For around three years now almost every time he leans over the cutting board in the kitchen and cuts up lettuce and other vegetables for a salad for that afternoon or night, he gets the same picture in his head. He mentioned it to Gwen once and she said she didn’t know what to make of it other than it being a good memory and of course the association of lunch in the picture and food he’s preparing, and salad more so with summer than any other season. Some six months ago she came into the kitchen while he was cutting up vegetables for a salad and said “Still getting that picture you told me about?” and he said “Same one, just a minute before you asked me about it. Weird, isn’t it. Keeps replaying and replaying.” The picture he gets is of them in Maine, five or six years ago, on the patio of Goose Cove Lodge a few miles out of Stonington, having lunch with Robin and Vincent, her best friend and her husband. And Vincent, holding up his wine glass, saying “This is just delightful; perfect. Beautiful day, wonderful company, delicious wine and food, absolutely magnificent setting, gorgeous view of the bay, heavenly smell of balsam or pine or both, and if we stayed around longer, no doubt a spectacular sunset. But let’s not talk of what’s not here. There’s more than enough that is. I can see why you come to Maine every summer. Who needs to go to Europe? Or the Hamptons or Vineyard? It’s all right here and then some. Thank you, dear friends, for allowing us to share it with you for a week. I am honestly and I hope convincingly moved,” and they clinked glasses—he, his coffee mug, as it was too early in the day for him to have wine and he had to drive them all back to the farmhouse—and drank, he just pretending to. He looked over at Gwen. She had that proud smile of hers again, as if saying to him “You see? You see?” and said to Vincent “What you said is what I, perhaps a little more than Martin, have always believed. What place could be better,” and he said “What are you talking about, sweetheart? I’ve always loved this part of Maine and want to come back to it with you forever.” “I said ‘perhaps a little more,’ but all right, I concede,” and Vincent said “I thought they’d never stop arguing. But good; peace at last.”. . . Maureen was spinning herself around the kitchen to make herself dizzy, she later told them, when she lost her balance and slammed face-first into the refrigerator. “Oh, no,” she cried out, “my tooth; I lost my front tooth,” and started bawling. Gwen and he were still at the table. He remembers saying just a few seconds before “Don’t run around so, Maureen. Let your food digest a little.” He jumped up from his chair—Gwen put her hands over her eyes and stayed seated—and got on the floor beside Maureen and said “Wait; don’t panic; let me look at it. Maybe it only feels as if it’s come out,” and she opened her mouth and blood dribbled out and he saw that half of one her top teeth was gone. “I’m so sorry, my darling, so sorry,” and pulled the dishtowel out of the refrigerator handle and put it to her mouth and with his other arm held her close to him and now both were crying. “I know how terrible this is for you,” he said, “but we’re going to make it all right,” and she said “Why are you lying? It’s my second front tooth, my permanent. I’ll be ugly all my life,” and took the towel from him and ran into her room and slammed the door. He ran after her and said through the door “Maureen, do you need any help?. . . Are you taking care of the bleeding?. . . Let me speak to Mommy.” “It’s her permanent one, she says,” he said to Gwen, showing her the half broken part of the tooth he found on the floor, and she said “Don’t you remember? Both front teeth fell out almost on the same day and she had this huge cute gap for months. Let’s see what I can do.” She called the emergency number of the kids’ dentist, left a message with the answering service. Called some of her friends with children and one of them said the same thing had happened to her son, but with a bat, and around the same age. If the half that Martin found on the floor can’t be cemented back because the break was above the nerve ending, she explained, then the rest of the tooth will have to be filed down so a temporary tooth can replace it. Then, when her mouth’s fully developed, she’ll get a permanent tooth. Both will look and can be used like a real tooth and won’t discolor. They knocked on Maureen’s door, said they have some good news about her tooth. She let them in and they told her and she said “Then that’s what I’m going to do, even if it hurts a lot, if they can’t cement the tooth together. I want to look normal. You understand, Mommy,” and Gwen said “Daddy does too. When Dr. Dworkin calls I’ll tell him I need an appointment for you tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll make room for you when I say how urgent it is.” “But no tooth fairy this time unless we know I have a tooth