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Authors: Jane Berentson

Long Division

BOOK: Long Division
Table of Contents
JANE BERENTSON grew up in rural Washington State. She is currently working on an MS in adolescent Spanish education at Pace University and teaching high school Spanish. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Praise for
Long Division
“With humor and heart, Jane Berentson paints a vivid portrait of Annie Harper. Charming, complicated, and very real, Miss Harper is a new kind of woman on the home front.”
—Shari Goldhagen, author of
Family and Other Accidents
“A clever, deftly written novel.”
Kitsap Sun
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street,
New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.
Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700,
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.)
Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
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(a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.)
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(a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.)
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
Published by Plume, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Previously published in a Viking edition as
Miss Harper Can Do It
First Plume Printing, July 2010
Copyright © Jane Berentson, 2009 All rights reserved
The Library of Congress has catalogued the Viking edition as follows:
Berentson, Jane.
Miss Harper can do it: a novel / by Jane Berentson.
p. cm.
eISBN : 978-1-101-45609-5
1. Young women—Fiction. 2. Diaries—Authorship—Fiction. 3. Long-distance
relationships—Fiction. 4. Soldiers—Fiction. 5. Self-realization—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3602.E7515M57 2009
813'.6—dc22 2008041836
Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

For all teachers and all soldiers, but mostly for my
parents, Dan and Susan Berentson, who are each
technically neither, but in many ways, both.
oday I'm calling my book
Wartime Alone Time: When Abstinence Fights for Freedom
. Technically, presently, it's still called
, and it's a Microsoft Word document I created on my computer three days ago. To celebrate the commencement of my writing career, I had purchased a bottle of moderately priced scotch and settled down to my laptop with a loosely knit wool scarf draped dramatically around my shoulders. I don't particularly enjoy scotch, but drinking it seemed to be the right kind of tortured artist thing to do. It was raining a good, thick curtain of Washington rain outside, and I watched drips of water scoot and slide down my kitchen window. I thought:
Now am I supposed to describe these raindrops and then draw together some sort of complicated metaphor where they're, like, representing my life?
Then I turned to my blank screen and typed:
I saved the file and closed the computer. I took my glass of scotch to the sink and tossed it down the drain. It just didn't feel right. I was going about this all wrong. So now, with a whopping three days of perspective under my belt, I'm ready to really bust out the words. My memoir: my rules. (My memoir rules!) 1. There must be a title. 2. I must abandon my inhibitions; abstain from analyzing my intentions; and simply GO GO GO. 3. I can always fix it later; scrub out the shocking indignities and shine up any shards of integrity, intelligence, or humor.
I think
Wartime Alone Time
has a certain snap to it. I can imagine Tom Ashbrook or Katie Couric pronouncing it nice and slow—crisp and clear on the
sounds. Media professionals can make any title sound sophisticated and weighty.
Today we're talking to Annie Harper, a courageous young woman who will discuss her new book,
Wartime Alone Time: When Abstinence Fights for Freedom,
a poignant, fresh memoir recounting the year she and her boyfriend, a U.S. Army soldier, spent apart while he was serving in Iraq. Thank you for joining us, Annie . . .
Oh, it is my great pleasure to be here, Katie.
Like Ms. Couric would endorse a book that is anything less than poignant. The president will read it too. He'll have to. Even though I plan on making fun of him about a million times. Even though I'm going to rip apart all of his decisions and all of his speech patterns and all of his everything that just might lead to the man I love being killed whilst driving a truckload of toilet paper across Baghdad—old W. will still read it. And then he'll invite me over for dinner at the White House to have some sort of civil, intelligent conversation. I'll wear something very nice and chat it up with the first family.
What a fetching necklace, Laura. Jenna, don't you just love this wine?
They will all certainly adore me. W. will stand, raise his glass, and toast Annie Harper, peace, and the American Soldier. And by the time I leave, I'll have convinced his sorry ass to reimburse me for the hefty therapy bill I will accrue this year while David is gone.
And as for the
When Abstinence Fights for Freedom
part of the title, it's an aspect of wartime coping that's recently fascinated me. David will be gone for at least 392 days on a mission that is supposed to be saving people and helping them. Something that is supposed to be working toward big abstractions like freedom and peace and progress. A considerable laundry list for 392 days, that's for sure. Not that I'm a big counter or anything, but he did tell me and I did remember. Three hundred ninety-two days equals thirteen menstrual cycles, but only two times paying my car insurance. It all depends on how you look at it. But right now, in the early stages, I'm a little hung up on nature. I keep thinking about the grandly arrogant act of taking two happily mating creatures and ripping them apart for a significant length of time. David and I have been living blissfully for over two years in the great barking zoo that is Tacoma, Washington. We've been galloping back and forth to one another's respective dwellings (mine a tiny one-bedroom rambler; his a dank, unadorned officer's apartment on base), picking mites from each other's hair and swapping bushy pieces of bamboo: peaceful inhabitants under a shared dome of safety. Thriving in our contained, functioning ecosystem! And now someone has stepped in, and for reasons I don't entirely understand (because I am such a simple animal), shipped him across the world to another, more volatile, cage. So because I keep thinking about this zoo creature business, I keep thinking about this: Aside from 392 days of worrying and missing and taming my imagination and counting my lucky stars, it will be 392 days of no sexual intercourse (
When Abstinence Fights for Freedom
). Commence the repression of all mating urges now! So now when I watch or read something about Lonesome George—that poor, poor mateless creature
—I can raise my drink (not scotch) in a toast of solidarity. To our celibacy, Georgie! To our thick, thick skin!
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