• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 07
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Hortense Kilper collects cups and bowls in all shapes and sizes. She visits 'seconds' shops. Asks if they have anything cracked — it doesn't hurt to ask. The lady in the shop lets her have those imperfect cups and bowls at no charge, wraps them double in tissue and bubble-wrap and hands them over as though they are a greater treasure than the uncracked cups or bowls.

Hortense Kilper, sitting on the bus home, cradles those cups and bowls in her lap. And when she's back in her own kitchen she makes a big reveal of what she has bought, tapping the sides of those cups and bowls with a silver teaspoon; I can hear then how they speak with the voices of bad gear changes or old frogs or unoiled doors. They don't hold water so she keeps eggs or paperclips or pennies in those cups and bowls.

I look at her funny, as though she is the one who is cracked.

'It doesn't have to be perfect; it just has to be enough,' says Hortense Kilper.

The same whether it's kisses or sex or hearts. That's what she thinks.

Hortense Kilper collects kisses, too. Lipstick kisses pressed to torn scraps of paper, smudged and imperfect and taped to the door of the fridge. A hundred misshaped pouting hungry mouths in pinks and reds and one that is blue.



And stray cats that wander in from the street, she collects them also. Makes a nest for them in her kitchen, baskets in all corners and under tables and chairs. Belle is brindled and pretty as tigers and the vet says she has a murmur — a heart that skips and sometimes it misses. It is not uncommon but the vet says when she's older it might be a thing of consequence and the cat will sleep a lot then and not chase mice or butterflies or wind-blown leaves. And I think Hortense Kilper loves Belle more and all her other wayward stray cats.

And me she loves the same. Even though I cannot undo her bra — and I have practiced. And the small pearl buttons on her blouse are a trial to me when we're messing about on the sofa. And I never can find the fastening of her skirt. We never come together when we fuck, even though I try.

Hortense Kilper says it does not matter and she presses her red waxed lips to my lips and she holds a hand against my heart and she says she's feeling for the missed beats; and she taps on my chest — like doctors once did with small children — and she listens for the cracks in me and says I am perfectly imperfect. And I look at her funny.