Keep Waterloo Weird

In this exclusive excerpt from WATERLOO, Karen Olsson’s forthcoming novel about life, love, and politics in a capital city that very much resembles our own, a candidate for governor arrives, an ex-congressman departs, and a reporter tries to make sense of it all.

HIS ABILITY TO PUT TASKS in sequence was the first thing to go. William Stanley Sabert, the former congressman, ambled into the kitchen, carrying in his good hand, the left one, a glass tumbler. With the weaker hand, the only partially recovered right, he pressed a sheaf of papers to his ribs, but not carefully enough: His attention slipped, and then the papers slipped; they fluttered to the floor. Pick them up, he told himself. He could not. Certain capillaries in his brain had gone dry; they dangled like shrunken empty gloves. He couldn’t pick up the legal pad pages he’d covered with notes or the hearing transcripts or—where did that come from?—the Christmas card that had slid out from the sprawl. The notion of retrieving all of it loomed and then faded, as showers of tiny particles, boluses, bits and pieces of the midbrain clot that had just exploded inside his head infiltrated the network of his vessels. He couldn’t pick up the pages on the floor because first he would have had to put the drinking glass down. He would have had to lean over. He would have had to reach for the papers and clasp them with his good hand. The sequence of steps had escaped him.

It was his third stroke, though, and he did have an idea of the enemy. He fought back. He’d come into the kitchen to fix something to eat. He intended to do that. No matter that making a sandwich was a more complex task than fetching the papers that had fallen. He opened the refrigerator and set his drinking glass on the top shelf, next to the orange juice. He closed the refrigerator. He took a bag of English muffins from the bread box, pulled open the oven door, and placed the bag inside the oven. Next, tuna fish—but as he straightened himself, Sabert saw only color, throbbing reds and greens. When the room returned, pale and blurry, his eyes were flooded. He touched his sleeve to his face.

Dishes sat in the sink; errant cashews and flakes of cereal lurked under the cabinets; mice lived in the bread box. And that was just the kitchen. There were also the hairs clouding the bathroom floor, the towels heaped in a corner, the bottle of chardonnay forgotten in the

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