blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1



Fiona, from Late Bloomer

In Melissa Pritchard's forthcoming novel, Late Bloomer (Doubleday, 2004), Prudence True Parker, a single mother in her late forties, lives in Phoenix, Arizona, where she teaches Advanced Personal Journey classes at a local community college. As the novel opens, Prudence's own personal journey, at a major halt, is soon to be jump-started by a trip to Anadarko, Oklahoma, where, as a volunteer worker for Native American Circle, she will meet a young Comanche artist, Ray Chasing Hawk. Ray will seduce and trail Prudence back to Phoenix, where she will attempt to navigate a tempestuous love affair, teach a new course called Your Erotic Journey, and secretly write a romance novel, Savage Heart, in order to climb out of the slough of debt she is foundering in. Fiona is Prudence's eighteen-year-old daughter; this excerpt is the sole passage in the novel told in her voice.

In between Scrabble words, Kirby and I agree on how fucked up parents are, how we're the ones raising them half the time. Fuck adults. Adults suck. Yada yada hoo.

"Is a drake a male swan or a male duck?"


"Ai is not a word."

"Ai is too a word. It's a type of sloth. Ten points."


We raise ourselves, the fewer waves the better. Maybe we once made good ideas on paper, or in bed, but good ideas can turn into lousy, permanent realities. Burdens. Waiting for Kirby to patch out a word with smooth, Saltine-pale tiles, I switch on our little orange TV, the one I heisted from Thrift Outlet. A roaring doomsday of animals is on fire in Europe. Pigs, sheep, cows, horses, all ablaze, an auto-da-fe, animal crackers in a charring soup, craggy hills of slaughtered animals, a British farm couple stands in front of their flaming cattle, the woman weeping, the man's face crumpled as a stack of pancaked cars on a flatbed. I turn the sound off so Kirby can concentrate. We've talked it to death, talked it to a pulp and a wound, mainly me, mostly nights when I can't sleep, but c'mon, buddy-up, the world's ending. It's the Romans all over again, so arrogant we can't see our cities on high, holy fire, the animals turning to ash, skies withered, the water heavy with filth, the dirt toxic, sex equals HIV equals death, we yakkety-yak on cell phones, go see movies, Hollywood dreams to hypnotize us, eat what we want, consume what we want, go anywhere, we're drowning in poisoned honey. Dying of greed. The truth is not interesting. We're like a man whose foot is on fire, but he's not paying attention, he's not even watching it burn, he's not even feeling it, he's too busy, he's got a lot to do, he's earning a living, he's in insane, fucking denial. A beautiful day in the neighborhood! I see it—who doesn't—Kirby gets depressed about it, possibly suicidal, so I try not to bring it up much, even though I think about it constantly. Incessantly. I worry. Does everyone have a murder in their family? A pedophile? A thief? A fucking crack hound? Everyone with his dirty bit of tragedy. The skeletons are out of the closet, running the show. Everyone a fucking Hamlet. Do I attract these types? Is it my school? I go to this charter school, a fine arts school, in downtown Phoenix, but it's more like a joke. The other day, some kid went into his high school in San Diego and wasted a couple of kids and a teacher. The cops found him on the floor of the boys bathroom with his dad's gun, and some of us talked at lunch, saying, yeah, it could happen here, the majority of us are screwups, though we're supposed to be cool, artistic, enough of us are messed up on various substances and experiences, it doesn't take a rocket scientist (boy do I hate that phrase, my dad is forever using it), to figure how any one of us could charge in, guns blazing, call it performance art, a collaborative installation piece, then we'd all be interviewed on 60 Minutes, 20/20, 48 Hours, CNN, poked under television's microscope, America's Children, Killers or Victims? We're sick cells, symptoms of a bigger disease. Kids smoke heroin in the bathroom, though that's recently changed since one kid turned silent witness, ratted, so now a policeman patrols the hall for crikey's sake, poor dude, sweats it, our token pig, we give him a hard time. He hates that we're nice to him. Kids blow off homework, sit in class, say they don't have to learn a thing, much less freakin history. All they have to do is express themselves, so what nobody understands, it's not about understanding, communicating, it's past that. It's about making enough noise to convince yourself you exist. Art's not healing either, art should be disturbing, it should make your mind puke. Angelina, our lesbian Social History teacher, I love her, she has hair the color of blue sleeping pills and dreams about buying this old broken down villa in Italy, Angelina says there's a perfect word for us. Solipsistic. Good Scrabble word. I'm so ready to leave that place, three more months, June 1. The kids coming in are so much stupider than I was, the school's turned into a playpen, public schools dumping their trash kids into ours. We're funded by the state so there has to be a quota so that means let anybody in, no audition, no talent. The first couple of years were cool, the kids all came from another art school that had shut down, they were serious about their music, their dance, their art, but now they're gone, and these new dumb-butts stream through the doors, doing weird shit on our First Friday Art Nights such as rolling around on the floor to incredibly bad heavy metal music, wearing a prom dress and vomiting marshmallows into a green rubber trash barrel, standing half-naked in back of a see-through shower curtain, rubbing bodies with a sponge dipped in dyed water to look like blood. Angst shit. The poor confused parents actually smile and clap a little.

