The first story in this section is one of several children's stories Martha Corey-Ochoa wrote about her sixty-four favorite stuffed animals, known as the Bed Characters, to whom she remained close throughout her life. It is followed by Martha's only complete literary short story, "Black Widow."


The Bed Characters!

Black Widow

 The Bed Characters!


  1. Audience: Audience Anderson is pink, medium-sized, and resembles a bunny. This human lady is a famous actress (she is “one with the audience”) with a big heart and a position as a Character Town mahatma. She was divorced once, but loves her daughter, Lynn Teresa; her current husband, Malcolm; and her best friend, Nana.
  2. Baby Al: Baby Al Mosaica is a small yellow hamster. He is a politician, a public speaker, a lover of refined culture, and a smart, if not always successful, kind of guy. He has many friends, among them Jimmy, Audience, Red Bear, Baby Bill (his brother), and Sorbet (his wife).
  3. Baby Baby White: Baby Baby White is an onion, but since there is no specific toy for him, he is represented by a small pig. He is the most recent Baby White Character, and he tries to be like his older brother Baby White in everything from sleeping in many languages and many places to writing his memoirs (such as My Life as an Onion). He is married to Star.
  4. Baby Bill: Baby Bill Mosaica is a small multi-colored frog. He likes to have fun, and his various hobbies include eating fast food, doing mischief, playing football, and running for mayor of Character Town (where the Bed Characters live). He also likes doing things with his wife, Baby Hillary, and best friend Baby George.
  5. Baby George: Baby George Tobana is a purple/orange/multi-colored monkey. He likes to eat bananas, make mischief, and reminisce about his days as mayor of Character Town. His family (wife Baby Laura and daughter Baby Jenna) and best friend Baby Bill are the people he spends the most time with.
  6. Baby Hillary: Baby Hillary Martin is a small brown dog with a cute face. She learned how to be a nurse at Harvard College, runs a pharmacy at the Bed Character Mall, and likes politics and refined culture. She also likes spending time with Baby Laura, her best friend; Baby Bill, her husband; and Nana, her sister.
  7. Baby Jenna: Baby Jenna Langley is a small black bear who closely resembles her mother, Baby Laura. Her motto is “Girls just wanna have fun,” and she finds pleasure both in shopping and in doing mischief. Her husband, Baby Joe, her best friend Curtainice, and her father Baby George are all important in her life.
  8. Baby Joe: Baby Joe Staynunt (a.k.a. Foxy Guy or Foxy Loxy) is a small brown fox. He is at times masculine and friendly, at other times charming and sneaky, and his store, Baby Joe’s Action Shop, reflects this as it switches between fix-it shop and nightclub. His friends, Piawter and Baron, and wife, Baby Jenna, are good matches for his personality.
  9. Baby Laura: Baby Laura Langley is a small white polar bear. She loves to read and has founded two clubs: a literary discussion group and a polar bear support group. She and her husband Baby George have a daughter, Baby Jenna.
  10. Baby Minnesota: Baby Minnesota Staynunt is a small brown deer with white spots. He is a very religious mahatma, and he is nice to everyone. His closest friends are Tinkybella, his wife; Hippo, his best friend; and his clubmates, who are Puppy, Michael, Lynn Teresa, Piggy, Penelope Pig, and Sorbet.
  11. Baby White: Baby White is one of the Baby White Characters, who are creations of Martha’s parents. He is a cottonball made of socks who enjoys entertaining America with his radio show, writing his memoirs, sleeping, and having conversations with ordinary humans like us. He is married to Ms. Prairiedog.
  12. Baron: Baron Rostoff is an average-sized yellow bear. In fact, he is average in many things, such as intelligence and behavior, but his surfing skills and “hangin’ around” skills are excellent. His best friends are Baby Joe and Piawter, and his current wife is Curtainice.
  13. Bea Berserk Bunny: Bea Berserk Bunny Lepus is a tall white bunny. She is lively and free-spirited, and enjoys making breaks for Mexico and running Bea’s Travel Agency. She is close to her daughters Fluffy Luffy and Cottonfluff, her husband Moby Peach, her mother Raspberry, and her sister Caroline.
  14. Beary Cute: Beary Cute Bear is a plump pink and yellow bear. He is a “psychic” bear who likes astrology, playing games, and performing as a back-up singer and acrobat in the boy band Getty and the Dominoes. He is close to his brother Denim Bear, his wife Yay, and his mother-in-law Carrot.
  15. Beatrice: Beatrice is a large white polar bear and a creation of Martha’s parents. She is the queen of Timbuktu; stately, kind, well-mannered, and a mahatma. She is married to Sinclair, a dependable green dinosaur, and her closest friends are the members of the Polar Bear Support Group: Baby Laura, It’s a Girl, Olivia, and Sorbet.
