Fiction The Filth issue

First Trip to Brewster

By Samuel R. Delany

collage featuring ripped out pages with nude paintings of women

Years ago, my then-wife Marilyn and I drove up to Brewster with an advertising woman, Rosemary Bruning. Rosemary was a delightful, well-tailored, if eccentric creature, on the verge of retiring, to whom all women were “gals” and all men were “fellows.” (I was in the front seat. Rosemary’s stepson, her daughter-in-law, and my wife were in the back.) Rosemary drove us through the October hills of Westchester, then Putnam County — “I think we haven’t quite gotten to the leaves changing yet. But next week all along through here is just going to be gorgeous, I can tell you!” She kept a Styrofoam coffee cup full of gin, pinkened with bitters, on the dashboard, from which she sipped regularly throughout the trip. “And I’ve never had an accident — oh, well, maybe one or two tiny ones. But I can’t afford any; not with that in here — now, can I?”

Modern and elegant, Rosemary’s Brewster house sat on several uneven birch-covered acres, with wide glass walls, deep colorless carpeting, and the exterior layered in silvery barn wood. When I first opened the door, six or so flies, on their backs, spotted the rug, victims of the first autumn chill.

The five of us sat in the living room around a huge coffee table, looking at evening grasses and birch groves through the glass wall. Somehow, Marilyn brought up the robberies we’d had recently in our Lower East Side apartment.

“We had a break-in here, too, last winter,” Rosemary said. “One of the local bad boys got in, probably looking for liquor” — we were all drinking gin by now — “and vandalized some of the art books. He just tore out the pictures of the naked ladies. Some poor local Black child who lived in one of the trailer parks. You know perfectly well what he wanted them for. He was really a very sad fellow. I never even saw him; I felt sorry for him. But there was nothing we could do.”


Arny Müller wasn’t a Brewster boy. Born in Queens, that outlying borough of New York, he was the youngest of three brothers and the one his dad — an immigrant German carpenter and “functioning alcoholic” — tried hardest to keep from going wrong. The social worker told him, “Look. If he doesn’t get out of this environment, he’s going the same route as the others.” The eldest brother, John, was out on the street and had been arrested and was now in jail. The other brother, Wilhelm, at eighteen, was a thief, only their dad hadn’t known. So his dad’s long-suffering wife, Ana, said they should send Arny out of the city to live with his grown sister, Lesil, who’d married an Irishman up in Brewster…

On the phone, Lesil said yes, she’d take him, “but as soon as he gets in trouble, I’m sending him home. I’m not kidding!” Lesil had come up here with Joe, who’d been born in the area, because she’d already decided all the men in her family were pretty much a disaster. Thus, with a small suitcase into which he’d packed one pair of new Levi’s and two pairs of old ones, two shirts, some underwear, and some dirty magazines (that Wilhelm had said he could have ’cause he was finished with them), Arny took the train up to Westchester, where Lesil’s old man collected him from the station in the pickup. 

Arny was fourteen and, after three minutes of silence, asked, “Did you guys really want me to come?”

At the steering wheel, Joey laughed. “Hey, family’s family, but Lee’s got some funny stories about all of you.” He pulled the truck around onto a turnoff that took them on a more countrified road. He didn’t say, however, what the stories were. 

At the four-room house, where Arny was to have the room in the back, Lesil in her apron and her hands wet with dishwater said, “You get a job, or you go to school.”

Well, where was he supposed to get a job?

So Joey said, “Come on,” and, back in the truck, drove him to the schoolhouse, and a woman with white hair and a green dress, who sounded like she was glad to meet them both (though Arny wasn’t so sure it was sincere), helped them fill out some papers. She introduced him to a kid who was thirteen but looked older than Arny, who took him down the hall and said it wasn’t so bad here, but he should watch out for the kids who lived up in High Meadow. “Them Black kids can be weird… ” Most of them were thieves, at least from each other.

