned her great interest in graffiti, a way for artists, she claimed, to create outside of the mainstream art world to express themselves. She wrote, too, about how graffiti is more egalitarian than other art forms, because one did not have to pay admission to a museum to see it. She said that if there had been more graffiti in the neighborhood where she grew up, she would have developed an earlier appreciation of art. Alice’s colleagues ate up the things that Tabby spewed in her cover letter and during her interview, but the problem is that Tabby is in the mainstream as much as one could possibly be. Her pedigree—prep school in Massachusetts; expensive, small liberal-arts college in Maine; Ivy League graduate school—is as mainstream as one can be. Of course Tabby never saw graffiti in the elite suburb where she grew up! In her campus interview, Tabby let it slip that her father was a judge for the state of Massachusetts and her mother owned a gallery in Boston. Tabby can dye her hair whatever colors she wants, but Alice can see the blonde roots, and her blue eyes, and other patrician features. As she sat listening to Tabby blather during her interview, Alice wanted to tell everyone in the room about her own parents—her father dying when she was just three from an accident at the textile factory where he worked, and then her mother struggling to keep them afloat working as a waitress in two different restaurants—but she knew no one in her department wanted to hear about her past. They just think of Alice as an impediment to an open tenure-track line.
“Graffiti?” says Alice, looking down at the row of spray-paint cans by Tabby’s feet. “You know, the school spent a great deal of money in the eighties and nineties wiping graffiti off this very wall.” Ilium has gentrified over the last decade, and now there are four coffee shops and two wine bars, not to mention many restaurants that sell small plates of food for ridiculous sums of money. Many people who once lived in Ilium have been priced out. How will the current residents—paying high rent for their apartments in brownstones—react to a spray-painted wall?
Tabby laughs, as if Alice has told a joke. “Your students have agreed to help.”
“My students have pheasants to draw.” Alice hefts up the pheasants, who’ve grown increasingly heavy. She is offended Tabby spoke to her students and asked them to do a project without her permission. And what is Tabby doing at Ilium? Doesn’t she have classes to teach at the downtown campus?
“Oh, please, can we help Tabby?” says Susanna. “This is so cool! I can’t believe we have the opportunity to be part of a Tabby Handz art production! We’re going to be all over the internet.”
“Oh, rad shirt,” says Tabby, pointing at Susanna’s defaced undershirt.
“It’s the name of my band. We’re playing at the Bowl Hole on Friday at ten. You should come.”
“That sounds amazing,” says Tabby, and Alice notes Tabby has not actually committed to attending. Alice feels insulted she was not invited even though, had she been, she would not have gone to whatever unsavory place Bowl Hole is.
“I had a lesson planned about color today. High key, low key, hue, intensity, temperature,” Alice says.
Tabby stares at Alice for a few seconds as if she is unfamiliar with those terms. More of Alice’s Intermediate Drawing students have gathered outside the building. “You could still teach them the terms using spray paint. I’ve got a whole array of colors here.”
“Do you have a plan for what’s going to be painted?” Alice asks. “Do you have sketches?”
“Planning takes away spontaneity. It saps energy from art.”
“You never plan what you’ll paint?” When she still painted, Alice always planned, first small thumbnails in a sketchbook, then larger sketches on big sheets of paper, then an underpainting on canvas, and then finally the oil painting, which usually took several months to complete.
“Never,” says Tabby with a solemnity Alice finds ridiculous.
Alice sighs and puts the pheasants on the sidewalk. Her arms are sore and she cannot hold the birds any longer. Her students have all flung their portfolios containing their drawing pads and drawings from this semester onto the sidewalk. Alice feels suddenly weary, unsure if she can make it up the four flights of stairs to her overheated classroom, so she nods. “Fine, fine. They can paint the wall.”
“Yay, this is going to be super fun!” says Susanna, and she claps and the other girls gathered around Tabby also clap, as if something wonderful and miraculous has happened.
“Just please be careful of the pheasants. I need to return them in the same condition I got them in, so please no one spray paint them.” Alice moves the pheasants under a stop sign at the corner of the block, as far away from the wall as she can put them, while still being able to keep an eye on them. She rejoins the crowd surrounding Tabby.
“I bet you’d be allowed to keep them in your office here,” says Tabby, pointing to the pheasants. Tabby’s fingernails are painted with a garish blue polish. “I think you’re the only one who ever uses them. Or any of the birds.”
“The pheasants need to be available to everyone in the department. How else will our students learn about avian anatomy?”
“I’m not sure how important it is for them to learn avian anatomy,” says Tabby. “Here,” she says, swooping down and picking up a can of spray paint. She shoves the can toward Alice.
“What am I supposed to do with that?”
“Oh,” says Alice, as she wraps a hand around the can. It feels cold under her palm.
“Grab some paint!” shouts Tabby to Alice’s students. “Large movements, don’t think too much, be bold, be vibrant! And switch colors often with your friends! We’re all friends here, right?”
The girls shout “Right!” as if Tabby is an evangelical leader they have been brainwashed to follow.
