Hello, Miss James. Good trip down?
Yes, thanks. She looked him straight back in the eyes, daring him to ask her anything more.
He nodded and pointed her toward the buss open door. Iris pulled herself up the three short stairs and into the bus. There was a foreign couple, a couple of stray women sitting alone, and an assortment of men clustered around Floress seat at the front of the bus. Iris nodded and made her way toward the back, past a young woman with her head in a thick book, the curve of her neck laid bare as her hair swept forward. She did not look up, and she didnt stir as Iris passed her by to find a seat three rows back.
Iris reached into her skirt pocket for her cigarettes, shook out a Lucky, and considered the head and shoulders of the little child- woman reading in front of her. A runaway, thought the postmaster, though she was quite well dressed in a sensible blue suit, her brown hair cut short and feathering along the straight edge of her collar. In any case, she was the sort who needed tending, the small- breasted women who tip their faces up to men, smiling delightedly as babies. At last the little creature turned slightly, as if to meet Iriss gaze, aware of her attention, and gave a noncommittal smile a mechanical response like a hand put out to ward off the sun. Iris nodded, companionably, exhaling smoke. Its all rightshe addressed the womans back, now turned away again I wont bite. The bus bounced a little as Mr. Flores climbed up behind the wheel and swung himself into his seat, and the engine roared to life, shaking the floor under Iriss feet. Vronsky was making love to Anna.
Emma read the sentence again, distracted by the pillar of a woman behind her. Did Tolstoy really mean making love? She couldnt think so. Having sex? It would be so bald written on the page like that. Surely they cant have been making love here and there like this in the nineteenth century. It must refer to something else, something more benign. She flushed, a little guiltily. Not that having sex wasnt benign of course it was, it led to babies, after all. Though the things that she and Will had begun to do in the dark had nothing whatsoever to do with babies. But Anna and Vronsky? They had been constrained, wasnt that the idea? Perhaps it was the translation. She flipped to the cover of the book and read the name beneath Tolstoys Constance Garnett. Emma thought she understood. Vronsky had whispered something loving to Anna, or soothed Anna lovingly, or something like that, and Miss Garnett had used other words instead, painting what ought to be a pink scene scarlet. Probably a spinster; the pathetic type who reads passion into the twist of a shut umbrella. Like that woman in the back of the bus.
She pushed her bottom back a bit against the seat on the bus so that she sat up straighter, the doctors new wife in a very attractive travel suit with a matching scarf thrown around her shoulders. She stared out the window. Since she had said to Will Fitch two weeks ago hurriedly, afraid to look up at him, Yes. Yes, I will. I do something firm and satisfying and entirely new had entered into the frequent chaos of her mind. As though Edward R. Murrows voice, that brave, impassioned masculine voice, full of its own urgency and volume, had laid down the track upon which she now hummed. Clarity ran upon that track, and purpose.
Pamet. Then Dillworth. Finally Drake. Closing her eyes, Emma recited the names of the towns she knew only through Wills letters, in which the geography of her new land was mapped by the various ailments of the people he treated. Heart disease. Bursitis. A pair of twins delivered in Drake, which was a miracle, wrote Will, given that the mother had neither the time nor the means to get off the Cape quick enough
Excerpted from The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. Copyright © 2010 by Sarah Blake. Excerpted by permission of Amy Einhorn Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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