  16. Beaver: Beaver is a brown beaver puppet (large rodent who eats trees and builds with twigs). She teaches Beaver School and, in the summer, Camp, and enjoys eating twigs, interpreting dreams, and telling people what to do. She has been around since 1985, and is married to the Head Nutria, though she discounts the marriage sometimes.
  17. Buggs Bunny: Buggs Bunny is a tall, gray-and-white bunny who looks like the cartoon character Bugs Bunny. This Buggs Bunny is nice, however; he is a mahatma, helps other characters play football with him, runs DIY Bunny, a hardware store, and is only occasionally mischievous. He is married to Caroline and is close to her father Seymour.
  18. Bunny Slippers: Bunny Slippers Lepus (Slippy) is a lavender lamb with purple bunny slippers. She is a mahatma; sweet, gentle, quiet, and kind. Among those who flock to her for advice are her mother, Carrot; her father, Energizer Bunny; her sister, Yay; and her husband, Denim Bear.
  19. Caroline: Caroline le Rouge et Orange is a tall, thin, beautiful purple seahorse. She is quiet and likes the water and French culture. Her husband, Buggs Bunny; her father, Seymour; and her best friend, Bea Berserk Bunny, are the most important people in her life.
  20. Carrot: Carrot Lepus is a tall brown bunny whose shirt has a picture of a carrot on it. She is religious and seeks “appropriate” entertainment for her daughters Bunny Slippers and Yay, but she’ll also sing, “Are you ready for some football?” Some of her other family members are Energizer Bunny, her husband; Raspberry, her mother; and Millicent, her  sister.
  21. Cottonfluff: Cottonfluff Lepus (a.k.a. Cottie or Fluffy Bunny) is a small white bunny with a mischievous grin. She likes doing mischief and runs the modern Mini-Tricks club. It was she who introduced her large extended family, including grandma Raspberry, mother Bea Berserk Bunny, and husband Domino, to Bed Character Town.
  22. Curtainice: Curtainice (Baa Baa Black Sheep) is a white and black fairy who resembles a sheep. She has many hobbies, including shopping, arranging hair, talking on the telephone, and driving her Hyundai Elantra. She is close to her sister Tinkybella, her friends Baby Jenna and It’s a Girl, and her husband Baron.
  23. Denim Bear: Denim Bear is a bear made of blue denim fabric. He is generally nice, and is a back-up singer in the boy band Getty and the Dominoes. His wife is Bunny Slippers, and his best friend and brother is Beary Cute.
  24. Domino: Domino Montagne is a brown bear with a cute smile. His favorite game is dominoes, and he takes part in it by acting as a “good luck charm,” playing it with his friends, and running Dom’s Family Casino. His wife is Cottonfluff, and he, his brother Getty, and their two cousins Denim Bear and Beary Cute are the band Getty and the Dominoes.
  25. Energizer Bunny: Energizer Bunny is a pink bunny, but he is sometimes represented by a brown dog. The advertising mascot for Eveready Energizer Batteries, he likes electronics, sports, drums, and to “just keep going.” He has good relationships with Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Bunny, his nephew; Carrot, his wife; and Bunny Slippers, his daughter.
  26. Father Sid: Father Sid is a black gorilla toy and a creation of Martha’s parents, but he is represented by a green hat since the toy is missing. He is the pastor of the Church of St. Francis, where all the Bed Characters go, and enjoys teaching religious education (CCD) and playing bingo. Some of this mahatma’s friends are Henry, Beatrice, and Baby Baby White.
  27. Flatty: Flatty is a blue, somewhat flat hippopotamus with a grayish yellow stomach. He is generally quiet but can be quite chatty when he wants to be. He is close to all the members of the Baby White Club, but his closest friends are his wife, Pillow, Sinclair, and Baby White.
  28. Fluffy Luffy: Fluffy Luffy Lepus is a little white bunny with straight long ears. She is a leader of the Lepus Family of Mischievous Bunnies as well as a mahatma with the motto “Mahatmas just wanna have fun!” Her closest friends are in her family, such as her grandma Raspberry, her sister Cottonfluff, and her husband Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Bunny.
  29. Getty: Getty Montagne is a little white bear with a red shirt that reads “Getty.” He is a mahatma, a Getty gas station worker, a mischief-maker, and the lead singer in the band Getty and the Dominoes. He loves his wife, Moo-Cow, and his brother and best friend, Domino.
  30. The Head Nutria: The Head Nutria (or Mr. H. N.) is a brown, puppet-like nutria with blue golf clothes. The nutria is a mischievous rodent from Louisiana, and this Baby White character lives up to his species by running a casino, Chez Nutria. He loves his wife, Beaver, though they often fight about whether they are really married.
