Saturday, June 20, 2009


It was Mill’s dumb luck that Carlisle’s favorite president was Jimmy Carter. At least, that’s what he said when he phoned her mother’s house in Wayzata. That and his mother had grown up in St. Paul.

His mother’s father had given him a dictionary that had belonged to Mark Twain. The dictionary was signed by Twain and lying in a safety deposit box in Connecticut. Carlisle had read it in its entirety the summer after boarding school.

Carlisle told her he was glad that a Minnesota gal had answered the ad, and, “not just any farm-fed," he said, "but a gal with English and a little economics under her belt.”

“We belong together,” he said that first phone call, “as John Stuart Mill and Thomas Carlyle.”

“I read an article about their fire in The New Yorker,” Mill acknowledged.

The New Yorker delivers out in Wayzata?” Carlisle said.

“Their subscription center is in Red Oak, Iowa,” Mill said.

“Boone,” Carlisle corrected her.

As a child, another child had called Mill “Little Miss Know-It-All” and “nigger lips” on the same day. That child was a woman by then, a divorcing and foreclosed woman with two children and a married black lover.

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