a Women Writer's' Showcase
by Marcia Mascolini

When Catherine Parry told Rory Rooney, Poet Laureate of Southwestern Pennsylvania, to leave the premises, she had not expected him to take the furniture.

To be fair, Rory did leave two pieces. One was the lounge chair with the spring that poked you in the ass. The other was the sofa they had broken in a romantic moment. Feeling either his oats or the Bushmill's, Rory decided to play he-man, picked Catherine up, staggered to the sofa, and plopped onto it in a sitting position, her on his lap. The front foot of the sofa gave, and Catherine, Rory, and sofa pitched hysterically onto the floor with Catherine on the bottom as usual.

It was worth it for the laugh and also for the opportunity to buy a new sofa, but Rory, in his Starving Poet persona, insisted on fixing it himself.

Fixing consisted of propping it up with two bricks swiped from a construction site, which nicely mismatched the other bricks, similarly obtained, in his homemade coffee table.

Ah, the graduate school life that he insisted on living though they were gainfully employed, she more gainfully than he, as professors at Southwestern PA U. She taught computer science, he English education.

"If you can't do, teach," he said to her.

"If you can't teach, teach teachers to teach," she said to him.

So it went, cat and mouse, mouse and cat. For six year they got on reasonably well, shared a love of music, delighted in traveling. She wouldn't have lived in the Flange Building, the oldest apartment house in town, if he didn't need it for his image. He wouldn't have lived in Ironton, if he could have afforded it, which he couldn't, having been fired from his previous job after very brief tenure.

Then the bottom fell out of the economy, and the university faced painful cuts. First staff was laid off, then a few faculty. No need for teachers of teachers when nobody was hiring teachers. Rory's job went. Catherine's didn't. All the former teachers now needed MBAs.

"I'm a better teacher than you. How can they fire me and keep you?" he asked.

She didn't know if this statement were true, but she patiently explained market-driven forces. Computers were booming; education wasn't. She, quieted his money fears. She'd increase her consulting. She was already making more money at it than from teaching. She didn't take many offers so she could spend time with him. He could spend his time writing poetry. He'd always said it was his first love. Hadn't they said that whoever had the job, that's where they'd stay?

Instead of writing poetry, Rory spent more and more time with his students. He came home late, smelling of alcohol. Then he began staying out overnight, sneaking in by day to change clothes and catch up on his sleep.

Catherine remonstrated, begged, pleaded, wept. They had several delightful reconciliations. Boozy promises were made, only to be broken quickly. She knew she had had it the day she received two pieces of mail. One was from her publisher. It contained a royalty check for $25,000 on sales of her computer textbook. The other was a statement from family planning. Mr. Rory Rooney owed them $1500 for services rendered. Since they could no longer contact Mr. Rooney, they were billing her.

It was over. Catherine shook herself and picked up the telephone from the dusty floor. She phoned Ironton Estates. Yes, they'd be happy to show her some condos that afternoon. Many were available. They were sure she'd find something she liked. She called Brown's Furniture. Yes, a good selection of Eames chairs. They'd deliver one wherever she liked. Time for lunch, but the Poet had made off with the stove. Catherine reserved a table at the City Club. Nothing like a leisurely lunch before she went house hunting.

She thought she might be having fun.

After years of teaching business writing, Marcia Mascolini retired to write fiction in Portage, MI. Her stories have appeared in Retrozine, the Green Tricycle, Naked Humorists, Newtopia, and other journals. Contact Marcia.