  31. Hedy Bunny: Hedy Bunny is a sea green bunny with a white head, hands, and feet. She dates from before Martha was born, and she is a newswoman, but she only delivers old news (from the invention of the wheel to the presidency of Bill Clinton). She is married to Mr. Zorilla.
  32. Henry: Henry is a medium-sized white gorilla with gray hands, feet, and mouth. He is nice and likes to help people, which often results in him doing many different jobs. Henry’s wife is Olivia, and his friends include Baby White, the Head Nutria, and Mr. Zorilla, who are all Baby White Characters, just like Henry.
  33. Hippo: Hippo Bear is a small green hippopotamus who rattles. He is both gullible and friendly, and will often act as a “responsible adult guardian” if younger animals want to be driven somewhere or see an R-rated movie. He has been married a few times, but his current wife Penelope Pig and best friend Baby Minnesota seem here to stay.
  34. Innocent: Innocent Bjore is a gray-and-white striped kitten. He has many hobbies, including using “kitten power,” making mischief, eating desserts, meditating on Tibet, and growing closer to cats worldwide. He also hangs out with his best friend Piawter, wife It’s a Girl, and half-sister Sogra.
  35. It’s a Girl: It’s a Girl Eddelson (Itsa for short) is a medium-sized pink polar bear with “It’s a Girl” written on her chest. She likes shopping, clothing, and other feminine activities. She also likes her sister Sorbet and her fierce, funny husband Innocent.
  36. Jimmy: Jimmy Rodríguez is a bright bull piñata, but he is often represented by a snowman. He likes magic and Mexican culture and is easy-going, helpful, and refined. He is married to Silky, has a sister, Moo-Cow, and is best friends with Baby Al.
  37. Lynn Teresa: Lynn Teresa Anderson is yellow, average-sized, and resembles a dog. This human is romantic, dramatic, and sometimes acts like a child, other times like a woman. She is close to Audience, her mother; Piawter, her husband; and Sorbet, Puppy, Piggy, and her other club mates.
  38. Malcolm: Malcolm Rostoff is a tall brown bear. He hails from the Soviet Union, where he was once a leader, and thus enjoys eating borscht, reading Soviet writings, and Russian culture in general. He is currently in his second marriage (to Audience), and has a son, Baron, and a stepdaughter, Lynn Teresa.
  39. Michael: Michael Pot is blue, average-sized, and resembles a bear. He is a human toddler, and as such likes to play with toys such as balls, rattles, and interactive musical farms. He is married to Piggy, and his best friend is Puppy.
  40. Millicent: Millicent Lepus (Milly) is a realistic-looking white bunny. She is old-fashioned and likes cooking, taking care of the home, and visiting with her nieces and their husbands. Her own husband is Peter Rabbit, and her best friend and sister is Carrot.
  41. Moby Peach: Moby Peach is a tan dog sewn by Martha’s mom, but is often represented by a green dinosaur since the dog doll is delicate. He is serious a lot of the time, but playful other times. His wife Bea Berserk Bunny, her brother-in-law Peter Rabbit, and his daughters Fluffy Luffy and Cottonfluff are his closest friends.
  42. Moo-Cow: Moo-Cow Rodríguez is a normal-sized cow, white with black spots. She tries to stand out with her achievements, such as her talk show, “Once Upon a Moo-Cow,” her invention, the “Cow-a-pult,” and her mischief. Her best friend is Cottonfluff, and her husband is Getty.
  43. Mr. Zorilla: Mr. Zorilla is a spotted yellow zorilla, the smelliest animal on Earth and a cousin of the skunk. He is cute and friendly, but whenever he gets excited he expels gas. He is a Baby White character, and his wife is Hedy Bunny.
  44. Ms. Prairiedog: Ms. Prairiedog is a small brown prairiedog (squirrel-like animal from Midwestern America). She is rich from her real estate business Prairiedog City, and her radio show Pushin’ up Daisies. She is from before Martha was born, and is married to Baby White.
  45. Nana: Nana Martin is a blue dog who resembles the dog Blue from the TV show “Blue’s Clues.” She is a mahatma who likes toys, winter, TV, and both refined culture and children’s culture. She is married to Puppy, and has several friends, such as Audience, Sorbet, Lynn Teresa, and Baby Hillary, her sister.
  46. Old Beaver: Old Beaver has been around longer than most of the other characters. She is a wise, helpful brown beaver who is well liked by all the other characters. Her closest friends are Pillow, Beaver, Father Sid, Sinclair, and Beatrice.
  47. Olivia: Olivia is a compact pink polar bear who dates from the late 1980s. She likes poetry, shopping, and running her radio station, OTV studios. She is married to Henry and is fairly close to Baby White, Beaver, and Ms. Prairiedog.
  48. Penelope Pig: Penelope Pig Comte is a tall, thin pink pig who was designed for use as a bookmark. She likes reading, French cinema, and fresh produce. She is close to her twin sister Piggy, husband Hippo, Happy Club club mates, and former sister-in-law Sogra.
