Minding The Gap

By Janet Gilman

Today on the subway an old man sat on my lap. He just backed right up into me and sat down. I tried to push him off, but he looked from side to side as though something slightly annoyed him, and sat there. The subway was crowded, and some boys from the high school stared and nudged each other and snickered. I kept pushing, but the old man didn’t move. Just when I knew I was going to cry, a woman came over and pulled the old man off my lap. “You’re sitting on that girl,” the woman scolded him. The old man turned around and looked at me. “Sorry,” he mumbled, but he didn’t mean it. Maybe he didn’t really know he was sitting on me, but I think he knew all right.

The next stop was mine, so I jumped over the doorway, off the subway car, not looking at the old man, not even looking at the woman who’d been nice enough to help me. I kept running till I got to the building where I was staying in my greatgrandfather’s apartment. The old man who lived on the first floor sat on the big outdoor flowerpot that no one had planted anything in, waiting to accost me. “Got a key?” he said.

“I live here,” I said, but he wasn’t interested in explanations. He knew all about me. His apartment window was right at street level, so when he wasn’t sitting on the flowerpot, he sat at his window and watched the comings and goings. He knew when I had a job interview or a date, and when I didn’t, which was most often. He knew I didn’t belong in the apartment. He was the keeper of spare keys, and he didn’t like me because whenever I forgot my key, I knocked at his window till he let me in.

There were two phone messages from my mother when I got up to the apartment on the third floor. “Call me,” said the first. “Call me right away,” said the other. I never call my mother on my own initiative, and I didn’t know if it was “right away” anymore, but I called anyway.

“Where were you?” my mother said. “I called twice. Did you get the messages? Does the machine work? You never know with his things. I just wanted to say hello.”

“Hello,” I said. “All the old men are out to get me today. I don’t know what I did to them.”

My mother takes these things seriously. She hummed and blew into the phone and thought about it. “You should visit him again,” she said finally. “Right away. Tell him he’ll come home as soon as he feels better. He won’t believe you, but it will make him stop fretting. Then you’ll see, they’ll leave you alone.”

That made sense, though I didn’t much like the idea of seeing him again in that place, looking so helpless. But leave it to my great-grandfather to have a network of old men out to punish me for not wanting to visit him. “You really think he’ll ever get well enough to come home? Last time I saw him he couldn’t even walk across the room, never mind live here by himself.”

“Probably not by himself, and he wouldn’t be caught dead living with us,” my mother said. She never hears herself talking. “But it makes him feel better to think that he’ll go home. He’s better off there, being taken care of. But you never know,” she added ominously. It was my mother’s curse: You never know. If you knew, you couldn’t bear it. So she reminded me at regular intervals that you never know, and she was always right. I never knew.

Scrambling eggs for dinner, looking through my great-grandfather’s mail for overdue bills, pretending to watch the news on television, I tried to work up the courage to visit him again. It was almost a week since I’d last seen him. By the time I’d come home from college, he had already been moved from the hospital where they repaired his broken hip to the recuperative center that my mother said was really a nursing home with pretensions. There, according to his doctor, they would “get him back on his feet.” I hadn’t realized before that there was a literal process — they actually pulled him up out of his bed and propped him up, leaning over a walker, and indeed, he was back on his feet. Because he was so tall — even now, at 92, he was over six feet — the walker barely came to his thighs, but nobody seemed to notice that he never moved from the spot they had left him.

Visiting him that first time at the center, I’d asked if I could use his apartment till he got back on his feet. He had stared at me in wonder and said, “What the hell am I on?”

“You’re on a walker?” I said. He looked bemused, peering down, head jutting forward, his long thin white hair hanging over his face.

“I’m on my legs — my last legs,” he said, and he chuckled, deep down in his stomach. I felt better, making him laugh, and he felt better, and so we arranged that I could use his apartment till he got home while I looked for a job and generally tried to figure out what I would do now that I’d finished college without having much to offer the world, as he liked to point out to me.

I was probably in this fix because I’d left New York to go to college. He’d been fiercely opposed to that. “They speak funny there,” he had said, when I showed the Berkeley catalogue. Then, later, “People should stay where they belong.” I pointed out that he had moved all the way across a continent when he was not much older than I. “Ah — what do you know about those times?” he’d said. “I wasn’t going — I was leaving.” Then he leaned closer to me and added ominously, “Look what happened to your father.” I didn’t know if he meant that my father–his grandson–had left home and then met my mother, or that he’d died there, in that other place somewhere near Detroit; these were equal catastrophes to my great-grandfather.

