Gene Shalit’s Wife [Part 3]

October 13, 2006

It’’s a two-hour drive to her mother’s house. She’’s not sure why she was expecting something more significant, some turning point like the ones in the endless string of Scandinavian movies Gene brought home seemed to revolve around. She’’s glad it was nothing more than a fall even if it worries her that the doctor wants to keep her mother for overnight observation.

The city limits rapidly give way to cornfields and radio static. She feel’s she’s escaped the world into a timeless place where the wheels of the car are spinning in air. She doesn’t mention this to the cop who pulls her over for speeding.

She calls Gene from her mother’s house and tells him she’’s decided to stay through the weekend. She’s brought with her a paper she’s been writing comparing Kashubian vampire legends and flying-head tales of natives of Rondonia. For years she’’s been writing papers on anthropology and folklore and submitting them to various journals only to have them returned with notes that say the papers aren’t what the editors are looking for or that they don’t have enough space. Most of them encourage her to try again, but she feels she’s spent her entire life trying again.

She goes to the movie theater where she and Gene had what she now considers their first date. It’’s still a movie theater, but part of the lobby has been converted to a video rental business. The greasy-haired boy behind the counter doesn’t ask for ID when she signs up for a membership, and she puts down her mother’s address on the form. She rents “Rear Window”, but when she gets home she discovers that her mother doesn’t own a VCR.

Fast-forward five years. Gene understands her decision to move in with her mother rather than making her mother move in with them. She doesn’t mind being a caretaker, and Gene spends a large amount of time away from home attending film festivals and conferences. At home he still occasionally reviews movies on the news, but there’’s less call for film critics. Most of his time is taken up with editing a film journal. Her time is spent either with her mother or answering phones in a customer service job. It pays the bills, but she’s exhausted. Gene sends her a book about the Kung people of Namibia and she barely manages to read a page a night.

During a checkup her doctor notices something unusual and orders more tests.

On the operating table she breathes deeply, taking in the smell of the plastic mask. Then someone leans over her. It’s her late father. He tells her it’s going to be fine, that it’s only a cyst. She thinks, He looks a little like Gene. She sees herself in fifteen years. She is an assistant in the local college and teaches English as a second language. She’s surprised to find this is what she wants.

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