First edition | prose

First Edition features new original works by Northern California Jewish writers. Appearing the first issue of each month, it includes a poem and an excerpt from a novel or short story.

Her Wild Oats

by kathi kamen goldmark


They had met on Arizona’s twenty-third birthday in a tapas restaurant near Venice Beach. She was being toasted by her three best girlfriends; he was at the next table with a group from the law firm where he worked. They were all sleek, good-looking men, but Jerry stood out with his fit, toned physique, thick black curls, olive complexion, and startling blue eyes. One of the guys started flirting with one of the girls, and after the second pitcher of sangria someone else moved the two tables together and they became one noisy gang. After the third pitcher, Jerry stood up and tapped on his glass with a spoon. “I would like to propose a toast to a most beautiful birthday girl,” he said.

“Hear, hear,” everyone shouted. Some of them wolf-whistled, while others loudly told their friends to shut up. Jerry finally had to tell them to shut up.

“Right on, man; awesome.”

“Here’s to the astounding birthday-ness of this lovely lady,” he said at last. “Happy birthday to you, Miss Albuquerque!”

 “Um, her name’s Arizona,” said Ginger, a literate sort.

“Whatever,” Jerry slurred as he sat down with a thud, and Arizona smiled her thanks across the table.

After the party broke up, he proposed a stroll on the beach. They walked barefoot, holding their shoes while chilly ocean waves rolled over their toes. Jerry told her about his work at an entertainment law firm that specialized in intellectual property rights, his devotion to NBA basketball and his Lakers season tickets, his eccentric and very Jewish (but not religious) family. She told him about her equally eccentric and non-religious Jewish family, the amusing story of how she got the name “Arizona” (her eccentric parents were moving from New York to California, and she was born on a Greyhound bus that had just rolled over the state line), and how frustrating it was to be a college graduate looking for a job—any job—in the entertainment industry. He thought he might be able to help her get a foot in the door at a major studio, and she gave him her cell phone number. They parted with a friendly kiss and the promise to keep in touch.

He called the very next day with a lead—a friend who owed him a favor—and Arizona nailed her Hollywood dream job as executive assistant to Grayson Lathrop, head of Gargantuan Entertainment. The studio was riding high on the unprecedented success of its summer blockbuster, Fang! Arizona was catapulted into the crazy, glamorous world of corporate entertainment. She worked eighteen hours a day, handled the work load of three people, and loved every minute of it.

A couple of weeks after starting her job, Arizona had a rare evening free and invited Jerry out for a thank-you dinner. She went all out: bought a new dress, had her hair and makeup done, the works. He was smart and funny, he got her name right all night long, and this time their goodnight kiss was a lot more than friendly. That was when his courtship really began. Flowers and cards, singing telegrams and chocolate; endless emails popped into her inbox, professing endless love. They got married the following year, an elaborate affair with both eccentric Jewish families well represented. The Rabbi was a lifelong friend of Arizona’s parents: a barefoot hippie who played the guitar.

Three years rushed by in a flash. Then Jerry got an invitation to his high-school reunion, and Arizona couldn’t go because of her professional obligations to Grayson Lathrop—Fang II: Dental Revenge was in pre-production and there was just no way. Jerry went; she didn’t; he came back all glowing and gooey. Of all the friends he’d reconnected with, the one he mentioned the most was a woman named Stephanie, who by amazing coincidence also lived in the LA area. He talked about her an awful lot—until (and who would have thought this would be worse?) he stopped talking about her at all.

Stephanie started sending Jews for Jesus literature to Jerry’s office, along with who knew what else, and he brought the pamphlets home and patiently lectured Arizona about the Messiahship of Jesus being an unavoidable issue to Jews worldwide. When she answered, “OK, but a more pressing unavoidable issue at this moment is when you’re going to fix that broken step you’ve been promising to deal with for the last six months but you haven’t gotten around to it, and I almost killed myself on it the other day,” he got deeply insulted, saying she wasn’t taking his spirituality seriously. She said she thought there was a difference between spirituality and hitting someone over the head with evangelical fervor, which pissed him off. From her point of view, they used to laugh about stuff like this, but suddenly he had no sense of humor about anything anymore.

Kathi Kamen Goldmark was a singer, songwriter, radio producer and author who died of breast cancer in 2012 at the age of 63. She lived in San Francisco with her husband, Sam Barry, who was responsible for having her book publlished posthumously (Untreed Reads, June 2014).  A celebration of “Her Wild Oats” with authors  Barry, Amy Tan and Susanne Pari reading from the novel takes place at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 1 at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera.


Works may be submitted to fiction editor Ilana DeBare at or poetry editor Joan Gelfand at Fiction excerpts may run up to 2,500 words, but only 800 words will appear in the print edition, with the rest appearing online. All prose and poetry published to date can be viewed at