And then there were his own son and his daughter-in-law–my grandparents -who had also once gone away, he could have added. Look what happened to them.

Well, I had come home. Alive, unencumbered — not even a boyfriend to amuse and mystify him, as all my crushes and attachments during high school had. I’d come home still dependent on him and my mother for my existence. But I’d been away too long, and something had changed. I had not anticipated his moving out on me.

And now even the old men were on to me. They knew I was hibernating in my borrowed apartment, reluctant to go out, just like my mother. They knew I had no friends anywhere nearby and no job prospects, and only my sad angry mother to leave messages on my machine. I had too many hours in the day to fill, when no one was home but me and the old men, and I was invading their territory.

The Pleasant Valley Recuperative Center and Nursing Home had an open door policy they’d proudly described to me that first day, when I thought I would be coming back often and had asked about visiting hours. “We want them to think of this as their own home, so we let visitors come any time they would normally visit their loved ones,” the cheery volunteer told me. I decided not to mention that my great-grandfather, like me, was a night person; he would take naps all afternoon and then peer out at the nighttime world till he got bored with that, and then watch old movies on television the rest of the night till he fell asleep on the sofa. In my teens, I always went to his apartment instead of my mother’s when I was coming home very late at night; he thought that was normal, and never asked where I’d been or why I’d hung out so late. The volunteer probably hadn’t made allowances for the likes of us. I had thought about making a visit at 2 A.M., just to see what their welcome would be, but I only got around to going back once more after I burrowed down in my borrowed apartment, and that was in daytime. Still, it was only 7 now, and I’d already risked myself once today on the subway, going for the interview for a job I didn’t want, so I might as well go out again and make peace with my great-grandfather and all the other old men.

The Pleasant Valley center, a low-slung brick building set in the middle of a small circular driveway, was homey on the outside and institutional inside. Corridors led off the front vestibule in a myriad of directions, gray and white vinyl floors and large ugly prints of flowers all along pink walls. I walked quickly past the chronic elderly in the “nursing home” part of the name, lined up in wheelchairs along the corridors, heads bobbing or hanging sideways. The old women called out to me, but the old men watched me with knowing looks, their heads turning after me until I got to the end of the last corridor, where the “recuperative elderly” — those who still fantasized about going home — were kept two by two in rooms large enough for stretchers to enter and multiple visitors to congregate. My great-grandfather had a room all to himself across from the nurses’ station. That was, my mother told me with some pride, because he was the most difficult.

The last time I had come, he had been lying in bed, eyes wide open, staring at the doorway as though he expected someone to sneak up on him. “They tied me up,” he’d said before I’d even gotten fully into the room.

“Who?”

“They did. The people who live here. Last night. They tied me up. I didn’t like it.” His eyes had suddenly filled with tears; they ran down his dry cheeks and into his neck. I sat on the edge of the bed and wiped the tears away with my hand. My great-grandfather was a master of theatrics, but he always got to me.

“I’ll find out about that,” I had assured him. I waited until the tear flow stopped, and then I went out into the corridor and accosted the aide at the desk. “My great-grandfather said you tied him up last night. You scared him.”

The aide shrugged. “I wasn’t here, but I know he keeps trying to escape. He gets to the front door and tries to get out of his wheelchair. We’re afraid he’ll hurt himself. We don’t really tie him,” she added. “It’s just a strap that they put across his lap.” “I don’t care what it is,” I said. “Tell them they can’t tie him up without my permission. Tell them I’ll bring a lawsuit.”

I had no idea what I was talking about, but it seemed to impress the aide. “I’ll put in the book that the family objects,” she said. She looked up at me. “It kind of puts the responsibility on you instead of us, I guess.”

“It should,” I said.

But I had worried in the days that followed. What if he got up out of the wheelchair and took off? What if he really could use a walker to walk? My mother brushed it all aside. “He can’t get himself up,” she said briskly. “He can’t walk without someone holding him. Where’s he going?”

“Home,” I said, but I felt reassured. If he came home, that’s where I was.

Still, I rounded the corner to his room now with butterflies in my stomach. Could he have escaped already, be wandering the streets with the other old men, and no one had told us because I’d taken the responsibility away from them? I should have come back sooner, even if I couldn’t bear to see him here.

He was still there, sitting in his room, in his wheelchair, staring at the door as though expecting me. A dinner tray was on a trolley, the top of the trolley lying across his lap. He had finished everything on the tray except a small carton of milk. “I wanted wine,” he said.

