Stranger in Paradise (?)

The stork swooped in on ever-elegant Polly Treadwell at 12:25 A.M. Wednesday with a 6-pound 8-ounce baby girl. It was a first for Polly, 39, who barely had time to drop the paint brush in her SoHo loft (a one-time highest-tech showcase for former mate, architecture's Ayatollah of Minimalism, Wade Prentice) SO her fingers could do the walking to whistle up her current spouse (of two months), that tricoastal, high-rolling whiz-kid, Joel Wisotsky.

And where'd she locate the megabucked mega-Wiz (who once brought us the transatlantic pre-punk sounds of Close Call and Emergency Vehicle)? Where else but Paradisethe club, that is. Dancing the night away, you say? Out with a sweet young thing? You should know better, nightlife mavens! Paradise is closed on Wednesdays. Absolutely No Entrada! And we do mean doused.

So what was Wisotsky doing roaming around the oh-so-chic shuttered premises, huddled with owners Marty Meltzer and Jeff Gorelick? Scouting a (possible) location for son Seth's bar-mitzvah party is the only whisper we've heard so far. But c'mon now fellas, when Wisotsky takes a stroll around pricey real estate, he isn't there to check out the chopped liver, is he? So what's the story?

No one is uttering a single word, and our phone calls to Wisotsky's ex, shrink Rona Auslander (she kept her couch at the East Side townhouse, he's still got the deed to the shack in the Hamptons) only helped us relate to the good doctor's answering service.

When we don't know, we just feel rotten. So stay tuned, fans, and well, what the heck, kids, Mazel Tov!

Everyone, even in the old days of their first apartment (not the completely squalid one in the East Village, that was always really Joel's), but their first apartment together—the dingy three-room walk-up above the Hungarian bakery near Columbia—everyone, even in those days, would mention, sooner or later, how much Joel and Rona looked alike. But this was simply random ethnographic data, arbitrary ethnographic chance, so that Rona, whenever she heard it said as if it were supposed to mean something—long-limbed, restless Rona would immediately give a quick, sullen toss of her head, and make that dissatisfied click! sound with her tongue.

“How do you do that?” Joel often asked, once even peering into her mouth at the dinner table. “I thought only Miriam Makeba could do it. What'd you do, Ro? You got it off a record?”

Click! went Rona's tongue against the roof of her mouth as she sullenly tossed her head to the side and immediately got up from the table.

“Just tell me one thing,” Joel called after her as she slammed the bedroom door and went off to work on a paper (by this time Rona was in social-work school, she had already had it with anthro), “When do I turn over the espresso pot?”

“We don't have one that you turn over,” Rona screamed through the crumbling wall, the furious vibration of her voice shaking down another piece of plaster above the sink. “Maybe that's what you had with Jill Rabinoff.”

“I didn't have anything with Jill Rabinoff,” Joel said. “I didn't even have Jill Rabinoff.” He stared into her nearly full plate of perfectly good, though no longer very appetizing, lasagna. Where was the promise of the once-fragrant kitchen? “She only used to come over when Mike Landis—“

“I don't see how you would possibly know,” Rona, coolly sauntering out of the bedroom, refused even to throw him a glance. Barefoot, and wearing the lavender silk kimono her father had brought her from Japan, she squinted around the kitchen, saying, “No doubt you were both much too stoned to concern yourselves with such fine distinctions. . . . Where's my Wayward Youth? Shit, no, not Wayward Youth, that's not the one. It's Children Who Hate. Where's my Children Who Hate? I need it for a reference, I'll need it for the footnotes, I'll need it for the bibliography—this paper is due tomorrow—oh my God, where is it?”

Joel said, “What color is it?”

“What color is it! It's a book, Joel! A book! But how would you know? You cannot put it on a turntable and spin it—oh thank God!” she abruptly cried, plucking out a thin white paperback and cradling it. “Just in case you didn't realize,” Rona, hand on hip now, lit a cigarette, and through its haze, she finally addressed him directly, “I will not be dropping into Blues City with you at midnight. I have to work.”

“Come on, Rona! When I go to Blues City I am working.”

“Oh, well! I wouldn't dream of interfering when you're actually doing something constructive. If that's what it is . . .,” she said, padding back to the bedroom. “I mean you're not exactly what I would call a reliable informant.” She cast a last brief certifying look at her stack of textbooks when suddenly, in an utterly transformed voice, Rona cried out, “Oh my God, it's not Friday tomorrow! Am I hallucinating? They're baking challah downstairs, Joel! I can smell it!”

