All That We Have to Do


Jane Ablier changed the kitty litter. Jane Ablier filled the hummingbird feeder. Jane Ablier called her daughter Susan. Susan didn't answer. Was Susan out wrecking another pickup truck like she did when her last marriage failed? Maybe she was home and not answering, still in bed, with someone like... No, Jane Ablier didn't want to think about that.

Jane Ablier's cat Spud complained. Jane wanted to oblige Spud, but she couldn't figure out what he wanted. She forgot about it and tried to take a nap.

In Jane Ablier's dream, she was a small child with a spur folded over against the index knuckle on her right hand. It grew there like a wart and her friends had learned to hold her other hand instead. Her best friend had a pet rooster, and every time Jane would visit, it would get agitated and try to attack her. Finally it got so agitated it could not be calmed down, and it killed itself attacking its reflection in the sliding glass door. Jane woke with the muscles in her legs clamping and releasing, clamping and releasing.


Imagine (because Jane imagines it) Jane overseeing the serving of cocktails to a sophisticated crowd of culture seekers gathered in the oversized living room of Jane's palatial French estate kept tidy by two butlers, three maids, and several Japanese gardeners (Jane’s imagination appears to be limited in regards to the size of the staff necessary to maintain palatial French estates). The discretely laughing guests arrive in long black limousines wearing luminous satin gowns and jet-black tuxedos, for they have just come from the symphony. (Jane fails to imagine what works were presented at this symphony although she can remember various members of the audience with their heads drifting to the side suddenly jerking back up at the crescendo.)

Jane's imaginary turquoise-green French lace brassiere moves gradually to a somewhat uncomfortable position (for her imagination is uncertain of the demands being placed upon it) as she observes the party’s development, and thinking no one can see her, Jane steps out onto the path traversing the endless expanse of artistically quaffed and coerced green exuberance referred to as the garden, just where it invites the eye to enter its fecund maze, to adjust the positioning of the garment. As Jane reaches into her gown to soften the brassiere’s arrogant pinch, a young man with long blonde hair, deep set eyes, and an amusingly childish swagger steps out of the shadow of a berobéd yet suggestive marble statue onto the earth-red stones of the pathway, thoughtlessly departing the comforting primal darkness of the grand and welcoming gesture so freely given by the provocative stone figure.

Ah but pardon if you will, for now we must wake Jane before she gets the wrong idea about the cat licking her face.

Kitty only wants his breakfast but Jane wants her dream back.


Jane Ablier has not yet visited Stonehenge (patience, dear reader, have patience), but Jane Ablier has changed the kitty litter, several times. And Jane's daughter Susan finally answers Jane's calls, but Susan doesn't offer anything that assists Jane’s anxiety very much.

Jane is not a patient person, but Stonehenge is a patient place.


Yes, Jane has married. Twice. To Susan's father. Both times. Jane doesn't believe she could have made the same mistake twice. Jane doesn't understand how something so obvious could have escaped her. She likes to think the first few years of the first marriage and the first few months of the second marriage were happy ones. She likes to think this. But each time, “promise” turned to “promises” and then the silence began. No yelling, no fighting, no threats, no provocations. Just inertia and then silence.

So Jane puts away the false effort, puts finally away the guilt and the suppressed anger. She tries to "go with the flow" though she's embarrassed to say it that way, even though that’s the way she thinks of it. She spends a great deal of time at home with Spud. She really does enjoy the peace. She fixes nice dinners for herself and eats them by candlelight. She takes bubble baths and soaks till the water cools, then turns on the hot water and soaks some more. She indulges Spud, who wallows in the welcome but unfamiliar comfort. She watches the black and white late movie about lovers separated by war or rents a horror film and drinks Amaretto or Root Beer Schnapps. She doesn't dress till afternoon.

Jane believes she is happy until one night she steps out onto her back porch and experiences, oddly enough for the first time, the unendurable pleasure of a madly barking dog.


I would like to describe the expression Jane's hands held between them when the missionary asked her if she had found peace in her life. She was trying to tell him that yes, she had. But her hands were offering him something confusing, like a young girl holding a dead kitten, stroking it. As if death were precious. And it is. How else do we learn what life is? Death the great teacher. Death the first wisdom. Death the gift.

But how long does it take to bury the kitten?

That kind of expression.


The missionary did not know Jane was going to Stonehenge. Jane did not know the missionary had witnessed a terrible accident in which his younger sister had died after three weeks of excruciating hope. The missionary did not know the meaning of Stonehenge. Jane did not know the importance of the dark clouds on the horizon, as if the earth and the sky were not just metaphors, but crazed animals from different worlds, and the storm was a struggle for balance between them.

So Jane entered the large cage the sky had built and stood smiling in her soaking clothes as the wind washed wave after wave of thick large warm drops against her trembling body.

Jane's neighbor Carter (nothin’ in the noggin and a great beer-belly-over-the-belt belch of a go-screw-yourself attitude straining to be a disembodied voice) watches from an upstairs window.

Jane raises her arms to the storm and twirls, tossing off water in all directions and singing, loudly.

Carter watches Jane's mouth moving as it passes through his range of vision on each turn and Carter strains to figure out what she is saying. He fails but it does not spark any particular emotion in him. He decides to get a beer and watch A Clockwork Orange on the video player.

Jane continues trembling until the experience is once more in the past.



Leonard says, "In heaven, art is a picture of earth."