One other thing Arny brought with him to Brewster was a story his brother Wilhelm had told him about his own job. Wilhelm had a job on a painting crew that painted apartments in neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and some of those apartments were pretty nice. “The first thing I’d do, on the second day of a five- or six-day job, is steal a set of keys to the building and the apartment,” Wilhelm told him, “take ’em out with me that night, go to Bradley’s locksmith, and have a duplicate set made, see? Then the next day I’d bring ’em back with me, and the wife would always be wonderin’ where her keys had gotten to and talkin’ about having the locks changed, and we’d get started like we weren’t payin’ any attention, moving furniture around and stuff — and I’d pretend to find ’em down between two couch cushions or just under a sideboard or somethin’, and I’d hold ’em up with a grin and say, ‘Hey, I bet you were lookin’ for these,’ and give ’em back — she’d be all grateful because now she didn’t have to have the locks changed and shit. Then, over the next day or three days, we’d finish up — and between six weeks to three months later, me and my friend Nome, who didn’t even know any of the guys on the paint crew, would sneak back, let ourselves in when they was out at work, and rob them motherfuckers blind! Man, they had some nice shit! We’d do it when they was away on a vacation or something, come in and take that stuff out in sacks and carry it off in Nome’s truck.”

Arny asked, “Did you keep any?”

Wilhelm laughed. “What the fuck for? You sell that stuff — get some money! So you can have some fun.” He nudged Arny with his elbow as they walked along autumnal Murdock Avenue. “They’d always figure some Black guys did it anyway.”

In Brewster there were supposed to be some really nice houses, though Arny hadn’t seen them yet. Joe and Lesil’s house was smaller than the three-story house his dad and Ana lived in back in Queens, though they didn’t have no kids of their own and, as far as he could tell, didn’t want any, though he was not too clear on how you kept that from happening. 

Joe worked for a tree company, and Lesil cleaned several of the vacation people’s houses, which, as jobs go, sounded pretty easy. You had to let yourself in once or twice a week during the summer when they were up there and not think about it the rest of the time.

Who would want to live in one of those houses? It was too big, and keeping it clean all year round would be a chore.

Arny was not surprised to learn that Lesil kept the keys for the houses she cleaned for in the kitchen drawer — with a cardboard tag ringed in aluminum attached to each bunch, which had an address printed on it but no name. Once, he opened the drawer and just stared at the key bunches in a row toward the front. He saw the round tag attached to one bunch, 171 HAWLING. For some reason, it just stuck in his mind.

In school, he asked one of the kids if she knew where Hawling was, and she said, pointing off between two hills outside the window, “It’s up there.” So, two days later, instead of wandering back toward the village of Brewster, where Lesil and his brother-in-law lived, he went walking in the other direction. Eventually there was a sign on some tin with a rusted edge tacked up on a phone pole that said HAWLING, so that’s where he turned. The numbers on the mailboxes increased by fives and tens and sometimes even more, and only after an hour and a half walking did he reach 171.

It was a large house on three levels, set behind a stone wall, with an overgrown yard. The name on the empty mailbox set a dozen feet down the driveway was BRUNING. The fact that he knew where the keys were seemed… so weird; and, he realized, that he hadn’t brought them with him seemed even weirder.

It rained the next day, but two days after that, he was back again with his book bag strapped to his shoulders and the keys in his fist down in his jean pocket.

It was pretty clear there wasn’t anybody home. It took him ten minutes beneath the stone portico to figure out which of the six keys on the ring were for the two front door locks. When he finally turned the second, the door slipped in an inch. Arny pushed it open and stepped over the flies scattering the carpet and walked in, slowly, carefully, wondering at a place so grand with so many books and pictures and chairs and large glistening vases set in the corners. He thought about turning on a light switch, then decided not to and walked into another room that had a whole wall of books. The ones on the oversize bottom shelf were the largest books Arny had ever seen. Dropping his bag to hang from one arm, he pulled loose one, then another, and realized not only were they the largest books he’d encountered but, as he stood up with one in each hand, also the heaviest. He turned quickly and put them on the couch. Standing back, he wondered if books like these were actually supposed to be opened. He moved up to one. 

On the back jacket was a picture of a naked male statue, one hand down, one up on his shoulder, with penis and hair and everything, carved in stone.

The other was just as big and with — he opened the cover — a whole lot of paintings of naked women, in color. He looked around, then put one knee up on the cushion, then pushed his hand between his legs so he could feel his cock getting bigger. Jesus, he thought, I could take it out and do it right here — he looked at the statue, then back at the painting of the woman on her back on the couch with her hand down between her legs and her tits and hair all down over her shoulder.

It was the Venus of something… by somebody with a T. He looked at the statue again and wondered if he could pretend that the guy with cock dangling down was sticking it in the woman on the couch. He wondered if there was any place in Brewster where you could get dirty magazines — and pulled down his zipper, pushing his hand between rough teeth to grip himself.

