Back | Next

On Glicker Street: a Seasonal Quartet

Spring Chill

On Glicker Street it was always fall.

Martine walked there. Martine who looked like spring; Martine who was tall and pale and dotted her lemon hair with the snowdrops that grew only on her street, up in the most expensive part of spring.

Martine was certainly an outcast, said to have strange ideas. She was a radical, although I didn’t know it then. Once at a dinner party she told me that she went down to autumn just to scuff the hateful society smell from her shoes. Glicker Street was thick with fallen yellow leaves. Martine crunched through them till leaf dust covered the new leather, flecked the hair of her long pale calves. I smiled at the man across from me and pretended not to hear her talk of coarsenesses like hair and calves.

Martine is a spring child; lives one street higher than me. But she walks in fall.

Once, I felt sorry for Martine. Once, I was working on my finances at my desk when she went by. A strange pale girl arrayed in leather and leaf, distancing herself from her own class. I felt pity. I sent Joaquim down to her with a tulip—not the earliest, but still a lovely thing, a shimmer of pinks from my own windowbox.

We live on the best street there is. Well, technically there are a couple better. The Queen’s street is higher than us. The very best people, the very oldest families, live up where it’s so early spring that only the crocus are blooming—everything else is a bare green rocket above the hard boxes of soil.

And there are people who take that one step further and live even higher than the Queen, where no flowers bloom at all; but they’re poet fanciers and art patronnes, too haute to live where things blossom. I say the streets don’t start to get beautiful till late April, and that’s where we are, the foremost street of the pretty streets.

Lower in June can be lovely, with all the roses. By August, everyone’s frowsy, flushed, vulgaire. September’s been reclaimed by artists; they drove the poorest down into the rest of the winter.

But no one likes November except Martine. Too late for anything. November reeks of the first stages of giving up.

I watched Joaquim hand the pink tulip to Martine, his back stiff. Despite his liberal talk of equality, he was clearly uncomfortable around the reality of people who were different. They looked up at me, sitting in the window, and I smiled kindly at them.

I knew my husband wasn’t entirely happy in our arranged marriage. But I thought he would grow to love me as I loved him. Joaquim liked writing and philosophy; I let him skulk around pastry shops and play poet and thinker with the other young men. He repeated snatches of their radicalism to me, and I solemnly corrected flaws in his arguments, never laughing or condescending.

I suppose I was too permissive.

I sent him down to Martine with a tulip, and he came back with her at his side.

She seemed even wilder in person, that fine blonde hair unruly, bits of leaf shedding to the rug. I had been meaning to have that rug sent out to be cleaned.

Then I noticed they were holding hands.

“We met in my discussion group,” Joaquim said awkwardly. “Please, we—” He looked at Martine and I could hardly watch, it was so personal, so gauche. “We love each other.”

“We’re moving down to Glicker Street,” she said. Her eyes were cool and insolent.

“But he’s mine,” I said. “I won’t give him up.”

“Likewise,” said Martine. She twirled the pink tulip between her fingers.

“Please, Saphi,” said Joaquim. “If you won’t grant me a divorce, at least grant me a little happiness. The beginnings of the weeks. I’ll return to you every Friday for all the weekend events. No one from here goes any lower than June. No one will ever know.”

What could I do? I couldn’t chain him to my leg. He was a human, not a pet. I guess, despite myself, some of Joaquim’s radicalism had rubbed off after all.

“Thursday,” I said. “You must come back on Thursdays.”

He looked at Martine. She nodded at him.

So now he spends four days with me in spring and three with her in fall. I dismissed all my servants so no one would know my shame. No one can know how I count every hour of each day he’s gone. Every minute.

When he returns, he is white and pale. He is dear; he pretends cheer for my sake, and I set him on the balcony and surround him with tulips and early spring sun. He accompanies me as always to the spring concerts, dances, lectures. He tries to hide it, but by the end of Sunday night he is glowing pink; there is lightness in his step.

I wish it were due to me.

Then he is gone again, and without him spring is relentless; cold and cruelly reviving, and I have to flee downward to escape it. June is too lovely, August too cheerfully depraved; nothing suits my mood.

Cold Glicker Street, with its blowing gusts of yellow leaves, is an impossibility.

But if I keep going down, down into the dark mist and shadows of late December, there the streets turn thick and white with ice. There the beggars crowd into hutches of cardboard and tar paper. They stare at me with hollow eyes, but despite my fine thin clothes, they never come forward to ask for money.

That is where I walk, now.

Graduating Summer

On Glicker Street it was always Fall.

That was where the school was, Glicker Street, in the southeast quadrant of the biodome.