  49. Peter Rabbit: Peter Rabbit Cottontail is a light brown bunny with a blue jacket. He likes telling stories, working at his store, Fantasy Furniture, and playing with his nieces and their husbands. Some of his closest friends are Millicent, his wife; Moby Peach, her brother-in-law; and Bunny Slippers, his niece.
  50. Piawter: Piawter Pot is green, average-sized, and resembles a cat. This human enjoys sports, playing with his Cool Club friends (Baby Joe and Baron), and being a leader among the boys. His wife Lynn Teresa, friend Innocent, and brother Michael are different from him but also get along well with him.
  51. Piggy: Piggy Comte is an average-sized pink pig. She is active politically and holds many protests, but is also willing to have classic fun. She is happily married for the second time (to Michael), and maintains good relationships with her twin sister Penelope Pig, friends, and ex-husband Baby Minnesota.
  52. Pillow: Pillow is a white pillow. She is average-sized, quiet, and nice. Sometimes she helps resolves conflicts between the other characters. She spends much of her time with her husband, Flatty, Beaver, Tinkybella, and Old Beaver.
  53. Puppy: Puppy Bear is a little multi-colored dog who resembles a bear. He loves plays (“Bow-Wow!” in Dog Talk), is a member of the Happy Club, and is always cheery and friendly. He especially likes his wife Nana, his best friend Michael, and his brothers Hippo and Red Bear.
  54. Raspberry: Raspberry Lepus is a giant red violet bunny. Affectionately referred to as Grandma Bunny or Giganto Bunny, she enjoys eating berries, selling jewelry, spending time with her big family, and just generally having fun. She and her husband Seymour have four children, and she is particularly close to her oldest granddaughter Fluffy Luffy.
  55. Red Bear: Red Bear is a honey brown bear with red paws and a fancy red hat. He enjoys dancing, fishing, and talking, and has channeled these talents into a dance show, “Red Bear’s Dance Hour.” He is close friends with Malcolm, and has married and remarried Sogra several times.
  56. Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Bunny: Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Bunny is a pink pen-shaped bunny who is represented by an octopus. He likes martial arts and play fighting, reading and writing, and going places with his family. Some of his family members are Fluffy Luffy, his wife; Energizer Bunny, his uncle; and Seymour, his wife’s grandfather.
  57. Seymour: Seymour le Rouge et Orange is a long red and orange seahorse. He is interested in cool and unusual gadgets and activities, French culture, and generally having fun. He is married to Raspberry, and has four children and four grandchildren, of whom he is particularly close to Caroline, his oldest daughter, and her husband Buggs Bunny.
  58. Silky: Silky Pegadinas is a big, light multi-colored silkhorse with wings. She is quiet, likes fashion and especially accessories, and will fly until somebody says, “whoa!” She is married to Jimmy, and her friends are It’s a Girl, Sogra, Baby Jenna, and Cottonfluff, her adopted sister.
  59. Sinclair: Sinclair is a green dinosaur with “Sinclair” written on him. He is nice and practical. One of his favorite projects is promoting the consumption of roughage. He has a happy marriage to Beatrice and his friends include Flatty, Old Beaver, and Henry.
  60. Sogra: Her Royal Highness Princess Sogra Elizabeth Tudor Windsor of England is a soft white cat with a cute face. She is a leader by birth, and shows her leadership in everything she does: going shopping, visiting her mother the queen for tea, and talking to her celebrity friends. She is married for the ninth time to Red Bear, and her best friend is Tinkybella.
  61. Sorbet: Sorbet Eddelson is a medium-sized white polar bear with pink paws. She is sweet, and, as her name suggests, she likes sorbets (she also likes fluffy things). Her husband, Baby Al, gets along with her despite their differences, and her friends Lynn Teresa and Nana are also close to her.
  62. Star: Star is a cornflower blue dinosaur with a star on top of her head. She hails from the moon, where she directs Noah’s Ark over and over, sometimes from different perspectives, and she doesn’t complain too much – for a Baby White character. Her best friend is Hedy Bunny, and her husband is Baby Baby White.
  63. Tinkybella: Tinkybella Descala (a.k.a. Tink, Tinkycita, Patches) is Martha’s favorite bed character. She is a little gray/white fairy with many talents (making T-shirts, being a mahatma, jumping in on other people’s conversations). Her best friend among the Bed Characters is Sogra, and her husband is Baby Minnesota.
  64. Yay: Yay Lepus is a medium-sized white bunny with long ears and a cute face. Her motto is “last is best,” and she is cheery, friendly, at times mischievous, and enjoys hopping around and creating “ear-styles.” She especially likes her mother Carrot, her sister Bunny Slippers, and her husband Beary Cute.

