by Alice Shechter
We heard a soft knock on the door. Kathy jumped to open it; she often took charge, the de facto Wendy to all of our lost boys, or rather, lost people, at the commune. Susanne stood in a shivery little heap, peering sleepily past Kathy into the main room.
“Is okay, ja?” she whispered and straggled in like a wet kitten: scrawny, blonde, with eyes like blue marbles, a waif with a musical Dutch accent and all of her belongings in a small red knapsack. She took a cup of chamomile tea, curled up on the couch, and slept for twelve hours before we even learned her name. If only we’d caught a hint of the ruin that followed her through the door, things might have been different. But she just didn’t seem dangerous.
She landed on our Prince Arthur Street doorstep in that harsh Montreal winter of ’69. We were like hobbits, bundled in caps and long knit socks, smoking pipes or hand-rolled cigarettes around the illegal wood stove. There was always a pot of chili on the fire and a cat on someone’s lap. Ours was the unrivaled mother of all Montreal communes, founded in the Summer of Love by a dozen or so squatters. Our house was a stop on a kind of underground railroad, harboring the refugees who drifted through a ragtag network of shelters: New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, through Istanbul and Kabul to the central square in Kathmandu. An endless stream of travelers stopped at our ramshackle digs, trading a night or two of sanctuary for news of the road. They told tales of bad drugs and good people. They knew where jobs could be had for a day or a week, where border guards and park rangers were forgiving. They passed along tips about useful things that might be had for free.
Looking back, we managed to take care of each other, living by an improbable set of principles: kindness, generosity, trust and—cliché though it was even then—love. Could it have lasted? If Susanne had never arrived? I no longer can say.
When Susanne showed up, I had been in Montreal for a year. I had gotten there through Pete and his talk of Prince Arthur, the autumn week he had landed in New York and stopped by Washington Square Park. I was playing fiddle in a jug band, and all through that Saturday afternoon he watched me.
“Need help packing up?” he said when the set was over. Tall and shaggy, he flashed a lazy smile down toward where I was snapping the locks shut on my violin case, hurrying as usual. His loose-limbed amble seemed a rebuke of my own constantly hectic state. I was already late that day for my part-time waitressing job, and I had hours of studying ahead for classes at Brooklyn College. It was a grunt mentality I was growing to hate. The very nose-to-the-grindstone trait that had propelled me through skipped grades, honors classes, a music school violin scholarship—that kept me working, running, signing on for more—had begun weighing on me like a satchel of rocks. All around me people were dropping out of the race I was still running, and part of me longed to follow.
I squinted up at Pete, framed as he was by the late day sun. “No, I don’t need any help, thanks. I really gotta go…”
“Hey, hold up there, green eyes,” he said, grinning, “Do you know a place I can crash?”
“My name is Miriam,” I snapped, irritated by his easy self-assurance. Then I regretted my harsh tone; he was, after all, a stranger in need, down from Montreal, I learned. “Listen, you can call me Miri, everyone does,” I said. I called over to our banjo player, “Joel, got any room on your couch?”
Pete looked perplexed, maybe wondering why I wasn’t taking him in. It was only partly because I lived in my aunt’s basement near the Brooklyn College campus, partly because his arrogance still grated. He followed Joel, but the next day he was back at the fountain, waiting through two jug band sets. I had to admire his patience. I was soon lying with my head in his lap, annoyance long dispelled as he poked yellow dandelions into my corkscrew curls, half-listening to me gripe about the drudgery of school, work, all of it. That night I sneaked him past my aunt’s back door.
Next morning we lay wedged in the narrow twin bed.
“Come back North with me,” he said. “I’ve got a ride tonight, straight up the Northway.”
“I can’t just up and leave,” I argued. “I’ve got too much going on.” We grabbed coffee and donuts at the College Diner. I tried to forget about him as I hurried to my morning classes, then to my job. When I got home, my aunt headed me off.
“Someone left these for you,” she said with a raised eyebrow, handing me a small bunch of wilting dandelions and a scrawled phone number. Pete. My heart lifted as I ducked down the basement stairs to my room.
I invented a lie for my skeptical parents about a sudden opportunity to take transfer credits at McGill, giving Pete’s commune address as my new dorm. I didn’t think they would actually buy my story; I offered it as a courtesy. Deep down they knew that some of their values were firmly rooted in me: I worked, I studied hard, and I was mostly responsible.
