hot flash. When she reaches for the door handle too soon, she stumbles,
right foot over left, and smacks into the door.
“Are you all right?” I ask. When I reach to touch her, she backs away
like a dog who is a stranger to me.
“Of course I am,” she says. She taps the gem-shaped bump on her
Exhausted, George slides between us and falls onto the bed. Beanie
leaps out from under the bed and nudges his feet with her nose.
Is the evidence on Patty’s face? Her left eye twitches. Our father was
good at hiding bad habits. Smoking covers up liquored breath, as do
peanut-butter sandwiches. Same with coffee. Dark sunglasses disguise
saggy, hungover eyes during morning drives. He only ever had to lie a
little bit. I always believed him. I’m easily duped. He didn’t lie to deceive
but to buffer. In the hospital, he told me not to worry. “Worrying’s for
parents, not children.” His arms were wormy with tubes as machines
clicked and hummed. Our mother was gone by then—married to someone new, a dry religious type. They moved to Trinidad so he could run
conversions, and she, as one of his success stories, could teach at the
small school. Soon Dad went too, but somewhere else, farther away than
Trinidad, to heaven or hell or neither, while Patty was off earning her
degrees and marrying lousy Paul, the book only a seed in her mind.
Patty clasps my shoulders and smiles. “I’m such a ninny. I didn’t eat
dinner. I was waiting for you. I’m feeling a bit faint is all.”
“I’m starved,” I say. The baby taps the walls inside me like Me too.
“I’ll heat up some leftovers.”
In the kitchen, she microwaves some steak and vegetables.
“George is going out of town tomorrow for work.” I break a soft carrot between my teeth.
“It’ll be just the two of us, then.”
If my mouth weren’t stuffed with food, I’d moan.
“I can give him a ride if you like.” She puts her hand over mine. Is this
burying the hatchet? That phrase strikes me as suddenly morbid, like
planting a murder weapon in the backyard beneath your favorite tree.
But Patty is not a murderer, and my backyard has only one tree: a wimpy
oak infested by parasitic beetles, which is why it uprooted itself from the
soil and toppled over during the earthquake, as if it just couldn’t fight
“George would love that. Thank you.”