Smith College in the 1970s was a mecca for women’s lib. Billie Jean King, who was not a Smith alum, and Gloria Steinem, who was, were the heroines of the hour. Courses in Women’s Studies were popular on campus, and the young ladies who attended Smith were not necessarily such ladies as their parents and professors wanted to believe they were.

The Mourning Kill flows through Saratoga County, New York. It starts in Ballston Spa and flows westward, crossing Middle Line Road and then wending its way along Hop City Road and Route 67 toward Amsterdam before it finally dissolves into the earth.


Teri Lyn, Cecilia and Maggie met at their freshman Convocation ceremony at Smith College in 1974. It was a beautiful day, and Convocation was outdoors in the Quad; if it had been raining, they would have transplanted the ceremony to John M. Green Hall. Teri Lyn, always the science geek, lived in Morris House, which was near the new Science Center; she would haunt the halls of Sabin-Reed as a biological sciences major almost from Day 1. Cecilia majored in Government and lived in Emerson House, which in the Quad and hosted a Medieval Banquet every Christmastime; that fact was what had enticed her to live there. Maggie, who loved the library, lived in Chapin House, right in the center of the campus and right next door to the Nielsen Library, the main library on the Smith campus. These three girls all came from money

“Do you remember our roast beef and Yorkshire pudding Thursday dinners at Smith?”

“Oh, yes. I wonder if they still serve them? I loved the Smith Yorkshire pudding. Someone always had a professor at the house for dinner on Thursdays. I remember one time Ms. Shearer came to have dinner with Jenna. She spent the entire time talking with Robin.” Teri Lyn grabbed the Spode teapot and took it to the screened porch.

“Really?! I remember Ms. Shearer; I had her for that one biology class I took. She was always lovely. I can’t believe she did that to Jenna.” Cecilia, who never liked biology, carried a plate of cookies

“Oh yes. I was at the table. Jenna’s contribution to the conversation was to ask if she wanted more coffee; the poor girl couldn’t say much more since Ms. Shearer was so engrossed with Robin.”

“Wow. That was pretty rude of her.” Maggie scowled. Her nickname at Smith had been “Emily Post.”

“Then there was Ms. Benhurst. Remember her? The swimming coach?” Cecilia giggled. “I thought she was a riot.”

“I never swam much. I sank like a rock.” Maggie sank into the cushions and poured tea over the ice and mint in her tall glass.

“I did. Ms. Benhurst was okay; she and I never got on very well, but she did hire me to lifeguard, so I was happy.” Teri Lyn stretched back against the cushions.

“What was your problem with her?” Cecilia asked.

“I developed the stroke for the main piece one semester and she gave someone else the choreographic credit for it. I always thought that sucked.”

“Did she know you created the stroke?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, then, you have no reason to say it sucked if you didn’t make sure she knew.”

“I know. But it did.” Teri Lyn poured tea for herself and Cecilia and sighed over the slight of years ago.

“Do you remember those godawful laundry machines in the basement?” It was high time to change the subject, Teri Lyn thought. “We used to take our typewriters down there for some peace and quiet to write papers. I remember this one paper I wrote for Ms. Shearer on the behavior of pregnant Rattus norvegicus. This rat got pregnant while I was studying the colony and got really tied up in her babies. She didn’t let anyone near them.”

“I remember I was scared of the basement. It always creeped me out.” Maggie gave a small shudder.

“Oh, I know. It was creepy, especially after that girl got attacked on campus. But you have to admit, it was the best place to write a term paper. No one else was there.” Cecilia

“Yes, but I always wrote my term papers in the science building. No one else was there, either. Especially late at night.” Teri Lyn

“Yeah, well, you had a key, didn’t you.”

“I did, yes.”

“Do you remember pulling those all-nighters to write our papers? God, we were stupid.” Cecilia

“Oh yes, I absolutely remember those. I still haven’t caught up on my sleep!” Maggie laughed.

“Ha! So I’m not alone in that, hmmm?” Teri Lyn gently put her cup back on its saucer and set them down before she turned and put her hand gently on Maggie’s thigh.

The three women looked at each other thoughtfully.

“Do you remember the fun we had with each other?” Teri Lyn asked wistfully. “I loved the softness we shared. I miss it.”

“Teri Lyn, we can’t think about that. That was a college experiment. We didn’t know who we were or who we wanted to become, remember? We tried a lot of faces on, and we settled on a lifestyle. We’re married women now. Have been for years.” Maggie moved away from Teri Lyn’s touch.

“I know. But I do miss you. Both of you.”

