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Exquisite Corpse - A Journal of Letters and Life
The Things I Didn't Like
by Marcy Jarvis
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I didn't like the way she passed judgment on movies or books and even the actual writers without first seeing or reading them herself. She'd had some very limited success publishing in literary journals but that was years ago and now she refused to read anything contemporary.
     I didn't like how she put so much emphasis on being smart, saying things like, "I know how smart I am and I wouldn't feel comfortable homeschooling my kid," or "She's real smart," as a character assessment of someone she'd met just once.
     I didn't like the way she'd throw off her shirt and press her huge breasts obscenely against the plate glass of the sliding patio doors when her kid wanted to nurse or clap her buttocks together as a way of announcing my arrival. Crude. Real crude. Is there any other way to describe it?
     I didn't like the way she couldn't handle changing her son's diapers, a change-of-life-baby - saying she'd done her share of diapering in a previous life and leaving him to sit in the original, about-to-explode "Pampers" the husband put on in the morning until I got there five hours later. "Pampers," my ass.
     I did like the husband.
     I didn't like the way she'd take her kid out of the house with a runny nose or how the kid developed a nervous twitch of wrinkling up his nose while simultaneously curling his upper lip - first to quell the runny nose, later, I felt sure, out of a deepening nervousness and childish rage brought on by her neurotic mothering tactics.
     I didn't like how she'd criticize the La Leche League ladies' attempts at sugarless baking and then pass out gummies to all the kids the minute they walked in the door, laughing whenever her son clobbered one of them over the head.
     I didn't like the way she kept pollywogs and a mess of tadpole eggs in a big mayonnaise jar on the dining room table.
     I did get a kick out of the chia pet shrine she made in one corner of the laundry room, which was my job to keep dusted and watered, and the daily haikus she wrote to it.
     My fuzzy chia
           pollinating now, wherefore
           will your fuzz sprout next?
I didn't like the contempt she held the grad students in, or the rage she felt toward the new writing instructor, saying, "Well, if they're going to hire an out-of-towner, I should have at least heard of her."
     Well, don't look now, but if you'd read anything in the last twenty years¾
     I didn't like the way she always took your story and made it her own!
           I didn't like the way she never cooked like normal people but ordered in pizza almost every night instead, vegetarian with extra cheese. So proud of that but did she ever hear of a complete protein? And when her son went on a hunger strike, did she ever think maybe he's just sick of pizza? And when her husband ran off with the writing instructor, did she ever think maybe he's just sick of pizza? Sure she was bitter from having been rejected as "unmarketable" by the New York literary scene but is that any excuse?
     I did like the ironic expression in her deep brown eyes that were just slightly too far apart.
     I didn't like how she spent the alimony taking trips to island paradises and sifting for impossibly small shells and then gluing them to the facade of the Greek Revival farmhouse which had been in the family for generations, encrusting it in tiny seashells until it became a local landmark of some scorn known as "Seashell City."
     I didn't like how she took her son for happy meals every day -- a tiny bribe to get him to take a nap -- the floor of the minivan littered with the latest in Disney campaigns. It just seemed wrong.
     And when the college hired a new writing instructor to replace the one who'd run off with her husband, she fumed, "You know who wasn't good enough for them?"
     Yeah, yeah we know.
     I did like her colorful language, "Yikes!" and "Creeps!" punctuating most sentences. These interjections dotted her speech and were the first reaction I had when I learned she'd been eaten by an alligator while sitting in the surf, sifting for shells, vacationing off the coast of the Florida Keys.

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