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Black Widow


I almost missed my bus that morning. It was raining lightly, not enough to create puddles, but enough to make me wish I had brought my umbrella. The walk to the bus stop usually takes me fourteen minutes, but when I left the house it was already 6:58, and my bus arrived at 7:07. I had to run to the bus stop. When I got there, the bus was just arriving. It was about a minute late.

             I took out my laptop once I got on the bus. I’d downloaded the latest lecture in my online criminology course last night. I tried to read, but I found it hard to keep my mind on the lecture. I kept thinking about the five-kilometer race my husband Harold and I were running that weekend. It was only Tuesday, but I was already excited for the race. It was our first race in a while because the last one was cancelled for rain. I hoped this rain wouldn’t last till the weekend.

            Finally I got off at my stop. It was always a few minutes until my transfer came, so I went into Bob’s Coffee, which was around the corner from my stop. “Hey, Martina, how’s it going?” asked Luis, the young man who worked in the coffee shop.

            “Okay, how bout you?”

            “I’m good. Medium coffee with skim milk?”

            “Yeah.” I took my coffee and left, pushing past a crowd of giggling preteen girls.

            On this bus I drank my coffee and listened to my iPod. I was listening to country music, mostly Reba McEntire and Lee Ann Womack. This bus ride was shorter than the first bus ride, so I reached my stop fairly quickly, and walked to four blocks to my office. I walked up the three flights of stairs to the office of Richmond Criminology Associates, where I worked as an intern. I love walking up stairs. It gives me this feeling of vitality and satisfaction.

