Dorothy had dropped his arm. She was lingering at the doorway of Silk: scarves, shawls, handkerchiefs, even gloves, even belts. She floated in. “Are your worms kept in humane conditions?” she asked the saleswoman.
“I’d like so much to see the scarf in the window, the one where blues shade into one another—yes, that one,” and the saleswoman cupped the item in her hands as if it were a baby and then laid it on the glass case as if it were a baby’s blanket. She from her side and Dorothy from hers marveled at the colors of the chiffon. The woman seemed sincere, but of course she could not feel the power of the blues, the way they called forth Dorothy’s seemly life: the ink of the river at night seen from under a canoe, the ocean’s mauve at sundown; the blue-green of shore reeds, the silver of spray. The brightness of Henry’s young eyes and the cloudiness of his aged ones. The printed morphos on their granddaughters’ pajamas. Her bridesmaids’ gowns had been robin’s egg blue; here was that shade repeated exactly in this fluid fabric. Here were the veins on her hands. Here was the sapphire of the Paris sky at evening. Here was the blue-purple shadow of one statue’s head on another’s paler back in that storage room at the top of the art museum. Here was the cobalt ring of the glaucoma probe. Here was the blue-gray ash that covered the nickel in her pocket. Last was the lilac of her bedroom at dawn.
“How much?” said Henry from the doorway.
“Five hundred dollars,” said the saleswoman.
“Well, well,” he stammered. “I’ve got some fine cuff links.”
“They don’t barter here, darling,” Dorothy said, confidently. She walked toward him, throwing the scarf over her shoulder as if to demonstrate its versatility. She waggled her finger. As if he had received directions, he turned sideways and she nodded and slid past him and began to walk very fast toward the lobby.
Excerpted from “Capers” from Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories Copyright © 2011 by Edith Pearlman. Used by permission of Lookout Books, an imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.