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The sky was a faint but very fresh blue and the air had that wonderful fall clarity, that is partly a fragrance of something ending.

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Hadley came up behind me and put her arms around my waist. Her hair smelled good, of fall and herb shampoo, and she was wearing a new light wool jacket that rubbed pleasantly on my bare arms. No way. It probably was the first time many of the guests had congratulated a bride who was breastfeeding even as she shook their hands. Ray hovered around her, ethnic in an embroidered white shirt and with his black hair brilliantined, the image of the proud husband and father. Who would have suspected this side of him even three years ago, when we'd both been experts on shared birth control?

Who would have suspected, as we quarreled about the merits of diaphragm vs. We exchanged a shy glance from time to time—our anger at each other had been transmuted into an ironic and bemused sort of tenderness.

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Penny was the one I was mad at—for reasons I hesitated to examine too deeply. The afternoon passed quickly. My lesbian friends came and were respectfully sarcastic, but I hardly had time to joke with them and hear their commiserations. I was too busy helping be the hostess at this house where Penny and I had grown up, where Penny and Ray and baby Antonia lived now.

The Dog Collar Murders

There were so many people to talk to: the Mortensens from down the street, Aunt Hilda who had come from Everett with her docile husband George, Uncle Walt from Minnesota with his wife Ingrid and their son the fourteen-year-old computer genius. June Jasper, our long time coworker at the print shop and Penny's best friend, was here with her boyfriend Eddy she didn't think she had to get married, did she? There were friends from different stages of our lives—from grade school, high school, the university, from various political groups that had once taken up hours of our time—the Tenants' Union, Crabshell Anti-Nuclear Alliance, Seattle Abortion Rights.

There were new friends too. Zee, a Filipina who was studying filmmaking at USC and had flown up for the day.

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Beth and Janis, friends of mine from last winter; they'd brought Trish, who was now a junior at an alternative school and doing well. There were also new political comrades of Penny and Ray's, people who'd gone to pick coffee beans with them in Nicaragua last January, as well as our newest worker at the printshop, Moe, and his lover, Allen.

The garden was filled with people. I could only nod and smile and move away with the excuse of getting another tray of hors d'oeuvres from the kitchen. I was stopped halfway to the house by Beth. I looked. It was definitely Chloe—or Loie, as she was usually called—Marsh.

Ten years ago she'd been the putative head of the women against violence against women contingent here in Seattle. I remembered going to a slide show she gave right before a Women Take Back the Night march—it was the famous presentation, with the slide from Hustler of the woman going into the meatgrinder and coming out as hamburger.

Loie had roused us all to fury. Soon after, it had been eight or nine years ago now, she'd left Seattle for Boston, where she wrote a famous book against pornography, The Silenced Heart, and organized a number of conferences, panels and speak-outs. Since then she'd been a featured speaker on TV talk shows and the college circuit, an anti-porn celebrity.

She's staying with her cousin Hanna Sandbakker, the actress.


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Hanna Sandbakker had been with Penny and Ray in Nicaragua—that must be why they'd invited her and Loie. I didn't really know Hanna myself, though I'd seen her a number of times on Seattle stages. She was a willowy woman with a mane of ash-blond hair, known for her tragic roles in Ibsen and Strindberg. Her trademark was a velvety voice with a slight catch that could make even the most banal words sound remarkable.

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I especially remembered her as Hedda Gabler, with her pistols. I already know what she's going to say—she's telling everyone around her now. She thinks the women's movement has been invaded and betrayed by a bunch of sexual liberals, 'so-called feminists' and sadomasochists. She had come up and was holding a tray of champagne and Calistoga. Everyone laughed nervously, and I looked over at Loie. She was a tall woman, five ten or eleven, with large bones, big hands and feet. Her face was interesting, but not particularly attractive; there was something smooth and slightly convex about it, like the lid of an enamel saucepan.

Her short curly blond hair was brushed back tightly over her shiny forehead.

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Like her cousin she had a particularly distinctive voice; I couldn't catch the words from here, but I heard the cadence, rhetorical and seductive. She had gathered around her a small eager group of our guests. Hanna was off holding baby Antonia and chatting with Penny, but there were six or seven others listening to Loie speak. With some discomfort I noticed that Elizabeth Ketteridge had turned up at the reception and was standing next to Loie Marsh, apparently drinking in her words.

A small woman with big eyes, very little hair and enormous hoop earrings, she was a counselor who dealt with survivors of rape and sexual abuse. I had gotten to know her earlier this year.


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Kimiko Lewis was a local video artist who had recently taken up the cause of lesbian sexual explicitness. She was forever attempting to show her videos at local film festivals and bookstores. They're both on one of the panels at the porn conference," Miranda said. Miranda laughed. So for some people it's the sex conference. For others it's the porn conference. Watch the fireworks! It wasn't exactly that I was having a bad time.

If it had just been a social reunion I would have enjoyed myself immensely. But it was a wedding reception, one of the important markers society uses to separate the socially acceptable from the socially unacceptable.

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Penny and I had been arguing about it for weeks. I want this to be different, to show I'm really committed to the relationship. How do you think that makes me feel? I'm in a relationship too. If marriage is the only way to show commitment where does that leave us? You, I mean. If Hadley and I got married, I wouldn't automatically become Mrs. Pam Nilsen-Harper, respectable supporter of the status quo. They were among the first lesbian-feminist mysteries featuring an amateur sleuth, printer Pam Nilsen.

Each book tackled, in sometimes subversive and sometimes I hoped humorous ways, the important issues of the times. No, not Reaganomics or the end of the Cold War—but racism, U. I could have gone on writing such mysteries. Interviewing dubious suspects and possible murderers from all backgrounds shaped an on-going dialectic. The aim was to thoroughly air some of the disagreements that energized and polarized feminist circles.

Readers also often told me they enjoyed the spectacle of mean, hypocritical, and downright rotten female suspects—a refreshing counter-narrative to Utopian lesbian-feminist fiction of the 70s and 80s.

But after five or so years of writing about Pam, I recognized some limitations in her manner of sleuthing; in fact, in her very character. I loved the idea of playing with gender, for instance, but I suspected the somewhat earnest Pam Nilsen might be too unsophisticated to explore such a topic with the poetry and levity it deserved. In search of a new heroine, I bumped into Cassandra Reilly, a skinny, frizzy-haired Irish-American, originally from Kalamazoo, Michigan where my second-generation Irish-American mother had gone to college , who had a perch in London and another in Oakland and a wide circle of acquaintances and lovers around the globe.

In my early 20s, I spent three years living, working, and studying in Europe, including a year in Spain and a year in Norway my memoir Incognito Street tells that story.