Excerpt from The Women by T.C. Boyle

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Illustration by Brandon Francis | Forth Artist

Read the T.C. Boyle Interview

It was the same old conundrum: how to build what he saw in his mind’s eye, how to raise a thing of beauty from the earth so that people would look at it and marvel for a century to come, without first raising the money to see it to fruition. Money. It was always a question of money. He’d borrowed from Sullivan to buy the lot for the Oak Park place all those years ago, and while he couldn’t very well sell it out from under Catherine, he’d already hit on the expedient of remodeling the place so she could rent out half of it and at least have a reliable income. He would provide for her and the children too, that was his responsibility and he would meet it—no one could say he was neglectful there, though they might whip him over Mamah all they wanted, pinching their noses and crossing the street to avoid him as if he were a leper. And he’d just have to find a means of raising money, not only for the remodeling, but for the new house that was already taking shape in his dreams and his waking hours too, a place away from all this confusion, a place where he could live and work in peace till it all blew over.

And that was something he just couldn’t understand, the way the whole community had gone after him as if he were an axe-murderer or Kropotkinite or some such. He’d left a prosperous practice a year ago to go off to Europe and improve himself and now he had nothing, and how was he to get work if no one would negotiate with him in good faith or even look him in the eye for fear of catching his moral contagion? How did they expect him to live, these moral paragons trapped in their own miserable little lives and marriages as dead and loveless as the rugs on the floors of the insipid boxes they called home? There was no Christian charity—a sad joke, that was all it was—and no forgiveness either. He hadn’t been home three days when the Reverend George M. Luccock of the First Presbyterian Church, a man he scarcely knew, preached a sermon against him, which was, of course, duly reported in the papers. He still had it seared in his memory—When a man leaves his wife and family and goes over to this other woman, such a man has lost all sense of morality and religion and is damnably to be blamed—though he’d crumpled up the paper and tossed it in the fire like the rag it was. Damnably to be blamed. Why couldn’t they leave him alone to live his life as he saw fit? Who made the rules to contain him? Rules were for other people, ordinary people, people who had neither insight nor originality or any sense of the world but what they’d been force-fed by the Reverend Luccocks and their ilk.


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