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Karen Russell

“Once Mom and Ossie and I spent an afternoon alone together in her hospital room. We were watching the small TV above her head politely, as if the TV were a foreign dignitary giving an unintelligible lecture, and waiting for any news from Dr. Gautman. As if on cue, that lame movie from the sixties started playing, Ladies In Waiting. A quintet of actresses haunt the punch bowl--they are supposed to be spinster sisters or spinster best friends, or maybe just ugly and needy acquaintances--anyhow, these pink chameleons, voiceless in their party chignons, they stand around the back of a ballroom having flashbacks for most of the movie, regretting older events in their minds, ladling cups of glowing punch from a big bowl, and only after the dying violin note of the final song do they at last step away from the wall. "Oh, but we DID want to dance!" the actresses cry at the end of the scene, their faces changing almost totally. All these angry multiplying women.

Hopes were like these ladies, Mom told us. Hopes were wallflowers. Hopes hugged the perimeter of a dance floor in your brain, tugging at their party lace, all perfume and hems and doomed expectation. They fanned their dance cards, these guests that pressed against the walls of your heart. Our mom had become agitated as the movie credits rolled: There had never been a chance for them! What STUPID women. That day we watched TV with her until the hospital began to empty, until the lights went white as a screech and the room grew so quiet...”

Karen Russell
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