Tom and Naomi and Peter were in Summer—Summer vacation in the southwest quadrant and Tom, at least, didn’t miss Glicker Street one bit.

“No matter how hard you kick the ball,” said Tom, “it always plows through a pile of dead wet leaves and ruins your score.” He was sitting in his usual position next to Naomi, arm around her waist. “Also if I never see a rake again it’ll be too soon.”

Naomi blew a bubble. “I dunno,” she said. “I guess I miss the girls. I don’t see why we can’t all have the same week for vacation.”

“Wouldn’t be enough teachers for each of us if we didn’t rotate,” said Tom. “You gotta think like a principal.” He stretched out his long legs. “Man, feel that sun. You feel that, Peter? Do ya?”

Peter looked up at the fuzzed glass ceiling overhead. “It’s just electricity, you know. They taught us that last year.”

Tom leaned back on his arms. “Aw, live a little. It’s supposed to be sun. That’s good enough for me.”

“Things are always good enough for you,” said Peter, a little bitterly. He looked at long-legged Tom, and the pink-cheeked girl snuggled in the crook of his arm. “Do you ever think about what comes after? Either of you?”

“Sure. We go to work. Naomi and I applied to go to Winter. I hear it’s great. All this white stuff coming down from the sky, and you can do awesome sports where you fly along like roller skating but even faster. Aren’t you excited, Naomi?”


“Where’d you put in for, Pete?”

“Winter,” Peter said. “I dunno. We’ve just never seen anyone from Winter. How do we really know what it’s like?” He pulled off his horn-rimmed glasses and wiped them with a wrinkled shirt tail. It didn’t seem to help his blurring vision. “Or what happens to you once you’re sent there.”

“You worry too much,” said Tom. “When we go back to Fall next week, and that back-to-school scent fills the air—”

“That’s just it,” said Peter. He pulled three letters from his back pocket. “I found these on our breakfast table. We’re not going back to Glicker Street.”

Naomi sat straight up. “You mean, we’re graduating? Where are we going?”

“You and I are going to Winter,” Peter said. He looked down at the blurry page as if to read the topmost letter again. “Tom is going Out.”

Tom seized the sheaf of letters from Peter’s hand. His face was ashen.

“What do you mean, Out?” said Naomi.

“Apparently Tom has those things called parents,” said Peter. “They’ve called him home and he’s going Out. Out of the biodome. Out into the world that used to have seasons.” Naomi’s brown eyes were huge. “And he’s not going alone, either.”

Tom turned to Naomi. His long fingers rattled the page. “You have to believe me. I put in to go to Winter. I wanted us to go to Winter, not this Out thing.”

“What does he mean, Tom? What does he mean by you’re not going alone?”

“I can take one person,” Tom said. “A . . . ‘breeding female’, it says.”

“That’s romantic,” murmured Peter.

“We can still be together,” said Tom. His face lighted as he turned to the girl at his side. “Why, it’s not what we planned, but it could still be exciting. Think of it! The unknown. The outside. We’ll be the first of our class—maybe the only ones—to go Out. It’ll be a great adventure.”

Naomi stood, edging backwards from Tom’s waving arms. “I . . . I don’t think so,” she said.

“Naomi . . . .” said Tom.

She crossed her arms. “I don’t want to go Out. I want to go to Winter like we planned.”

“But I can’t go.”

“I know. I’m sorry.” She took a step closer to Peter, and Peter put his arm around her to comfort her, almost without thinking. “I’m going to Winter, Tom.”

Tom looked at the girl nestling into Peter’s comforting arm. He squared his shoulders. “Well,” he said. His Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “I guess I’ll be having an adventure on my own, then.”

A Certain Fall

On Glicker’s street it was always fall.

A certain fall, a certain September. The year I was eighteen and she was fifteen.

I don’t know what the significance of that month was for old Glicker. His second wife had died a few years back and you’d think he’d want to relive their time together. Go bask in warm lazy summers, iced brandies and little clothing. But he had a summer cabin up in the mountains; maybe he went there and found a bit of the past he liked better.

He let his house sit in September and he was never there.

The funny thing is, I went there the first time for my wife. I was on spring break from teaching chemistry, and Linda sent me over with some papers he was supposed to sign for her bank. Service is still like that around here; personal and lackadaisical, a friend of a friend who just happens to be headed out down that gravel road, willing to venture that strand of time.

I turned off the gravel and took the truck down the long winding dirt road to Glicker’s place. Didn’t get past the second bend before I knew where—when—I was.

