Saturday Feb 23

SuzanneSupplee Suzanne Supplee is the author of When Irish Guys Are Smiling, a Students Across the Seven Seas book (Speak/Penguin), Artichoke’s Heart (Dutton/Penguin), and Somebody Everybody Listens To (Dutton/Penguin). Suzanne earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from Southern Illinois University and a master’s in creative writing from Towson University. Her books have been honored on various state lists, including a 2011 Golden Sower Honor and the Louisiana Teen Choice Award. Somebody received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, and was named a 2011 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults. Suzanne has worked in education since 1993. She was an Alliance for Young Artists and Writers Gold Medal Portfolio Educator in 2015 and a Silver Medal with Distinction Educator in 2014 and 2015. She has been a teacher at Carver Center in the literary arts program since 2007 and department chair since 2012.
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Just This

      Yiddi Lancaster had never been one for eggs. The runny white glop, the glaring yolk, like an eye looking up at you from the skillet, but Charles liked them every morning, and it was their way now. Habit. Not much else to do but get up in the early hours, put on the no-skid sneakers, slip into the cold kitchen, grease the black skillet, and crack the egg. Always the same.

      What did any of it amount to? Eat. Sleep. All those other disgusting bodily things. Unmentionable things. Sex had been nice once, until it wasn’t. Raising children had seemed important. Until they were grown and made fun of you because you couldn’t find a TV station. One day the station was there, the next it wasn’t. Or, you didn’t text the grandchildren back. Who in God’s name wanted to type all that nonsense into a tiny screen when in return they sent those annoying cat faces and counted that as “talking to Granny”?

      Funny how she’d managed to whittle her life down to just this. The warm skillet. The pat of butter. The egg. A paper in the morning, thin though it was. Swap Shop in the afternoon. Church on Sunday, even if she wasn’t so sure about that God business any longer. No great tragedy had caused her rift with Him. She’d been a fortunate woman, after all. Children living. Husband, too. Roof over her head. Money enough. It was lonely not to have some omnipotent being “up there” and “watching over.” When her time came, there’d be nothing, she guessed. The great abyss, like being flung off a mountaintop.

      As the black skillet warmed, Yiddi opened the refrigerator and took out a jar of orange marmalade, a carton of juice, a bottle of ketchup, all of it gathered in her arms to save too many trips across the kitchen. Wood paneling and scuffed white tile and a “harvest gold” formica table, so old it was back in style, at least according to Lindsay. “Mom, you could sell this old thing on eBay and make a fortune!”

      “You can sell it on eBay after I’m dead,” Yiddi had told her, and that was the end of the conversation.

      Yiddi set the things down and glanced out the east-facing window. Cars in the distance with their flickering tail lights. People heading to work. She turned briskly and bumped the table with her thigh. The matching salt-pepper shakers, Mr. and Mrs. Claus puckered for a kiss, jumped as though goosed, but didn’t topple.

      From the cupboard she grabbed matching juice glasses with those strawberry vines painted on the sides. This, too, was part of the daily routine, yet each step was made with caution, as if the floor beneath might give way any second. When had Yiddi begun to move like this? The year she got bifocals, probably. Once she’d started wearing those, half the world was out of focus.

      And there it was, the flicker of memory, middle-aged Yiddi on a school night, camped out in the den to watch a program. She’d been after peace and quiet. How many times had she said such a ridiculous thing? I just need a little peace and quiet. But why? She’d stayed home all those years. By the time she was in bifocals, her children were high school-aged. Every day all day was mostly quiet and peaceful.

      They had been gold-rimmed bifocals, Yiddi remembered them clearly. If she bothered to look, they were probably still wedged in tight a drawer someplace. Yiddi put her hand on the kitchen table, closed her eyes, and paused as though to listen. Gordy clomping on those size eleven feet of his. Banging on the bathroom door. How clearly Yiddi could still hear such sounds in her imagination. There better be hot water left! Lindsay? Goddamn you! A few minutes later, Yiddi would hear the metallic click of the door then Lindsay scurrying to her pink bedroom at the end of the hall, leaving behind small puddles of water and a muggy bathroom.