“Have you talked to your brother about this, Miriam?” said my mother. She knew I often turned to my older brother Itchie for advice, especially about things my folks did not know much about. But he was four years ahead of me, not as tuned to the Aquarian songs that sang endlessly to me.
“It’s just for a semester,” I said, not knowing if that was true. “And I can get the same jobs there that I have here. I can play fiddle for change, wait tables; it’s not very different.”
My father shrugged. Then to my surprise, he said, “You’ve always had your head screwed on straight, Miri.” He turned to my mom. “You know she has, Ruth.”
“You’ll have to trust me,” I said, as firmly as I could. “I promise I won’t let you down.” I had been saying that all my life, and meaning it. It wasn’t much for them to go on, I knew, but it would have to do. The call to board the freewheeling caravan of my generation exerted an ever stronger pull.
By the weekend I was in Montreal.
I passed that late fall and winter of 1968 in a state of wonder, my old life abandoned on a distant, receding shore. We lived in the sagging upper story of a once-elegant Prince Arthur Street house. The ground floor was precariously uninhabitable, and it was my idea, quickly embraced, to turn its boarded up windows into a giant canvas, a bulletin board of community news, politics, graffiti, postings of rides and rooms to share, concert dates, and art. All of it was art to us.
We were our greatest creations. Our hair stood in halos of curls or cascaded in tangles down our backs. We fashioned everyday costumes from scarves, sashes, belts and beads, mirrored vests and velvet hats. From piles of rummage, we pulled on torn jeans, t-shirts, paint-stained army jackets, beat-up boots through the winter, sandals as the weather started to warm. As spring gently persuaded the Montreal freeze to loosen its grip, girls turned out in gauzy dresses that teased the eye with shadows of nipples and darkish downy patches. In the crisp sunlight the streets of our university district became a carnival midway, where any kind of attraction might wander by: a woman with a snake on her neck, a man walking a monkey; painted faces, naked babies, unicycles and roving bands of jugglers. Color and music pulsed everywhere, and even outdoors the air was thick with incense and hashish.
We bartered, we bargained, we roamed the streets for useful rummage. Like me, some of us had been students or still were in a half-hearted way. For cash we faithfully monitored our mailboxes, collecting the checks our parents sent for buying fake textbooks and real food and bus or air fare home at what they let themselves believe were school holidays. Watching the mail was everyone’s first job, taxi driving and waiting tables the distant seconds. By the fall of ’69 my parents regretted their trust in me; my brother had shown up more than once to talk me into coming home. But by then Prince Arthur was my home.
Then came the winter of Susanne; from the day she arrived she had begun making her subtle but certain mark on the house, whispering late into the night, pulling from people their stories and sorrows and fondest wishes. As spring came again, to some Susanne seemed part of the warming. She took a childlike delight in everything new, asking endless questions in her lilting Dutch-English. Her eyebrows rose, and her round red mouth dropped open in astonishment. People in the house would say they’d rediscovered the world through Susanne’s fresh eyes. To me it seemed exaggerated, a pose. Too much feigned innocence, a hint of calculation behind the blue of her eyes.
She knew how I felt, I could tell.
One warm afternoon we all sat chatting and drowsing in the low-ceilinged living room. Susanne was curled into a giant easy chair, tiny in its cushiony depths. On the arm of the chair was Pete’s favorite book.
“You are reading this, Peet-er?” she asked, leafing through it. “Do you love it?”
“Caravans,” sighed Pete. “Because of that book, I hitchhiked through Turkey until I got to Afghanistan. It changed my life.”
Sliding a coy glance my way, she took his hand and led him to the kitchen table, refilling his mug with fresh coffee.
“Now, you must tell to me every minute of your adventure,” she purred.
I was sure I knew every twist and turn of Pete’s Afghanistan trip, but something about the way Susanne listened, head tilted, eyes wide, with one cheek on her open palm, gave Pete new words to describe the exact blackness of Kandahar’s night sky, the smoky smell of the Kabul streets in a way I had never heard. Every so often Susanne would throw me a smirk, and jealousy rose in my throat like bile, though I tried mightily to seem indifferent. Jealousy: so oppressive and obsolete, a vestige of the old order that I did my best to swallow down. I longed to live serenely by the new rules or, like my housemates, by none at all.
