She knew she did it well, had done this well almost all hernmarried life; she would spend days at it if she had to, justnto make it right. Still, every time the members of the GardennClub came to Alicia’s house, her mouth dried and her bellyntrembled.nEmployed as she was now, for the first time in her life anworking woman, Alicia understood she was suspect amongnthe lovely friends of a lifetime, who carried their age lightlynand chattered like girls. This made success here morenimportant. She had to be good at life precisely because shenwas now good at work. It was as if each small gain in othernareas increased her vulnerability, in some geometricallynenlarged arena of risk. She did not so much court as createnthese moments of insupportable tension, which were onlynsometimes followed by a measurable triumph. It wasnnecessary to win. Petty triumph, Alfred would have said.nWell, he was wrong.nThey would be here soon. Spilling into the house, thengirls would make a pretty spectacle: Janice and Maud, exoticnClarita, who had Spanish blood, and Elise. Alicia couldnhardly wait to see them, all those well-dressed friends of hernmarriage nodding and rustling in the slanting dust-fleckednsunlight, with their nails bright and their hair enhanced bynKit Reed’s most recent novel is Catholic Girls. She livesnin Middletown, Connecticut.n20/CHRONICLESnThe Garden ClubnA Short Storynby Kit Reednnntouches of bronze or gold. Murmuring, they would hug her,nthe living complement to her carefully designed rooms; thennthey would take off their coats and judge. Although theynwould have been astounded at the suggestion, competitionnwas the air they breathed. Smiling, they measured eachnother off. Alicia^ looked forward with love and fear to thenmoment when they finished their sherry and clustered innher dining room; judging the arrangement.nFor the arrangement was everything.nHow could she make the football hang in air above thenminiature goalposts on her polished table, forever indicatingnvictory: the means, or was it the emblem, eternally poised?nHow could she keep it in the air until they came? Couldnthey tell from the way she used her blues that Yale wasnsupposed to be the favorite? Would they know the rosesnsymbolizing Harvard were overblown by design, to signifynHarvard’s defeat? Even fulfilling the Garden Club guidelines—ncenterpiece. Football Brunch — she wasn’t sure shenhad it right.n^^Tt’s perfect,” Alfred said when he came down at dawnnJL today and discovered her in tears over the totteringngoalposts, the unstable ball.n”It’s not,” she said, afraid God would hear and takeneverything away. “. . . Is it?”n”Everything you do looks wonderful to me,” Alfred saidn