      Both her children had retreated into adolescence as if hiding from the Nazis, and neither had ever returned to her. Some days it seemed Yiddi hardly knew them at all. Still, she’d been solely responsible for their care. Charles managed the finances, of course, but some days this seemed easy by comparison since Yiddi did everything else—breaking up their arguments and enforcing curfews, preparing meals, meeting with those prickly teachers who always seemed to nitpick over the silliest things. Doctor visits, camp forms, and orthodontics, which turned out to be a downright shameful waste of time and money. Neither of her children had worn those retention devices, and so their teeth retreated into their original, ill-formed patterns.

      With such care and precision Yiddi had managed her household. All those hours cleaning things—toilets and bathtubs and kitchen counters, all that mopping and disinfecting. This was where her life had gone. Funny to think of it now since these days she couldn’t care less what was tracked across the floor, unless it was spattered grease. Spattered grease might be the death of one of them. A broken hip was all it took.

      The skillet was too hot now. When Yiddi dropped in the pat of butter, it sizzled, and almost instantly turned a light shade of brown. With a flick of her wrist, she lowered the temperature, waited a few seconds, then removed a single egg from the carton, tapped it ever so gently against the rim, then winced at its repulsive sight. With the spatula she tested the edges, raised the temperature again, and felt some degree of relief when the time came to flip it over.

      Over medium was the way Charles liked his morning egg. While waiting for the yolk to harden, she made the mistake of glancing down at her feet. Fat spilled over the sides of her shoes, ugly shoes at that. Her eyes drifted upward and landed on her impossibly wide hips. Sit in a chair, and she could spread broad enough for two women, and no matter how others—ladies from the quilting group or those overly eager women at Weight Watchers—tried to spin it, fat was fat, and hers was not the pretty kind.

      Yiddi touched the center of the egg with the spatula, and determined it was hard now, possibly over-cooked. “Charles! Your breakfast!” she called, and carried his plate to the table.

      He was up now, her husband, shuffling about in his room. So much noise in the morning, wheezing and snorting, horse-like sounds. The man was filled with great gobs of snot—always clearing his throat and hacking things into the toilet.

      “Coming, Yid,” he yelled back, and she heard him move from bedroom to bathroom, not bothering to shut the door, and then the forceful stream of his urine hitting porcelain. “Hey, Yid! Guess what that Trump tweeted this morning. You won’t believe it.” No flushing, just the spigot squeaking on then off again, and the banging of the metal towel ring against the wall.

      “I. Don’t. Care,” Yiddi called back. She was sick to death hearing about it. Charles was all for phones and modern gadgets; he texted the grandchildren with great aplomb, thought those cat faces and nonsensical symbols were funny.

      “He’s telling people to lock her up,” Charles said, clearly gleeful.

      “Lock who up?” Yiddi shouted back at him. “Come eat your egg before it’s cold.”

      “That goddamned Hillary.”

      Yiddi bristled as if the insult at been directed straight at her. She grabbed the loaf of Sunbeam, undid the twisty, and stuffed two pieces of bread into the toaster. On second thought, she plucked them out again. The bread tasted better soft anyway, and besides she’d grown to dislike the smell of toast for some bizarre reason. How strange her ticks and quirks were in old age.

      “I don’t know why you don’t have some protein,” Charles said, scraping his chair across the floor. “It’s healthier.”

      He was a fit man, thin naturally. Plus, he exercised. A runner once, a walker now, brisk with his arms moving and his mouth open as if he couldn’t possibly take in enough air. Long ago, Yiddi had given up trying to match such a pace. Who knew what happened those afternoons when he was out there, among the living, walking so fast as to give the impression he was being chased by something.

      Charles sliced into the egg, and Yiddi watched as it bled yellow across the white plate.

      “Let’s head over to the mall today. I need socks,” Charles said. “I need some good white socks, cotton and thick. My feet are like blocks of ice year-round.”