Turning over a few pages, Arny saw another woman, her ass to him, looking in a mirror an angel kid was holding up for her. Shit, he thought. He wondered if there’d be pictures of actual fucking…

The face in the mirror looked more like a painting, though, than a reflection. (He let his bag fall on the couch edge; it slipped over onto the green carpet.)

Two of Wilhelm’s dirty magazines had spots on the full pages Wilhelm had shot all over them, where some Black guys were fucking some white girls. That, he’d realized after a few days, made the magazines even more special. Again he looked at the statue and wondered if anyone had ever made a statue of someone just jerking off.

As he got closer, something came back to him — how Wilhelm had said to him when they were walking to school, “I’m just gonna tell you this once, ’cause I don’t want you turnin’ into no cocksucker or anything. But when you do it by yourself, or maybe with one of your good friends, you should eat that stuff after you shoot. It makes you real strong — that’s where all a guy’s strength and stuff is. You don’t wanna be one them stupid fuckers who lets it go to waste, now.”

Surprised, Arny had said, “Huh?” And then, frowning: “Who… ”

Wilhelm was breathing hard and smiling, and actually looking a little weird. “No, just look right in my eyes… Go on, right at me… ” He grimaced, and seemed to be standing there shaking. “Here we go,” he whispered. “… Oh, shit!” Wilhelm swayed, panted, and pulled his thick-fingered hand out of his pocket and looked at it, then looked at Arny. “There it is… You want some?” His knuckles and the back of his hand ran with creamy gray-white…

Arny looked side to side. It was early in the morning. There wasn’t hardly anyone on the street yet. He looked down at Wilhelm’s work duds to see if his fly was open. It wasn’t.

As Arny looked up, Wilhelm thrust his middle and little fingers into his mouth and sucked them clean. “I always shoot a fuckin’ big one, and I don’t like wastin’ ’em.” He pulled his hand free and pushed it at Arny. “Here, go on… ” He sounded coaxing. “No one’s comin’, and even if there was, they ain’t gonna see nothin’ like this. Take the rest.”

Reaching up, Arny grabbed his older brother’s wrist — and licked, first the lightest drops, then the heavier. He felt himself get hard — which, in itself, was scary. Arny had let go, stepped back. “Did you do this with John before Dad kicked him out of here?”

“Fuck, no!” Wilhelm said. “He was so afraid of come — his or anybody else’s — he had to use a different undershirt to wrap his dick up every time he beat off. That’s how Ana found out and why the old man kicked him out. It was the fuckin’ laundry bill!” Which Arny knew was supposed to be a joke.

“How did you do that?” Arny asked.

“You can either stick your hand down your pants, under the belt — that’s how Tony, the Black guy that worked in the back of Kaplan’s, used to do it, when I’d go back there. And he told me this way — ” Wilhelm looked down to the side. “Go on — put your hand in my pocket.” He turned in the street, beneath the hemlock in its paving square of dirt.

“What you mean — ?”

A dog ran up, barked at them, turned, and ran back down the shadowy pavement. The branches swayed overhead in the wind. “Go on.” Wilhelm held both arms out now from his side and bent them, one hand still wet, turning slightly toward his brother.

Arny slid his hand in: it felt stiff, like something had dried inside, like rough paper more than cloth. The handle of a tool: jackknife, screwdriver… ? Then something wet — the come he and Wilhelm had shared. Pushing in farther, his fingers hit… “What the fuck is that!” 

“That’s my dick!” Wilhelm gripped his brother’s arm to keep him from pulling out. “What you think it is? Tony said his cousin used to have all his pants this way.” He moved closer. “Go on. It ain’t gonna bite ya… Back behind Kaplan’s we’d get ourselves off two or three times in a row. He said there was a bunch of niggers what come by real early every mornin’ for a circle jerk. He told me how some of the other niggers called what Tony had told him about pocket pool. Because he was in the back at Kaplan’s Tony could pull out a load by reachin’ in his pants. All summer Tony hardly wore no shirt and sometimes would come in barefoot… ”

Across the oversize book cover with the statue of David, from David’s left ankle to above his knee, in three squirts, Arny shot his pale pearl-colored puddle.

After a few minutes, sitting in this chair, in that one, lying down on the floor, getting up again, walking halfway upstairs, then going back down, Arny formed an idea — or rather, articulated an idea that he’d had pretty much as soon as he opened both books. He went out to the vestibule, stepped outside again, and began to work his way around the house. The ground sloped down beside the outer surface of a cinder block basement wall. From the wall-wide window he’d been looking out of before he hadn’t seen the highway that wound off between some trees. Standing at ground level, he realized, no other houses were visible till at least a mile away. 

