Joy Katz


The box…maybe the baby will play with the box, and she can sit, not
carry, not pick him up.

He does. Dreamily opens the plastic lid….He examines the lip of the
box, where it clicks shut. He slowly, slowly pulls a piece of paper
through a thin slot on top.

At first being alone with the baby and the box is a dim, half-conscious
satisfaction, like running your fingertips over the dry skin of your
feet. He turns the box over in his arms. She gives him a necklace, it
falls through his hands like milk. He licks the metal clasp, and her
scalp, filigreed all over, electrifies. She comes a little awake.

When she holds out the box he will bubble and tree and ha and
silence, he makes sounds that run over her back like mice, sounds that
cause the thinnest pins to vibrate—that are the silken, grooved edge
of a guitar string not even being touched.

Now she must daily use the baby to feel this feeling: a needle afloat
on plain water.

In the world of the box and the necklace there are no words, is no
appetite, there is not sex: his sounds take sex away. Is she blameless?
Is the box a form of love? If you walked in and saw her, it would be
that scene in the movie where the boyfriend opens the door and day
has passed into night and he finds her on the floor: dull spoon, burnt
match, used up.

Joy Katz
“Habit” first appeared in The Cincinnati Review 7:2.