Sarah Malone

My great uncle on the upstate side of the family ran rum from Canada during Prohibition in a speedboat he built himself. He often said I looked the way his wife did then, but in 1955, when he was teaching high school civics, their house burned—faulty wiring—and any photographs I've seen of my aunt were taken later, in the ranch house built with the insurance money. They show the woman I remember: steel-wool hair, cat-eye glasses, flowered housedresses. Nothing like me. She did not give up her chair for anyone and her crochet needles were deft and constant. Cloche hats, scarves and sweaters—in college I was warm with her gifts.

"No reason," she said, "that you can't look right."

My uncle reminded me of the importance of secret coves, even where you thought you'd need no cover. About Canadians, he had only good words.

"Humph," my aunt would say, and, "Just humph," when I asked what she meant.

She stared far past us. She did not sound unhappy.

I see now what my uncle saw in me: the young woman doing her face after her chores while he caught the morning tide. She sasses back at her proud, reflected lips: "Flapper!" She wraps a towel into a turban. She reads The Saturday Evening Post, and the new-fangled electric lamps shine on catalogues that will deliver dresses hemmed above the knee and hats down to the eyebrows, from Manhattan to your door.

Sarah Malone's fiction has recently appeared in Open City and Matchbook. She's an MFA candidate at U Mass Amherst.

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Detail of photo on main page courtesy of Beardy Git.

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