She took her book to the meadow to read in the fading afternoon light. The day was temperate. Around her the sounds of insects and bees predominated. Their drone made her sleepy and her eyes swam as she read.
The novel she was reading was about a woman writer, a cultured lady married to a boor who drank and whored. The writer was solitary, guarded, her interior life a complex thing of stairways leading nowhere, paths through darkness. The writer took refuge in her own writings and in her books. She had a library that was the envy of the small hamlet where she lived, though few visited. She stayed in bed some days with only a book and her writing pad.
The writer was writing a novel about a suburban housewife who loved food and sex and whose husband was often away traveling. She had a lover, a musician who wrote love songs based on old madrigals, and who loved their afternoon trysts as much as she did. In bed together they were like children with a dirty secret. When alone in the evenings the housewife wandered between her own walls like a haint. She went through her husband’s things because she secretly hoped to find some deviation: perhaps he was having an affair himself, she fantasized. This was not necessarily to assuage her own guilt but adultery was something she understood and her husband was a near stranger. Among his things she found a hidden diary, which was dull, full of only the most tedious thoughts and incidents. She also found a small paperback at the back of his desk drawer.
The book was what they used to call in her school a slam book, a book to masturbate by. It was about a woman who had to have sex twice, three, four times a day. Her many lovers were tradesmen, authors, preachers, sons of her friends. She was insatiable. This nymphomaniac only had one passion besides sex and that was reading. She loved novels by female authors.
The novel she loved best was about a woman spy in wartime Europe whose escapades were as brave and bold as any man’s. This spy was a seamstress in a small French village and no one, except her superiors, knew of her secret profession. She led a life of magnificent exploits and dark magnificence. But, she was killed at the age of forty-seven, assassinated in her own small chambre à coucher. The assassin pierced her heart with a long, thin blade, and took everything from her bureau and put it into a valise which he dutifully turned over to his superiors. Among her papers and jottings—in which nothing was revealed—there was a single, thin paperback. Her sister, who ran a market in Tours, France, was given all her belongings including this book. The sister read it on the train returning home.
It was the story of a young woman, a girl, as pretty as a lark. In the story the young woman, the girl, who had already known wild adventure in her life, stepped one day through her own mirror. What she found on the other side was another world. She had stepped into another world.
COREY MESLER has been published in numerous anthologies and journals includingPoetry, Gargoyle, Five Points, Good Poems American Places, and New Stories from the South. He has published many books of fiction and poetry. With his wife he runs Burke’s Book Store (1875) in Memphis.