      Yiddi wouldn’t know about this since they no longer slept in the same room. She shrugged and slathered marmalade onto the soft bread. How many calories? she wondered. Why was it actual bread seemed more fattening than toast? Charles ate his egg as though half-starved, shamelessly, Yiddi noted.

      Yiddi Lancaster’s first encounter with shame had come at age nine or ten down at Spangler Creek. It had been a sudden, cruel awareness of her body—breast buds, sore and chafing against the fabric of her green bathing suit top, and Norris, her younger cousin technically but only by only a few months, poking her there and grinning some way she would only later recognize as lecherous. He’d run away shrieking.

      “Goddamned pervert,” Doty, his sister, mumbled under her breath. “All of them a bunch of goddamned perverts.” She stalked over to the grassy bank, chest bouncing, barely clad bottom jiggling, and spread out a striped beach towel.

      Yiddi watched in awe as Doty flopped face down, unfastened the bathing suit top, tucked her arms so that they resembled chicken wings, and spread her legs wide enough to spill over the sides and onto the grass. When did Doty get titties? Yiddi wondered, appalled the nasty word had come so naturally to her, though the boys used that very term while on the playground: Yiddi might never get any titties! Tittiless Yiddi!

      “Run on and play, Yiddi,” Aunt Linda called to her. Aunt Linda was a rail of a woman, pale-skinned with slightly bulging eyes. Some years later, she’d fall headlong down the cellar steps, break her neck, and die a handful of days later, but on this June afternoon, Aunt Linda slathered on baby oil laced with iodine and smacked her Doublemint chewing gum. “Doty’s in one of her moods today, honey, so don’t bother her. Walk on down the creek a ways with Norris. There’s bound to be a little pool big enough to dunk yourself in.”

      As if on cue, Norris hollered, “Come look!” and then they heard a splash.

     “Just don’t let him hit you upside the head with a rock. You know how wild he gets.”

     Half-heartedly Yiddi walked down the mostly dry creek bed, the insides of her shoes gritty from the last time they’d come, except that was back in the spring, when the water gushed and they only waded in up to their kneecaps.

     From the high bank, Norris pushed off rotten logs and flung rocks at birds darting among the verdant brush. Above his head were thick vines and lacy patches of blue sky. From somewhere downstream there came the sound of a woodpecker, reverberations of its drilling pinging off tree trunks. Except, there was no stream, down or otherwise, no nice pool in which to dunk herself, just a suspicious looking slough of stagnant, green water. Yiddi squatted and focused her eyes on what lived beneath the surface, tiny creatures swimming about, unaware of Yiddi’s elephantine presence.

     “Hey, Yiddi,” Norris said, his voice a decibel lower than was normal.

     Yiddi turned and saw him standing on the ledge, swim trunks down to his knees, the arc of his urine catching a glint of sunlight. Even from this distance, she could make out his tiny penis, and it was as if someone had struck a match between her legs. She stared at him with wide eyes, lips slightly parted. He waggled his thing at her, then tugged up his trunks and latched onto the vine. With Yiddi watching, he swung far and wide.

      At the prospect of a trip in the car with Charles, even if only to the local mall, Yiddi’s mood brightened. Most weeks Blessed Angels, one of those services for the elderly, delivered their groceries. This was not necessary, of course. They weren’t that far gone, but Lindsay had arranged it as a Christmas present the previous year and paid a substantial amount. Being the frugal kind, Yiddi and Charles, decided to take advantage of it. Other than church there was hardly a need to drive anyplace at all these days.

       “Buckle up, buttercup,” Charles said, and winked at her. They settled into their bucket seats, and Charles started the engine. “We can have lunch in the food court. I like that Asian place.”

      “Gordy has a birthday coming. I want to get a card for him.”

     “A guy as good looking as me having a kid that old. Who’d a thunk it?” Charles smiled with those over-white veneers of his, and Yiddi switched on the radio.