“You can’t, with your meds,” I said.

“Bullshit.” He didn’t like to be reminded of the growing row of pills that lined his dresser back in the apartment. He took them in secret, and thought I didn’t know. He pushed the trolley away and it rolled into me. I maneuvered it out the door, into the corridor, and sat down on the edge of the bed. He looked at me, frowning. “Been long enough since I saw you. Figured you took my things and ran off with them.”

“Your old man friends wouldn’t let me get very far. Besides, I’ve been busy.” His heavy white eyebrows lifted. “Well, I do have things to do,” I said. “And I paid the bills — the phone and TV and things. Everything is taken care of.”

“You? Hah. You mean your mother.” He had other things on his mind. “They stole my bathrobe, you know. And my good gray sweater.”

“Who?”

“Them. The bad lot here.”

I considered this, picturing the fraying bathrobe, the sweater with fuzz balls. “They probably just sent them to the laundry.”

He shrugged, already tired of that conversation. We sat silently for a while. He seemed to have shrunk in the chair, sliding down slightly in his blue pajamas, black sox on his feet, his long wispy white hair billowing around him like a cloud. “They don’t tie me up here anymore,” he said.

“You’ll come home soon,” I said, just as my mother told me to say.

He ignored me. “They don’t bother to tie me up. They figure I’ll fall through the gap soon enough on my own.”

My chest tightened. I looked around furtively, afraid I would really see a gaping hole under his bed, behind his wheelchair, in the bathroom. He had always had this affect on me, ever since I was four, when my father died under the wheels of a bus and we had moved half way across the country to New York to live closer to him. I don’t know why we came; my mother didn’t like her husband’s grandfather much, and he wasn’t overjoyed to have her around, though he seemed to like me well enough in those days. When I was small, he would scoop me up high in his arms, laughing at my shrieks, and then with another swoop he would set me down, hard, and shout at me to mind the gap, mind the gap. “A British warning,” he would tell me, when I looked bewildered. “You’ve got the blood, diluted as it is, so you better know about it.”

“It’s just the old fool trying to scare you like always,” my mother chided me.

“It’s only something they say in London when you get off the subway car. It just means there’s a space between the car and the station platform where your legs can fall through and get torn off, unless you take a big step over.” She shook her head in exasperation. “I don’t know where he picked it up. I’m not sure they even had subways when he lived there, and he’s not been back home in more than seventy years, far as I know. It doesn’t mean anything.”

I knew she didn’t really believe that. From my mother and my great-grandfather I learned to look around at all times for the unexpected — to jump over the potholes, go around the grates, stay on the curb. I minded the gaps, and so did they.

He was watching me. “I don’t really care about going home,” he said suddenly. “I can stay here a while longer. I’m having a good time. They take me to their parties at night.”

“Who does? What are you talking about?”

“The couple who live here.” He leaned toward me. “The colored couple.”

“Black,” I said. “African American. Not colored.”

He chewed on his lower lip, thinking. “Whatever. They’re going to take me to another party tonight. The girl who sits outside at the desk, I think she’s his wife.”

I was getting confused. “Whose wife?”

“The man who stole my clothes.”

“Okay,” I said. I sat with him a while longer, until his eyes closed, and then I tiptoed out. I hoped word was out on the street that I’d visited him.

The old man was in the flowerpot in front of the apartment, watching for me. He scowled at me as I groped for my key. I held up the key to show him, and he frowned again and turned away. So much for visiting my great-grandfather.

I worried through the next day, reliving the conversation, wondering what he was making up stories about, what he was up to. My great-grandfather did not go to parties. He only consorted with his network of other hostile old men. My mother never went anywhere either unless she could walk there. She was still angry at my father for stepping in front of a bus, and didn’t think other people or their means of transportation were much more reliable than he had been. She went out to work every day at a nearby insurance office and walked home every night, and had not made a real friend in the eighteen years we’d lived here.

There was nothing all day to distract me; no job interviews, no friends to have lunch with, nothing except the stony-faced old men on the park benches. I wandered around the apartment, looking at my great-grandfather’s things, as I used to do when I was a child, waiting here with him for my mother to come to claim me at the end of the day. (Unless she forgot or had a headache, and then I got to stay over on the couch, much to my great-grandfather’s chagrin. He liked the couch available for his late-night TV watching, unencumbered by my kicking feet.)