Stepping away from the house, he looked around for a good-size rock. There were branches, sticks, and clumps of knee-high ferns among what were mostly saplings, but he found no rocks to speak of. 

One “detail” picture of David had shown a rock cradled in David’s right hand, visible only from the statue’s back, which was completely belied by the naked man’s expression from the front. How, Arny suddenly wondered, as he turned to still another “detail,” when you’re carving from stone, do you carve a rock — held loosely — in hand so that it’s visible only from the back? 

That was an interesting way to make it clear, for people who could look at the whole thing, that David — naked as a fuckin’ jaybird — had been one sneaky son of a bitch!

He was looking for a rock about the size of David’s. What he found was — of course — a fragment of cinder block. It had probably been lying out there on the woodsy side of the building since the house had been built. It was maybe six or seven pounds, awkward, and not comfortable to carry. 

Arny walked back to the wall, the fragment in both hands, to the nearest window and heaved — he tried not to stagger back. The sound surprised him, even as it put a finality to part of the adventure. Before, he could have just walked away, but now he had to see the whole plan through. A quarter of the pane still hung, reflecting a branch behind him, in the window’s upper corner. 

Of course there were still a few pieces along the sash. Arny got a stick and banged in the few fragments still on the bottom, and heard them fall to the floor inside. Then he gripped the sash, pulled himself up, and managed to slide in without cutting his throat on the piece of glass still fixed high in the frame.

There was glass all over the fuckin’ floor!

Across the room, the door was closed. At that point, he realized that his book bag was still on the living room floor — and at the same moment wondered if the keys were still in his pocket. 

He jammed in his hand… They were!

The piece of cinder block was almost two yards in from the window. Had he thrown it that hard? He walked through the glass fragments, which reflected bits of light and foliage from outside and the ceiling and the books on the wall. It didn’t take long to find his way back, through a large neat kitchen and another room with a long table, to the living room, with its great window, its orange-gold couch.

The two books he’d taken out were still open. That, and his book bag, and the even disarrangement of the cushions from his kneeling on them, made that whole section of the room kind of a mess. That could all have been done by somebody else, sure. Then he decided, what the fuck, maybe he should make a little more mess.

But he didn’t. 

What he should do is finish up and get out of there!

Back on the couch, Arny opened the book with the nudes and found the Titian, the Goya, the Velázquez…

He went back to the first and began to tear it out as close to the edge as he could — but it didn’t go straight. He wondered if he should look for some scissors — but it didn’t really matter. He bunched his fingers up and did the best he could. Going slowly was a little better. It took him almost ten minutes to rip loose all three. 

Then he got his book bag and he hesitated, then folded them in half, then in quarters, opened the flap of his book bag and slid the folded pages under the cover of his math book. They still stuck out some, but he stood up, shrugged the bag up on one shoulder, and, as he started toward the hall, got his arm in the other strap. 

He walked out through the door, pulled it behind him, then, on an afterthought, turned and, with the cuff of his long-sleeve shirt, wiped it top and bottom for fingerprints. Like in a movie or something. 

Then he stepped off and hurried up the path and turned back down Hawling.


I remember standing before the bookshelf in the upstairs room where Marilyn and I were staying, looking at the spines of three dark red books, Mona Lisa: The Prince of Taranto, Volumes One, Two, and Three, by Tiffany Thayer. They were boxed and, as I pulled one out to examine it, apparently formed a vast historical trilogy. I tried a page here and there and found that it seemed full of what I assumed was supposed to be farce: the hero was lying under a bed, and the sounds of vigorous activity were coming through the mattress. Possibly readers fifteen years before might have found that risqué, but we were in sight of the end of the sixties. 

It put me in mind of something I’d read somewhere, though I can no longer find the source. Soon after Louis Daguerre took out his patent on the daguerreotype in 1839, the first man was arrested on the steps of the Louvre for selling pornographic photographs: naked women against backgrounds and in poses suggesting the most famous nudes on the museum walls — putting high art, pornography, and photography into a contestatory wrangle that has not yet silenced… 


At the school, Arny went inside and up the stairs to the third floor, where a couple of after-school programs met that he wasn’t involved with. Someone had told him the third-floor restroom was where the Black kids he wasn’t supposed to have anything to do with were always hanging out. 