     More news about Trump. And Hillary. All those emails. This election was the first time Yiddi had ever heard the word cankles. Her own ankles, cankles, she guessed, made her feel a vague kinship with the woman.

     “Boy howdy, another few weeks we’ll have us a real-deal president,” Charles said.

      Yiddi switched off the radio.

      They idled at the red light in town, and Charles glanced over at her. “Don’t tell me you’re voting for her?”

      Yiddi shifted in her seat, and clutched her pocketbook closer. “I didn’t say I was voting for anybody. You know I’m not a political sort of person.”

      Charles shook his head and took a left toward Sheppard’s Highway, and the Glout County Mall. “Well, if you don’t want the blacks taking over everything and the foreigners and the fags, you better vote for him.”

      They were quiet the rest of the way, but for some odd reason, Yiddi had that tight sensation in back of her throat, as if she were about to burst out crying. She gazed out the car window and imagined herself young again and standing over a steaming pot of chili.

      As she stirred, she thought to herself: I am married now. This sudden realization dinged inside her head like a cash register drawer snapping open. And then it occurred to her: I will never be alone. I am somebody’s wife. We are a couple. Never had she felt so giddy.

     It was soon after this that Charles’s employment at the car dealership had been suddenly terminated. No explanation. No forewarning. Just one morning he went off to work, pants pressed, tie neat, shoes shining, and then he was back again, well before lunch even. At the door Yiddi met him. She’d been on her way to the mailbox with a small stack of envelopes, freshly stamped and licked, her tongue still tasting of glue. “What are you doing home?” she asked, not quite happy to see him. She had just put a load of laundry in, and her stories would be on soon. Breakfast dishes were soaking in the sink, and Yiddi felt suddenly guilty over having lazed away her morning.

      “I’ve been sacked,” Charles said, and pushed past her.

      In the living room, Yiddi sat in the chair opposite Charles and wrung her hands at this unexpected news. She was the wife. She was supposed to say something wise and knowing; instead, she stared at him, utterly useless.

     “I have to tell you something,” Charles said. “You might as well hear it from me.”

      It was absurd to raise a girl to fear her body and all its complex parts then suddenly expect her to revel in them, or more accurately, to expect her to take some degree of pleasure in having another person revel in them. Charles wasn’t rough exactly, just matter of fact about where things went and how they ought to work. It’d seemed a necessary thing to endure, like having a permanent wave put in or standing still while the seamstress pinned the hem of a skirt. In time, however, she’d come around to liking sex. Certainly, she wasn’t a fiend, but lovemaking was a means of getting Charles’s undivided attention.

     When had Yiddi come around? Had it been before or after Charles’s misunderstanding with that person down at the dealership? In actuality, he’d told her very little that day when he returned home, and Yiddi didn’t ask questions. She had never been one to ask too many questions, this was just her way.

     A few weeks later, when Charles was safely secured in his father’s small lending company, Yiddi went to kill time over at Weston’s Home and Apparel. Not that she had money to buy things. She did not, but looking was free. It had been a mistake, however, to shop without money. Yiddi found herself staring at the impossibly tall, hard mannequins in their nice clothes, clothes she definitely could not afford and hating herself, her thighs, those hips, her stomach, all of it. And anyway it was ridiculous to be indoors on such a nice afternoon. She should go to the park and take a walk, get some exercise before it was time to go home and cook supper. Determined to salvage both her day and her mood, Yiddi moved quickly toward the front of the store, but hesitated when she saw the sign for the restroom. Yes, better to take a break here since there was no telling what she might find at those park facilities.

     Just as Yiddi squatted over the toilet, underwear to her knees, thighs trembling slightly with the strain, a pair of women bustled inside. Through the edges of the partition Yiddi could see the fabric of their brightly printed dresses and multiple shopping bags hooked in the crooks of their bony elbows.

     “That’s her,” one of them said.

     “How do you know?” the other one asked.

     “I just do. And what does she see? What doesn’t she see? That’s what I’d like to know.”

