In the Act

In the Act

The following is from Rachel Ingalls's In the Act . Ingalls (1940–2019) is the of Mrs. Caliban, Binstead's Safari, and a dozen other books. Her has been hailed as “perfect, original, and arresting” ( Harper's ), “feminist, fabulist, magical realist” ( Kirkus ), “perfect, bizarre, heartfelt, insane” ( Vogue ), and “outstanding” ( Booklist ). Rivka Galchen called Mrs. Caliban “a perfect ” in The New Yorker. As long as Helen was attending her adult education classes twice a week, everything worked out fine: Edgar could have a completely quiet house for his work, or his thinking, or whatever it was. But when the lease on the school's building ran out, all the courses would end—the flower arranging, the intermediate French and beginning Italian, the judo, oil painting and transcendental meditation. She told Edgar well in advance. He nodded. She repeated the information, just in case. He said, “Mm.” Over the next two weeks she mentioned the school closure at least three times. And, after she and her classmates had had their farewell party, she told him all about that, adding, “So, I'll be at home next week. And the week after that. And so on.” “Home?” Edgar said. “What about your adult education things?” She went over the whole history one more time. At last he was listening. He looked straight at her and said, “Oh. That means you'll have to find something else to occupy yourself with on those afternoons.” “I suppose so. I might stay home and paint here.” “I'll be busy up in the lab.” “I could make a kind of studio down in the cellar.” “I'll be working. I need absolute peace and quiet.” “Well, painting isn't very loud.” “Helen,” he said, “I'd like to have the house to myself.” She never got angry with him anymore; that is, she'd discovered that it did no good: he'd just look at her coldly as if she were exhibiting distressing habits usually encountered only among the lower species. Raising her voice—when she'd been driven to it—produced the same reaction from him. She'd learned to […]

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