LIZA WASN'T SURE WHEN THINGS began to change. One day it was the bed: made when she wasn't one for making something you were going to unmake hours later. Another time, it was the walk, swept, and the dead bird that had kamikazeed in the front window weeks earlier, vanished. Then, the kitchen sink looked cleaner. Years of grease scoured, the drain as shiny as a new dime. It seemed as though someone had even taken a toothbrush to the spigot and the handles for the hot and cold. The heaped-up recycling: vamoosed, too. Even she couldn't ignore a clean sink. She called her boyfriend Lloyd to see if this was his doing while he waited to plunge his coffee. Every Monday morning, he left at the crack of dawn to drive back to Phoenix where he worked at a big accounting firm. They spent weekends together. This arrangement, going on fifteen years, was fine with her. Liza liked a little elbow room.
"No, nope," Lloyd said, "it wasn't me."
"Strange," she said. "I washed the dishes, that's all."
"I seem to recall martinis," he said.
"They make me want to do handstands," she said. "Cartwheels and whatnot. They don't make me want to clean."
"You never know," he suggested; but she did.
She went into the Arizona Room--nothing in its place there--back through the kitchen and into the living room where everything was as she remembered. Her computer was open on a stool, her coffee cup on a poetry volume--Small Animal Diagnosis--that she'd wound up using for the past decade as a coaster. Someone had lent it to her, though she could no longer remember who. For most of her adult life--she'd be fifty-seven at the beginning of April--she hadn't believed in things like coasters or soap dishes, or even bath mats for that matter. They seemed too specialized. Why buy a soap dish, when you could use the edge of the sink? Or a large oyster shell? Or even the lid from a pickle jar? She pulled aside the thick quilt that she'd hung at the entrance to the hallway and went halfway down and into her office. Her breath bloomed. In January, it dipped into the blessed teens at night, and these houses built with little insulation and shit-for-nothing furnaces got so cold you had to get resourceful. Before he left, Lloyd flipped on the mobile radiator in the living room. Then Liza pulled it behind her like a dog, heating only her immediate vicinity.
She was looking for something, but what suddenly escaped her. This was where she kept books, boxes of decorative papers for book making, paste, the computer modem, a busted printer, climbing gear, her mother's old Singer. Was she looking for a book? Her eyes inched across the uneven spines, mostly poetry, most of it from a period of her life where she'd had the patience for caesura, compression, broken lines. It was weird, now that she thought of it, but she'd stopped...