Stories included in A Normal Every Day:
Nathan Gunn • That Scurvy Damned Bird • Painter’s Model • Toward or Away • Solid Waste • Mount Saint Helens • Pool • My Hat’s Fiftieth Birthday • Rain • Why Dogs Bark • Dreams of Broccoli • What Gets Left Behind • Malcolm • A Normal Every Day • The Witch’s Dream • Crystal Ball • Fake Hippie • Deterioration
Excerpted from: Painter’s Model
The judge is old and stern, certainly inclined to rule against her and for him because the man has all the power of his sex, his station and his wealth while she is poor and young and a woman. Lower than a gentleman’s dog, much lower than his horse, a woman and poor. Courtesans are above her, more respected and desired. All of this in spite of the justice of her suit.
Only months ago she met the defendant and admired him. He was a great artist or would be; so everyone said, but that was not why she admired him. She liked his paintings well enough: landscapes, bowls of fruit, light and shadows. But great? How could she judge greatness, only a girl from the villages come to work and struggle, to absent her mouth and stomach from her family and leave more for her mother and brother to eat so that he might grow strong and worthy. It is the way of life that men may thrive or not and women are bound to serve them either way.
He was not a great artist, she finally decided; not before her and not without her.
The judge sneezed noisily into his kerchief, his heavy wig trembling with the spasm, preparing to deliver his verdict for the man, she had no doubt.
“How shall he find?”
I sat with my lawyer, a little man with little hair of his own under his badly-fitted wig and a firm paunch of a belly like a small melon out of place on his frame. “This court is your life, is it not, sir? You boast of your years before the bench but in spite of them you cannot predict for me? What good are years that give you no experience?”
He reached after my hand and patted it as he would a child’s.
“I know you mean no harm. Strained nerves make you speak so. That is my experience: not that I know the whims and decisions of magistrates but that I know the concerns and humors of my clients.”
He was the only lawyer who would venture a cause brought by a woman and he was right that I meant him no harm. He had done all he could, and well. Now it rested in the hands, head and heart of the judge—a man as all judges would be—who saw scarce worth in his own wife. How much less would he understand me, when I appear a worthless child even to myself and in my wisdom and learning might as well be.
“Whatever happens, you have struck a note.” He wiped his red nose. “It is cold, don’t you think, and well before the season.” Now we waited where a bailiff brought and left us.