Mary Ruefle

The Glacier
Issue One
Fall 2022

Chilly Observation

Do you know the story of the woman who went to a taverna in Greece, her table was set on the beach, after awhile the tide came in, the water covered her legs and the legs of the table and the waiter continued to serve her, going back and forth from the kitchen as if nothing were happening? People often wonder what it is like to be old, and a few actually ask.

Teeth of Noon

When I was nineteen I enrolled in a college in the Swiss Alps. It had once been a sanatorium such as Thomas Mann describes in The Magic Mountain. Every dorm room had a balcony overlooking the Dents du Midi, the Teeth of Noon, seven jagged snow-covered peaks. Nabokov lived down the mountain in a hotel on a lake with swans. Nearer than that was the Chateau de Chillon, where Byron and Shelley stopped one summer afternoon while sailing together. In the afternoon I’d sit on my balcony wrapped in a blanket, reading. Whenever I looked up, there were the Teeth of Noon sparkling at me. Down the hall was the old operating theatre, larger than the average dorm room, so that six girls roomed there together. They were my friends and I spent a lot of time in the operating theatre, just hanging out, lying on bunks. One day a rumor flew there was going to be a drug raid that evening. I had half a pound of hashish hidden under my bed so I had no choice but to eat it all before the raid, which never happened. That same evening I was playing a hooker in a Sartre play and forgot all my lines. I just made stuff up, thus ended that career. Down the road was an extraordinary pastry shop and an English bookstore, for the English had been coming to the village for a long time and enjoyed sweets and reading. And the local fire brigade needed to practice their drill on the sanatorium, which was ten stories high, so they asked for volunteers to go up on the roof and slide down a canvas shoot into the arms of a fireman. I was the first to volunteer and slid down the canvas shoot into the arms of a Swiss firefighter. Oh my life was dreary, my whole existence bored me, so I suddenly decided to drop out and left school without telling my parents or anyone else, except my psychology teacher, who came to my room and asked me if I wanted to talk to someone before I made such a rash decision. I said no, my mind was made up, it was strong and clear. I was young, I wanted so much more. Like Youth Itself I did not grasp I was living a dream of exhilarating newness. I walked away, I said good-bye to the Teeth of Noon and began my bewildered life.


MARY RUEFLE’s latest book is Dunce (Wave Books, 2019). She lives in Vermont.


Artwork by David Dodd Lee.
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