So we headed up to Lincoln Plaza to see Milk, thinking it wouldn't be as crowded uptown, and of course the 8:10 was sold out, the 9:10 was sold out, the 10.... We crossed Broadway; Mark and I talking away; we're passing a deli; he's holding open the door for... Amy Hempel! Running into Amy Hempel is always a happy thing. But how do you explain it when you've just spent a whole hour hunting down three Amy Hempel stories for this Monday's class? Not only that, but typed out the opening of "Beach Town," one of the three stories in question, in a file, for the next blog post? Out there on the busy sidewalk the three of us talked about dogs, literary awards, Milk--who knew James Franco is an MFA student in fiction?--and East Hampton, where Mark and I are headed in the morning. Still, the day had been given its subject. Currents, patterns, mystery, and who can begin to know the half of it? We walked into the Central Park dark.
Tonight, instead of "Beach Town," another Amy Hempel story, this one in its entirety. "In the Animal Shelter" from The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel:
Every time you see a beautiful woman, someone is tired of her, so the men say. And I know where they go, these women, with their tired beauty that someone doesn't want--these women who must live like the high Sierra white pine, there since before the birth of Christ, fed somehow by the alpine world.
They reach out to the animals, day after day smoothing fur inside a cage, saying, "How is Mama's baby? Is Mama's baby lonesome?"
The women leave at the end of the day, stopping to ask an attendant, "Will they go to good homes?" And come back in a day or so, stooping to examine a one-eyed cat, asking, as though they intend to adopt, "How would I introduce a new cat to my dog?"
But there is seldom an adoption; it matters that the women have someone to leave, leaving behind the lovesome creatures who would never leave them, had they once given them their hearts.