Skip to main content

One Knife, One Fork, One Spoon

An excerpt from Patty Friedmann ’68’s new novel

Published February 14, 2024

I went out the front door of the hospital, keys in hand, with no memory. Finding a car in a parking lot, when I hadn’t made an effort to remember a landmark, made me wonder if I was getting old and helpless, and then I would track back and piece together where I’d been and I would see the car. I stood in front of the hospital, full of memory skips, recalling only that Richard had parked the car on the street because I hadn’t told him about the lot in the back. I went as far as scanning the strip in front of the hospital before I picked up clues, that I had no purse, that there was no car.

I stood at the curb for a while. Late morning, no one was going into or out of the hospital, and I watched the traffic on the boulevard, occasional work vehicles on the route where mothers once had chaperoned field trips to the Nature Center before Katrina. I never chaperoned field trips anymore, because I was miserable walking alone while the other mothers hinted that their own children were special. I once tolerated field trips because I learned things—I knew how they made giant chocolate Easter rabbits, where Rex dressed in his den on Carnival morning—but the real secrets weren’t to be unearthed in New Orleans, like how they got the shells onto M&Ms or whether Queen Elizabeth ever had a bruise. 

New Orleans had just so many places to take children before you began to repeat yourself. Especially with four children; I wasn’t like the mothers who’d go into the aquarium for the third time in a month and say, “Okay! Now watch carefully, and right around this way you’ll walk right under a stingray!” Any of them, standing where I was at the hospital, would have thought nothing of calling another of them and saying, “Oh, you know how that damn Richard is. He’s left me absolutely stranded out here in East Jesus, and you’ve simply got to come get me or I’ll have to walk through the Desire Project.”

The only person I could call was Richard’s cousin Cam, and I wouldn’t do that to her. She knew how Richard was, and she liked me better. Both of them were only children, and their mothers had thrown them together like siblings, to build their own taboos, and Cam quickly had been sickened by him to protect herself. But Cam had a teaching job at Newman, and though she’d have been delighted that I was going to make Richard furious, it wasn’t reason enough for walking out of a classroom full of complacent women’s pushy children.

I wasn’t sad that I knew no one. Having been odd and skinny for so long, I had no expectations, and when I walked into a room full of strangers, I looked for the farthest wall. It was the easiest way to go through life, never having to strain or wonder. Cam probably had seen too late that I was right: a while back she became so bound up in Clea Miller’s life that when Clea died Cam was ruined for a long time. Lainie had implied that the two of them had despised their husbands so much that they’d fallen in love with each other. I’d said that if that were true, I admired Cam for taking risks; Lainie had been so annoyed and maybe frightened that she’d stayed away from me. I went away from all three of them with my own choice, that I would keep on hugging the far wall, or stay home as much as possible and live in booklets.

© Patty Friedmann
Atmosphere Press, 2023