Books by Laura Chester

Excerpt from ALL IN ALL


When the winds changed off the lake-- a brisker blue as the leaves lightened, then clothes thickened to wool layers and hair got braided. Chestnuts hung in their spiked burrs. So hard to wait, we sometimes shook the limbs instead. Better to let them loosen alone, each singular, dark-oiled nut within, its light matte spot like a birthmark. I touched the luscious red-brown skin over my lips like the perfect kiss, then hurled it far away as I could—ran to gather a napkin full, my package of plenty, a rumpy harvest that made a soft and generous clicking, as they rubbed together, as I swung my parcel, feeling rich, really loaded. Autumn releasing her leaves as well. The wind swirled, making me leap, my lungs grow. I'd rake a pile to throne myself, count the beads of my chunky necklace. Brothers hammered a single hole, strung one chestnut and made it haul. I liked a group of them together best, like marbles, bagged, or eggs in a nest. Something about the way they moved—smooth, dark, oiled, cool—against each other I wanted to know.

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Beneath the carriage house apartment was a mammoth garage, a cruising arena for swooping brown bats when the sun went down. The carriage stood in the corner under a huge piece of plastic. We pulled it off, and let the brougham shine like a hearse of wet licorice. Up on wood blocks-- Off-limits, they said, but we snuck up anyway, mounting the round metal step. The sumptuous dust smell inside was something like a coffin that's been slept in, then abandoned. It stirred up recollections of other incarnations. We'd pull the rotting tassels that closed the silk shades. One of the boys was on the driver's seat making the carriage rumble. There was a little round window to look out the rear, with an identical shaped cover, cushioned with black satin-- a peephole for lovers-- escaping, terrified-- we made up the fiction-- abandoning all luxury for mother-of-pearl passion. When it got too close, we'd leap for fresh air-- off the demolished leather, over the oil slicked floor, not knowing the past can crumble, even later. Like love letters written on crease broken paper.