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Elizabeth Evans

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Elizabeth Evans

Photo by Steve Reitz

(2018 - Prose)

Excerpt from "The Sky in the Glass-topped Table"

Before Edward stood and pointed his camera toward the table, Kelvyn hadn’t noticed the way that the glass top held the islands’ Bible-blue sky and the fat white puffs of cloud. That Edward noticed made her happy (she knew that the pictures he’d shot of her back in the adjoining cabins were of an entirely different order, even if he did call them art).

“Pretty!” she ventured.

No response. Kelvyn tried not to mind. She loved Edward. She knew that keeping expectations in check led to fewer disappointments, and so she concentrated on the breeze that blew over the deck and tickled the modest amount of skin exposed by the blue skirt Edward had asked her to wear. Uncle Edward, she was to call him during the cruise. The much-chipped and painted-over surfaces of the ship’s outer railings made her think of the flecks of scar that covered his back. “They’re nothing,” he’d said sharply when she once asked about them. Still, she reasoned there could have been a case of acne, maybe so bad that the Edward who’d been her own age had to wear a T-shirt when he went swimming (it was a help to Kelvyn, now and then, to feel sad for the past Edward never mentioned).

He moved a few paces across the deck. Not a big man, but beautiful with a profile that made her think of photographs she’d seen of ancient Greek busts, or maybe it was Roman. A large, fine nose, full but flat surfaced lips. He already had made an impression on the other travelers, even in the quick-drying travel clothes that he had bought for the trip—so unlike his usual charcoal suits and the white shirts with starched collars and French cuffs. She wished that people knew he was her lover. Probably some did. Energy pumped through Edward, ticked the blue vein in his right temple. After sex, if Kelvyn laid her head on his upper arm, the noise of his muscles filled her ears, like something big and raising a ruckus in the far distance: lions, heavy machinery, oil derricks. She had felt a little spark of fear when she saw the age listed as they showed their passports in Guayaquil, but, then, the passport that he’d procured for her said that her name was Alexis Anne Burnham and that she was twenty-one instead of seventeen; so his age might be wrong, too. His dark curly hair showed a few threads of silver, but there was lots of it, and fitted so tight to his skull that a crescent of magically paler skin appeared just beyond where the tan left off—an enchantment when you got up close, like a beam of sunlight discovered in deep woods.

Another man—squat in one of the Sea Beauty’s heavy white robes—stepped out from the mini-gym. Mr. Brady? The reason for Edward’s decision to join the cruise? The man let his eyes linger on Kelvyn’s breasts. Edward maintained his smile of tender regard for the world. Later, he almost certainly would ask Kelvyn if she had been flirting, but he wouldn’t really mean it. The smile—after almost three months, Kelvyn recognized his smile simply as his most consistent public expression. At his big house back in Dallas, he kept a boyhood photo of himself—ten years old, eleven?—and that beautiful young boy wore the exact same expression as he aimed a bow and arrow at an unseen target.

Elizabeth Evans is the author of six books of fiction, most recently the novel As Good As Dead (Bloomsbury, 2015). Her two short story collections are Suicide’s Girlfriend (HarperCollins) and Locomotion (New Rivers). Previous novels are The Blue Hour (Algonquin), Rowing in Eden (HarperCollins), and Carter Clay (HarperCollins). Recent stories appear in Ploughshares, Cutthroat, and XO Orpheus: Fifty New Myths (Penguin). Distinctions include the Iowa Author Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the James Michener Fellowship, and a Lila Wallace Award. She has been a fellow at MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the International Retreat for Writers at Hawthornden Castle, Wurlitzer, and other foundations. Evans received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. Professor emeritus in the Program in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona, Evans serves as a faculty member at Queens University of Charlotte’s Low-residence MFA Program in Creative Writing. She lives in Tucson.

I am always thrilled—usually to the point of tears—when I learn that my work has struck a chord in readers out there. Can’t imagine that ever will change, and to be selected for an NEA fellowship from a field of what I know are very accomplished applicants—that is really something! This sweet, sweet fellowship will go a long way toward supporting my completion of a collection of novellas. Thank you, NEA!