      There was the sound of water turning on then off, and the door opening and closing.

      After they were gone, Yiddi released the contents of her bladder and went to wash her hands. She avoided her reflection as she pumped the soap dispenser, and she would not go to the park now. Somehow that snatch of conversation, a conversation that obviously had nothing to do with her, had soured her mood, made her feel defeated and small and useless.
 
      They did not eat at the Asian place. As it turned out, the restaurant had closed several weeks earlier. The only choices left were a French fry stand and Anthony’s Pizza. In silence Charles and Yiddi sat in the food court with greasy paper plates in front of them. The table was suspiciously sticky, and the glass container of parmesan cheese had a gunked over lid, probably with all manner of bacteria crawling.

       With a plastic knife and fork, Yiddi cut into her slice of plain cheese.

      “How much was that card?” Charles asked, and folded his slice in half.

     “Too much,” Yiddi replied. “Even in that discount section, it was more than three dollars.”

      Charles shook his head, and shoved the pizza into his mouth. “Hell,” he said as he chewed, “Gordy’ll toss it in the trash the second he reads it.”

      Yiddi stopped cutting. “Well, what do you want me to do? Not send our son a birthday card?”

      “You could send one of those computer greetings. That’s the ticket,” Charles said. He lifted the drippy slice to his mouth again, but stopped before biting into it. Slowly, he put the pizza down and wiped his chin with a stack of thin napkins. “Be right back,” he said, and was gone. Across the busy food court, he went, squeezing easily between chairs and strollers.

      Yiddi craned her neck to see where he was off to, but instead her eye snagged on a young woman a few tables away, a pretty dark-haired mother with two children in tow. Instantly, there was something familiar about her.

      Yiddi watched as she talked to her children, a boy and a girl, her face still young and animated in that exaggerated, over-pleased way of mothers. Even in a seated position, Yiddi could see she was slim and wearing those exercise pants they all liked so much now, which in her day would’ve been considered obscene. There was the graceful move of tucking a strand of shiny hair behind her ear, revealing a diamond on her left ring finger, sizeable given all its flashing beneath those mall skylights. More diamonds on her earlobes, too.

      Educated, Yiddi could tell. Probably had her degree but stopped working when her kids were born. Or, maybe she was one of those marketing people, like Lindsay, who could work from home on occasion. It both fascinated and appalled Yiddi, how the world operated now, how it was all changing. In that instant a mall worker swept debris from a dirty table, cups and plates and plastic utensils, all of it into the trash can with a single brush of his forearm.

     Charles was back suddenly. “That was Dan Jenkins. You remember that crazy son-of-a-bitch. Moved to Phoenix a couple of years ago.”

      Yiddi nodded, still looking at the woman, who was now dutifully clearing their table, wiping her children’s palms and fingers with those disposable cloths, putting on their coats, smiling at them as she spoke. Yiddi felt a stab of regret as she remembered the way she’d always hurried her own children when they were little, tugging hoods up too hard, drawing the strings too tight, as if punishment for being so young and slow.

      “What are you staring at?” Charles asked, glancing around. A flicker of some emotion Yiddi couldn’t name moved across his face.

      “Who is she? She looks so familiar,” Yiddi said.

      “No idea,” Charles replied, and faced his wife again.

      At home the next afternoon, Yiddi threw a load of whites into the Maytag, including the new socks, several pairs of them though they were sold in a single bundle, set free now from those plastic tag fasteners. Her back was hurting again. All morning it had ached down low, just above her hips, as if someone were sawing at her spine. Charles was out for his walk, a longer one today, he said, to burn off the grease from yesterday’s pizza and the few bites of ice cream he’d eaten after last night’s supper, great spoonsful heaped into his mouth as he stood inside the freezer door. Yiddi switched the knob to normal wash then banged shut the lid. It struck her then, like a bolt of lightning. Nora Boone.