Joel looked up at her: with her head thrown back, her eyes closed, and her cheeks deeply flushed, it was just this rapturous, abandoned stance that had drawn him to her in the first place. Once, seated around a television set in the crowded student lounge, as President Kennedy stepped off a helicopter on the Eleven O'Clock News, the girl sitting just in front of him had suddenly thrown her head back—the mass of her thick dark waves spilling into Joel's lap—Rona had thrown her head back, and with her eyes closed, cried out, “I can't believe we could have such a cute President! I can't believe it!”

Gingerly now, he took the lighted cigarette from her uncurled fingers, and whispered, “Alternate side of the street parking suspended tomorrow, Ro. I think it's Shavuos.”

“But they bake it with something special, they always do. Some special herb. . . . Some special spice . . . cumin . . . coriander . . . cardamon. That's it—cardamon!” she called out ecstatically, and inhaling deeply, she opened her eyes.

“Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,” Joel foolishly sang back, but then he said, “I'll bring you one, Ro. I'll bring you a challah when I get home.”

Click! went Rona's tongue against the roof of her mouth. “Don't be stupid, Joel! What bakery is going to be open in the middle of the night?”

“I'll bring you something better,” he said, reaching into the deep sleeves of her kimono.

She slid away, but was hiding a half-smile. “I'm holding my breath,” she said, and padded off with her textbooks.

_____________

Now, almost fifteen years later, from a three-storey mansard-roofed town-house, with Rona Auslander Ph.D. discreetly hung beside the ground-floor entrance, her office door, Rona, on the parlor floor, wrestled from the inside with the heavy French lock, and finally opened the front door.

“Oh, it's you, Joel . . . mazel tov,” she squinted into the lowering sun despite her tinted glasses. “Where's Seth? He went in through the back? You let him? He knows I can't stand it when he does that.” Sighing, she draped herself against the massive leaded-glass door, and, fretful, once again peered westward at the offending rays. “Mazel tov,” she said. “I hear you bought a new apartment.”

“Thanks,” Joel nodded. He did not move an inch from the cobblestone-inlaid square of sidewalk, but resting one foot on the bottom step, looked up at her—around her shoulders she had thrown an unfamiliar camel-colored silky jacket, exactly the color her spiteful, blondish mother had always told her a dark-haired girl could never wear—and smiling broadly, he said, “Thanks, Ro. You'd hate it. Guaranteed. It's an apartment. In a building. All those closed-off people closed in together behind their tiny little windows. It's exactly what you were afraid I would always really like.” He paused, and then added, “Given my upbringing.”

Click! went Rona's tongue against the roof of her mouth. “Don't start in with me, Joel,” she said wearily. “There are important things we have to talk about.”

“Issues,” Joel said. “Isn't that what you mean? Issues.”

”Yes,” Rona nodded, sighing deeply. “Very important issues. Which I wish you would at least make an attempt not to trivialize with your attitude.”

“Shit, white lady! I don't have no attitude!” Joel danced over the cobblestones dribbling an imaginary basketball. “All I have is hard”—he skipped a beat, leaping up toward the invisible hoop—“cash!”

Rona buried her face in her hands. Sighing very deeply once again, slowly—her body moving with burdened grace—slowly she sat down on the top step, and with her brows knit like a child about to recite, she leaned forward and resolutely began. “Look, I realize that you feel, precisely, discriminated against because the bar mitzvah is going to be in my parents' temple. I understand that, Joel. And I agree that probably I was a little peremptory in the way that decision was just presented to you. I acknowledge it. . . . But you have to realize, you have to come to acknowledge”—Rona, fishing in her jacket pocket for cigarettes, had only come up with her lighter and a crumpled, empty pack. “Oh, fuck it!” she suddenly cried, plunging her nails all the way into the tobacco-flecked paper.

Joel said, “I thought you stopped, Ro. I thought Seth told me you were giving it up.”

“Oh no you don't, God damn it! You're not going to get away with it this time!” Rona screamed, rhythmically slapping her lighter against the steps.” There are things here that have to be said out loud, Joel! You cannot go through your entire life only by hidden agenda!”