How I wished to surrender to the world we thought was dawning. Some days on Prince Arthur I almost succeeded, felt lit with a near-holy purpose, awed to be on the cusp of an unprecedented age of harmony. Everything we could imagine was unfolding before us. Yet on some dark days it seemed more mirage than real, and I balked at the chaos, suspecting that communal living was not for me—too many shared utensils, open doors, unwashed sheets. I struggled through painful collisions between my hard-wired work ethic and the slow motion hustle of the collective.
My creeping doubts filtered into life with Pete. That first fall was filled with discovery for us, and we comforted one another through the brutal winter. But by spring I had grown impatient with his aimlessness. One morning I couldn’t stop griping about our dwindling cash reserves.
“All right, lay off!” he grumbled, sullenly setting out to work a day shift behind the wheel of one of his Uncle Mischa’s cabs. I headed to the St. Catherine Street cafe where I waitressed three days a week and sometimes played fiddle. A light rain was falling; lunch was quiet, so they cut my hours, and soon I was stepping back off the bus near home, where a perpetual row of panhandlers lined the wall in front of the Salvation Army. I tucked a quarter between the leathery fingers of the crazy Indian who worked the same corner day in and day out. Beyond him two acid-head burnouts stood hunched against the rain, palms extended. A disheveled girl sat nodding under a soggy wool blanket, an eerily quiet baby staring up from her arms. I stooped to shake the girl awake, afraid for the child, but she only muttered and pulled her blanket tighter. That’s when I glanced to the right and saw familiar boots and painter’s pants, Pete’s army jacket, then the paper cup he held before him, and finally his sheepish face.
“Spare some change?” He shook his cup with a jingle and a jaunty bow, trying to lighten the awful moment. But I couldn’t hide my disgust.
“You were supposed to be working!” I snarled, and he sulked along beside me as we made our silent way back to the house.
We shared a room right down the hall from Don and Kathy, the undisputed tribal elders of Prince Arthur. Kathy, pretty with full red lips and straight cut bangs across her high forehead, did everything: cooked and cleaned, shopped and bartered, tended the sick, raised up the lost and broken souls who landed on our doorstep, and talked down the bad-acid trippers. Don mostly just talked. With his fat barrel belly cradled in the pouch of an outsized pair of overalls and his black beard curling onto his chest, Don always had something to say. His speech was littered with ruminative throat clearings and harrumphs. He would grab a rent notice from the accumulated pile, wave it at arm’s length and quote Marx: “Landlords…ahhuum…love to reap where they…aarrrhhh…never sowed,” leaving it to Kathy to squeak us by for another month’s rent with the guy who owned the house. A small entourage of young men often followed Don, hanging on his quotes and cryptic ramblings. Though most drifted off after awhile, new ones always took their places as he droned on in his phlegmy voice. “Sit back and let things go to shit,” he ranted. “That’s the only thing that will move the working class to revolution.” How convenient, I thought, my jaw clenched against shouting down his lazy justification for doing what he did best—nothing.
But he could be charming, too, and with the women in the house he was crafty, leading with his stomach as he edged alongside them, eyes twinkling, brushing their breasts and buttocks as if by accident. Some flirted, recognizing his lord-of-the-manor status and looking for a step up in the household hierarchy. But Kathy would grow tight-lipped and taciturn for a day or two until Don hinted that the girl should move on to some other house in the neighborhood. That’s part of how Pete and I secured our place in the Prince Arthur dominion. One night Pete was out late driving, trying to get back on my good side. It was still winter; Susanne had not yet arrived. I was drowsing under a down sleeping bag when Don’s sour breath on my face woke me as he lowered his bulk onto my bed.
“Sssshhhhh,” he whispered, his boozy voice hoarse, saliva spraying through his beard. “We don’t want old Kathy-Kat to hear us.”
I heaved him off me and marched him back to his room. When Kathy’s eyes met mine in the dim light, she read my promise that I was not a threat, but an ally. In subtle ways she let me know she needed my help to keep Prince Arthur Street going, and we fell into an easy team spirit and a satisfying friendship that anchored my connection to the house. We both liked to work. We imagined for ourselves a power that came from the earth, greater than the respect—and yes, the credit—we should have earned right in the little family we had forged. For different reasons, neither of us paid serious enough attention to the Dutch girl once she drifted through Prince Arthur’s doorway, though later I knew we should have.
At first I was sure Don would pounce on Susanne like catnip and watched Kathy for the telltale set of her jaw that signaled time for this chick to hit the road. But Susanne struck in Don an untapped vein of protectiveness, even from himself. With her he checked his inner seducer, and she drew from him a kind of chivalrous deference that was amazing for its lack of guile in sly old Don. He started picking up after himself; he helped Kathy in the kitchen and was careful about keeping stale food out of his beard and mustache.
