We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
First, her tippet made of tulle, easily lifted off her shoulders and laid on the back of a wooden chair.
And her bonnet, the bow undone with a light forward pull.
Then the long white dress, a more complicated matter with mother-of-pearl buttons down the back, so tiny and numerous that it takes forever before my hands can part the fabric, like a swimmer's dividing water, and slip inside.
You will want to know that she was standing by an open window in an upstairs bedroom, motionless, a little wide-eyed, looking out at the orchard below, the white dress puddled at her feet on the wide-board, hardwood floor.
The complexity of women's undergarments in nineteenth-century America is not to be waved off, and I proceeded like a polar explorer through clips, clasps, and moorings, catches, straps, and whalebone stays, sailing toward the iceberg of her nakedness.
Later, I wrote in a notebook it was like riding a swan into the night, but, of course, I cannot tell you everything - the way she closed her eyes to the orchard, how her hair tumbled free of its pins, how there were sudden dashes whenever we spoke.
What I can tell you is it was terribly quiet in Amherst that Sabbath afternoon, nothing but a carriage passing the house, a fly buzzing in a windowpane.
So I could plainly hear her inhale when I undid the very top hook-and-eye fastener of her corset
and I could hear her sigh when finally it was unloosed, the way some readers sigh when they realize that Hope has feathers, that reason is a plank, that life is a loaded gun that looks right at you with a yellow eye.