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Bret Lott

"Still Life" Collaboration. Portrait of Arlen, by Curt Richter

Photo by Curt Richter

Arlen retired from the NYC school system several yeas ago and now travels the continent in a Chevy van.



          The fact is this picture does me justice. It’s a good picture. But this picture – this photo, Mr. Richter likes to call them – won’t tell you much more than my choice of beer and comic strip hero, and the fact someone scrawled across it what looks like a misspelled word. Corona? My favorite. Snoopy? My hero. The misspelled word? Correctly spelled. My girlfriend Caridade’s the one wrote across it.
          November 12, 1993, I am in a bar in New Bedford, Mass – Mi Antojo, on Rivet – and this girl with black hair in a ponytail went all the way down to the crack of her ass turns from her stool beside me, where I am very carefully working the fifth Corona in a half-hour, and of course I turn to her, and I smile at her because I think maybe this night I will be lucky and a girl with hair that black and that long will smile back at me and say something nice to start helping me with all I’d been chewing on the four years two months and three days prior to this night in Mi Antojo. But this girl doesn’t even look at me, only leans toward me, and with an El Marko she’s gotten from somewhere scrawls across my shirt a regresar. It’s not until the next morning at her place she tells me what it means: He returns. Spanish. “You looked like you needed to come back from wherever you were,” she told me that morning, then said, “Welcome back.”
          Bio? Usual stuff, mundane as all hell: Born 1949, Wellesley, Mass; attended Philips Exeter, graduated Princeton 1970, Cornell Law 1973; admitted to the Mass Bar 1973. Family (deceased, automobile accident, September 9, 1989): Jennifer Graves, married 1977; children: son Kenneth, born 1981; daughter Elizabeth, born 1984.