Before the earthquake, George slept. I stared at my phone in the dark.
I was done with my first trimester and buzzed with cataclysmic energy.
I read about every impending disaster: coral reefs bleached like teeth,
dormant volcanoes erupting in the Pacific, waters rising and drowning
cities, contagions coating lettuce and broccoli, birds vanishing as if swallowed by passing planes. Our cat, Beanie, did her nightly rounds. She’s
gone dotty in her senility and shrieked as she prowled the house. Her
alarms were not meant to warn us. Cats only look out for themselves.
But Beanie must have felt some movement undetectable to humans and
divined a foreign strangeness in her small world.
In the morning, while Beanie and I take shelter in the car, George
calls the insurance company. Neither of us is talented in the ways of
adulthood, but he tends to it anyway. House stuff, money stuff. The baby
tut-tuts in my gut, as if she knows just what kind of mess we’re in.
A fireman knocks on the window for me to join him in the driveway.
“It’s been some time since I’ve seen so much damage to just one house,”
he says. The neighboring single-story bungalows are marred by a few
spider-veined fissures, while ours is cracked and wet and full of holes.
Our neighbors’ children run across their lawn as if the whole occasion
is fun. He loosens the collar of his yellow rubber jacket. “It’s like your
house was built over a hot spot.”
“Maybe it sits on the gate to hell,” I say.
He looks at me like I am so weird. “Don’t I know you from some-
The fireman can’t have heard the album that was supposed to be my
big break, critically panned commercial failure that it was.
“I don’t suppose you’re a fan of obscure art rock?”
“You paint rocks?”
Then his face flashes recognition. “I know! I saw you on Linda’s Latte
Hour.” He gushes about how much he loved the segment on estranged
I haven’t seen my sister Patty since April, when she asked me to appear on Linda’s Latte Hour to promote her memoir, Sisters in Silence.
Patty is a therapist to the fabulously wealthy, formerly radical hippies of
Marin County. Sisters in Silence is four hundred pages of confessional
trash mining our family trauma for sound bites. I was not eager to put
on an act of sorority on Linda’s Latte Hour, but George said it might help
Patty and me get back to a dependent, owed closeness. I think he just