Some memories just resonate like that. Ever after they happen, you’re half-hoping to see them again; you’re always on the lookout. Now, you think. Now, I’ll turn this corner, go down this alley, and Wendy will be there again. Just as she was, now five, now ten . . . now twenty . . . years ago.

You can talk to the girls in the past, sit with them, kiss them. It won’t change a thing. It’s not the real past; it’s loops, whorls, eddies, and you only see the ghosts you want to see. Like your memories made flesh. The land has memory, too, spots it would like to relive. Maybe you can convince your backyard to slip into a time that was in your lifespan—maybe not. Glicker’d found he could tune this spot quite nicely to the September of twenty-two years ago.

I got out of the truck and stretched my legs. The air was abruptly cooler, filled with September’s promises of new school years, new beginnings. A narrow lane snaked off from the dirt road, wound through the locust trees, probably down to the old lake where the high school kids hung out. I could easily imagine her prancing up it with her friends, curls bouncing, purses swinging. Just about to come around that corner. I closed my eyes. I could almost hear her laugh already.

Wendy and I had one summer together. Me, the graduated senior just moved to town. She, the almost-junior with swish in her skirts and a posse of friends, all who would giggle and point as I walked by.

Our parents didn’t like it; I was too old, she was too silly. Still, that September we exchanged promises. Sweet breakable things, before I went away to college.

The last day of September, my mother wrote me to say she’d been struck by a car. Didn’t even call, or telegram. By the time I received the letter, Wendy was already buried.

There’s a few different ways these stories go. You always hear about the guys—somehow they’re always guys, but maybe women just hide it better—who find a loop of time where they can see their best girls, their favorite memories. And they sit there for years, just watching, their bones growing cold in their body.

Or, you see the fantasy and she doesn’t live up to the memory, and something dies inside of you that you don’t want to talk about.

That’s why you get the version where the guy’s standing at the edge of seeing her, hears her laugh drifting down the lane, then stops. Something comes over him. He turns away without ever seeing her, and he never goes back to that spot. I don’t have proof, but I think that’s why Clemuel Sanz won’t deliver his firewood out on the south side of the lake, just past the docks. That’s a spot that Hank Dawber set up for forty-five years ago in May, and I think that’s what spooks Clemuel.

Turning away is a reasonable ending, if you want to keep all your angst alive, your romantic calf-eyed mooning intact.

Me, I’ve been waiting twenty-two years to see Wendy again. I’m going to march right out into that clearing and talk to her fifteen-year-old self. Watch her giggle and smack on bubble gum and suck on a curl of brown hair. Watch her pretty pink cheeks bulge and listen to her say dumb, fifteen-year-old things to her even gigglier chums. Look at her be a perfectly ordinary fifteen-year-old girl of no importance, the kind that fill lunchrooms and locker rooms, the kind I teach every day at my school.

I’m going to watch Wendy until the dream dies and I can go home to Linda and love her for who she is. Love her a hundred percent, with no shadow of a dead schoolgirl between us.

That’s what I’m going to do.

After I listen to her laugh drifting down the lane.

Just once more.

Variations on Winter

On Glicker Street it is always fall.

Trisha turned the faded blue paper over. There was nothing written on the back. It must be one of Frederick’s notes, fallen here in the entryway. She set down her briefcase and carried the paper downstairs to his study, thinking.

A place where it was always fall. It sounded horrible to her, a place where everything ended, everything died.

But a place where it was always spring; that would be delightful. Every morning she and Frederick would walk their collie and see new spears of green where there’d been only dirt. A thousand births.

But exponential growth would soon crowd itself out of the gardens; it was not sustainable. Perhaps in the world where everything was spring, vegetable life would be short-lived; fading away so the next flower could jut forth, and the next. Of course, that was what fall was, now, in the grand scheme of things.

She flipped the square of blue over and over, pondering. Perhaps in her world, things would die only at night. By the time she was awake and putting on her heels and grabbing her travel mug, the birthing would be ready to go.

She knocked on Frederick’s half-open door, pushing it in. She never expected an answer when he was working.

He was at his desk, staring into the middle distance, frozen like a statue. As usual. His curls coiled tightly to his head; a neat little cap. His eyes, glassy with the intense focus she loved about him.

Trisha held out the paper. “Is this something you’re working on?”

Frederick stared through it, then at it. “A villanelle,” he said. He blinked up at her. “It’s a form where lines repeat.”

He never could remember that they’d met when she took his undergraduate poetry class, some fifteen years ago. That, or he just loved explaining too much to turn off that part of him. “The theme sounds like a departure for you,” she said. “A change from the gritty urban.”