“Shh!” Joel raised a cautionary finger and pointed down the decorous street. “Please! Dr. Auslander! You don't want the neighbors to think you're some kind of nouveau-riche Jewish divorcee who sits on her front stoop carrying on as if she were still in the boroughs! I mean, me,” he gave an outrageous, hunched-over, vaudeville shrug, “me, it wouldn't bother. Me, takeh, they wouldn't be so wrong. But you!” Joel took a wide step backward, and theatrically extending his arms like a nightclub crooner, he suddenly belted out, to the tune of Born Free:

Born rich!
True, not a Swiss bank-rich
Still only the best so
You'd know which is which!

Born rich!
You know you have your niche
And no one can ever
No, not ever, ever—

“Where's the part—what happened to the line where you always had ‘delish’?” Rona burst out in a strangled voice. She fumbled for a tissue, and buried her face in her hands.

“Ahh!” Joel said. “Well, you see, Doctor, I've had a hard life. Once, many years ago, I had a beautiful, raven-haired wife. But she threw me out, and ever since that day, my memory hasn't been, my memory hasn't been, my memory hasn't been—”

“Oh, God, Joel! Why can't you just realize that you're not the only one involved in this? It turns out that a bar mitzvah is an incredibly complex event. . . . So many people's needs are involved in it. And your parents aren't even—I mean, if at least your mother was still—”

“My parents are both dead and yours are both living in Larchmont, and that's how you made your big peremptory decision,” Joel said. “I don't see what's complex about it at all. And I don't see why the hell everything has to be in Larchmont!”

“Look, Joel,” Rona, speaking abruptly, got up from the steps. “I think it's sweet that you want to make a party for Seth in the city. I think it's touching. But you are really overloading what is already an extremely freighted event.” She shook her head, “I don't think you have any idea of what's involved here.”

“Of what's involved in a bar mitzvah?” Joel stared at her. Finally, he put his hand to his lips, and in a mock-whisper, said, “I know it's a little late to be telling you this, my darling. I guess I just never knew quite how to say it. . . . But the fact is—well, how could you know? The truth is I had a bar mitzvah.”

“And that's another thing,” Rona shook her head as she walked toward the door. “That's a whole other thing that I don't even want to begin to get into unless—until you read the Jacob Arlow article.” She put her hand on the doorknob. “In fact, that's what I'll do right now. I'll get it, I'll give it to you, and then what you do with it is your decision.”

“This is your top-of-the-charts number on bar-mitzvah trauma?” Joel followed her up the steps. “That's the one?”

_____________

Rona, not yet inside, suddenly made a total about-face. Standing stock-still, she spoke very slowly and with an unearthly, borrowed calm. “I did not ever say that, Joel. Those are your words.”

“What's the trouble, sister?” Joel doffed an imaginary hat and tipped it at a rakish angle. “Can't catch my drift?”

“I did not ever use the word ‘trauma.’ That word is your choice.” She adjusted her glasses, and regally staring past the treetops into the high bow windows on the other side of the street, she continued, “Choices do not emerge out of nowhere. Which, of course, you know. . . . Because at the time of your bar mitzvah, your father was in the hospital. He was dying. The rabbi even said a special prayer for him. So that naturally, now, when your son's bar mitzvah is approaching, just in terms of—where do you think you're going, Joel?” Rona suddenly cried, barring the way. “I did not invite you in!”

“What's the matter? Dr. Four-Eyes is in there?”

Click! went Rona's tongue against the roof of her mouth. “His name is Malcolm,” she said, as she tossed her head to the side. “He does not happen to be here at the moment. And just because I initially met him in his professional capacity, rather than in a less formal, more egalitarian set—”

“As I looked into her eyes,” Joel began to sing:

I beheld a great surprise.
There was somebody waiting for me-e-e!
There was somebody waiting
There was somebody waiting
There was somebody waiting for me!

He suddenly whirled Rona around in a square-dance-do-si-do, and pushed his way inside the door.

“Oh, God! You are just such a child! I don't know how I ever thought you could be a father! I told you—no. You cannot come in.”

“Why not?”

“You know why not. I don't think it's a good idea. It's not fair to Seth. It's confusing.”

“Seth won't get confused. He knows I'm his father. Even if he does look like your mother.”

Rona stared up into the chandelier. “It is not a good idea, Joel. Now especially. For Seth to find us together now, talking about his bar mitzvah, it's just bound to re-evoke his old fantasies of getting his parents back together.”

