Sylvia Martinez Banks
The Story of Another Hour,
or, Chambers

Matt Richards isn't proud that he is secretly in love with Louise Mallard. “You only love the idea of her,” he tries to convince himself daily. She is, in fact, his good friend's wife. But sometimes he sketches her in private at the easel by his bed. “Find your own wife,” he tells himself at night when he slips off his house shoes and admires her face in charcoal. And he thinks he might have. He is thinking of proposing to Donna, a schoolteacher from El Cerrito he has dated for six months now. He knows something about Donna feels like a consolation prize, but he thinks a living room set can be more practical than a sports car.

So when his secretary comes into his office with the news of the BART explosion, Matt feels guilty that he feels something like hope. He is glad that thoughts, especially dark ones, are invisible. He text messages Brentley Mallard. Matt knows Brentley has taken BART from Castro Valley to San Francisco ever since they moved their start-up company there three years ago.

His phone vibrates in his pocket. Mallard Home, says the display.

“Matt?” Louise's voice sounds tiny to him.


“Yes. Brent make it in to the office this morning?”

He wants to lie to her. Louise fainted in the seventh month of her pregnancy last year, caused by a heart problem she never even knew she had. At this moment, Matt is troubled that he can't remember if her heart had been fixed. “No, he's not here yet.”

“Did you hear about the BART explosion?”

He lies easily. “No, what happened?”

“It exploded in Civic Center a few hours ago.”

Matt searches for words. “I'm sure he's fine.” But he really isn't sure. “He probably just went to Starbucks. You know his caffeine habit. I'll walk over there and then give you a call.”

But Matt doesn't go to Starbucks. Instead, he gets his Prius out of the parking lot. He has only been to the Mallard home a few times, but he doesn't need to put the address into his GPS.

There are two sheriffs in front of the Mallard home. Matt knows this is not a good sign. He notices that one is a woman. They put on jackets that look soft and shiny. They look at Matt as he gets out of the car. There is a silence as Matt Richards shakes his head.

“Let me tell her,” Matt says. “She has a bad heart.”

The sheriffs look at each other. “Are you family?”

Matt is surprised at how quickly he can make lying decisions today. “Yes. The Mallards are my family.”

He knocks instead of rings. A woman answers. Matt can see Louise in the background. “Yes?” the lady at the door asks.

“I'm Matthew Richards. Can I come in?”


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