“God, no. You think I’ve fallen for that magical realism crap?” His gaze slid away from her, out the transom window at the visible sliver of green yard. “It’s a metaphor. I was on Glicker Street last week; that truncated slice between the college and the park on 19th. All the trees are dead there. Blindsided by imported blight, only strikes those trees, the ones with the fingery leaves. I was walking through the park, everything was green-hued summer, then like a fist busting your nose, the world was piss yellow and bare. The street covered in leaves, as if it were fall. Even smelled like fall, the way the leaves kick up fractions of themselves when you crunch through them. Dust covered those pinching wingtips you made me wear.”

“You said you were visiting the dean; I thought you should look nice . . . .”

He waved this away. “Stay with my abstractions, Patricia. That’s the important thread of conversation to follow. Look, you pin all your hopes on one kind of tree, then when disease strikes, suddenly your whole street, your whole world is obliterated. Go look in spring, when they’ve ripped all the deadwood out and put in, I don’t know, godawful fast-growing pin oaks or something. Each one a spindly seven feet high in front of those ponderous buildings. Every last one of them identical stock. All they’ll do is trade problems. But you’ve got to diversify your dreams, right from the start.”

He stopped to note that phrasing on a pad at his desk. Jotting down their discussions, their endearments, their screaming matches—a habit that would have long since driven any other wife screaming up the wall, she thought virtuously.

“Did you hear me?”


He pointed his red pencil at himself, at her. “I want to diversify.”



“What. The hell.”

“We’ve put too much stock in each other. Not just us, don’t you see? All us suburbanites, buying into a common fallacy. We’re in the autumn of our species. Soon, it’ll be winter. And not just genetically. That, too, is only a metaphor for the real death—the compressing of ideas, aspirations. Why, being with you—I’ve cut off a whole flight of literary works I might have sired.”


“Well, so have you. Not great works of literature, of course. But something else you might have done. When you chose one future you excluded the others. You put all your eggs in my basket.”


“Which is why this growth is hard for you. You don’t have the diversity to fall back on, like I do.”

“Meaning, you’ve already got someone.” She looked at his tight little curls, his smug eyes. She wanted to wound him back. “Well, so do I.”

“Patricia, that’s fabulous.”

“He’s a pharmacis—What?”

“That’s fabulous. That’s what I’m talking about. Polyamory. I don’t want you to leave me. I want us to face the future and be reasonable together. When can you bring him by?”

He seemed absolutely serious. He could suspect she was lying; he could be trying to goad her—but he seemed sincere.

“I—” She stopped. “You’re already sleeping with her, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I had to test my theories. An artist has to put thoughts into form, see how—”

“—how they look on the canvas, I know.” She stared at the ringlets lining his head. He was gazing out the window again, tapping the red pencil on his cheek. They’d had a fabulous first five years together, until she’d heard all of his lectures, soaked up as many fifty cent words as she ever cared to hear. The second five years—and it was more of the same. The third. Variations on a theme, hah. Why should she put herself through a fourth stanza? “You know what you are?” she said.

Tap tap. “What’s that?”

“You are a repetitive poem that doesn’t go anywhere.”

He looked up at her, maybe even focused on her. She didn’t stay to watch. She turned and left the study, went up the stairs and out the door. The blue square of paper was cold in her hand, and when she brought it up to her face, the red lead blurred into the blue and she stared past it without seeing what was there.

All the same, she found herself turning onto the park on 19th Street. It was brilliant with summer green. The piece of paper that was too blurry to read was a road map; it led her feet down the rolling sidewalk, through the roses and honey locusts towards the college and Glicker Street.

Trisha turned the corner and left the green summer park for Glicker Street. The trees were piss-yellow, as the poet said. A punch in the nose, a kick in the teeth.

But Frederick was wrong. They weren’t dying.

It was autumn on Glicker Street; it was. She could smell it in the air, feel it on the wind. See it in the yellow trees, the negative shapes of blue sky. It was fall, and it wasn’t death, but a pointer towards spring.

One yellow leaf loosed from its twig and fluttered past her arms.

Then another. Another.

The leaves poured down around her, a waterfall of yellow and orange. Brittle, they cracked and tore, covering her lace blouse, tickling her throat. She coughed through the whirlwind, rubbing her eyes.

The wind crackled softer, fainter. Trisha looked up and saw the brown bare trees of winter, opaque against the blue sky. Hard black zigzags.

And then the black branch nearest her was tipped with green. The corners, angles of the branches burst with it. Buds formed, swelled, burst.

She saw black, blue, green. Leaves. Birth. Behind this branch, another greened, and another, and she was awake to watch it all.

One by one, the trees on Glicker Street shook off their winter and exploded into spring.

Back | Next