The world's ending, Sponge-Bob.


The other night, waiting for Kirby to get back from Domino's, I saw this documentary about a generic British family, husband, wife, three girls and a boy, who volunteered to live in a row house in London, as if it were 1900. For three months, they agreed to live like it was one hundred years ago, wear the clothes, cook, eat the food, clean house, do wash, all of it. The first month, they had to go outdoors and use an earth toilet, an outhouse, then they got indoor plumbing which hardly worked... the wife tried taking a bath in half an inch of cold water, the water turning to black grime from her body, and on camera, nude, she burst into tears. Man-bub went off to work every a.m., all cheery, glad to break out of that dour house with everything smoking and breaking down, while the wiff, good wiff, had to stay home, scrub, wash, iron and sew the livelong day. Brutish work, British work, so hard, she broke down on camera, disintegrated again, her mind a nubbin, her hands raw and ruined, she hated her husband since he got to leave every day, go out because he was a man. She was what, she whispered into the hidden closet camera, a hunk of inefficient cleaning equipment? Her mind turned to cheese, to jelly, her mind went foul on her. She was a 21st century, educated woman, with freedoms and rights, she said, swollen-nosed and blinking up into the camera, installed there for private confession. She was ferociously unhappy, she twitched all over with misery. I felt sorry for her. Things brightened up considerably when she hired a maid (a social inferior), to do all the hands and knees, elbow grease sort of work, flip mattresses, get at the fluff everywhere, she called dirt fluff, her hands still red and chafed and raw from a week's laundry, while her daughters gave up on the little boy's homemade birthday cake that looked more like a greasy puddle and instead made a hand cream of whale fat and almond oil from a recipe in Mrs. Beeton's Household Tips. With the poor, skinny-kneed maid vigorously whacking at carpets with a wooden paddle, scrubbing at floors on her hands and knees, our wiff cheered considerably, chucked on her 1900 bonnet and with a basket on her arm, hands slicked with her daughter's lotion and smelling like a whale, popped off to market to buy legumes, potatoes, a sausage, whatever was authentically available during that time. I tried to think what era I would most like to pretend to live in. Before Mom and Dad's divorce is what I came up with. That era of history when my mother, my father and I all lived together. When I still thought family meant forever.


Kirby says humans can't stand being human, being conscious they're going to die. It makes people crazy. I disagree. Greed, in my celibate opinion, is the failure of humanity. But what's behind greed, he asks. A desire for comfort, I answer. What's behind the desire for comfort? Think, Fiona. A dream of heaven? Paradise? Eternity? What's behind that? A deeper dream? A wish? To never, ever die? To be immortal? I win, he says.

"Carp's a fish. A bottom feeder."

"To carp means to nag at someone."

"Oh, like you nag at me."

"I do not. I do not carp."

"Nah, you don't. Just kidding, Fiona. Carp is a bottom feeder, though. Fifteen points. Sorry. I win by ten."

"Change one letter and it spells crap."

"Still five points, no good."


My best friend, Stevie Leupp, is smart and classy down to her cat eye, rhinestone glasses. She says people relate selectively, see what they want to see. For example, say I build a secret perception around a person. A dream. The more I like him, the more dreamlike the perception, and the dream can be all that keeps me going each day, thinking things with that person will turn out the way I dream. Everything that validates my dream, my version of how things should be, brings me closer to that person. Everything that argues against it, infuriates me, depresses me, makes me fight like hell with that person. Like last night, on our way to another dollar movie which, as usual, I pay for, I got so pissed at Kirby, we were screaming at each other in the car. I was wearing my pink satin jeans, a fuschia tank top and black combat boots, and I jumped right out of my own damned car which, out of the lunacy of my heart and the stupidity of my mind, I had let him drive. Fighting is exhilarating. We got high from it, the adrenaline made us see all over again how much we loved each other. But, as Stevie would surely point out, the fight started with Kirby messing up my dream, my secret, rosy picture of Us that holds me to him, even when it all stinks, even when I know he still carries that stupid picture of Deneen Boyer in his wallet, I know because I peeked. I'm a snoop, he's a sneak, it's a volatile combination. The worst.