“Let’s go!” shouts Tabby, and she runs to the wall and releases a stream of purple paint. Alice wants to know whether Tabby can actually draw. If she locked Tabby in a room and told her she could only leave if she could draw a realistic-looking pheasant, could she? Could she get the proportions correct? Everyone is enamored of Tabby’s squiggles and blobs, but are these just a way of covering lack of skill? In an interview in the New York Times, Tabby cited Banksy as an influence, but there’s a big difference between Tabby and Banksy. Banksy is anonymous, but Tabby thrives on being known and being seen. Her last gallery show was called Street Stories and featured photographs of the walls Tabby tagged. In the photographs, she is posing in front of each wall in her paint-splattered jumpsuit, her arms crossed, glaring at the camera. Why does she need to be in every photo? Why can’t the work just exist without her glowering face in every single picture? Alice is certain Tabby is in constant contact with Juniper’s office of marketing, so they can feature her in all their publications. Tabby is an excellent publicist for her own work.
Alice can smell the spray paint in the air, and she coughs from the fumes. She stands still and watches the brick wall fill with color. Of course no one is thinking of the relationships between colors. If they’d planned just a little, there could be pleasing color relationships, some color vibration. Instead, the wall is a mess, a disgusting, undisciplined mess. Her students are laughing, jumping, spraying. Why do the students seem so excited, so filled with energy in a way they never are in her classes? She sets the can of spray paint that Tabby gave her down on the sidewalk.
Tabby walks over to Alice. She shakes a can of paint, and Alice can hear the marble inside clink up and down. “I have the chair’s permission. Crews told me it was fine, that he doesn’t care about this building. He said it would be good to give it some color. So don’t worry, we’re not going to get arrested or anything.”
“I wasn’t worried about getting arrested,” Alice says. And, anyway, if they did happen to find themselves arrested, Alice is certain Tabby’s father, the judge, can get them out of trouble.
“The school photographer is scheduled to come in half an hour. We’ll probably get on the homepage of Juniper’s website.”
“For defacing a wall?” Alice says, and Tabby says nothing in response. Tabby keeps shaking her paint can, and Alice wonders whether Tabby is about to spray her with the paint. Then she sees something behind Tabby. “No!” she shouts. There is a dog, a large gray one with long legs, who is nosing around the pheasants. Alice hurries to the birds.
“I’m sorry,” says the owner, a short woman who looks to be around Alice’s age. Her hair is dyed an unnatural and flat black. She tugs hard on the dog’s orange leash. “Sylvester is just curious. I think he’s got some hunting dog in him and he can’t help himself when he sees birds.”
Alice looks at the dog’s white muzzle. It’s funny, she thinks, how dogs gray just like humans do. Sylvester is sniffing the tail of one of the pheasants. The dog seems slow and lumbering, not what Alice pictures when she thinks of a hunting dog. She watches the dog continue to sniff the pheasants and wonders if they ever encountered a dog in the wild. Had they ever lived free in the outdoors, or had they been confined somewhere, the plan since their birth for them to be stuffed and mounted on wooden boards? “My students were supposed to draw the pheasants today, but instead they’re doing this,” Alice says, waving toward the vandalized brick wall. It feels like a waste, suddenly, for these pheasants to have given their lives and for no one—besides Alice—to find any use for them.
“Your students look like they’re having fun,” says the woman. “No, no, Sylvester,” she says, pulling the dog’s leash as he lifts a paw.
“I suppose they are having fun,” says Alice. But fun is not what life is about. Life is about discipline and dedication and striving to improve. It isn’t about being the loudest and boldest and the one having the most fun.
The dog is still nosing around the pheasants, and Alice sees a wet pink tongue emerge, and, before he can lick the birds, Alice bends and picks the pheasants up. “I’ll just get them out of the way,” she says. “Before harm can befall them.”
The woman nods, and the dog pulls her toward the mess of girls who are madly covering the wall in spray paint, and she says, “Well, it’ll be nice to see some color up on the wall when I walk Sylvester.”
Alice stands near the stop sign with the pheasants under her arms and watches as the woman and dog move down the street. The dog’s legs are bowed, and Alice can tell from his stiff gait that he has arthritis. She looks down at the birds and thinks of how they are frozen in time, how they look nearly the same as they did decades ago, only a little worse for wear. Alice watches Susanna, who has spray paint all over her capillary pull shirt, who is laughing and spray painting, and she sees some trails of paint have dribbled onto the sidewalk. Does the school own the sidewalk or does the city of Ilium?
The Green Bus rolls down the street for the ten-thirty drop off and pick up. Alice’s girls—all of them—don’t seem to remember they showed up today for Alice’s class. After the lesson on color, she planned to show them how to draw feathers that look so realistic a viewer would have to resist the urge to stick out a finger to touch the drawing. But it is clear no one is interested in learning what Alice has to teach.
The bus stops, the doors open with a pneumatic hiss, and a handful of students spill out. When the bus is empty, Alice climbs back on with the pheasants and sits in her usual seat. Alice looks out the window at her students and Tabby, at the paint-drenched wall, at all of them having so much goddamn fun. She wonders if Hutch and his jorts will be waiting by the props closet when she returns the pheasants; she wonders if he’ll ask her why she’s back so early, as if he’s someone to whom she needs to explain her choices. Well, here is a choice: She will bring the pheasants back to her apartment downtown and will climb a stepstool—without assistance—and will place them on top of the tall bookshelf in her living room. She will wait and see if her colleagues inquire about them. But of course they will not. No one else uses the pheasants, no one else has touched them in years. No one will even notice they are missing.