Fiction & Essays

Excerpts of Published Fiction, Short Stories and Essays

Where She Was

Where She Was by Helen Fremont

Jana and I were in the bathtub on a drizzly afternoon, miles from anywhere.  She was turning the hot water on and off again with her foot.  I leaned against her, comparing legs.  It made me think I was seven again, at the Albany Art Museum, copping a feel of those rich velvet cordons when none of the guards were looking.  Her legs wove around mine and just kept on going.  You could string them along an art exhibit for half a city block.  Her left foot hung over the edge of the high-lipped bathtub – one of those tubs that’s perched on four porcelain paws, like it’s fixing to walk away.

No, my mother doesn’t know.  She thinks Jana and I are friends.  I love that word: friends.

Published in Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards, 1994, ed. William Abrahams. Originally published in Ploughshares, Winter 1992-93.

Shoes

Shoes by Helen Fremont

Shoes filled their closet like an auditorium: dozens of pairs in every conceivable color and style.  The insides were smooth and buttery brown, molded over the years to the shape of their feet.  My mother’s shoes made no sense at all, strips of color and jabs of heels, leather leftovers fashioned into footing.  Only one or two pairs looked like anything I would ever put my feet in, or trust with my weight.  Still, they were tantalizing, adornments and devices, tricks to attach to one’s toes and heels.

Published in Harvard Review, Spring 1992

Lipstick

Lipstick by Helen Fremont

She wouldn’t wear lipstick until she saw him again.  It was a vow she’d made to herself, to make him come back.  All the girls at the Rest Center wore lipstick; girls from every corner of the continent.  Pink smudges on every coffee cup.  The men were young and gangly, eyes full of the ocean, faces eager, hungry.  Fatigues, fresh-scrubbed and bleached dry by a pale Roman sun, hung from their shoulders like playtogs.  They roamed the Rest Center looking for cuddles, laughter.  The front was moving away from them, and they were resting.

Published in Harvard Review, Number Nine – Fall 1995

Guessing at Felix

Guessing at Felix by Helen Fremont

I know you.  You are going off with a guy named Felix.  Felix is a nice enough guy, as things go these days.  He is not the heroic type, thank goodness.  He has his quirks, which one comes to appreciate after a few drinks.  For one thing, he has almost nothing in the bank, except for a few 78 rpm’s in a safe deposit box.  This is a man who preserves things for the sake of their shape.  He is tall but not too tall.   Something like six feet in slippers, which would be Florentine leather, the easy-on, easy-off type with no tread.  This man does not expect to have to leap hurdles or sprint laps in the middle of the night.  He is self-assured, but not absurdly so.

Published in Phoebe: The George Mason Review, Spring/Summer 1992

An Interview with Saul Bellow

An Interview with Saul Bellow by Helen Fremont

HF: Can you say a little more about the book you’re working on?

SB: No, I never talk about it, because… well, you’re bound to say something false about it, and it sticks to you.

HF: Have your work habits changed over the years?

SB: No, I always got up early in the morning and worked until I was very tired.  Then I would walk around the city, mostly Chicago.  All the mischief I ever got into was after work hours.  I was very virtuous about work.  I was perhaps not as virtuous as I should have been otherwise.

Published in The Marlboro Review – Winter/Spring 1996

First Person Plural

First Person Plural by Helen Fremont

Our marriage is based on a fundamental, irrefutable fact: neither of us can bear the trauma of dating.  Our own courtship was excruciatingly long.  The general rule of thumb in lesbian relationships is that on the second date you move in together.  Donna and I held off cohabitation for nearly two months, which is something like a record in the gay community.  Having accomplished this feat together, we are not about to venture out on our own again.  This basic fear lies at the heart of our relationship, and offers us a sense of stability and security.  We are bound to each other because neither of us has the courage to start over again.

Published in Why I’m Still Married: Women Write Their Hearts Out on Love, Loss, Sex, and Who Does the Dishes, ed. Karen Propp and Jean Trounstine.  New York: Hudson Street Press, published by Penguin Group, 2006.

Republished in The Aims of Argument, A Text and Reader, 7th edition, by Timothy Crusius and Carolyn Channell.  New York: McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc., 2010.