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By J. D. Landis

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Jimmy was transfixed by them. And I by him, to see the boyish pleasure he took in depre- The Valley 47 dation and to understand my own fascination with the subversive beauty in his happy dark eyes. Homes that were occupied and thus far spared the trespass of the bulldozers were nonetheless run-down. Paint scabbed clapboard. Bricks were pitted. Shingles had eloped. Chimneys feared the wind. Fence posts were splinted. Flower beds were bruised. Even the clothes on clotheslines were drab and dirty, and the lines themselves crestfallen.

She left many of her clothes about (though, aside from his rigid, polished black shoes, he did not), including her nightgowns. These were perfectly discreet, long and cottony, and yet they spoke much of her in how they were worn of their colors and soft and smelled of her soap and skin. My own nightgowns were made of stiffer stuff, as brittle as a surplice though 50 J. D. Landis starched only by restraint. I quite enjoyed these virginal garments, which I hugged to myself each night as I waited for their light beneath our common door to die so that nothing but my candle might illuminate whatever darkness lay between us.

His father’s cast it off. “We thank you, Lord, for this food with which you’ve blessed our table. And for the arrival of Miss Renway, whom we also thank for this food, since You know as well as I that we don’t eat like this every night. Nor should we in a world in which so many have so little. And I thank You personally for the blessing You have bestowed upon me in the person of she who prepared this food and set it out before us. ” 36 J. D. Landis Una addressed herself cheerfully to me. ” he asked.

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