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Authors: Alethea Black

I Knew You'd Be Lovely

BOOK: I Knew You'd Be Lovely
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Praise for I KNEW YOU'D BE LOVELY

“With humor, honesty, and wary hope, Alethea Black's stories capture the pain and power of loving fully—and celebrate life's small astonishments amid our shared human search for the divine.
I Knew You'd Be Lovely
is thoughtful, entertaining, and, ultimately, powerful.”

—Daphne Kalotay, author of
Russian Winter

“Alethea Black writes with a deceptively light touch, yet her work packs a serious punch … There's a spiritual hunger in her stories reminiscent of Flannery O'Connor, combined with a voice that is all her own.”

—Sharon Pomerantz, author of
Rich Boy

“Reading Alethea Black's seemingly effortless prose is like slipping into water—the eerily clear kind, that shows you more than you may want to see.”

—Glen Hirshberg, winner of the 2008 Shirley Jackson Award

“Alethea Black can drop you into a dream with a single sentence, then convince you it's real. Her characters' best hopes and worst fears usually come to pass, often in fabulous ways, but their adventures feel inevitable and true—not only because Ms. Black richly imagines her people, but because she loves them.
I Knew You'd Be Lovely
is a lovely debut, with masterful prose and inspired invention on every page.”

—Ralph Lombreglia, author of
Men Under Water

“There's a touch of Lorrie Moore in Alethea Black's stories, but the voice is all her own. Black writes about love, yes, but she also writes about solitude—its travails and its pleasures—with a winning combination of insight and charm.
I Knew You'd Be Lovely
is a terrific debut.”

—Joshua Henkin, author of
Matrimony

Copyright © 2011 by Alethea Black

All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Broadway Paperbacks, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
www.crownpublishing.com

BROADWAY PAPERBACKS
and its logo, a letter
B
bisected on the diagonal, are trademarks of Random House, Inc.

Some of the stories in this book were originally published in
American Literary Review, The Antioch Review, Arts & Letters, The Chattahoochee Review, Green Mountains Review, Inkwell, The Kenyon Review, Narrative, The North American Review
, and
The Saint Ann's Review
.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Black, Alethea.
    I knew you'd be lovely : stories / Alethea Black.
      p. cm.
    I. Title.
    PS3602.L243I3 2011
813′.6—dc22        2010033120

eISBN: 978-0-307-88604-0

v3.1

Dedicated in loving memory of David Palecek to my sister Melissa and her four daughters: Katrina, Caroline, Sierra, and Annika
.

C
ONTENTS

At the still point of the turning world.
Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point,
there the dance is.

—T. S. E
LIOT

THAT OF WHICH WE CANNOT SPEAK

Earlier that evening, under the pale streetlamps, Bradley had sat on a park bench and watched a row of trees carefully gathering snow. It was as if they were beckoning it, as though the snow were something they'd been wanting to say.

Now, speeding down Fifth Avenue in a cab whose driver seemed unaware of his own mortality, Bradley wished he were back on that park bench. Or in the diner they'd just passed. Or that police station. Anywhere but on his way to a party where strangers with cardboard hats and noisemakers always made him feel as if he were on the wrong planet.

It was 10:15 New York time, which meant it would already be 3:15
A.M.
in Islington. Probably too late to call your ex-wife, even if she was most likely still out somewhere, sequined, laughing, ice making music in her glass. Besides, what would he say? “I'm sorry” was so easy and generic. Gail hated lack of specificity; in fact, this was
one of the qualities that had drawn him to her in the first place. Whenever he used to overhear her on the phone with one of her sisters, she was always begging for details. “What were you wearing? What did he order? Did he leave a nice tip?”

Unfortunately, this need for particularity would later work against him. Toward the end, a therapist had pressed him to try to describe what was missing in their marriage. “It's ineffable,” he'd said, at which point Gail stood up and shouted, “Well why don't you try effing it!” before she began to cry, softly, into her hands.

A professor once told him: “You must perpetually fight against the inexpressibility of it all,” in a voice so solemn it gave Bradley a chill. But his deepest experiences always left him mute. Mute with appreciation, mute with anger, mute with awe. Consequently, even when he was in a wonderful relationship—a wonderful marriage, in fact—some part of him remained fundamentally alone. Once or twice, when there were still worlds of tenderness between them, he had lain awake after he and Gail made love, and while his wife slept beside him he shed silent, inexplicable tears. If Gail had awakened and discovered him, he wouldn't have known what to say.

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