            The psychology department, where I work, is arbitrarily divided into two sections, one on the third floor and one on the fifth. I walked over to my cubicle and set down my light brown purse and my black briefcase. Next I went over to the coffee pot. I’m a bit of a caffeine addict. Susie, one of the secretaries, and Ray, a DNA analyst, were hanging out by the coffee pot. “Some weather we’re having, huh?” said Susie.

            “Tell me about it. I had to walk in that rain today.”

            “That’s too bad. Oh, so Ray and I were just talking about that new representative we got after the last one got tangled up in that ethics scandal.”

            “What’s the new representative’s name?”

            “Tom Rennson,” said Ray enthusiastically. “What a great guy.”

            “It’s about time we get some change in there,” added Susie. “They’ve had so many scandals in Washington lately.”

            “Rennson isn’t gonna stand for any of that nonsense,” said Ray. “He’s a straightforward kind of guy. He’s gonna bring some law and order back to Congress.”

            I kept my mouth shut because Rennson was a Republican and I was a Democrat. I wasn’t ready for an argument that early in the morning.

            “Oh, Martina!” said Susie excitedly. “Hank Jeffreys, our child psychologist, says he has a case you might want to see. Looks like we’re finally having something interesting happen around here.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “There’s this girl coming here that killed her piano teacher or something like that.”

            I shuddered. “Really?”

            “Yeah. They think she’s psychotic or something so they’d figured they’d send her to Hank. He’s one of the best child psychologists in the state.”

            “I’ve heard about him.”

            “He wants you to be present at his interview with the girl.”

            “Let me finish my coffee and we can go.” Susie and I took the elevator up to the fifth floor. Usually I don’t like to take elevators, but since I was with Susie I did.

            Dr. Jeffreys’s office was spacious and slightly messy. The curtains were up but there was not much of a view outside the window because the sky was covered with dull gray clouds. Dr. Jeffreys’s secretary, Judy, motioned me to a large, dark brown chair. It was a lot more comfortable than the gray swiveling chair in my cubicle.

            Dr. Jeffreys was a large, fifty-something man with friendly brown eyes and a well-kept beard. His chestnut hair was balding and turning gray. After the necessary introductions, Susie and Judy left the room, leaving me alone with Dr. Jeffreys. “So, Martina, where did you go to school?” he asked me.


            “Ah, that’s a wonderful school. My wife went there. She really loved it.”

            “Where did you go?” I asked. Before I could find out, Judy called to Hank from her desk.

            “I’ve got Paul from the police station on the phone. He wants to know if he can bring the girl over now.”

            “Sure. When will she be here?”

            “About ten to fifteen minutes.”

            She actually showed up twenty-seven minutes later, at 10:03. She was a thin, intense teenage girl with messy brown hair and deep green eyes. She wore a plain black shirt and black jeans. She was not beautiful, strictly speaking, but there was was something in those fiery green eyes that made you unable to look away.

            “She refused to come here unless we let her wear something black. We had to get her mother to bring over some black clothes for her before we could get her to leave.”

            “Thanks for bringing her, Paul. This is my intern, Martina Chen.”

            “Nice to meet you, Ms. Chen. You’re in for quite a shock,” Paul said, smiling a bit. “If she tries anything funny, Hank, you just let me know.” Paul went out, leaving us alone with the girl.

            “I’m Dr. Hank Jeffreys. This is my intern, Martina Chen.”

            “I know.”

            “What’s your name?”

            “I’m Sara Reiniger.”

            A shadow passed across Dr. Jeffreys’s face. “Will you have a seat, Sara?”

            “Will you let me see my husband?”

            “The record says you’re not married.”

            “That’s a lie.”

            “It also says your last name is Edelstein.”

            “It was until I got married.”

            “When was that?”

            “April 22.”

            “Can you tell us what happened that day?”

            Sara sat down on a black stool next to Dr. Jeffreys. “This chair might be more comfortable,” he suggested, gesturing to a chair similar to mine.

            “I like this color better.”

            “Can you tell us what happened on April 22?”

