Crimes of Paris

The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - Laura Kolbe

Masha was sleep­ing over again, os­ten­si­bly be­cause she’d spent too much on heat last month and needed to keep her house cold for a few weeks to stay on bud­get. “Go, coal, go!” she yelled when­ever we passed the bill­board in town about the pres­i­dent’s al­leged war on the same. She was jok­ing. Also broke. She sprawled on my hard, cheap couch un­der all the blan­kets she’d brought, mostly flimsy po­lar fleece items but also some ab­surdly nice things: an an­tique cabin quilt with vel­vet patches, an iri­des­cent throw her mother had bought in Nige­ria in the seven­ties. Usu­ally, the lat­ter hung on her wall, next to the cu­ra­tor card it came with. Masha’s re­la­tion­ship to eco­nom­ics was mud­dled but not un­happy. “Can we watch some­thing mean?” she said. “I’m ready to cast a gim­let eye on the world.” Her blue heeler Klaus, not big on “mean,” butted her hip. “I left his food at the house,” she said. “Do you have some cheese and crack­ers or some­thing?” I went to the kitchen to fix Klaus some­thing like a dog din­ner. Ex­clud­ing choco­late was about the only thing I knew to do. I set­tled on a half can of tuna with some moz­zarella and crou­tons. Klaus nudged it a few times and then set a grudg­ing pace, deep breath­ing ev­ery few bites in mar­tyred res­ig­na­tion. “You are stronger than you were yesterday, but not as strong as you will be to­mor­row,” I told him. It’s what my gym em­bla­zoned over the towel drop. That poster al­ways made me think of Masha, de­scrib­ing as it did the tiny mus­cle I felt grow­ing in­side me some­where mid­skull, as though the Hindu third eye were re­ally a flex­ing fist. I wasn’t in love with her—i al­most al­ways pre­ferred men—but she pro­voked all the same feel­ings as a love af­fair in the first post-hon­ey­moon chap­ter: the strug­gle to find lines and edges, to re­sist the melt. She was my best friend in Careyville, where I’d moved for med­i­cal school, but she re­quired a cer­tain amount of re­sis­tance to her tor­pors. The ef­fort con­sumed in hold­ing out against her was form­ing a sinewy clump in my head, pos­si­bly at the ex­pense of higher-or­der think­ing. When I came back to the liv­ing room, a man made up to look like Richard Nixon was shout­ing from Masha’s lap­top. “Se­cret Honor. It’s the eight­ies do­ing the seven­ties. In­cred­i­ble.” She rolled over on the couch to make room for me. I bur­rowed un­der the blan­kets and was asleep in min­utes. What do I know about the Nixon

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