He started down the hall, looking for the pebbled glass that said BOYS, turned in and realized there wasn’t no one else in there — so he went in one of the stalls and sat. The stone partitions came down to the floor, but they stopped only about a foot over his head if he stood up. He wanted to sit and just think for a while and figure out how he could get to one of the kids he wasn’t supposed to even talk to. He unbuckled his pants and shrugged off his book bag, sat down, and opened the top flap. He slid one hand down between his legs and pulled absently at himself, and realized he could pretty easily do it again — so he reached over and pulled out the folded-up pages. They unfolded, it seemed, willingly in his hands: but at the same time,he realized, the paintings were not the same as real photographs, which was what he was used to. Besides, he liked the ones that had actual men and women doing it together, when the guys had it sticking in the woman’s pussy. Or their tongue…

Outside, he heard the door open and somebody rushed in; a moment later, the latch on one of the other stalls opened and somebody lurched in — there were only three stalls in a row, and Arny had taken the middle. 

Whoever it was was grunting and breathing hard, and even whispering — Arny caught a whispered “fuckin’ shit… !” The sounds from the next stall had the urgency of sexual desperation!

Arny was surprised, amused, and excited all at the same time. He expected the fury to subside after a moment — and was surprised when it didn’t. There was more thrashing, whoever it was, his shoulder was hitting on the wall and then the other, and the gasping went on, “Mothafuckin’… Yeah, cocksucka’… !” And, yes, it sounded like some nigger. 

Arny took an unsteady breath himself, his own heart speeding up in sympathetic desire for the desire beyond the wall. (Had anybody managed to put a hole in the stone? He didn’t see one. There wasn’t even any graffiti on the mottled marble.) Suddenly he stood up, the pages dropped down, the creases making them catch on the book bag’s edge. Arny climbed up on the commode seat, hooked his fingers on the marble’s upper edge, and looked over.

The kid, who looked maybe a couple of years older than Arny, had gotten out of his shirt, and his sneakers were overturned on the stone floor. He was whipping his fist up and down an ebony cock that had Arny’s beat by three inches. “Oh, da’s good — mothafuckin’ cocksucka’ — yeah, baby, suck dat big Black meat fo’ me… ” The boy reeled side to side, forward and back.

Arny, who had dropped one hand from the top of the marble to hold his cock, whispered, “Pssst… !” And then again: “Hey, pssst… !”

This time the kid, who wasn’t slowing, frowned upward. “Hey, what the fuck you think you doin’, white boy… ?”

He was missing a couple of teeth on the side. “Same thing you are, nigger!” Arny swallowed. “But I got somethin’ for you!”

“Ga’ what?” He went forward and back. “Unless you wanna come in heah and suck my fuckin’ dick — !”

“Pictures,” Arny said. “White chicks. Here, I’ll get ’em.” He pulled back, jumped down, picked up the folded pages from his book bag, climbed back up, and almost lost his footing into the commode. “Here, these… !”

He thrust them over with one hand. “Go on, if you want ’em, they’re yours… ” 

With his free hand, the guy gestured — so Arny dropped them. 

One of them pulled loose, and the guy caught them, then opened them against his naked belly. “Where you get dese… ?”

“A guy give ’em to me. Another… Black guy.”

At which point the Black guy said: “Hey, these ain’t fuckin’ pictures. This is fuckin’ art! Come on, get the fuck outta here — or I swear I’ll come in dere an’ make you suck my fuckin’ dick. I mean I done that — for guys what was takin’ fuckin’ pictures, too. White guys like you. Come on, get out of here, now… ”

“Okay, okay, okay… !” Arny said. “Damn, nigger!” And he was down, off the commode, and had the book bag up over one shoulder and the pictures were gone — he went out the stall door just as somebody else started to come in. “Oh, shit,” he said to himself and left. There wouldn’t be anybody in any of the other johns downstairs and he could finish up there. The two guys who came in looked like one of ’em was Black and one of ’em was white anyway.

Back at Joe and Lesil’s he came in the side door to the kitchen and figured the next part was going to be easy. Lesil was at the sink. He went in the living room, where the TV was going, and walked around the table to the couch and looked at his sister, who — in the other room — had her back to him. Reaching in his pocket, he took the keys out, stooped down, and dropped them on the floor in front of the couch. “Hey — ” He picked them up again, and looked back. “You weren’t lookin’ for these, were you?”