A latte with a cinnamon rugala from Goldbar's? A plate of chocolate pancakes at IHOP? Something to prop me up through another Saturday at Thrift Outlet, Arizona's fashion gutter, sociological museum, poor taste emporium, neverending garage sale, fire sale, a place that smells, stinks of human sweat, grime, loss. A warehouse of rejection. Every single thing in this store, probably even the customers, arrived here through rejection. Being so unwanted as to be shunned and cast out. That's quite an energy field. Everything shrugged off, shelved, priced, marked down, picked over, discarded. A plant or an animal has the good sense to organically dissolve into something else, to not be redundant, but this crap's not going anywhere, it just circulates and recirculates. Here comes the jewelry lady, Acqua Netta. Here every Saturday, Acqua Netta's clacking through plastic trays of costume jewelry until she finds something. She looks like a partially decomposed Farrah Fawcett. Back in Housewares, on the wall, there's that poster of Farrah from the seventies. Queenie leaves these tabloids around and last I saw, poor Farrah got beaten up by her husband. How much, Acqua asks, even though there's a big 25 cents sign that never changes. She says how 'bout ten? I say sure, the deal elegantly done. Right over there, in Furniture, is my mom's old green and white-striped couch. It's been there two weeks. Right now, two little kids are quashed down on it, holding hands. Sweet. No, not sweet, they're flogging one another with a grimy, pink clown. My grandmother moved here from Hawaii last month and gave me and my mom new living room furniture from the place she bought. White. Coordinated. Clean. Now our living room looks like something from a magazine, but we have a hard time relaxing on furniture so white. It's more like we perch. Our old couch looks all saggy-bottomed, pouched and dingy, the white stripes dirtied into the color of weak tea. It has a red price tag sticking out of it, and the two kids are still knuckling one another. Our couch had its little history, it was familiar and ours, the place Mom and I plunked every night to eat dinner, watch 911 or Unsolved Mysteries, read, rub feet, take naps. Now it's a pound dog, waiting for a home. A dog gets two weeks to look cute and pathetic enough to find a home before it's gassed. After once seeing a dump truck unload a mountain of stiffened dogs and cats, thousands of them (raining cats and dogs, one more of Dad's famous phrases) into a landfill, I did a research paper. But, hey, a couch can wait til kingdom come, it's in no danger at all.

A lot of Mexican families come into the store, so all our signs are in Spanish, too. Then there's homeless people, a lot of them live under the oleander shrubs by the freeway, like this one guy, his whole life bundled into a cardboard box on the back of his rickety black bike, who wears a stack of maybe fifteen baseball caps on his head, the brims all going different directions. Or Rodney, the dimwitted guy who stares at me and the other girls while pretending to look at stuff. Queenie says he's harmless, a bulb loose is all. Or high school kids setting trends, buying weird combinations of stuff. The occasional transvestite who heads straight to Lingerie, limp, see-through sleaze which I, for one, would not touch with a ten foot pole. A lot of times I feel sorry for the Spanish-speaking mom who has five or six kids, plus a mean or really worn-out looking man with her, and she's in full, pitiful charge, counting dimes and pennies out of a torn wallet. I give her everything for free, just shove it along into the bags. What's the point, chiseling an extra twenty-five cents from people like that? The smiles I get are worth getting fired over, shy, beautiful smiles, the mothers so grateful for anything extra, for a small break of some kind, it fucking hurts. Fuck, take the store, clean the place out, give this shit a home. My friend Stevie calls Thrift Outlet a cultural museum. History mopes here, sullen, melancholic, its unwanted objects arranged into categories, fads, trends, decades. A line-up of old popcorn poppers, a shelf of fondue pots, miles of beige, outdated computers, terrible belts, pure horrors of shoes. It can be politically radicalizing.

