The Cigarette Garden

Of late a graduate student named Cassius has joined our ranks. He is a stereotype, a mathematician six feet tall and an inch wide, wears wire-rimmed glasses and flicks his hair out of his face when he talks. Rosalind reeled him in off the street. We live in a little town across the Golden Gate, up the side of a wooded hill, with the neck of the San Francisco Bay curving against the base of the town and black ribbon streets winding down between us and the water. From her vantage in the front yard, Rosalind watches every car come up the hill and supplies the appropriate comment.

“There goes Susan Blackfield,” Rosalind says. “Her face looks like it’s in a wind tunnel. If you’re old, what’s wrong with looking old?”

“You tell me,” Hector says, and holds out his hands and grins with a cigarette in his teeth.

And along comes Cassius, walking up the hill, looking like something out of high school in 1960, with a polyester button-up shirt and a posture like Ichabod Crane and a belt tied around his books.

“Third day in row,” says Rosalind to me.

I raise my head and see Cassius between the pickets of the fence.

“Hey,” Rosalind says to him. “Hey, you.”

Cassius stops.

“Come over here and have a drink.”

Cassius looks both ways.

“Come on, already,” Rosalind says.

Cassius steps off the curb.

“You’re not so bad looking,” Rosalind says, opening the gate. “You shouldn’t walk like that, though.”

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