Golden Age

Golden Age by Jane Smiley

Book: Golden Age by Jane Smiley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Jane Smiley
hand over his coat, as if she were brushing him, except that she could feel how smooth and silky he was. Emily found it soothing to do this, and sometimes, when she was in school, she took deep breaths and thought of it when the other kids were making her nervous. She had noticed this in her walks, too: If you looked at your feet, then you thought about falling over the edge of the road. If you looked at cars, you thought about them hitting you. But if you looked atthe horizon, you kept going, and your breaths were bigger. All of these thoughts she kept to herself, because Mom pounced on them if she said anything about them. As soon as Mom took them up, they became flat and dumb. Emily didn’t know why this was. Everyone else thought that she had the nicest mom.
    Mrs. Herman walked by again and waved. The story she had told made her sound like so much fun that Emily waved back and smiled, and when she stopped, Emily walked Pesky over to her and said, “Would you give me riding lessons?”
    Mrs. Herman was perfect. She asked no questions, made no faces. She just smiled and said, “Of course I will. You want to start now?”
    And Emily said, “Yes.”
    —
    JANET COULDN ’ T SAY that she’d forgotten to put in her diaphragm, only that she had been too lazy to put in her diaphragm, and it wasn’t the first time—she and Jared made love so intermittently that the challenge of coming all the way to full consciousness and going into the bathroom, five steps away, was sometimes more than she could handle. But she’d gotten away with it so often that the possibility of actually needing birth control had sort of slipped her mind. It had taken her two missed periods and some bouts of morning nausea even to come up with the idea that she might be pregnant. Then she’d given herself a test, told Jared, told Emily, gone to the doctor, started on the vitamins, told her mother and Debbie, even bought two roomier pairs of jeans, but still the whole thing seemed abstract, something more talked about than experienced. Her body took it in stride, Jared stopped asking her how she felt, and Emily seemed to forget about it entirely. Janet continued to ride—her balance wasn’t at all affected. She was riding four days per week and planning another trip to southern California in ten days.
    One night, she was lying in bed, chatting with Jared about an odd thing Michael had told him: He had a friend who was a currency trader in Chicago. He’d stayed up late a couple of nights before, and, like all currency traders, he’d been unable to resist checking the rates. In a very odd way, he saw, the Deutschmark was crashing, as if someone somewhere with lots and lots of Deutschmarks were panicking and flooding the market. Of course, no one could tell where theywere coming from, and then, twelve hours later, one of Gorbachev’s most important advisers left the party and predicted a coup d’état. The question, Jared said, was who would be dumping Deutschmarks and why, and they agreed that maybe it was Gorbachev himself, or some other representatives of the Soviet government, thinking that refugees would be flooding west, and so overwhelming Germany. The first thought Janet had was just an image—refugees in black and white, as if on World War II–era film, flooding across a white line; then she had that moment of automatic panic that she always had when she thought of the Soviet Union. All she said was “I thought they didn’t trade in capitalist markets,” and they both chuckled slightly. She rearranged herself—it was getting harder to find a comfortable position, though she’d only gained ten pounds. Jared went to the bathroom and stayed in there, flossing. In the quiet, she felt a fluttering. She knew instantly what it was—the quickening—as if the intervening thirteen years since it happened the last time had simply dropped away, and she thought, “Hello, little guy.”
    As soon as she moved, the fluttering went away, but she

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