Maisie had always, rather demurely, thought of the great event as a “defloration,” from the Late Latin, defloratio. (To everyone’s surprise, this sociology major had been a whiz in Latin at St. Tim’s.) The funny thing was that never in the world would she have expected it to happen this way: on a rather tacky, flowered couch that opened out nto a day bed. (Mother would somehow have minded the odious couch more than the “event.”) But demure, rather strait-laced as Maisie was, now that she was here in the cold-water flat she was determined to go through with it, like Kierkegaard through clerical ordination. For this squinty, pink-cheeked girl, it was a duty and the old American stock in her (along with the industriousness of Mother’s Chicago meat-money parents) stood her in good stead as the evening wore on. Of course, she was thrilled, too. When Johhn (spelled, oddly enough, with two h’s in the Finnish manner) began, at Pinkie’s little May-wine-and-fresh-strawberry-bowl party, to stare steadily at her, she knew Maisie was shrewd. (Chicago meat again.) She had actually heard about that stare from Marj who had been deflowered—Marj called it “going the limit”—some years ago on a bridle path in Montana, where her family was summering.

“It weeps, it bleeds, and each new day a gash is added to her wounds!” The grunting, groaning, sweating, bloody deed was o’er at last. Gasping for breath, Maisie giggled and said, “Remember Bernard Shaw? Something about brief and ridiculous.” “Ugh!” Johhn said churlishly. Johhn, Maisie discovered with astonishment, was going to sleep! His clothes were thrown over the chair. Shamefully, she peeked. The label said, simply, MACY’S. She stroked his back, gently, and lay quietly wondering until suddenly, appalled, she felt violently hungry. In her slip she went to the kitchen and opened a can of Heinz Tomato Soup. Carefully she flavored it with a dash of stale curry powder. What she really wanted was a glass of pure, fresh milk, but the soup restored her tremendous Middlewestern energies and she decided to walk home, even though it was after midnight.

She put on her Lord and Taylor biascut cocktail dress (all the rage this year, just as Hitler was threatening to reoccupy the Rhineland). Johhn was sprawled naked on the flowered couch, snoring. Somehow Maisie felt deeply moved by the snore. (That Marj had forgotten to mention!) In a Kraft cheese glass on the window sill she saw a bunch of paper carnations. Probably something for a still life. Johhn was a painter, not very successful she supposed. She slipped one of the carnations into the buttonhole of the Macy jacket, tiptoed to the couch and pressed a cool kiss on Johhn’s brow. He groaned, Requiescat in pace, dear Johhn, she whispered, as she closed the door which he had rakishly painted bright red, the color of blood.

—Xavier Prynne

This Issue

September 26, 1963