to put under my pillow. Okay, Daddy?” and he said “If you see me as the go-between to the tooth fairy rather than my being the tooth fairy himself, then okay: I’ll speak to him.” “Or her,” she said. Gwen later said to him ”What a reaction you gave when she had the accident. You immediately knew what the loss of that tooth meant to her. My empathy is so much quieter and slower than yours and I think in the end less responsive. Sometimes I think I’m emotionally cold to you and the kids, while the three of you tumble into tears if I’m hurt or very sad, or you respond close to that. What’s wrong with me?” He put his arms around her neck and said “You? Nothing’s wrong. All I did was hold and try to comfort her for the moment, and as you saw, really didn’t do much good. I didn’t have the right words or just my holding her wasn’t enough. While you were probably thinking of ways to make things better, and you did,” and she said “Now you’re trying to comfort me.” “No, it’s true. Your phone calls. I wouldn’t have thought to make them, not even to Dworkin, at least tonight. I would have just continued to feel awful about how miserable she was, while you used your big beautiful brain and saved the day. Once more, we’re a good team. Together we handled both aspects of a sad situation.” . . . They were at Dick’s Café or “Restaurant” or “Diner” on Water Street, he thinks it is, the one that runs perpendicular to Main Street, right off the bridge, in Ellsworth. Or maybe it was only called “Dick's,” which is all they used to refer to it as, with no what-it-is after the name. Rosalind, at the time, was almost two. And why’s he bringing up all this? Well, he’ll see. They were having lunch there, as they had a number of times the last few years, when Dick, the owner and cook, came over and introduced himself and said to him “Don’t take this wrongly, but whenever I see you walk in here I think ‘Mr. Fishburger,’ because that’s what you always order,” and he said “I like it, think about it long before I get here, and the cole slaw that comes with it.” And to Gwen “And when I see you I think ‘Mademoiselle Quiche,’ because that’s what you always seem to order,” and she said “I’ve had other things. Lobster roll. Crab meat roll. And once a hamburger when my obstetrician told me to eat more food with blood.” “Then I apologize, but I know I’m not wrong with him. As for your daughter, so far she’s ‘Little Miss Grilled Cheese,’ because last year you brought in your own food for her. But I want her to try something new,” and from behind his back he brought out a fork with two French fries on it, and Gwen said “Thank you, but we don’t think she’s old enough for frankfurters or fries. She has such a darling small mouth, she might choke.” “Trust me. I’ve had young daughters. She won’t. And I know a thing or two about a special gentle Heimlich maneuver for kiddies if she does.” Gwen looked at him and he gave an expression “I don’t know what to do; you decide,” and Dick said “It won’t kill her,” and held the fork in front of Rosalind’s hand and she took the fries off and ate one and then the other and said “It’s good. I didn’t spit it out.” “You see how she did it too,” Dick said. “One at a time; didn’t stuff her mouth. Smart girl. Her first French fry. I feel privileged to be the cause of it.” Next time they came in that summer Dick waved at them from behind the grill. “I should have something different than a fishburger,” he said, “but I don’t want to,” and she said “Then don’t.” “Maybe I won’t ask for mustard this time.” Dick came over after they’d been served and said “I’ve a new treat for my little pal,” and brought out from behind his back a milk shake with a straw in it. “It’s very kind of you,” he said, “but we don’t think she’s ready for it yet—no ice cream or extreme sweets,” and Dick said “Where’d you come up with that? French vanilla. From Hancock Dairy. She’ll love it and it’ll go down like water,” and held the glass up to Rosalind’s mouth and she sipped through the straw and then said “Me,” and took the glass in her hands—“Watch it!” both of them said and started to get up—and finished most of it. “There you go,” Dick said. “And I don’t mean to boast about your child, but she knew straight away what to do.” “Her first drinking vessel with no handles,” Gwen said. “Her first straw too.” They next came in the following summer—Gwen was six months pregnant with Maureen—and Dick said from behind the grill “Welcome back, Samueles.” He later came over to them with one hand behind his back, they talked about how their winters had been, then he said “What surprise you have for her now?,” pointing to Dick’s hidden hand, and Dick produced a small dish of something they didn’t recognize. “Finnan haddie,” Dick said. “It’s got to be a first for her and it’s one of the house specialties. I make it myself. Doesn’t come from a supplier.” “Now that,” he said, “I have to put my foot down on. Too salty,” and