I skimmed through a novel left over from one of the dead people in his life which my great-grandfather and I had once started to read until we found it too boring to bother with–stories that couldn’t match the ones we made up about the people on the street below that we watched from his window. I looked in his kitchen, stocked with one of anything he might need — one frying pan, one pot, one coffeemaker, one teakettle. Two glasses and two small dishes. A pair of egg cups with pink and green painted flowers on the sides that we used for our boiled eggs when I came there after school, every day of my growing-up years, from 3:30, when school let out, to 6:30, when my mother got home. Every afternoon we shared an early dinner — our High Tea–in front of the TV, watching the soap operas together, believing in them, learning about how other people lived from them. We talked over every episode. Most of the time I didn’t really know what was going on, and he never bothered to explain. But from these shows I got my social skills, my sex education, my view of the world beyond that apartment and my mother’s. I learned more in those three hours than in the whole school day.

In his bedroom, he had a dresser with four sticky drawers. Once again I went through them, looking for something important, some secret I might have missed in the almost two decades I’d been searching while he watched me from the living room and snorted his annoyance. There was still nothing to be found but faded underwear, shirts and pullover sweaters, gloves, folded handkerchiefs. Eight pair of old eyeglasses, some without glass. A small wooden box with nails, hammer, screwdriver, and a metal tape measure. In the bottom drawer, the round metal Peek Frean & Co. Biscuits box (By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen) where he kept important papers — ancient yellowing insurance policies, documents from his immigration seventy years ago, a receipt for an automobile purchased in 1959, his son’s birth certificate. Papers from the commercial laundry where he’d been the delivery truck driver all his working life until he was forced to retire because he couldn’t see well enough to get his driver’s license renewed, the year before we moved back. (They found him out when he missed the turn and drove the truck up onto the sidewalk, almost hitting several people walking by, he told me gleefully.) My fourth grade report card. My letter of acceptance to college.

I stared at this; I hadn’t remembered it being there. I’d run to his apartment when I got the letter, because my mother wasn’t home and there was no one else to show it to, even though I already knew his reaction. He hadn’t been impressed. “Where’s this place?” he’d demanded. “I never heard of it. It’s at the end of the world.”

“It’s not that far,” I’d protested. He snorted.

“Far enough. You’ll be sorry if you go. Look what happens.”

“What happens?” I said, knowing what he was thinking. Look at what happened to my father when he went away; look at what happened to my grandparents. And as though preparing himself for my disaster, he just stopped talking to me from that day on. We managed to go through the next four years with only perfunctory conversations when I came home at semester breaks. He never answered my letters.

I looked up, and Queen Elizabeth stared back at me from her Baroque gilded frame. Regal and impressive in her coronation robes, she had the place of honor on the wall above his dresser. “My queen,” my great-grandfather told me proudly when I had asked, and in answer to my question, “No, she’s not your queen at all. She’s just mine.” My lip must have trembled, because in a rare moment of tenderness in those early years, he said, “Okay, you can have Princess Margaret.” In a magazine he’d found a photo of the queen’s sister as a young girl with a velvet band in her hair, and had it framed for me, and there they hung, side by side — his queen and my princess. We paid our respects to them on a regular basis, telling them any news we had, sometimes drinking our afternoon tea on a tablecloth on my great-grandfather’s bed so we could share the occasion with them. They were very real to me — more so than the people in the three photos in simple oak frames on top of the dresser: my great-grandfather as a young man, standing outside an apartment house with the shadowy, sullen-looking woman who had been his wife. His son and his son’s wife on their wedding day, those grandparents I’d never known who had died in a motorcycle accident in Bermuda when they took their only vacation ever, on their twentieth anniversary, losing control of the double motorcycle as they rounded a curve, plowing into a scooter and plunging over the cliff. The photo of my father and mother and me on some long-ago holiday; there was water behind us, and we were all in bathing suits. When I was younger I would stare for hours at that picture, not really interested in the man who had been my father, or the young woman who became my middle-aged, unhappy mother, but in myself, as a child. I had no memory of that.

