Beyond Deserving

Beyond Deserving by Sandra Scofield Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Beyond Deserving by Sandra Scofield Read Free Book Online
Authors: Sandra Scofield
she can manage is to sleep until the exact moment the alarm bursts in her ear. Now, though, she knows she might as well shut it off, since she is fully awake.
    Resentful, and chagrined that she feels so, she pokes Michael with her knee, digging in his thigh and hissing, “Ssstop!” She falls back woefully on her pillow. All her life she has been able to sleep anywhere, to fall asleep in any position, on any surface. There have been second-class Spanish trains, church benches, the back seats of cars, and a line of beds, none very good and some hardly deserving the name, and she thinks, This isn’t anything that needs to change ! Why this, a blessing, when other habits and conditions rot in a compost of piled years, a swamp of established life? Tedious, awkward Christmases with the Fishers, pickle jars and milk cartons stacked any which way in the pantry, and a thousand extraneous things in the basement. Quarrels with her son about hygiene and English. The clacking and rattling of cars driven too many miles, as though a new one would be an act of treachery against some higher principle. She longs for a luxurious accounting, a sojourn in a kind of emotional fat-farm for midlifers. She knows she needs realignment, to remember what matters and what does not. Some days she feels sentenced to her life. Other times she feels it shudder, only a 1.5 on the Richter scale, but a warning that the plates beneath her can shift.
    If only Michael would surprise her. Doing what, she can not imagine. Nothing bad, please, the way some of her friends’ husbands have surprised them, pulling out of marriages that seemed like rocks. Adequate, at least. “What did he want?” Carol Beyers wailed the week before, standing outside the Red Lion Motel after a meeting. An insurance executive, her husband left for Gabon to work laying a pipeline. After that he thinks he may go to Texas.
    Whatever I want, Ursula thinks, it’s not that.
    Michael crawls out of bed, goes across the hall to the bathroom, and blows his nose. He would wring it out if he could. Ursula plumps her pillow and puts the fat part under her neck, which had not relaxed through a whole night’s sleep, so that she will go into another day with yesterday’s tensions still biting the base of her skull. She listens to her husband’s careful blowing, and she forgives him this vulgar aggravation. After all, she sometimes leaves pantyhose draped over the closet door for weeks at a time. She wills kindness toward him, her husband, who is never ill except for a cold, and that only once a year or so. He is her companion and helpmate, toward whom she feels enormous affection, and a certain steady admiration for his immunity to consternation. He is a rock. She, who belongs to so many people, who has to reach out every day to others, whether they want her to or not, she is a puddle.
    She drifts. Their old cat Pajamas nuzzles her shoulder and settles in Michael’s still warm indentation. Ursula strokes the cat’s hip, but the cat wants only Michael’s smell.
    Ursula hears Juliette’s alarm, far away and muffled, like the tinkle of a hawker’s bell. Juliette, by nature as slow-starting as her mother in the morning, nevertheless rises at an ungodly hour to bathe and braid her hair, and to push herself through the day’s first stretches, sighing and moaning as her legs part, as she leans her cheek against her thigh and strains to grasp her instep. This is Juliette’s head start. It gives her an earned aplomb in her astonishingly early ballet class, which meets before school. Juliette calls school—a succession of academic classes required of high school freshmen—Slow Death. After school she dances again. She maintains a solid B average, but when it gets harder, as it must, Ursula doesn’t know if Juliette will have any more to give it. Juliette simply thinks it unfair that she has to learn anything she doesn’t need to

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