            “Yes. I shot my beloved. Then I married him as he was dying.”

            I gasped. “How did you marry him?” Dr. Jeffreys asked.

            “It was a spiritual marriage. A marriage of love. There were no priests or rabbis or anything but it didn’t matter because he’s a god.”

            “You believe Mr. Reiniger is a god?”

            “I know it.”

            “What leads you to believe this?”

            “He told me.”


            “He appeared to me in my room one night when I was trying to pray. He said all the prayers my parents had taught me were false. He said all I had to do was believe in him and he would save both of us.”

            “Was Mr. Reiniger physically present in your room, Sara?”

            “No. He was spiritually present.”


            “I know what you’re going to say, Dr. Jeffreys. You’re going to say that I was hallucinating. You’re going to say I’m delusional. That’s just the term you medical people use to keep people like me and my husband, special people, in check.”

            “You consider yourself special? How so?”

            “I can see things and feel things you people can’t even imagine. When my husband comes back from the dead, when he comes to save me, we will laugh at all the normal people like you who tried to keep us in subjugation.”

            “When do you expect Mr. Reiniger to return from the dead?”

            “He did not tell me. I am sure he will tell me later.”

            “Have you spoken to Mr. Reiniger since his death?”

            “Last night he came to my prison cell. He told me I had to be strong because people like you were going to try to take my love away from me, they were going to torture me, and I had to hold on to my love because he loved me and he would save me.”

            “Nobody’s trying to hurt you, Sara,” Dr. Jeffreys said quietly. “We just want to help you.”

            “Then let me see my husband.”

            “I can’t do that for you.”

            “Why not?”

            “His wife doesn’t want anyone to see the body except close friends and family.”

            “I was his closest friend. I am his wife! That woman who pretended to be his wife wasn’t even faithful to him!”

            “How do you know that?”

            “It came to me in a dream a few weeks ago. I saw her and this other guy kissing and then they tried to kill me and my beloved. I tried to stop them by lighting a newspaper on fire and waving it at them but my husband stopped me. He said their time had not come yet. I asked him if he wanted to die because they were advancing on him with a knife. He said yes. Then I woke up.”

            “Do you believe Mr. Reiniger wanted you to kill him?”


            “How did he tell you?”

            “Well, the dream suggested it to me, but I couldn’t act on a mere suspicion. When I became certain was after this benefit concert we were giving to help stop starvation in Africa.”

            “What happened at the concert?”

            “My beloved was playing Bach’s Oboe Concerto in D minor. It’s our favorite song. When he played the first movement, the allegro, I saw all the suffering he had endured in this life just so he could be with me. In the adagio I heard the sweetness and passion of our love. If I had ever doubted he loved me, I did not doubt it then. It was in the presto that he revealed his desire for me to kill him. I wasn’t sure at first but then I realized there was no other way. He played it with such sorrow and intensity, and during one of the most passionate passages he looked right at me. I could see that his enemies were going to kill him first, they were going to torture him to death, and I had to kill him quickly before they got the chance. His death was the only way that he might return from the dead to save us.”

            “Did it occur to you that Mr. Reiniger might just have been playing the song that way for some other reason? Perhaps he was upset at the hunger in Africa?”

            “Perhaps he was. That was why he had to die, so that he can return to save all the suffering people of the world. And I will be his queen.”

            “Do you consider yourself a queen, Sara?”

            “Not yet. Perhaps I am a princess.”

            “Are you aware that your name means princess in Hebrew?”

            “Yes I am. Eight years of Hebrew School and that’s pretty much all I learned. That, and a bunch of lies about their God.”

            “Do you belong to any religion?”

            “I am a follower of my husband.”

            “Supposing I could prove to you that he is not a god?”

            “I would not believe you. I would know you are lying because you don’t want me to love him.”

            “How would you describe your love for him?”

            “Passionate, tender…It’s hard to explain.”

            “How does loving him make you feel?”

            “Infinitely happy.”

            “Even though you can’t be with him?”

            “I know I will be with him.”

            “Where did you first meet Mr. Reiniger?”

            “He was my oboe teacher since the eighth grade.”

            “What grade are you in now?”


