Tom Dollop turned to his wife, Violet, in the middle of the night, pushed himself up close to her milky warmth and slid his hand delicately over the satiny knoll of her belly.
     “How are you feeling?” he whispered.
     “Wary,” she replied, slowly opening he eyes.
     “I don’t know,” Violet said, yawning as sweetly as a cat.  “I expect I was dreaming.”
     “About being wary?” Tom asked her.
     “In my dreams, it’s always a risky, unusable world,” Violet told him. “Things that were solid melt and shift, and things that were soft and supple harden as solid as cement.”
     “Well it is like that.  And not just in your dreams either.  You know what I was just thinking about?  That big crazy girl I told you about on the subway, the one with the cake and the stupid dog.
     “That’s odd,” she said, rubbing her eyes.  “What time is it?”
     “The witching hour,” smiled Violet.
     “Listen,” he told her, “I don’t believe in witching hours.”
     “Oh, well, actually either do I,” she said, snuggling back down into her pillow.
     “Let’s make love,” he said.  “Sweetly and gently.  Lovely, sleepy sex, dear Violet.  Won’t that make things less risky and shifty and unstable?”
     “Maybe,” she said.
He took her gently in his arms.  A siren hurled by two streets away.  Three dogs began barking, all of them quite near the house.
     “I like it when you hold me before we make love”, she tells him.
     “I thought women liked to be held afterwards.”
     “Yes, that too.” 
     Her belly ripples slightly as he moves his hand down to the soft triangle of hair between her legs, spindrift, he thinks, unable to remember where he’d read the word, but just liking the sound of it for her there.  It was something about sailing, or about the sea.  She sighs and opens her legs a little. 
     He is hard and it always feels so great, so expansive, to be hard.  He lifts his stiff cock from his jockey shorts and bends it over against her public hair, holding it there—an arrangement, a configuration in erotic space, the archetypal figure-ground projection.  He suddenly notices how quiet it is now in the bedroom and in the house itself and in the neighbourhood.  And in the city.  Who knows, he thinks, how far this plush silence extends?
     “Sometimes it’s thicker, and that’s so nice”, she says, gazing up at him.  “And then sometimes it’s longer.”
     “Not so nice?” he asks her.
     “No, that’s nice too”, she tells him.
He’s grateful.  He’s also a bit relieved.  But there’s a rind of worry, just a rough little edge of something unquiet and unresolved, starting up in his head.
     “Did you turn the furnace down?” Violet asks him.
He gets out of bed.  He likes to be useful.  He likes to be active.  He likes to do what needs to be done.  He goes downstairs.  Violet returns to sleep.
     Three days later, they are having Sunday morning Dim Sum at The Noble Restaurant, their favourite Cantonese restaurant, on Dundas Street West near Spadina. 
     They have finished the first four sevenths of their Dim Sum selection when the waitress deftly adds the final three dishes to their table—three puffy, barbecued pork buns—like hot snowballs, three little deep-fried bars of tofu (each surmounted by a pink, hat-like mastication of mashed shrimp), slices of turnip cake, and a spiky dish of flash-fried squid tentacles, Violet’s favourite.
     Tom spears a slab of turnip cake and saws it in half with his chopsticks.  He loves turnip cake.
     “You know,” he says to Violet—who detests turnip cake—“I bet these bacon bits sprinkled all through this stuff come out of a bottle.”
     “I’m sure of it,” she says.
     Then they begin talking again about having children.
     “For one thing, they cry all the time”, says Tom, lifting a pork bun out of its bamboo steamer and onto his plate.
     “They only cry if there’s something wrong.”
     “There’s always something wrong”.
     “Oh that’s not true”, Violet says, more defensively than she really meant to be.
     They eat in silence. 
     “There are always lots of parents with children here,” Violet observes at last, glancing around at their fellow diners.  She waves at a Chinese boy who looks to be about three, and he enthusiastically waves back.  It makes her feel warm and cozy.
     “Isn’t he cute?” she asks Tom.
     “The little boy over there in the turquoise sweater”.
     “Ummm,” he says, absently chewing on a squid tentacle.  Violet waves again.  This time the boy doesn’t notice.  She is crestfallen.
     Just then a couple seats themselves at a table opposite their table, against the far wall.  They have two children, a girl about five and a toddler of some indefinite toddler age, but old enough to require packing upright into a highchair.  Violet is expecting the young man and his wife to go on adjusting their children when, much to her amazement, the husband suddenly leaves off with the kiddos and, walking around to his wife’s side of the table, plants a long, solid kiss on her forehead.  Prim feels something akin to shock.  What is it?  The specificity of the act?  Its deliberation? 
     Tom notices too.
     “Now there’s a good marriage!” he says.  He means it more or less as a joke.
     “Yes,” Violet agrees.  And she feels like weeping.