Beth has not really done her hair in a month. She pulls her blow-dryer out from under the sink, but the cord wrapped around its neck looks too difficult to unravel. She uses a plastic clip instead, brown or black, to twist her hair up and away. This looked semi-done before. Now it looks like exactly what it is. Beth is thirty-three. The dog has somehow gotten old.
Shelby, the four-year-old, has been constipated for two weeks. She plays with her stuffed kitty cat, saying, “Mr. Kitty can’t poop Mommy.” Shelby feeds the cat plastic carrots from her kitchen set.
Last night, Beth’s husband held Shelby down while Beth gave her an enema. These were the moments you evaluated your life, with shit on your shoulder. She hosed herself off in the backyard then jumped into the algae-coated pool.
Her brother has fallen in love. He’s twenty-six and writes for a newspaper. The girl is young with long red hair that she ties up into elaborate twists and turns. Last time they came to dinner Beth caught herself obsessively touching her little blonde twist. It felt like dried spaghetti beside this girl’s red flames.
Blake, the one-year-old, says “da-da-da-da” over and over again. Her husband asks for a cold beer. She clips her hair again, twisting tight against her scalp. Her brother looks up at her, rolls his eyes at this husband asking such things of his sister. He squeezes his girlfriend’s hand as if to say: I would never ask such a thing of you. He doesn’t know jack.
Blake has gotten bug bites all over his ankles and little legs. They swell and she gives him a dose of Benadryl. Beth thinks of its drowsy effects and bedtime coming soon. His chunky thighs are the sweetest meat she has ever seen. He said thank you for the first time today.
At night she shuts the door and takes long baths. Her husband knows to use the bathroom down the hall during these soaks. When she emerges her fingers are small prunes, but her hair lies long, flat, and wet against her slender shoulders. She separates the sheets from the bed and slides into them as if entering a cave in the rain. The old dog tries with enthusiasm to hop into bed with her. He misses and puts his paws up on the mattress to ask for help. Beth admires this gesture more than anything.