Honored Guest (Vintage Contemporaries)

Honored Guest (Vintage Contemporaries) by Joy Williams

Book: Honored Guest (Vintage Contemporaries) by Joy Williams Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joy Williams
feet above the city. Numbers interest me and have since the second grade. My father weighed one hundred pounds when he died. Each foot of a saguaro cactus weighs one hundred pounds, and that is mostly water. My father weighed no more than one cactus foot. I weigh sixty-eight pounds, my mother weighs one hundred and sixteen, the dogs weigh eighty each. I do my mother’s checkbook. Each month, according to the bank, I am accurate to the penny.
    The man who taught the class and owned the firing range was called the Marksman. He called his business an Institute. The Pistol Institute. There were five people attending the class in addition to my mother, three women and two men. They did not speak to one another or exchange names because no one wanted to make friends. My mother had had a friend in yoga class, Suzanne. She was disturbed that my mother had dropped the yoga and was going to the Institute, and she said she was going to throw the I Ching and find out what it was, exactly, my mother thought she was doing. If she did, we never heard the results.
    My mother was not the kind of person who lived each day by objecting to it, day after day. She was not. And I do not mean to suggest that the sugar machine was as large as the Christmas tree. It’s about the size of my father’s wallet, which my mother now uses as her own.
    When my father died, my mother felt that it was important that I not suffer a failure to recover from his death and she took me to a psychiatrist. I was supposed to have twenty-five minutes a week with the psychiatrist, but I was never in his office for more than twenty. Once he used some of that time to tell me he was dyslexic and that the beauty of words meant nothing to him, nothing, though he appreciated and even enjoyed their meanings. I told him one of our dogs is epileptic and I had read that in the first moments of an epileptic attack some people felt such happiness that they would be willing to give up their life to keep it, and he said he doubted that a dog would want to give up its life for happiness. I told him dead people are very disappointed when you visit them and they discover you’re still flesh and blood, but that they’re not angry,only sad. He dismissed this completely, without commenting on it or even making a note. I suppose he’s used to people trying things out on him.
    My mother did not confide in me but I felt that she was unhappy that February. We stopped the ritual of giving each other our needles in the morning before breakfast. I now gave myself my injections and she her own. I missed the other way, but she had changed the policy and that was that. She still kissed me good morning and good night and took the dogs for long walks in the desert and fed the wild birds. I told her I’d read that you shouldn’t feed the birds in winter, that it fattened up the wrong kind of bird. The good birds left and came back, left and came back, but the bad ones stayed and were strengthened by the habits of people like my mother. I told her this to be unpleasant because I missed the needles together, but it didn’t matter. She said she didn’t care. She had changed her policy about the needles, not the birds.
    The Pistol Institute was in a shopping mall where all the other buildings were empty and for lease. It had glass all across the front and you could see right into it, at the little round tables where people sat and watched the shooters and at the long display case where the guns were waiting for someone to know them, to want them. When you were inside you couldn’t see out, because the glass was dark. It seemed to me the reverse of what it should be, but it was the Marksman’s place so it was his decision. Off to the right as you entered was the classroom and over its door was the sign
Be Aware of Who Can Do Unto You
. No one asked what this meant, to my knowledge, and I would not ask. I did not ask questions. I had started off doing this deliberately sometime before but by now I

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