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Winter, 1979, The Coldest in Recent Memory

Leigh Stein

Theoretically, I was held by a man in Detroit
at gunpoint. Theoretically, he let me go.

I have not told this story to you before.

I only tell you now for two reasons. One:
you're not from Michigan. Two: I have searched

for his scar along your neck and, so far, no luck.

They said to wear my purse beneath my coat and
pretend it was a baby if anybody asked me and

they might but they probably would not try and take it.

They said the average memory span for normal adults
is seven items. Let me differentiate between the two.

I used to tell this story about Tristan and Dolores,

who I left in the rain every time. I made them break blue
glass with their back teeth. Dolores would say, I am half sick

of shadows, as the waves came up from the storm tossed sea.

Try telling this story to a man with a gun. Sorry to interrupt,
he said, but do you know the one about the woman who

was rolled up like a snowman and left until the thaw?

No, I said. That was me, he said. I don’t believe you, I said,
and then he told me to keep my hands above my head.

The snow had begun to fall then in the deep stillness

before the streets were plowed and salted; a car passed
us and fishtailed ahead at the stoplight; I forgot

the ending, so I pushed my characters in front of a train.

The man with the gun didn’t like that at all.
How was there a train at the beach? Maybe they left

the beach, I said. Should they go on vacation instead?

The man said, What if they went in front of the train, but
the train stopped in time. Good idea, I said. He read

my name off my drivers license and I didn’t correct

his pronunciation; then he told me to close my eyes and
I felt something cold hit my head. My heart stopped a little

bit. When I opened my eyes, he was gone. There was

a snowball at my feet. Where did you say you were from again?
I just wanted to unbutton your collar and see for myself.

Leigh Stein

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