“Well,” said Cecilia, “We’ll now adjourn to the meeting of the Smithies. Mojitos and mimosas in the dining room, ladies.”

“Ah, our new ethanol punch. Remember our ethanol punch parties in the bio lab?” Teri Lyn laughed.

The doorbell rang. The maid answered it. “Hi Michael,” she said.

“Hi Maria. Can I go in and talk to my mom?”

“Sure; go on in. The ladies are in the dining room. Leave your bike outside.”

“Hey, Ma, remember I told you I was going to study to Amelia? We have a test tomorrow.”

“Your room is a tornadic disaster, Michael. Go clean it. Now.” Cecilia scowled at her son.

“Ma…no. I have a test I have to study for. I promised Amelia we’d study together today.”

“Michael, go home and clean your room. Now. You also need to take the trash out and feed the cats.”


“Now!” Turning to the Smithies, “Where were we?”

“I remember those ethanol punches. Remember Mr. Moriarty wondering where the ethanol from his lab went?” Teri Lyn met Michael’s eyes as she spoke.

“God! Do I ever! He grilled me about it that one time, remember? I thought my goose was cooked.” Cecilia leaned back and closed her eyes.

They drank mimosas and mojitos in silence.

“Speaking of cooked geese, ladies you are both cooked in alcohol. I’m going to have my driver take you home. We’ve had a few too many double M’s for driving. I’m going to take a nap.”

Maria came in to clear the drinks as the three Smithies snoozed.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Michael’s room was a tornadic disaster. It took him all afternoon, but he got it clean, and his other chores done. He then dialed Amelia’s number from the house phone; “I’m on my way,” he told her when she answered.

“OK. I’m here waiting for you,” she replied, and hung up.

The sun shone into Michael’s squinting eyes as it settled into the evening horizon. He rode his bike on the newly tarred road, its pungent smell and the brightness in his eyes distracting him from steering the bike. Santana’s Smooth[1] played on the Walkman® tape player hitched to his handlebars. The road was surprisingly flat and straight for a back road in upstate New York. Its only curve hid his view of Amelia’s house. The handgrips on his bike were slightly slippery from his sweating palms, sweating not only from the warm sun on his skin but also from his nervous anticipation of all she said she would let him do.

Michael lost himself in his fantasy as he thought about feeling for the first time the curves of her young body. He dreamily reminisced about his trysts and his initial ineptitude with a woman. His groin reacted to the images of her in his mind, and he pedaled faster.

A car slowed down, the driver watching the bicycle waver, watching the air rising, shimmering from the hot tar on the road.

Amelia trembled a little as she spread the pink and white rose petals on the sheets covering her full-sized bed. Her full body trembled in anticipation, waiting for Michael. The radio played a soft, romantic love song. She was in love for the first time. She had met him in her ninth-grade English class this year. He was so cute; he had blond hair and hazel eyes, long, nimble fingers that played the piano with such a yearning that it brought tears to her eyes. She smiled a gentle smile as she thought of his touch on her hair, his fingers trembling on her cheek at their first kiss. She knew he was the love of her life; they would be together forever.

She wondered what would happen when he rode his bike into her driveway. Her parents were gone for the weekend and she had the house to herself. This would be the perfect time for her to learn to be a woman for the first time. She loved the way he treated her, the way he held her and whispered how he loved her in her ear. She melted in his arms when he told her how beautiful her eyes were, how lustrous her hair was, how translucent and clear her skin was. She wanted nothing more than to be sure that Michael was happy in their romance. That thought scared her: he was already wise in the ways of womanhood and she didn’t know whether she would meet his expectations. He had told her that he was proficient in giving a woman pleasure. At the time, she had been curious about how he could do that; she asked him to teach her, and he had said yes. She had touched herself before, and it felt good. Would he give her that pleasure? Would his touch be better than her own? Some of her girlfriends had lost their virginity; one of them had told her that it had hurt. Would Michael hurt her? She couldn’t believe that he would; he said he would be very gentle with her because she wanted so badly for this to be wonderful for both of them. She looked longingly toward the hill in the road for him to appear on his bicycle.

Michael’s anticipation of bedding Amelia grew and intensified as he pedaled toward her house. He knew that, after he went into her trailer park, he would see her single-wide with her in the window waiting for him. He pedaled faster.

Suddenly, Michael was propelled into the air. A car whooshed past him, catching his falling body on its trunk as he fell from the impact. A blood puddle grew on the shimmering asphalt and Michael was gone.

[1] Santana, Carlos: Smooth. ©1999. Lyrics available on