Curled in the Bed of Love
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To read Curled in the Bed of Love is to feel the incessant tug between devotion and desire that can unmake even the closest couple. These eleven stories are set in the San Francisco Bay Area, and in true Left Coast style, Catherine Brady's characters are as resolute in evading middle-class conformity as they are in clinging to their illusions about love. And while they never shy from paying their dues, they can't help but wonder sometimes if their choices have at last accrued too high a cost. What lies in the bed of love, with women and men curled sometimes in repose, sometimes in a defensive knot, are failed dreams, reproofs, ambitions, and stubborn beliefs.
Always, mortality threatens the lovers' embrace. In the title story, Jim and his HIV-positive partner contend with an illness that has fueled their love but also threatens to consume it. In some stories, an outsider exposes the frailty of a relationship. Claire, who's opted for a steady marriage in "The Loss of Green," is both stirred and repelled by the advances of her former mate Sam, a radical environmentalist with a predatory need to reassert his claim on her. And in "Behold the Handmaid of the Lord," Debbie, compelled to translate a brief affair with her cousin's fiancé into a profound transgression, comes clean on a sleazy national talk show.
All of Brady's stories are gritty and unflinching in their gaze, yet lyrical and rich in the imagery of stasis and change―an empty house too long on the market, a pair of kayakers riding out a patch of rough sea, a greenhouse in which the orchid blooms only suggest the darting vitality of butterflies and birds. There is much to learn in these tales of flawed but good people working hard to hold their lives together.
forcing me, in the same way he makes it impossible for me to say no to coming up to his apartment. He crawled under the covers in his clothes, held me there with a hard hand I could believe he raised against his wife, making a fist the way his tense body made a fist in the rumpled sheets. I could smell his unwashed hair, the stinging echo of gasoline fumes, and some mysterious sweetness I couldn’t name. That vapor held me where I was, even though every muscle in my body tensed against the
to her shapely shoulder. “Can I borrow a putty knife from you?” she says. “And Spackle, if you have it?” He blushes, rich reward for her first, virtuous small step. Foster saved Carrie’s life. When they were first married, they traveled together a lot, a frivolity Foster can still afford regularly and Carrie cannot. When he finished his residency, they drove down to Baja, Mexico, to celebrate. They camped on the beach, rose with the sun every morning to make cowboy coffee in a pot
their drawings always betray the beautiful, unique distortions of what they really see. It’s what Katie lacks and why she was right to become a teacher instead of struggling to mere competence as a graphic designer. Her love for her own children, indistinguishable from her pride in their flourishing selves, made her think, this is my gift, why not use it? She finds it as hard to distinguish between pride in her students and pride in herself for their class projects—lanterns made from elaborately
night because she was premed, seemed unafflicted by the compulsion to experiment that preoccupied Marshall’s other friends. He doesn’t even remember her compact body, so expensively shown off tonight in a black silk dress. As she tells him in her careless, abbreviated way about last winter’s trip to Switzerland and her yearly two-week jaunt as a medical volunteer in Central America, he realizes she must have grown up well-off, was probably never so ordinary and self-effacing as he remembers.
their attitudes toward one another. If it doesn’t workout, he is undaunted. He’d roll the dice again if he had to, and let someone else hold his breath. No one wrote to tell him when his mother got sick, for fear he’d rush back to Iran. His brother waited to tell Hassan until it was too late for him to come to the funeral. Maybe it was safe for Hassan to return, maybe he could have visited years ago, and only superstition made us believe that history was written in stone. Hassan frowns. “I think