“Oh, he had that one, too?” Joel said. “Don't worry, he'll get over it. Granted, it could take him a few years. But you'll see—he'll meet a nice girl, and he'll be fine. I'll talk to him about it, straighten him out. But not till after his bar mitzvah. . . . I'd do it now,” he added, beaming up at her. “But I don't think that would be a good idea.”

Rona let out a long, disgusted sigh and walked off down the hallway.

“Where does Dr. Four-Eyes hang out around here? Where does he sit?” Joel suddenly called out after her. “I mean to say, which one of the lovely furnishings in your gracious, mortgage-free home does Malcolm prefer?”

But Rona, quickly returning with a book clutched in her hand and an unlit cigarette pinched between her lips, was coming toward him with a nearly fevered expression.

“I don't know how this could have happened . . .,” she began wildly. She looked away, fumbling with her lighter, and steeling herself, reluctantly said, “The problem with giving you this book is that it isn't actually mine. It's Robyn's. . . . I mean, we share all the books that are in the office space, but this is—well, it's—it's really Robyn's personal property.”

“That's just one article I'm supposed to read, right?” Joel said. “I'll xerox it. What's the problem?”

“No . . .,” Rona leaned forward miserably, shaking her head. “I don't feel I can do that, Joel. This book—well, first of all, it's very old. And secondly—well, this is a very complicated story. . . .” She paused, and with her brows knit, finally said, “This actual book—this copy—once belonged to Lily Weisenfreund-Taussig . . . Lily Weisenfreund-Taussig, Joel?”

“The Lieder singer who performed for Goering? . . . For the whole German General Staff? Wait, wait—only in the Fuehrerbunker itself, but not if Eva Braun—”

“She was a very distinguished psychoanalyst. Who was actually from Vienna!” Rona shook her head, and sighing, went on, “Well, anyway. . . . She was Robyn's first analyst . . . who died. And the way Robyn got this book—”

“Say no more,” Joel held up his hand, and reaching over to look at it, burst out, “The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child! Didn't you always have about a million of these lying around when you were taking all those courses and seminars?”

“This one is from 1951—I don't have every single volume! I don't know anyone our age who has ev—”

“1951!” Joel took the book from her. “That is old! That's even before my trauma—I mean, my bar mitzvah,” he said, thumping his head with the book and barking out, “No! No! My bar mitzvah, my bar mitzvah!”

”God, be careful, Joel! I just explained to you about that book!” Rona snapped, and her arm shot out in alarm, knocking it to the floor.

_____________

Joel clutched his back, and letting out an old man's muted, cranky cry, moaned, “Oyy! My aching bar mitzvah!” as he slowly bent over to pick up the borrowed book. It had hit the floor open at the flyleaf, so that instantly visible beneath the faded markings of a foreign script was a bright, plump, purple calligraphic pennant, Robyn Sabrina Kadish M.D.

“How is Robyn Sabrina these days?” he said. “Studying calligraphy with a scribe from the Middle Ages?”

Rona glared at him. “Well . . .,” she said slowly, lighting her cigarette and squinting from the smoke, “I don't recall that you ever genuinely wanted to know. . . . But things were never really all that great with her and Andy. So now there's a lot of stuff that's showing up with the kids.”

“What?” Joel said. “Rebecca's running a shooting gallery? The baby's getting beat up by her pimp?”

“The baby,” Rona furiously began, “The baby—Abigail—is almost eight years old. And she is definitely having . . . certain difficulties. And Robyn isn't at all happy with the way the school is handling the whole situation, so she's had to get very involved with that. Plus, in their building, the co-op board asked her to sit in on interviews for a super, because they've had practically a revolving door there and nothing ever gets fixed. And even when she told them that the guy they all really wanted showed marked sociopathic trends, and being able to charm them like that was actually symptomatic, they—”

“Still wouldn't hire her, huh?” Joel interrupted. “I say face it, Rona. How can Robyn be a super? Is her library up to the job? Is it? Look, suppose someone suddenly gets a stopped-up tub and they run down panicked in their bathrobe to Robyn—”

“I don't have to listen to this, Joel,” Rona turned away, shrugging. “Robyn is my friend, and I don't—”

“Just a minute here! How is this personal? Ten-C has a stopped-up tub! It's property values—and don't forget that building is a co-op! If 10-C has a real flood up there, what's it going to do to 9-C's ceiling? This is an emergency! Does Robyn put down a beer can and run up with the plunger? Does she? Or does she volume down some flute and harpsichord concerto and look up the literature on water phobia?”