One day as I lay on my bed reading, I sensed his big bulk filling the doorway. I looked up on high alert, calculating whether I could get past him, watching his lips for the curl of disdain that had become his customary expression around me. But he looked at the floor and stammered, “Sorry about that night, Miri, you know, uhhh, a little drunk, uh-humm, kind of an asshole, ahhh, didn’t mean anything by it.” Then he was gone. A few minutes later I heard the haunting round tones of the alto recorder I’d forgotten he could play and winding in and out, the sweeter notes of a soprano recorder improvising an accompaniment. I peeked out toward the sound; there was Don, eyes closed, swaying as he played, graceful despite his size, and Kathy on a straight backed chair, her eyes closed too, a faraway smile on her lips, nodding her head in time. And Susanne’s red mouth puckered on the smaller flute’s mouthpiece, her snake charmer gaze flickering from one face to the other.
Before long I couldn’t be around Susanne without seething. I could only see deceit—the crafty machinations of a spoiled child. Yet no one else noticed, and it was myself I doubted, cursing the pinched, judgmental streak my straight upbringing had conferred.
“Don’t you think she’s a little, uh, manipulative?” I said to Pete one night, trying to tease out some confirmation of my take on Susanne.
Stretched out beside me, he gazed at the ceiling for such a long moment I felt a flare of hope. Did he get it? Was he with me?
He pulled me into the crook of his arm in a cozy hug. “You need to mellow out, Miri girl,” he said, and then he was snoring, leaving me awake and alone with my black thoughts. No one suspected the depth of my bitterness then, not even Susanne. But it was poisoning my life in the house.
It all ignited one afternoon when I came home balancing sacks of groceries and two big bags of giveaway cat litter. Susanne was lazing in her favorite armchair. Strewn about were castoff clothes, soiled plates, ash trays brimming with half-smoked cigarettes and the roach ends of joints. The smell was suffocating. On top of that, in the cool morning hours, someone must have started a fire in the woodstove, but as the day had warmed, no one had thought to kill the smoldering embers or even open a window.
“Damn, Susanne, how about some help,” I spat. “And at least crack a window in here. It’s so fucking hot. And disgusting.”
She flicked a glance my way, then turned back to the magazine she was reading. Then she looked up at me again, thoughtful.
“You know, you are very—how to say—maternal,” she said. Tapping a pack of cigarettes against the arm of the chair, she drew one and lit it, blowing smoke at me.
“In, maybe, a really bad, the worst way,” she continued. “You are not cozy like a mama, just pushy and, what is the expression? A neg? Is that how you say—no wait—a nag.”
The blood rose to my face.
“And you claim to be such an artist, so creative.” She mimed an exaggerated parody of me playing my violin. “But you are the most square of everyone. Filled, I think, with shame. Shame of the spirit, shame of the body.”
She had deployed her best weapons: sharp eye, sharp tongue. I exploded.
“Susanne, you are such a lazy little piglet. Get off your sweet ass and pick something up for a change. Make yourself useful or…”
I tried to think of a threat I might make stick.
“…or I’ll get Kathy to have you tossed out of here.”
I could see the calculations clicking behind her eyes. Did I mean it? Could I make good?
“Especially shame of that body you like to hide,” she said. “Always closing doors behind you, do you think we don’t see this?” But I noted with satisfaction that she stretched and roused herself. “Whew,” she huffed, standing. “You are so right, Mama Miri. It is hot in here.” She grabbed the edge of her t-shirt and swooped it over her head. My eyes pinballed all over the room to avoid the sight of her perfect round breasts, tipped pink and bouncing as she laughed at my embarrassment.
One day as we baked bread, I blurted it to Kathy. “I hate her. I—hate—her,” I pounded. We were elbow deep in slabs of dough, punching and kneading, turning and punching again.
“Hey, what’s this? You mean Susanne? Come on,” said Kathy, “she’s just a kid. A little lost kid, too.”
I felt a flash of rage, then a wave of shame. I knew it: the problem was with me.
“You know what happened the other day?” said Kathy, sprinkling flour on the bread board. “She comes in and with a little curtsy and, I don’t know, a flourish, and hands me this amazing silk scarf—a thousand flecks of color, like a Monet. And I say to her, ‘Susanne, wherever did you get this? It’s just beautiful!’ It was so, well, extravagant.”
