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Excerpt from Truthtelling by Lynne Schwartz, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Truthtelling

Stories, Fables, Glimpses

by Lynne Schwartz

Truthtelling by Lynne Schwartz X
Truthtelling by Lynne Schwartz
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2020, 224 pages

    Paperback:
    Nov 2021, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Erin Lyndal Martin
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Print Excerpt

This is the full text of A Taste of Dust

A Taste of Dust

Driving up from the city, Violet had imagined the house was substantial, but hadn't envisioned this bay-windowed, white mansion in miniature set far back from the curving suburban street. Large elms shaded the lawn; the hedges were expertly trimmed; too late for many flowers in October, but lots of shrubs. Definitely a hired gardener, or else Cindy had an unusually green thumb. Little in that line could be expected of Seth, unless he'd changed drastically and become a devotee of the Home Depot in the mall a few miles back. An SUV loomed in the broad driveway; she pulled up behind it. There would be a dog too, she guessed, a big one. Any minute it might come bounding across the lawn. She steeled herself. She'd pat it and not shrink from the paws clawing at her slate-blue silk suit, bought especially for the occasion, to show off her undefeated body and long legs.

An instant after she rang, as if he'd been waiting behind the door, there was Seth, restraining the dog by its collar. Violet fussed over the animal to give herself more time. A white and amber collie, prototypical faithful Lassie, it sniffed her with cordial interest, a contented dog.

"Violet! It's been so long. You look marvelous!"

She forced herself to look up. "Thank you." She couldn't say the same, even to be polite. It would be too blatant a lie. What she had managed to stave off these sixteen years had conquered him. He had passed the threshold of the country of the old, gone soft, and begun to shrink and stoop. His face was pouchy. His jaw had lost its clean, firm line. His lips were thinner, tighter. At this age, one either crossed that border abruptly—overnight—or was granted, by luck or genes or time spent at the gym, a few more years of being presentable. Seth, never athletic, wasn't one of the lucky ones. His clothes were still good, expensive and pressed, though they couldn't hang with the same grace. They would have suited him better had they been wrinkled. The shirt was deep blue, always his best color, though Violet couldn't help imagining the flesh beneath, sagging, folding on itself, with a pale, lifeless tinge.

He bent down to kiss her cheek and hug her awkwardly. She sympathized: how do you hug an ex-wife? She'd anticipated this moment and wondered if the mere brush of bodies could revive years of intimacy. It could. He was the naked man who had bent over her night after night, until he stopped. The inimitable scent and feel of ancient sex embalmed hit like a rush of stale hot air on her skin. She drew back as soon as she decently could.

Behind Seth, Cindy, once the secret girlfriend and now the anointed wife, waited in the spacious foyer, uncertain what to do with her arms. They were opened—bare, taut, and pink—but not quite wide enough to hug, ready for whatever Violet was ready for. Tucked snugly in her beige slacks and shirt, Cindy served her time at the gym, no doubt about that. Violet had seen her only in snapshots that the children, bitter and out of sorts after their weekend visits long ago, used to thrust in front of her, inviting her disdain, which she refused to give. They showed a curly-haired, rosy, rounded Cindy. Cute. Violet had never been cute or cuddly. Sleek and smooth and dark. Elegant when young, and now becoming stately as well.

Today's Cindy had outgrown cuteness. Violet's interest was purely clinical by now, yet maybe in the course of the afternoon she'd spot something that would make it all clear, some feature in Cindy notably lacking in herself. Youth and cuteness didn't seem enough to account for so much devastation. Cindy's hair was the color fortyish women often chose, somewhere between chestnut and gold, and there was a bit too much of it, Violet thought. She could also go easier on the makeup; the impression was altogether too bright, too much wattage. Violet ignored the half-spread arms and extended a hand. There were no prescribed words for this sort of meeting, but fortunately the dog made lots of noise. He was excited by the visitor and for no apparent reason seemed to take a shine to Violet.

Excerpted from Truthtelling by Lynne Schwartz. Copyright © 2020 by Lynne Schwartz. Excerpted by permission of Delphinium 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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