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American fiction

An Open Letter to Doctor X

Perhaps I should introduce myself. I am an attorney, currently employed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office. Relax, Doctor. Let me assure you. This is not that kind of letter. I mention my work only preemptively, anticipating what you might say: For just as it is your business to diagnose the physical and psychic pain of your patients, so my job requires me to be a bit of a student of human nature. To be good at what I do, I have had to learn to read the minds of criminals and innocent men, witnesses and jurors.

 

The Flaw in the Design

The voice is exceptional, rich and graceful. I turn my head to look at him. Intent, reflective, he traces my brows with his finger, and then my mouth, as if I were a photograph he’s come across, mysteriously labeled in his own handwriting.

Fireback

In 1979, when I was for two years an instructor at the University of New Hampshire, I had a student—a bright, anxious, but always attentive student—named Charles Fortunesky. He was taller than most of the others, and seemed to enjoy a comic sense of himself as gawky and slightly ridiculous. He wore his baseball cap backwards—a style that only became fashionable years after he performed his turn-around—and once, during my office hours, he put a Swiss Army knife on my desk and pantomimed a strange routine in which he pretended to click out a blade and, say, a nailfile; he then imitated, with his body, their arrangement.

Mermaids

Last September, Christine had gone back to college to study literature. The previous June, her lover had told her that he was transferring to Brookline, Massachusetts. She knew before she asked that he did not want her to go with him.

Eric Clapton’s Lover

Franklin Fisher and his wife, Beth, were born on the same day of March, two years apart. Franklin was 39 years old, and Beth was 41. Beth liked chiles relenos, Bass ale, gazpacho; Franklin liked mild foods: soufflés, quiche, pea soup. How could she drink Bass ale?

Other People’s Lives

For six years she had worked in an office where the telephones rang constantly, but in the last week, each time her phone went off, Moira jumped and blanched. She turned the ringer down, but it didn't help. This reaction to the telephone began when she moved away from Peter. From PJ. She had gone to stay with her brother and his family until she could get herself back on her feet, and she knew PJ would never call over there. If he called at all, it would be to her office. It would not be so bad to talk to him, Moira thought—to gauge how he had taken her leaving—once she got past the shock. She'd let the phone ring several times to give herself a moment to get composed, but when she answered, it was never him. It was someone from the housing department, or from welfare, or a school counselor, phoning her back about one of her clients.

 

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