I banged away at my dough, picturing the scarf, the flourish, the shrewdly charming curtsy.
“And her expression goes all serious and her eyes fill up, and she says ‘Oh, Kathy, do not be hating me, please. I saw it on a table at the street market, and I am thinking of your kindness to me.’”
Kathy’s impression of Susanne was perfect.
“‘I have no money, not like these Americans with the rich families. So I, I just took it.’ And she actually hung her head, like she’s waiting for her punishment.”
Gritting my teeth I punched again. Kathy was spiraling away from me like an image at the wrong end of a telescope, and I was on my own, uptight and miserable in the fragrant Prince Arthur kitchen. I vowed that if I could not shed my bitterness, I would keep it to myself from then on.
It was hard. Susanne was gradually accumulating privileges. The house had always organized itself around an agreeably loose collective spirit. Through any discord, Kathy and Don could exert an almost invisible sway on the group. Most people in the house wouldn’t challenge them, or did not much care to, so long as things ran smoothly and everyone got fed. It was an article of faith that the need for authority was outmoded: good people would make good decisions. But that left no commonly held notion of how to correct excesses or set limits. Just as summer was beginning to heat up, Susanne came home with an electric fan and put it in her room. A few people noted it at one of our infrequent house meetings, wondering aloud why she had not installed it in the common area.
“But this is making no sense,” she offered in a plaintive voice, raising her shoulders. “That space is so big; such a little fan will do nothing in there. This way at least one tiny person is getting a tiny bit cool.”
She daintily pinched her thumb and forefinger together at each “tiny.” To refute her logic would only seem mean-spirited. I wanted to say that no one should be cool unless everyone was cool, but that sounded spitefully dogmatic even to me. I did wonder where Susanne had even gotten the fan; it looked suspiciously new-out-of-the-box. But by then everyone was accustomed to eyeing with awe, even admiration, the items Susanne reported to have found, shoplifted, or gotten as gifts from benevolent strangers. In just a few months she had stockpiled so much stuff—lamps, posters, rugs, a small carved table from India—that she had moved herself into one of the bigger rooms, though those were unofficially reserved for couples or people willing to bunk together. No one could think of a reasonable argument against it; she did have so many pretty things and, after all, had not bought them for herself or squandered the commune’s resources. And she was generous. She often handed out small gifts, uncannily matched to the desires and tastes of the people she gave them to.
No gifts for me, though. We had only malice for one another. To me Susanne was transparently cunning, angling for ever greater influence in the house. To her, my sour resistance to her charm was a pesky obstacle. By then summer was in full swing. The streets were a riot of activity, and I spent as much time away from Prince Arthur as possible. When I did go home, I avoided the rest of the household and went straight to the space Pete and I still shared, sharing now more from amiable habit than passion. Susanne had abandoned any designs on Pete, for she had snagged a bigger fish. Don was smitten; his chivalry blossomed into full-blown devotion, and he followed Susanne around like a trained bear, ready to please for a morsel of affection. Kathy moped, despondent but principled as always. This was not Don’s passing lusty response to some naïve girl’s flirtatious bid. He was in love. In Kathy’s new-age rulebook love was unassailable, the engine of truth and goodness, life itself. She was helpless before it.
Things fell apart. Kathy neglected the house and its myriad chores. The love-sick Don no longer attracted a coterie of eager young men and women ready to soak up his wisdom or attention. Susanne was linked to an endless drifter population of Europeans shamelessly freeloading their way across Canada and the U.S., and despite both its diminished camaraderie and dwindling food supply, the Prince Arthur Street house was still a favorite stop for them, as summer faded and Montreal’s parks and streets were less hospitable.
One day as I made a futile effort to clean the place, I found, outside Susanne’s door, a receipt. It listed books and records and a Turkish kilim pillow Susanne had brought home the night before, regaling everyone with the tale of how, stuffing it under her shirt, she had not only stolen it, but had elicited sympathy and a cold drink from the storekeeper who had taken pity on her “pregnancy.” I knocked on Susanne’s door; when no one answered, I slipped into her room. It was a mess, like everything else in the house by then. Rifling through the papers on her dresser I found, among the scribbled poems from Don and postcards and other scraps, a half dozen paid receipts for items Susanne had claimed to have stolen, or bartered, or found.