These photographs were the only clues I had to my past. In our family, we cleaned up after ourselves. We didn’t leave things lying around; our homes were pristine and empty of nostalgia, as though ready for our quick departure. Our family, from my great-grandfather on, down to me (and maybe long before us, my great-grandfather hinted) had died unexpectedly in urban accidents. No floods, fires, avalanches, shipwrecks or plane crashes; we chose local transportation for our demise. Death under the wheels of a bus or over a cliff on a motorcycle was imaginable. Once I asked my great-grandfather what his wife, my great-grandmother, had died from. He looked bemused and said it was so long ago, he’d forgotten. What he meant was, he’d forgotten about her. I fantasized her appropriate demise — struck by a bicycle deliveryman? Falling off the Williamsburg Bridge in her horse and wagon? Deep in my heart, I suspected she’d been the first victim of the real danger: missing the platform when the subway train stopped, falling through the crack, legs torn off, body mashed on the tracks below. Or — even worse — perhaps she died of natural causes; old age, pneumonia, childbirth. These things had no drama; they added nothing to our dark view of ourselves. How could my great-grandfather not choose to forget?

My mother didn’t acknowledge out loud the dangers that fueled our lives. She saw only her own demons, and they lurked everywhere, not just in the transportation systems. We’d come here, my mother and I, because there was no one else to turn to — she was an orphan, an only child, who had married the son of his only child, and I was an only child, and for all I knew, he was an only child. The lack of a mate or a sibling seemed part of their lives, as it was becoming part of mine. Those of us who survived seemed destined to be lonely and unattached, with no ties that could anchor us. Didn’t my great-grandfather say even my English blood was so diluted that it didn’t count any more?

My mother had faded away to a particle after my father died. My great-grandfather was all I had, even though he had barely talked to me for the past four years. He hadn’t expected me to come home, and didn’t seem particularly glad that I had. We’d lived two blocks from him for eighteen years, and I still trembled when he looked at me, and worried when he didn’t. I thought of him in his wheelchair in the center/home, sliding down in his pajamas, shrinking even as I watched him. Hallucinating.

My mother called me in the morning. “He’s not doing well,” she said. “The doctor called me. He can’t stand on his legs at all. You should go see him again tonight.”

“I will,” I said. I didn’t ask if she were going. My mother cannot handle situations that are not rigidly predetermined, and public transportation does not fit into her scheme of things. She hasn’t left her apartment without a really good reason for many years. Work was a good reason, and occasional shopping, but little else. I didn’t know what she did all by herself all the time. I knew she folded our laundry into neat little parcels, and lined the cans up precisely in the kitchen cabinet, and paid our bills as soon as they arrived. Sometimes she watched television, but it seemed to upset her. While I was away at college, I worried about her, living all alone. But when I came home, I sensed that I was an intruder, breaking up her solitude. She liked having me living at my great-grandfather’s place.

“My mother said he isn’t doing well,” I said to the aide at the desk that night. She shrugged. “Doctor didn’t say anything to me. He’s very old, is all.”

I went into the room and stared at his sleeping face.

He opened his eyes and stared back at me. “Twice in a row,” he said. “Getting sentimental? Missing me?” Before I could answer: “Don’t even think about it, they won’t invite you.”

“I don’t want to be invited,” I said, nevertheless feeling hurt.

“You should want to,” he said. “You would be glad if you were here. It was a great party last night. Real fast dancing, and that loud music you always liked, and cake. With chocolate frosting,” he added, and he smiled, as though thinking about it. Had he ever really gone to a party? Danced around and clapped his hands to the music and eaten cake with his friends?

A huge black man with very white teeth came into the room, smiling at me, pushing aside the feeding trolley, standing massively in front of my great-grandfather’s bed. “Time to get washed up, old man,” he said. “You want to tell this little lady to wait outside?”

“No,” my great-grandfather said, but he waved me out of the room, almost eager to see me leave. “What’s up for tonight?” I heard him say.

The aide was still at the desk, bending over her records.

“What do you do to him?” I demanded.

She looked up at me, frowning. “Do to him? What are you talking about?”

“He told me you take him to a party every night. With music and dancing, and cake and ice cream, too.” She shook her head, grinning at me. “Oh, that old man. No, there ain’t no party man. No, there ain’t no party here. You know he still tries to get out? Every night, like clockwork, he somehow gets into his wheelchair and starts looking for the exit signs. We found him half a dozen times ready to go out the door.” She chuckled. “You didn’t want him strapped in, and he won’t sleep at night, and we don’t have enough hands to chase him around. So we just bring him out here and put him in the chair.”

“The chair?

“Yeah, that one.” She indicated with her chin a very deep leather chair in the corner. “It’s so big that when they sit in it, they can’t lift their body out without someone helping them. You’re just kind of trapped in there. But comfortable-like. So we put him in that chair every night after dinner, and he just stays out here. Then, when all the others are quiet, the staff hangs around here and we have a snack and maybe listen to the radio. I guess he thinks it’s a party.”

