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Lynne Butler Oaks

The House

Some of you I know for a fact have been here before. You have had opened to you her double cut-glass doors. You have stepped through the entry hall, passed the parlor, gone beyond the family room. I will later name names. The living room cannot be seen from the hall, was probably missed altogether. What other rooms have you missed? That may be the question I'm asking.

My first reaction to her house was this, that here is a woman. Here is a woman with a house who probably is dangerous.

So I said to her, "You probably are dangerous."

And then she rushed toward me, whispering.

"Oh, no, no, no, no."

"I am not dangerous," she said. I only mention this by way of warning you to take care in what you say. To inform you that the woman is easily hurt. Point something out and she will contradict it. Gold tassles even, or a picture of you that she has saved.

There was a time, you may remember it, when Shen would have none of us here. It was back before Debra. It was back before Debra, remember that Marcelyn? You were here. And you Jan, and Claire, and Gerda and Darin. Did you come, Julie? You were invited. It was in the evening. We all of us removed our clothes and then stood naked in Shen's furs. Or did I just imagine this? Or did Claire? Perhaps it was just Marcelyn who got naked. Yes, now I remember it exactly. I remember how relieved we were, all of us, relieved when Marcelyn said, "Everything I need to know is right here and nowhere else." But I have let us wander. We should get back to the dining room before we are not alone.

If you ask Shen she will tell you. There are people on the periphery, children around the corner, a grandmother in every room. It is why she will try to give you things. "Take this," she will say. Take, keep, go ahead, these are the words she will choose, and this is her story: That she has none, and neither have you.

I envy the ones who are here for the first time. I am hoping Christine and Marilyn will make the drive, that Brian will bring his rail. There are clues.

And there is the temptation to go upstairs. But even if you love her, love her with all your heart, I say: don't go.

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