<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <p> <b>The Message</b> <p> February 15, 2008. Returning to our car that has been haphazardly <br> parked—by me—on a narrow side street near the Princeton Medical <br> Center—I see, thrust beneath a windshield wiper, what appears to be <br> a sheet of stiff paper. At once my heart clenches in dismay, guilty ap-<br> prehension—a ticket? A parking ticket? At such a time? Earlier that <br> afternoon I’d parked here on my way—hurried, harried—a jangle of <br> admonitions running through my head like shrieking cicadas—if you’d <br> happened to see me you might have thought pityingly That woman is in <br> a desperate hurry—as if that will do any good—to visit my husband in the <br> Telemetry Unit of the medical center where he’d been admitted several <br> days previously for pneumonia; now I need to return home for a few <br> hours preparatory to returning to the medical center in the early eve-<br> ning—anxious, dry-mouthed and head-aching yet in an aroused state <br> that might be called hopeful—for since his admission into the medical <br> center Ray has been steadily improving, he has looked and felt better, <br> and his oxygen intake, measured by numerals that fluctuate with liter-<br> ally each breath—90, 87, 91, 85, 89, 92—is steadily gaining, arrangements <br> are being made for his discharge into a rehab clinic close by the medical <br> center—(hopeful is our solace in the face of mortality); and now, in the <br> late afternoon of another of these interminable and exhausting hospital-<br> days—can it be that our car has been ticketed?—in my distraction I’d <br> parked illegally?—the time limit for parking on this street is only two <br> hours, I’ve been in the medical center for longer than two hours, and <br> see with embarrassment that our 2007 Honda Accord—eerily glaring-<br> white in February dusk like some strange phosphorescent creature in the <br> depths of the sea—is inexpertly, still more inelegantly parked, at a slant <br> to the curb, left rear tire over the white line in the street by several inches,<br> front bumper nearly touching the SUV in the space ahead. But now—if <br> this is a parking ticket—at once the thought comes to me I won’t tell Ray, <br> I will pay the fine in secret.<br> <p> Except the sheet of paper isn’t a ticket from the Princeton Police De-<br> partment after all but a piece of ordinary paper—opened and smoothed <br> out by my shaky hand it’s revealed as a private message in aggressively <br> large block-printed letters which with stunned staring eyes I read several <br> times like one faltering on the brink of an abyss—learn to park stuppid bitch.<br> <p> In this way as in that parable of Franz Kafka in which the most profound <br> and devastating truth of the individual’s life is revealed to him by a passer-by <br> in the street, as if accidentally, casually, so the Widow-to-Be, like the Widow, <br> is made to realize that her situation however unhappy, despairing or fraught <br> with anxiety, doesn’t give her the right to overstep the boundaries of others, <br> especially strangers who know nothing of her—“Left rear tire over the white <br> line in the street.” <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>A Widow’s Story</b> by <b>Joyce Carol Oates</b> Copyright © 2011 by Joyce Carol Oates. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.