I read how in Japan, kids like us are called freetas, fleetas, something like that, kids drifting from menial job to menial job. One guy, eighteen, started to work for a new company that planned to make a fortune importing beetles from Indonesia, but the beetles died en masse the second day, and the kid was out of another job. There's a crisis in Japan, thousands of these kids, the system failing them, the article said, they had no future and didn't care. Maybe there's a crisis like that in America, but since nobody's come up with a catchy name, it doesn't officially exist. I've had two spectacular jobs so far, Cinnabon's in Fiesta Mall, a nightmare during the short course of which I managed to pack on fifteen pounds of cinnamon bun lard, and now, whoo-hoo, Thrift Outlet. Kirby's more of a freeta than me, he's had tons of jobs. He's washed dogs in a pet grooming salon, undressed old people in a nursing home, managed first a Gumby's, then a Domino's Pizza, stuck in his little pizza cage between a Fancy Nails salon and a Chinese buffet (indefinitely shut down since the health inspector cited evidence of cockroaches, including one that strutted boldly across the chopping board as if it were in vaudeville, Kirby knew all about it because the inspector staggered into Domino's afterward, all white and woozy. He and the wife never ate out anymore, he confessed, he'd seen too much, he was ruined for anything but his wife's cooking and eating in his own home off his own plates, eating with his own sterilized knife and fork). Kirby's worked as a telemarketer, selling first aid kits to small businesses—the place a holding tank for ex-convicts, thieves, thugs, drug addicts and pimps, Kirby began to figure he was the only one there who hadn't done time in the slammer, though he did appreciate the dress code, people wearing whatever they wanted, sweatpants and t-shirts, so they all looked the same, like they had just rolled out of the same bed. And that one Christmas, when every kid in America was screaming for a Teletubby, Kirby worked in a Toys R Us, wearing a red-and-white-striped jacket too big for him, wishing everyone on the way in and out an obnoxious Merry Christmas, though he was really supposed to be checking for strange bulges and jutting corners under coats and jackets. Hired to spy on customers, to nab shoplifters, Kirby was, in turn, spied on by other Toys R Us employees, dressed up as customers, so it drove him crazy, not knowing if the person he was greeting was a shopper or a hired goon, some poor clapper like him. He'd worked in a resort in Scottsdale, The Princess, cleaning toilets, handrolling velvety beige fingertip towels, arranging them in giant baskets on marble countertops, dumping used towels into the hotel's laundry bins, swabbing squadrons of taupe toilets, dumping ice cubes down each one's porcelain throat. Rich piss, poor piss, women's piss, grandpop's piss. Guess what, Kirby said, it's all piss, grossing me out on purpose. I am not a relaxed person when it comes to bodily functions. I think people should be etherous vapors, colorless, odorless. Since he got fired from Dominos for talking to me on the phone instead of taking delivery orders, Kirby's started working as a sidewalk gorilla for the Buena Vista apartment complex, shambling up and down the street in a shaggy suit, waving a little sign, Free Utilities First Three Months. People in passing cars stare or throw trash—one guy drove around the block twice, just to pitch grapefruits at him—or yell obscenities, though sometimes little kids wave and look excited, like they want to take him home and play with him. I happen to know Kirby fantasizes about being abducted, taken to some million dollar home in Happy Valley or Cave Creek, a Frank Lloyd Wright tri-level home that looks like a smaller version of The Princess resort, where, kept as a household pet, he would lumber around in his suit, only crawling out of it at night, when the children, a boy and girl, were asleep. The little girl would grow up, fall in love with and marry him, then Kirby would be lord of the tri-level resort house, a powerful man with hairy beginnings. He's never told me that fantasy, I know it because I peeked in his journal, and there it was.

Lately, he's weirding me out a little, wanting to wear his gorilla suit out in public, or wear it to bed. It's hard to snuggle with a gorilla, I told him last night, much worse than fucking (though we didn't) a duck. His first job, he'd been the Ugly Duckling at an Ugly Duckling used car lot in Gilbert, slapping around in a white terrycloth duck suit with webbed, orange vinyl feet. When he got fired, the day after we met at Thrift Outlet, he'd stolen the suit, and wanting to impress me, tried wearing it to bed. He was a two-week Santa once, too, a sandwich board strapped on him, pacing on a street corner near a busy intersection, advertising cut rate jewelry. So far he likes being the gorilla best, likes smelling of artificial fur and sweat and Big Chief chewing gum which he snaps and grinds between his molars. He's worked up a gruff, simian voice for the people lucky enough to walk, ride bikes, or zip past him on electric scooters. At least half those people ignore him, snobs, noses-in-the-air. He hates those people, nurses an inner cartoon of tackling them from behind, galumphing up, then hurling himself onto their ignorant backsides, knocking them to the spit-riddled, combat grey sidewalk. I read that in his journal, too.


