First sight

You can see the school girl when she starts the story. You can see the girl she was when she talks about meeting him.

“I had this job at the university,” she says. “I had to fill all the condiments at dinner. The bottles at the tables. And I was supposed to wipe the tables. Students were responsible for taking their trays and dishes back, and for their trash, but a lot of them left their trays for me to clear too.

He always brought a large group of friends. And everyone sat around him like he was the focal point. And he stayed later and later as the semester went on. For a while his friends stayed later with him, and then they started leaving and he stayed and helped me clean up. He took the trays and offered to walk me back to my dorm. And then he was there every night. There was never anyone else.”

It’s the kind of love story you hear in romantic comedies. So sweet and specific that it can’t be true. Her face when she told me this story, more than forty years later, the way she loves him with the same wistful devotion, the way it makes her a girl again. The way love struck her. This is what I’ve been thinking about since he died on Friday. It isn’t fair. People are supposed to get some good fortune and some bad fortune. We’re supposed to experience the entire spectrum of human experience — the suffering and the triumph. And it isn’t fair. There aren’t enough love stories like hers that sustain themselves for forty years. Fifty years. Sixty years.

I’m so sad. I want to write her a letter, but I can’t. It’s her love story that breaks my heart. It isn’t his death, tragic as that is. It’s the love I mourn for. My beautiful friend. Her beautiful heart. What happens to that glow inside you — the glow of love — what happens afterward? Where do you go afterward? How do you get up out of bed, and drink your coffee, and talk to people, and tell the story over and over and eat a sandwich, and put on clothes and drive your car? How do you keep being human? We’re failing all the time.

I need to go outside and dig a hole. I was supposed to finish the front yard a month ago, and then I tried to cut off my thumb, and earned myself a respite, but it’s healed for the most part and I need to finish digging. The ceremony is not lost on me. Chop wood, carry water. Our whole lives could be grief if we let them. Our lives could be an endless processional for the things that fade. The people who go too early. The unfairness of it all. I have to go dig a hole because that’s what I have to do. But there is no better place to bury my sadness than in the earth. The leaves like coins in the sunlight. The Virgin Mary still and benevolent in the garden. The bell chiming on the porch.

She got her love story for 40 years. And I’m sorry. And I’m happy. And I’m angry. And I love her. And I love him. And I take breaks to cry, to remember. That man could bowl like nobody’s business. He had the most ridiculous laugh. He told me he had been trying to read the same book about Roman history for 30 years but never could get more than midway through. Make peace where you can. Make peace where you can. Make peace where you can.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

More info →
Buy from GoodReads
Buy from Powells
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Amazon Kindle
A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

More info →
Buy from GoodReads
Buy from Powells
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

More info →
Buy from GoodReads
Buy from Powells
Buy from Barnes and Noble
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Amazon
Buy from Amazon Kindle