Dick said “Not salty. It’s smoked. From wood. No chemicals,” and held some of it out on a spoon to Rosalind. “You folks going to give me a green light?” and Gwen said “Half of that.” He dumped most of it back in the dish, Rosalind ate what was left, spit it out and said “No good.” “Another first,” Dick said, wiping Rosalind’s chin with a napkin, “but not one to brag about.” So? So times when they always had a good time, isn’t that it? And when they ordered—he thinks this happened every time—Gwen asked Ruby—Dick’s daughter and their waitress on the side of the restaurant they always tried to sit on because it had windows and there were open tables and not confining booths—to save a slice of whatever was the seasonal pie on the blackboard: raspberry, blueberry, strawberry and rhubarb, and if they stayed into early September because both of them were on leave and the kids were still young enough to start school late, peach .... Not much to this one. Good times and feeling again, maybe, but he suddenly thinks of something else. Whenever he had trouble getting or keeping an erection when they made love or one that was full, he’d say “We should probably forget it for now” or “take a raincheck, as you like to say,” and she’d say “Maybe I can do something,” or “Let’s see what I can do” or “if I can help,” and what she did—it took no more than a minute once they got settled—always worked. That’s all there is to it? “Thanks,” he said a few times, and once: “I’d do the same for you with your erectile tissue, but you never said you needed it,” and she said “I don’t like it done as much as you, and it never seemed crucial.” He finds he’s holding his penis, jiggles it a little, nothing happens and he lets it go. Does he think he’ll ever make love with another woman? With Gwen it was more than every other day, two hundred to two hundred fifty times a year for twenty-eight years. Never even kissed another woman romantically in that time and she said same for her with a man. “I’ve had fantasies,” and she said “So have I, but what of them?” “Masturbated maybe twenty times since I’ve known you,” he said, “and most of them were when we were split up that first year or I was out of town doing a reading and you were home,” and she said “I don’t think I’ve done it once since we met, not even when we were split up, and I didn’t have another man then.” But the memory he started. It was with her parents. Had to do with food. Whenever he and she and the kids drove to their New York apartment from Baltimore apartment or came back to it after their long stay in Maine, her parents would come by that night around seven, even if it was raining hard or there was a light snow, with food from Zabar’s. Always shrimp salad, which he didn’t eat because he’d got stomach poisoning three times from shrimp, but Maureen and Gwen and her parents loved. And Nova, kippered salmon or smoked sable (they seemed to alternate), creamed pickled herring, two gefilte fish balls with a small container each of white and beet horseradish, potato knish and half a rotisseried chicken, which he had to warm up in the oven—hated that in the summer because of the heat it generated—because her parents had bought all this that morning to avoid the store’s crowds and nobody liked the chicken or knish cold. “Chicken’s too much,” he used to say, “and we already have potato salad so don’t need the knish,” and her father would say “Freeze what we don’t eat and take it back with you to Baltimore.” Cole slaw, potato salad, bagels, a sliced Jewish rye, a whole apple strudel or chocolate babka, which he’d freeze most of—by then they were all full—and throw out the next time they came to New York. As he said, they were all glad to see one another and had a good time. Around nine, her parents would say they should go—her mother had a patient coming early tomorrow morning, her father had several tax extensions to look over tonight, the “children,” as they called them, have to get to sleep soon, “and both of you must be tired from the long drive in.” He’d call the private car service that brought them there—it was an easy number to remember because it ended with 6-6-6-6--, get nervous they wouldn’t make it downstairs in time—the dispatcher always said “Two to three minutes; the driver’s just a few blocks away”—and go with them to the car, hold an umbrella over them one at a time if it was raining or their arms at the elbow if it was snowing and kiss them both on the cheek and help them into the car. Just before he shut the door, her mother would say to him “I kiss you, my darling.” One time, after the car had left, Rosalind, who’d come downstairs with them, said “Why’d Nona say that about kissing? She did kiss you,” and he said “She meant it another way. That I’m a good son-in-law.” Once, when he got back to the apartment, Gwen said “You’re very nice to my parents,” and he said “Because I love them, but that’s not the only reason why.”