I practically shouted with venomous joy. Without a shred of guilt or a sliver of doubt about the boundaries of the Aquarian code, I gleefully pocketed the evidence. At dinner that night, as everyone rolled cigarettes and lingered over coffee, I stood at my seat and pulled out the paid bills, setting them before Susanne with a slap on the rough oak table that was the physical center of our Prince Arthur lives. She blanched, her eyes skittering from the little pile of paper.
“What a liar you are,” I said in a cracking whisper, anger choking my words. Then my voice rose. “All that bullshit about shoplifting, and strangers giving you stuff, all those incredible little street-girl exploits that only happen to you.”
I looked around the table.
“She buys all that crap. No wonder she manages to find everybody exactly the stuff they want. Where did you get the money?” I demanded, turning back to Susanne. “Do you have a stash of traveler’s checks somewhere? Or does your mommy send you money, just like the rest of us? And if she does, why don’t you ever kick in for expenses?”
Everyone stared straight ahead, silent; the tension grew. Only Kathy would look at me. Her face seemed at war with itself, but I could not discern the battle lines. Then Susanne rose, bracing her arms on the table as she leaned toward me, eyes narrowing in her china doll face.
“You accuse me?” she said, her voice hushed and hard. “What have I done but spend my few dollars to make people happy?” She pushed back her chair, moving around the table until she stood behind Don, laying small hands on his meaty shoulders. “But you. You have, how do you say it…” she paused. “You have made a trespass into my room. You have broken my trust, the golden rule, what we are living by here.”
Don reached up and squeezed one of her hands, then held it. Tears welled in her eyes.
Pete looked at Susanne, then at me, and just shrugged. Nobody spoke. Kathy turned to me with sorrowful eyes. Slowly nodding, she sighed.
“She’s right, you know. I hate to say it; she’s no friend of mine, and you all know it. But you went through her stuff. That’s pretty bad, Miri.” The only remaining voice of conscience I cared about had spoken, not against me, exactly, but in support of the pure principle of trust, despite her own shabby betrayal.
I fled the room, my face on fire. No one followed. If only someone had come after me, quietly agreed, commiserated over Susanne’s deceit, or even offered a decent counter-argument. But even Pete kept his distance, avoiding our shared space as I hastily packed my things. At a neighboring house I crashed for a couple of days, too furious and too mortified to stay at Prince Arthur.
I had to leave Montreal, but I wasn’t ready to go home. So many people had passed through our house, and through sleepless nights I thought of all the places they had been. Finally I decided. At the Icelandic Airlines counter at Dorval Airport I spent the last of my small stash of funds on a cheap student standby flight to Greece. In a few days I was making my way to the storied caves of Matala to spend a blazing late August with the encampment of hippies on the beach.
As I eased into long days of sand and sea, hashish and wine, steaming pots of food on wood fires—the calm, aimless life of the tribe—Matala bleached the shame of Prince Arthur out of me. People took me in, as they always had. They valued me as one of those odd personalities who saw chaos and organized it. I tried not to judge—not too much, anyway—or complain about the meandering pace of the crisp morning hours that drifted through lethargic afternoons into starry black nights. I fell asleep grateful, drums and flutes and whispering laughter still telegraphing to me the old pull, the enchantment of a different way. But alongside that ran a counterpoint message. Home.
Travelers carried news. Prince Arthur was abandoned, windows broken, garbage piled up in the overgrown garden. The cops had shut it all down when some drugged-out bottom feeders who crashed there burned the furniture on one of the cooler late August nights that sometimes marked the end of summer in Montreal. Don was said to be at the Red Clover Collective in Vermont; Kathy had moved to the Haight; Pete was back in Kabul.
No one had heard of Susanne.
The first thing I had seen in the quiet Greek village was the blue painted sign on the seafront wall: TODAY IS LIFE, TOMORROW NEVER COMES. But no one in my Matala tribe knew that each day I checked at the General Delivery office for the response from Brooklyn College about making up my incomplete courses, and for a rescue check from my stalwart parents, and for word from the jug band that my spot might be open. Tomorrow was coming for me.
Alice Shechter was born, raised and still lives in Brooklyn, the backdrop for many short stories and most memories. She wrote a lot as a child, spent a long time having kids and doing work she hoped would make the world a better place, and now in retirement is writing again. She is shocked at how far down she has to scroll on internet forms before she hits her birth year. Her fiction has appeared in Lilith Magazine, The MacGuffin, and The Wilderness House Literary Review among other publications. She is working on a linked story collection, “Brooklyn 29, NY.”