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Topics of Conversation by Miranda Popkey Read Online (FREE)


We exited the pool and dried off.

“What did you think?” I asked my friend.

“Nice tits,” she said.

“I mean the concept.”

“Did you notice the name?”

I Have an Important Message.”

“Obvious, don’t you think?”

“Yes,” I agreed. “A little obvious.”




Los Angeles, 2011

My parents live in Los Angeles, in a shambling three-story in the Hollywood Hills. Inherited, my mother’s father’s mother a minor star, silent films, with what they used to call a Cupid’s-bow mouth and a smart bob, she bought the house with her first paycheck, financially savvy and good thing, too, didn’t survive the transition to talkies, or maybe it was giving birth to my grandfather, how the pregnancy changed her body, the softness around the middle she never lost. Don’t like it, them, my parents. Talking about them, I mean. Not being modest when I say shambling, my grandfather and my mother, both only children and too good for any kind of regular work, the house decaying and no money for repairs. There’s a picture on the wall along one of the staircases, not a picture, a page from an old tabloid, framed, newsprint, a shot of my great-grandmother, in low heels and a dress with no waist, on the arm of Rudolph Valentino. I have been, in my life, just close enough to wealth to touch the rotting lace of its hem. Another way to put this: my family has been, still is, richer than most.


What happened was my friend got divorced, and then, for a while, she went to live with my parents. She said, my friend, that she wanted to spend some time with people who liked her. I live in California too, though up north. With my husband, though my friend did not ask if she could stay with us. I guess I was a little offended. Told myself she wanted to be tended to, knew I would not tend to her and knew my mother would. Though also I was relieved. Just then we were trying to have a baby. Baby books everywhere and me lying on my back, in bed, a thermometer in my vagina, trying to take my basal body temperature so I’d know when to fuck my husband, this, we’d been told, was the most natural way. My mind so filled with this one desire—baby, baby, baby—it might as well have been blank. Dutiful copulation. Tension and resentment packed into each of our small rooms like pudding into pudding cups. “Do you think,” my friend asked me, “that it’s ethical, right now, to have a baby. Considering where we are. In late capitalism, the life cycle of the planet.” I hung up. My husband and I did not end up having a baby, though not for ethical reasons. Later we also got a divorce. Having a baby, in any case, is never ethical. I don’t mean it’s not, just that’s the wrong scale.

“How is she,” I asked my mother.