Iowa Writes

PAM HOUSTON
"50. Mallorca, Spain" from Contents May Have Shifted, #4-60


Everything is green and soft, there are goats in the hills who wear bells around their necks that I hear all night but never see, and two donkeys, one light, one lighter still, that come to the fence for fresh apricots.  Yesterday we went as a class to one of the world's most perfect beaches and swam way, way out--the nice thing about the Mediterranean--and then all the way back, and I slept like a rock for the first time in months.  In Pollenca there is a gorgeous old square and a place to get heavenly coffee and liquid chocolate so thick you can stand a spoon in it.

I was reading Cory's most recent I'm sorry and I want you back e-mail out loud and all the girls were oohing and aahing and falling for it completely, and Jessica, who works with military boys in Garmish, Germany providing R and R inside a system she despises, said, "He sounds like a total narcissist to me." 

This afternoon we all piled into Ralph's Land Rover on the Imelda Marcos field trip.  Ten women on their way to the Camper shoe outlet: Beth the ultra marathoner who lives on a commune in Boulder where the master gets to have sex with all the women but they don't get to have sex with anybody else, and Jennifer who looks about sixteen and is nevertheless battling what Tania keeps calling mole cancer, and Tania herself, with the Botticelli hair and the BBC voice, and Mary, who is from Ohio, and who only has lived in London for six years but who has nonetheless acquired an English accent (she keeps referring to Washington and Oregon as the Western Terra-trees. . . . and I say, "I know you have been away a long time, Mary, but we call those states now") and who seems not to know what color her own hair is.  Then there is Ruth who works for The Guardian and keeps saying we're all mad as a box of frogs, and Kathy, who has written ten cookbooks, and Lina, who didn't want to study writing at all but just came over because she had read--perhaps erroneously--on TripAdvisor that Ralph would sleep with anybody who signed up for a course, and London Sarah and New York Sarah and me, all hurtling the wrong way down a one-way because it is a shortcut.

Everything is green and soft, there are goats in the hills who wear bells around their necks that I hear all night but never see, and two donkeys, one light, one lighter still, that come to the fence for fresh apricots.  Yesterday we went as a class to one of the world's most perfect beaches and swam way, way out--the nice thing about the Mediterranean--and then all the way back, and I slept like a rock for the first time in months.  In Pollenca there is a gorgeous old square and a place to get heavenly coffee and liquid chocolate so thick you can stand a spoon in it.

I was reading Cory's most recent I'm sorry and I want you back e-mail out loud and all the girls were oohing and aahing and falling for it completely, and Jessica, who works with military boys in Garmish, Germany providing R and R inside a system she despises, said, "He sounds like a total narcissist to me." 

This afternoon we all piled into Ralph's Land Rover on the Imelda Marcos field trip.  Ten women on their way to the Camper shoe outlet: Beth the ultra marathoner who lives on a commune in Boulder where the master gets to have sex with all the women but they don't get to have sex with anybody else, and Jennifer who looks about sixteen and is nevertheless battling what Tania keeps calling mole cancer, and Tania herself, with the Botticelli hair and the BBC voice, and Mary, who is from Ohio, and who only has lived in London for six years but who has nonetheless acquired an English accent (she keeps referring to Washington and Oregon as the Western Terra-trees. . . . and I say, "I know you have been away a long time, Mary, but we call those states now") and who seems not to know what color her own hair is.  Then there is Ruth who works for The Guardian and keeps saying we're all mad as a box of frogs, and Kathy, who has written ten cookbooks, and Lina, who didn't want to study writing at all but just came over because she had read--perhaps erroneously--on TripAdvisor that Ralph would sleep with anybody who signed up for a course, and London Sarah and New York Sarah and me, all hurtling the wrong way down a one-way because it is a shortcut.

Ralph's a nice guy and a pretty good cook with the single glaring exception of the skate wing he served last night, doused liberally in ammonia, and so radically undercooked that you would have to have sawed it off the bone.  We had watched the sunset over Cape Formentor and so were late and therefore already in trouble.  Kathy said, "Has there been an accident?" so strong was the chemical smell when we walked in the room, and she took the skate back into the kitchen for a do-over, but even cooked through it was hard to choke down.

After dinner we found out that seven out of seven of the American women here this week, including myself, have not only been in a sorority but have held a major office in a sorority, in most cases president, though I had been chaplain of Delta Delta Delta, ostensibly in charge of eighty girls' spirituality, when I was just a girl myself.

"In what ways did you advance their spirituality, then?" asked Tania, who had never even considered the idea of a sorority.

"Well," I said, "I blindfolded them and bound their hands with silver, gold, and blue ribbons and told them stories about Poseidon, of course!

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


PAM HOUSTON

The story from which this section is excerpted originally appeared in Volume 41, Issue 1 of the Iowa Review (Spring 2011).

This page was first displayed
on February 25, 2015

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