Leonard says, "The first man must not have been a man first."


Leonard devours the obituaries. Leonard believes he has to restrain himself because he has no thumbs.


Yes, Leonard has been married. Twice. To a woman "approaching the demeanor and velocity of a mushroom." Two different names and sets of physical characteristics, but Leonard believes she was the same woman.


Despite the occasionally memorable utterances, Leonard's words are often ragged enough to frighten children.


"No children. No children. No children."

"No more children."

"Saint Zero."

Leonard believes this will make Leonard happy.


And yet some crippled wheel turns Jane back again to an ancient itch. Leonard happened between Jane’s two marriages, not after. After Leonard, Jane saw her soon-to-be-twice ex-husband, and all she could think of was some guy with a big-ass head and a block-and-tackle neck hoisted up over a junkie's frame. She couldn't even pretend she had really known him. Maybe that’s why she tried again.

Leonard she had known, still knew she felt, but she didn’t understand why it had happened.


The squeaky clean filth of a righteous sermon. Her father's skin beneath her fingers. A slow and hungry grace.

A kind of sexual composting.

A limp disaster of an angel.

Jane after.


It's true that Jane spilled ketchup on the minister's surfboard. They were arguing about the function of ritual in ancient religion during the Parents Without Partners picnic and beach outing when Jane got too animated and squeezed her hot dog right out of its bun. Was this funny or embarrassing? Jane didn't know. Till later. At Stonehenge.

That’s when Leonard appeared, off-center. Sketching the arrangement of the garbage on the beach. An unsprouted circus of a man. A sparrowful.

A disappointed pointillist with a hazy definition of relationships.


Yesterday there was a set of dishes laid out in the ditch beside the freeway. Leonard saw it on the way home from the beach. He swears he did.


Leonard's ex-wife "limits her conversation to microwavable sex toys and large polite bodies of water."


Of course we don't know the whole story, but like the stairs beneath a locked door, we have somewhere to go.

So does Jane. Jane is on her way to Stonehenge.


How old is your father?

Wet enough to be a fish.

Are you still hungry?

Yes, very ancient, I'm afraid.

Leonard, Leonard, Leonard. Will you never grow up?


"Give them that piece of your sanity if they want it," says Leonard. "It was holding you back anyway."


"But I suppose it really could have been part of a pageant I saw once in a village by the Black Sea," says Leonard.


Leonard is waiting for the rest of the world to join him.




And here in this portion of the story we find great oodles of elapsed time in which an intimacy of sorts develops between Leonard and Jane for a second time, just as we expected it would, and although it’s not the great romance stories once felt obligated to provide, it had its inevitable way with each of them.


“We were served something too deep to be soup,” says Leonard.


An insect crawls across Leonard’s legs. Jane’s thoughts crawl across the wingless insect.


We must be in Leonard’s thoughts now because several historians are playing marbles in the bathtub.


So Jane said to Leonard in an attempt to impress him with her understanding of the way his mind worked, "Yesterday a seashell was elected mayor and my hand got stuck in the tin glove the actress used in the famous movie nobody watches anymore.”

Leonard adjusted his suspenders and waited for the punchline, but it was not forthcoming. He was not altogether disappointed.


Jane on her primary and relatively new source of income: “Those scientists doing the experiments they won’t talk about want the crickets fatter. They don’t seem to know how much trouble I go to, so I sent them a brochure that offers unsolicited testimony from Anthony J. Miszerewski of the Tulsa City Zoo, ‘Here is an ideal feed item for many zoo animals. They are soft-bodied and thus have an advantage over meal worms whose hard outer shell is often indigestible and clogs up the intestines of animals.’ "


“Each evening after work a version of my lover presented itself according to its current interpretation of loveliness. Despite the inevitable limitations of her vision of my fantasies, I was entertained, and sometimes the interpretations were engaging beyond the imagination I had possessed at the time,” said Leonard later to his shift-mate at the mill, even though he knew the man wasn’t listening.


Leonard hadn’t realized it yet, but his speech had graveled over like the approach to a somewhat indeterminate commercial facility still under construction, probably a storage unit.




Jane Ablier closes the door. Jane Ablier changes the kitty litter. Spud II sulks while Jane Ablier eats her breakfast. Jane Ablier visits Stonehenge alone after years of wishful thinking and is hit by a taxi walking back to her car. Jane Ablier spends three weeks in the hospital in Salisbury. Jane Ablier returns home and slowly regains her mobility as the broken hip mends.

Leonard does not mend. Leonard is not broken. Nor is Leonard Jane's husband. Jane doesn’t have a husband. Again. Her first husband has failed her a second time. Leonard did not reject her. Nor did she reject Leonard. But marriage hadn’t been finished with Jane yet. It had a few more tricks up its sleeve. Now the sleeve is threadbare, but comfortable. Yes, very comfortable.

Leonard remains. Leonard is careful in Leonard's way. Leonard is Leonard.


And now Jane's daughter Susan does not return her calls because Jane does not make them. Jane waits for Susan to call and considers the power hidden in the eventual decision to return or not to return Susan’s call when it finally arrives.


"In a recent survey, beetles outnumbered loved ones, but those surveyed clearly indicated loved ones could do more damage," says Leonard.


Leonard is investing in the future. Leonard is a secret of childhood. Leonard is full. Jane believes she is participating adequately in the filling.


Now all they have to do is live with it.