It's extraordinary, his wife said, admiring the canvas.
The gallery on Rue Petion had obtained another Zephirin, larger, more fanciful in its circus of cruelties, that he had wanted to buy for her but never had the chance. Why he told her this he couldn't say because it wasn't true, it had simply fallen from his mouth, part of another story he was making up. She looked at him sideways, measuring what she must have imagined to be the careful implication of his voice. Oh. Do you have to go back? she asked, and he knew that because this was a busy time of the year for her at the office she'd be unhappy if he was leaving again.
I can't. I seem to have been declared persona non grata.
Tom? She was absently pulling clothes from his small canvas bag and tossing them into the laundry hamper and she froze, gasping, her eyes wide and a hand raised to her mouth. Oh, my God, she said. What's on these pants? Is this blood? Her sweet, earnest face, becalmed by the gentle tides of a comfortable life, filled with a look of mortification. Dutiful wife, instinctive mother, she sniffed at a patch of the stains, repulsed. They're covered with blood! There's so much of it. Tom, what happened?
Yes, that. What happened. He would have to tell her something but he did not know where to begin or where to end and he did not know if she should ever, ever know him so well, or how he spent his days when he was away from her.
Excerpted from The Woman Who Lost Her Soul by Bob Shacochis. Copyright © 2013 by Bob Shacochis. Excerpted by permission of Atlantic Monthly Press. 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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