: A Brief Pause :

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an excerpt by Amina Gautier

Three weeks after Roger's mother dies, we are having breakfast in our kitchen. Our table is cluttered with my stacks of admissions files for the college's incoming transfer students, so we pull our chairs up to the kitchen island and eat around large mixing bowls, hunching to keep from being beaned by the unused gleaming copper pots hanging just above our heads.

Roger has made this breakfast, though it is my turn, and he has made more than we can possibly eat. English muffins, blueberry waffles, scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and freshly brewed coffee-much more than the two bowls of cereal and two glasses of orange juice I usually pour. I am choosing between an array of fruit preserves-strawberry, red raspberry, blackberry, boysenberry-when Roger asks me to drive with him over to Brooklyn to help clear out his mother's apartment.

His face carefully hidden behind the Sunday paper, he pretends innocence when he asks, knowing this is not our arrangement. Behind me, on the kitchen table, lie the academic lives of prospective students. Hopeful and striving, after one or two years at their current institutions, they have decided that they can and should aim higher. Perfect and nearly perfect GPAs prove they are up for the challenge. Candid essays ask me to rescue them, to extricate them from their current schools-schools that were their safeties, schools they had to attend because they got wait-listed or sent their deposits in too late, schools their parents picked because they offered more scholarship money, because they were closer to home. My task is one of discernment. Less than two percent will make it in and it is my job to winnow them from the other ninety-eight percent, the chaff.