“That's why I didn't xerox the Arlow article before!” Rona burst out, her eyes blazing. “Now I understand it. Because I know your strategies. I know your narrow little repertoire of defenses. As soon as something is important, as soon as there's something really serious, you can only make fun of it! Well, not this time, Joel. Not with this article, and not with this issue. I will not let you make a mockery of it.”

“For Christ sake, I'll xerox the article! First thing tomorrow morning! I'll get the book messengered back to you so fast, Robyn won't even be at work yet! She still won't be finished getting all dressed up to mess around under somebody's sink—I mean, somebody's defenses. She'll never even have to know.”

“Messengered!” Rona cried. “Oh, you would! Captain Success! Master of the empty gesture! . . . I'd much rather xerox it myself and put it in an envelope, but I'm not unaware of the way you've set up your office, Joel. Even if I hand-delivered it, you'd never see it.”

“What do you mean?” Joel said “I'm so shielded from contact with life by my profit-mad army of flunkeys and minions?”

“Oh my God” Rona's hand suddenly flew up to her mouth. “That's what I was supposed to tell you to call my father about! Something about an early minyan.

Joel nodded. “I'll call him. But that's strictly because us Masters of the Empty Gesture are very good at picking up the phone. . . . I'd just like to know how come he doesn't call me if there's something he wants to tell me? Until he's got this bar-mitzvah takeover bid locked in, he's not supposed to dial out of Larchmont?”

Click! went Rona's tongue against the roof of her mouth. She said, “Really, Joel! Can't you think of anyone else for even one minute? Can't you understand that for my father, dealing with you right now might not be the easiest thing? Don't forget we're talking about a man who's a very old-fashioned—okay, let's say a very traditional father here! . . . In this situation, what do you imagine his attitude could be? He's old; he won't really retire so he gets home exhausted—and then, just because he feels like picking up the paper, he has to read about your new marriage? Or your new apartment?”

“I think he should stick to the trades,” Joel said. “Doctor's World. Or Allergist's Age. Whichever one he got that always had skis and golf clubs on the cover. . . .”

Rona suddenly laughed. “Can you imagine my father playing golf? Or going skiing?” Her eyes grew distant, and she said, “He did, though, once. . . . It's how he met my mother—there are even pictures of it. . . .”

“He took a photographer with him to document the event?”

Click! went Rona's tongue, but she gave an abstracted shrug and answered without rancor. “It's how they met, that's all. . . . In some ski place in the mountains. My father was still in medical school. And someone around took a couple of pictures.” She paused, and taking a deep breath said, “I guess what I'm really saying is, my parents have been married for a thousand years, so all this is—well, it's very hard for them. . . . That I'm divorced, that you're remarried, that Seth now comes from, quote, a broken home. It's really hard for them, Joel. They're very old-fashioned.”

“Old-fashioned? Are you kidding? What about me, then? Shit! I still believe in the ancient custom where the father has something to do with the son's bar mitzvah.”

Rona sighed deeply and shook her head. “I can't go through this with you again, Joel. I can't do it. . . . And anyway, you're only using it to evade a real issue—my father does not feel comfortable with you right now. That's it. Period. He doesn't. And okay, granted, you can call that a little irrational, but we're talking about his only grandchild here, so what can I possibly tell him? Do I know whether there's a room for Seth in your new apartment? Can I swear it won't in any way jeopardize Seth's situation in your life now that you have a whole new set of priorities?”

Joel stared at her. “What is the matter with you, Rona? What the fuck is the matter with you? How would I go out and buy a huge new apartment without a room for Seth? When did I ever live anywhere that Seth didn't have—”

“You didn't have a new wife then, Joel! How am I supposed to know what her priorities would be?”

“What's the difference what her priorities might be? How would I ever let that affect me? How could you even pretend to think it could?” Joel screamed.

_____________

Rona had begun filing her nails with an emery board that fell out of her pocket. She frowned intently, and did not look up. Finally, she held out her left hand, and carefully turning and inspecting each finger, she said, “Of course, it's not every adoring new husband who could talk about his wife's needs and desires with so much empathy and concern. . . . But that's not my table. I just wanted to get a little clarity on Seth's situation in all this.”