       The first time Nora Boone swept into their house, Yiddi had felt dazzled. Lindsay was a plain girl, slightly overweight, and, according to Gordy, a founding member of the “nerd herd.” It came as no small surprise to Yiddi that Lindsay would have such a glamorous looking friend. Lindsay had been so casual about it, of course. “Can Nora sleep over? Her parents are going out of town for the weekend, and she doesn’t want to go.”

       “Who’s Nora?” Yiddi had asked.

       “A girl from Language Arts, Mom. And band. Can she? She needs to know now.”

       “What’s her last name?” Yiddi asked. “What do her parents do?”

       Lindsay rolled her eyes and said, “Mom! What is this? The third-degree? You think I’m gonna hang out with an ax murderer or something?”

       “Fine,” Yiddi said. “Fine by me.”

       Yiddi had expected someone regular looking, a too-skinny or too-fat twelve year old girl with braces and glasses and high water jeans, but when Nora showed up, her grace and height took them all by surprise. Yes, she was thin and Lindsay’s same age, but with long, glossy hair, and skin clear enough for the pages of Seventeen magazine. Dark lashes fringed her large brown eyes, and her cheekbones were high and pronounced. No baby fat or awkwardness at all, and Yiddi had to wonder how Lindsay possessed the confidence to be friends with such a person. Even Yiddi had found herself later that same night staring into the bathroom mirror and scrutinizing her own over-round features.

       Nora was the quiet type, a reader. Strewn about Lindsay’s room were books she’d brought along, and a tattered Raggedy Ann doll with a missing eye. There were at least three pairs of pajamas, though she was only staying two nights, and panties and socks balled up on the floor. Nora might be beautiful, but she was no neatnik.

       Gordy had driven them to the new roller skating rink on that Saturday afternoon, and then Charles picked them up again. As per Yiddi’s request, he was to stop off at the Kroger for ice cream; instead, he returned with the noisy girls and a Baskin Robbins ice cream cake. “What?” he said defensively when Yiddi frowned at him. “Our guest of honor likes ice cream cake.” He winked and slipped it into the freezer.

      Yiddi had planned to skip choir practice that evening, make them all hamburgers and mac and cheese and milkshakes, have the kind of festive Saturday night she imagined other families had on a regular basis, but in the instant Charles winked, she changed her mind, and said, “Don’t forget I have choir practice tonight. You all will have to fend for yourselves dinner-wise.”

      “Choir practice my ass. Long as Livi Powell is standing up there cock-a-doodle-doing, practice won’t do a lick of good,” Charles said, and went into the den to switch on the television.

      With the laundry making those pleasant clicking sounds in the dryer now, Yiddi picked up the phone, debated whether or not to call Lindsay. Mostly, they talked only on Sunday evenings, but Yiddi had the urge to hear her voice, not Lindsay’s voice, but her own. A kind of reassurance, she guessed. But as she held the phone to her ear, Lindsay talked on and on about some marketing conference and a presentation, the gist of which Yiddi could barely follow. Each time Lindsay used the word “marketing,” Yiddi pictured the aisles at Kroger, though she wasn’t stupid. Of course, she knew this wasn’t what Lindsay meant at all. Still, somewhere between Lindsay’s luggage being lost in Dallas and the Uber driver taking the long route to the convention center, and “the asshole,” as Lindsay put it, texting throughout her presentation, something about “executive summary” and “marketing mix,” Yiddi became thoroughly distracted, an asshole herself, she guessed.

      Her mind kept veering back to Nora Boone and the weekend she’d spent with them all those years ago.

      When Lindsay finally took a breath, Yiddi interrupted. “We saw that Nora Boone at the mall the other day.”

      “What?”

      “Nora Boone.” Yiddi said the name carefully, as if it were a grenade launching off her tongue. Lindsay went silent. So silent Yiddi asked, “Are you still there?”

      “Yes, Mother. I’m still here. What about her?”

      “Nothing. Just. We saw her in the food court over at the Glout County Mall. Daddy had to pick up some new socks, and we got pizza in the food court. It was much too greasy for my stomach but-”

      “I have to go, or I’ll be late picking up Hollis. He has his driver’s test this afternoon.”