            “Do you like school?”

            “I’m the best in my class.”

            “That didn’t answer my question.”

            “When I’m thinking about him I’m happy. If that happens in school, I like school. When they make me think about something else, I don’t like it.”

            “How long has your obsession with Mr. Reiniger been going on?”

            “Obsession? That’s another of your words that you use to try to destroy feeling. I loved him since I met him.”

            “Have you ever had a boyfriend?”

            “I went to the eighth grade graduation dance with this guy Jeremy Tomson. It was mostly because he was the smartest boy in the grade and I was the smartest girl, so every expected us to go together.”

            “Did you love him?”

            “No. I hated the whole dance. I just tried to make myself like it. Now I see dances like that, like prom and junior formal, they’re just gathering places for the normal to meet and pretend their lives have meaning.”

            I began to speak. “Are you suggesting that no life can be meaningful without…”

            “Insanity? Yes, Mrs. Chen, that is exactly what I am suggesting.”

            “How did you know I was married?”

            “I could see it in your eyes. Tell me, Mrs. Chen, have you ever been in love?”

            “I love my husband.”

            “I mean really in love. But I guess not.”

            “Sara, how do you feel at this moment?” Dr. Jeffreys asked.

            “Scared, of what you will do to me. But also happy, because I am still in love.”

            “Do you miss Mr. Reiniger?”

            “Yes I do. Have you not noticed that I dress in black? I am in mourning. I will be in mourning until my husband returns to save me.”

            “Sara, do you have any history of mental illness?”

            “Well, I guess I was first suicidal in the fourth grade. It’s come and gone since then. By the time I was in high school I knew I was crazy. I was never diagnosed with anything because I hid it so well from my parents.”

            “How do you get along with your parents?”

            “Very well. My friends are always complaining about their parents. I’ve never been grounded in my life.”

            “What do your parents do?”

            “You mean their jobs? My mother is a special education teacher at a high school. My father is a copyright lawyer.”

            “Do you do any extracurricular activities?”

            “I’m on the debate team, the math team, the literary magazine, and the newspaper. I take SAT prep classes…”

            “What about your music?”

            “Let’s not talk about that.”

            “Why not?”

            “Because you can’t possibly understand.”

            “Tell me anyway.”

            “All right. I am the star musician in the school band. I am the second oboist in the Chesterfield County Orchestra. I’m really the best oboist ever, after my husband, but they can’t recognize real talent at the County Orchestra.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “They put me as second oboe. Then this senior, who can’t even play very well, they gave her the solo in the arrangement of South Pacific we were playing. I’m not in that orchestra now anyway. I figure they’re making me drop everything now that I’m a murderer.”

            “Do you feel sorry for what you did?”

            “No. Of course it makes me upset, but then I remember it was what my husband asked me to do.”

            “So you consider yourself innocent?”


            “All right. Martina, will you call in Paul? He’s right outside.”

            I went outside to get Paul. He came in and sat on the chair that Sara had refused to occupy.

            “Paul, by all my accounts this girl is suffering from a severe mental illness. She is definitely presenting with symptoms of schizophrenia. It is possible that she suffers from a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder as well, although further analysis of her psychiatric history would be necessary to determine that. Can we arrange a meeting with one of her parents?”

            “I think it will be possible,” said Dr. Jeffreys. “Martina, you may go now.”

            As I left the office, Sara looked at me. It was a look of hatred and pity, and perhaps the faintest glimmer of love. It was like she saw through the façade of happiness I presented to some darker truth of my life. I thought I was happy, but Sara didn’t believe that anyone could be happy living a normal life. Maybe she was right.


            It’s been over a year now, and I’m pregnant with my first child. I’m now a full-time employee with Richmond Criminology Associates. I love my husband and I love my life. Sara Edelstein was deemed not guilty of the murder of Samuel Reiniger by reason of insanity. She was committed to a psychiatric hospital after the trial. I haven’t seen her in eight months, but I still think about her. I remember her stare. I’ve downloaded the Bach Oboe Concerto in D minor for my iPod. Whenever I hear the Presto, with its tragic intensity, I think of Sara. Her dark beauty will live in my memory for many years.


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