“Looking for what?” she said, and picked up something he couldn’t see and started washing it.

Arny wasn’t going to get up until she turned around and looked. “These,” he said loudly, still squatting.

“What are you talking about?”

“These, here!”

At the sink, she turned. “What… ?” She frowned through the door at him. Then she said, “What are you doing with my keys?”

“I just saw them in here, under the couch — ”

Lesil walked forward through the door. “What are you doing with those?”

“Like I said, I just — ”

She patted the pocket of the pants she was wearing under her apron, pushed the apron aside, and stuck her hand in, then pulled her hand out again. “Hey, gimme those.”

“I told you,” Arny said, standing up, “I just saw them on the floor there, stickin’ out from under the couch. You must’a dropped ’em.”

“Like hell I did. Gimme!”

He stuck his hand out, and she snatched them from him and looked down.

With her other hand, she fingered up the tag and looked up again. “What are you doing with Mrs. Bruning’s keys?”

“I told you I — ”

“They weren’t on the floor. They’re in the kitchen drawer where I keep all of ’em. Unless you took ’em out.”

“I didn’t take ’em out. I told you. You or somebody dropped ’em in here.”

She turned and walked back toward the kitchen. “Fuck you, Arny. I keep all of these in the kitchen drawer.”

He let himself drop back on the oversoft cushions and, in the kitchen, heard the drawer open and the keys fall back among the others and the drawer close again.

From the kitchen, she said, “You are going to get yourself in some serious trouble. That’s my work, Arny. Don’t fuck with my job. I’m not putting up with that.”

A couple of hours later, Joe came in, and they had spaghetti, and everything seemed to be more or less back in place. The day after was Saturday, and Joe had a half-day at the tree service. When he got home at two, carrying in his small pruning saw and setting it down in the kitchen corner, he said, “Hey, guess what? Somebody broke into the Bruning house. Bill said his brother — you know the one who works at the station? — said they came up this morning and found the back window busted.” He went to the refrigerator and pulled the door back. “Do you have any of those tuna fish sandwiches left?”

But Lesil had turned to stare at Arny.

He started to say, “Hey, I didn’t do anything,” but because she didn’t say anything, he didn’t either.

But when he went out a little later, she told Joe: “I’m sending him back to New York tomorrow. I swear, we’re not gonna have this.” She said it very low.

“Have what?” Joe frowned.

“I told ’im,” Lesil said, “I was sendin’ him back the moment he got into some trouble, and he has now. You heard what I said. You’re puttin’ ’im on the ten-forty back to New York tomorrow.” And she picked up the phone to let Ana know that Arny would be returning. “No,” she said. “I don’t know if he’s done anything or not, but he’s just too much trouble.”

The next morning, because it was Sunday, Arny was sleeping late. When he got up, Lesil said, “You’re goin’ back to New York. It’s too much trouble. I’m sorry — I can’t deal with it.”

“Hey, I didn’t do any — ”

“I’m sorry. You gotta go home. I told ’em you were comin’ last night.”

“Oh, shit — !”

So they put him and the suitcase back on the train to Grand Central. When Joe came back from the station, there was a call from Bill to say they were pretty sure who it was — some Black kid who had some pictures that came from the Bruning house, which he tried to say some other kid had given to him in school. Bill said the Black kid had broken a window in the back, and Lesil said, “Well, I’m glad they think that — but your friends are fuckin’ assholes!

Joe said, “Well, at least we got the room back.”

Lesil shook her head.


When we got ready to leave, Rosemary gave me an ancient portable typewriter — so old, in fact, that I had never seen its particular sideways mechanism before. “But it works just smashingly. I had it when I got my first advertising job. You’re a writer, and you have to have something to type on,” she said. 

“You know, I write, too,” Marilyn said, jocularly, from the other side of the room, where she’d just set down a bag for the car. But everyone heard the hurt that underlay the humor — and that I knew was because she had written so little in the past months and because she was so unhappy about it.

We drove back to the city.

The story Rosemary had told us was a story I had always wanted to write. But I did not try my hand at it till now — until I had some more experience about how it might have happened.

—March 2020


Samuel R. Delany is a writer from New York City, who lives in Philadelphia, PA. In 2016, he was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame. Filmmaker, novelist, and critic, he is the author of the award-winning books Babel-17 and Dark Reflections, as well as Nova, Dhalgren, and the Return to Nevèrÿon series.