“Seth does not have a situation in all this! He has a father in all this! Me!” Joel shouted. “And in Seth's father's new apartment, he will not only have his own room—he can practically have his own wing if he wants it!”

“Joel!” Rona suddenly cried out. “Joel, do you remember when Seth was eleven months old and he still couldn't go to solid foods and I was hysterical? And then finally we went to your mother's and she gave him chicken wings from the soup and he loved them so much it was the first food he kept down? My God! She brought him chicken wings from Riverdale every single day for a whole freezing winter! Do you realize?” Rona turned around, abruptly pulling off her tinted glasses. “Your mother had to take a bus and two trains each way, and now Seth hardly even knows she existed!”

“Grandma Esther? Are you kidding? He remembers her,” Joel said. “Maybe not the chicken wings. But he certainly remembers when she—”

“Joel!” Rona burst out, her unguarded eyes alight with a lofty, fervid glow. “You have to talk to Seth about what happened to your family in Europe, what happened during the war.”

“Nothing happened. . . . They got out in the nick of time, and died in their beds in the Bronx.”

“What about your sister?”

Wearily, Joel said, “Fuck off, Rona, would you? You know I didn't know her. To my parents, she was real. To me, I never even saw her—to me, she's an abstract person.”

“To you everyone is an abstract person. That's just a capsule definition of narcissism. Don't you understand!” Rona shouted, her head thrown back and her face, even in the fading light, as deeply flushed now as it had once been in desire. “Look, Joel,” she said, pulling herself together. “We're not nineteen any more. This is life. If you can't deal with your own family's history yourself, then you have to make use of other sources. . . . I think you should take Seth to see The Sorrow and the Pity.”

“A four-and-a-half hour documentary that's 100-percent subtitles? Are you crazy?”

“When you abdicate you limit your choices,” she said stonily. “It's like those parents who feel so threatened by sexuality that they can't discuss it. So, naturally, then they find themselves forced to rely on books or films.”

“Or else—the street,” Joel darkly intoned, rolling his eyebrows in lewd mimicry. “Oh God, the gutter! Filthy, used yellow stars! Torn and diseased deportation orders! . . . Why, oh why can't we just give our young the wholesome, beautiful truth?”

“Bravo, Joel. Bravo,” Rona stood up, evenly nodding. “And I was the one who provided you with the analogy, Bravissimo! . . . I'd just like to know what you're going to tell Seth at the bar mitzvah—when there'll be x-zillion people from my family. And from yours, that's if they even come, those—those fat, creepy second cousins from Hartford. All four of them.”

“They were having a sale up there when my mother first came here. You didn't expect her to stop at one, did you? You went to Loehmann's with her a couple of times. You know.”

“Enough,” Rona held up her hand like a crossing guard, attempting to mask her features with an exhausted, purifying calm. She leaned over to turn on a lamp, and instantly, in its pale glow, the room was cast into the formal, intimate melancholy of evening. “Look, Joel . . .,” she slowly began. “I wish you could try to believe that in this one area, at least, I am truly on your side. When I think of all the unbearable feelings of loss and deprivation that must often overwhelm you, when I just try to imagine, in the face of all that, your constant struggle to flourish, how could I ever say that I—”

“Holy shit,” Joel called out, as a shadowy flight of laggard pigeons from the rooftops across the street quickly passed before the half-lit windows like suddenly falling snow. “For a second there, I thought it was snowing.”

“The blizzard is inside, Joel. Why else would it be so hard for you? How can you tell any part of this to Seth when you've never found a way to tell it to yourself? I just want to make sure it doesn't somehow get confused as an issue between you and me. Because how—”

“Rona,” Joel said, getting ready to leave, “this is bigger than both of us. But if it turns out that your analogy with sex holds up, I think I pulled off a double play. Because when I first talked to Seth about the baby, right after Polly had the amnio, I explained to him that he was going to have a sister, and that the reason we were planning to name her—”

“Baby? What baby? What amnio?” Rona cried. “What are you talking about, Joel? You're not seriously telling me that Polly Treadwell—that anorexic Polly Treadwell—is pregnant?”

Joel picked up the borrowed copy of The Psychoanalytic Study of the Child, and headed for the door. “We're naming the baby Eve,” he called out, as he passed into the drafty hallway. “You remember,” he threw her a farewell nod. “That's after my abstract sister.”

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