“It is a party,” I said, and I went back into my great-grandfather’s room. He was wearing clean pajamas, sitting up in the wheelchair. “Time you were leaving,” he said.

“Gramps, I just got here.”

“I got things to do here by myself tonight,” he said. “You go find your own things.”

“I wish I’d been there at the party with you last night, Gramps,” I said. “I wish I could go tonight.”

“Well, I can’t invite you, it’s not my place,” he said, but his face softened, the way I remembered it when I would sometimes look up from the couch where I’d fallen asleep, and find him watching me. “Hey, I bet you can find plenty of people to invite you to parties,” he said. “Even better parties than this. A pretty girl like you. Smart, too. There must be lots of people who’d want to invite you. Get right up in their faces and tell them you want to go. And take your crazy mother along.”

“Okay,” I said.

He looked at me for a minute longer, tilting his head, the strands of white hair falling around his shoulder. “We had some real good times, you and me,” he said after a while. “We had our own party every single afternoon, didn’t we?”

“We sure did,” I said.

“Sometimes with the Queen and Margaret, but mostly just us.” He laughed suddenly. “Remember all the things we did those afternoons, you and me?”

“I remember, Gramps,” I said. “Those were the best times.”

“The best,” he said. “The best times in my whole life. And then you went away, but you made it back, didn’t you?”

I reached over and took his hand and pressed my face against it. He was right; I had gone away and I had come back, and nothing terrible had happened. “I told you I would,” I said. “But what do I do now?”

“When the music starts, everyone dances,” he said, his voice loud. Then he was quiet; he seemed to have forgotten me. But I could tell that he was listening for sounds outside the door.

I leaned over and kissed the top of his head, and he waved his hand at me, and I went out and started to walk back down the corridor, the pink walls blurred by my tears. At the first turn, I heard the sounds of the music behind me — saxophones, trumpets, bass, drums. It was an unfamiliar tune — jazz and bebop and swing all mixed up together, fast and very loud. I stopped to listen, and then I heard the thud of feet, and then the clapping began, keeping time to the music. The tall black man with the white teeth wheeled a cart hurriedly past me, piled high with slices of cake with creamy chocolate frosting, and he grinned at me as he went by. “Dance! Dance!” he shouted out to me. Then someone began to sing, indistinguishable words, and I’m not sure but I think it was my great-grandfather’s voice that joined in, thin, out of tune, joyful.

I laughed suddenly, through my tears, and I began to dance to the strange music that was now in my head. I danced down the corridors, past the ugly pictures of flowers, past the old people lined up along the walls in their wheelchairs who bobbed their heads in time to the music and cheered and applauded me. I danced out the door of the Pleasant Valley Recuperative Center/ Nursing Home and onto the sidewalk, and the music followed me down the street to the entrance to the subway. I danced down the stairs and right over the gap, and into the subway car and out again, and all the way home.

When I got to the apartment house, the old man in the flowerpot jumped up and opened the front door for me, watching me and swinging his head like a metronome as I danced up the stairs and into my great-grandfather’s apartment. The music was still playing in my head when I went into the bedroom. I danced over to the dresser and stopped in front of the photos there — of my great-grandfather and his ghostly wife, of my grandparents who died so long ago in Bermuda, of my own little family that had existed once in a faraway time. Then I looked up. “I danced all the way home,” I said to Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. They looked down at me but didn’t answer. So I called my mother.

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About Janet Gilman

Janet Gilman started writing short fiction in the 70s, and got off to a good start with stories appearing in Massachusetts Review and other small literary publications. One of her stories received the Bernice Kavinoky Isaacson Fiction Award from the New School, and another was included among “100 Distinguished Short Stories of the Year” in Best American Short Stories 1978. That was also the year she realized that raising three small children in the suburbs of New Jersey and having a full time job as a museum public relations director left little time to write fiction. But now, with the three daughters grown up, she’s retired from the public relations world, living in Manhattan with her husband, and trying to decide if she’s a beginning writer who is old, or an old writer starting over at the beginning.

One Comment

  1. Susan Volchok
    Posted February 2009 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Spare, subtle…and unexpectedly satisfying. I hope Janet Gilman doesn’t really think of herself as *old* and it’s perfectly clear she is far, FAR, from being a beginner; she is, apparently, exactly where she should be: writing.

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