      “What?” Yiddi asked.

      “He’s taking his driver’s test. You know, to get his license,” Lindsay said. “I have to go.”

      It struck Yiddi suddenly that the young woman at the mall couldn’t possibly have been Nora Boone. Why Nora Boone would be in her early fifties by now, like Lindsay. Still, their resemblance had been uncanny, and Yiddi felt strangely persistent in the matter. “Do you ever talk with her? Should we have said hello?”

      “What?” Lindsay asked.

      “To Nora Boone?”

      “No,” Lindsay said flatly. “No on both accounts. Listen, I’ll call you Sunday, okay? When I can talk longer.” With that, Lindsay hung up.

      Yiddi went into the kitchen, took some chicken out of the freezer and set it on a plate to thaw then went upstairs to Lindsay’s old room, untouched since she’d left for college. They hadn’t intended, really, to keep their children’s rooms as shrines; Yiddi and Charles had simply never gotten around to repurposing the spaces, and on some level, Yiddi had expected Lindsay and Gordy to return. Weren’t children supposed to land back with their parents for a while after college? Would Yiddi have even wanted such a thing?

      She sat on Lindsay’s faded bedspread and glanced out the window. The neighbor across the street was mulching flower beds, stooped over with her back-end in the air. It shamed her to think they were exactly the same age, she and Marna Blankenship, yet Yiddi would be equally likely to bungee jump off the Golden Gate Bridge as to mulch the yard. Charles did those things, took great pleasure in yard work, in fact.

      Yiddi went to the bookshelf next to Lindsay’s desk, and plucked off a yearbook, thumbed through its sticky pages until she landed on the senior portrait of Nora Boone. Listed next to her name was a string of activities: debate, Junior Civitan, Spanish Club, Feminist Club, Key Club Sweetheart, Theatre, and JV and Varsity Track.

       Such a messy kitchen that Saturday night when she’d returned home, the gooey ice cream cake still on the table, though melted. Plates with remnants of hamburgers and smears of ketchup, crumpled napkins, and glasses wet with condensation, a sink piled high with pans. Yiddi felt a stab of regret at having missed the evening, especially since Nora’s presence had given their normally lackluster Saturday night some sparkle. Upstairs there was the sound of water running. While some preteen girls detested washing up, her own daughter was obsessed with showering, sometimes twice a day, and they had the inflated bill to prove it. Coming from the basement were voices, and Yiddi stopped to listen. It wasn’t a finished basement, just a concrete slab and studs without drywall and Charles’s woodworking tools. He sometimes liked to tinker. Had made the bookcases in both Lindsay and Gordy’s rooms, in fact. Their coffee table, too. Mostly odds and ends, though it wasn’t a hobby that would endure beyond his 50s. Who’s he talking to? Just as Yiddi wondered this, she heard quick, light footsteps coming up the basement stairs. The door clicked open, and Nora and Yiddi came face to face, startled by the presence of one another. There was a beat of silence, and then Yiddi filled it with a voice that was high-pitched and severe. “Is Mr. Lancaster down there?”

      Nora nodded. “Yes, ma’am,” she replied, her voice so soft Yiddi could scarcely hear it.

      It was long ago, but to Yiddi’s way of thinking sometimes, forty years might’ve been last weekend or the previous month. Strangely, since she was a little girl, Yiddi had the feeling she could undo-redo things, her whole life maybe, as if wishing for her children to be little again or for herself to be young would make it so.

      Ever so lightly, Yiddi ran her thumb over the girl’s glossy yearbook photo. Nora Boone, such a pretty name for such a pretty girl. And in that instant she knew what she had always known. The world was a busy place. There’d been children to raise and house to keep, and Yiddi hadn’t wanted to be bothered with whatever transpired in their basement. Even now the lazy, unthinking part of her brain wanted to believe it was nothing, just her hateful imagination. But the girl’s stricken, confused, molested face was in Yiddi’s mind, haunting as the shimmering moon.