(Fiona had two semi-boyfriends before Kirby, Jeremy, a pasty, overweight kid with particolored hair, orange and brown, who drove a Cream of Wheat colored Cadillac and talked incessantly about computers and being a dystopian. What's a dystopian? Fiona had asked. Opposite of a utopian, he'd answered. She looked up utopian and decided she was one. He'd tried to kiss her once, half-heartedly, out of weak social pressure to kiss someone, but Fiona had averted her face, told him she couldn't do that, wasn't ready and didn't know if she ever would be, so he'd driven them to Denny's where they'd ordered chocolate pancakes with chocolate whipped cream and chocolate chips. Jeremy and his father had moved to a commune outside Dallas after Jeremy's mother, admitting her preference, ran off with his father's youngest sister. Every once in a while Jeremy called and left a message on Fiona's answering machine that sounded like he was trying to imitate a black street person, saying things like Yo and Whazzup. The second boyfriend, Nicholas, a fey, anorexic boy, had shoulder-length, shiny, caramel-colored hair. Nick constantly wore a long, black, stained trenchcoat and spiked dog collar. The one time Fiona had brought him home, Prudence thought he was one of Fiona's girlfriends, since he was wearing a vintage fifties, black taffeta sheath, sheer black stockings, slingback heels, makeup and a rhinestone hair band. Where are you two girls going, all dolled up? Fiona and Nicholas had laughed over that for days. They had kissed on two separate occasions, parked in his car, kisses like dry little pinches. The second time, Nicholas, with cool gynecological aplomb, had palpated her breasts, while Fiona rested her hand, as lightly as if taking a temperature, on his crotch, a place which felt quite flat to her, going against everything she had ever heard and read about that dangerous male triangle. She really didn't like being touched, unless it was to have her shoulders massaged or her feet rubbed. She wasn't into sex the way most kids her age seemed to be, and oral sex, which was supposed to be healthier, truly disgusted her. One reason she was good friends with Stevie Ray was because Stevie had sworn to remain a virgin until she got married or turned twenty-five, whichever came first. Carrah Stanley was Fiona's other good friend, and Carrah's father had died of AIDS. Fiona had met him once at Carrah's sixteenth birthday party, where he was holding a piece of white angel food cake on a white paper plate on his lap, his bare legs skinny as two white straws. Mr. Stanley was the thinnest man Fiona had ever seen, and anyone could see he had once been truly handsome, but that now he was all teeth and empty skin. Still, he'd had the sweetest, slowest, most loving smile Fiona had ever seen. He died two weeks after Carrah's sixteenth birthday, and one day, after letting a skateboarder with nit-infested dreadlocks feel her up one night in the community park near her house, Carrah, too, swore off sex, and went every July with her mom and five brothers to a camp for families who had lost a relative to AIDS. What do you guys do up there for three weeks, Fiona had asked. Talk. Cry, swim, have relay canoe races, play team sports, sing songs, stuff like that.)


"Well, rock my shorts," Queenie breathed hard, coppery curls bouncing all over her bitty head, hairpins quivering. In a phoof of righteousness, Thrift Outlet's manager, Flo "Queenie" Wafer, standing a full head shorter than Fiona, wearing a lime green Mexican fiesta dress and hopping like a canary on a hot sidewalk, totaled the day's profits one more time, slapping bills down, greased strips, ones, fives, tens, twenties, ones, fives, tens, twenties. Queenie usually favored housecoats with tropical prints. Red hibiscus. Yellow ginger. Purple orchids. She squinted up at Fiona, on her last exhausted leg, having had a long day at school, then barreling straight to work past three freeway accidents, and now it was ten in the goddamn p.m. as Queenie would say, and all Fiona wanted was to go home and sleep, except home had turned into The Pueblo where her mom was letting some Indian take over the house, hang his war shields, play music from the eighties, blast a damn blow dryer every five minutes over his canvas to make the paint dry faster. Just that morning, Fiona had picked out another of his long black hairs, this time off her sprouted wheat toast. His hair was everywhere. And she couldn't stay at Kirby's, they weren't speaking, not since she had come across a picture of his old girlfriend, Deneen Boyer, in his wallet. And now Queenie, barking up her leg like a demented chihuahua—something small and begging to be kicked. Rock my shorts, what kind of thing was that for a sixty year old Bible-thumping woman to say? In truth, Queenie thumped her beloved National Enquirers a lot more than she thumped any Bible, but still. "Forty dollars short, we're forty dollars short, Fiona, and either we've been robbed or someone's been careless with the register again." Queenie slewed her eyes towards Fiona, who was literally swaying from exhaustion. "The store can't afford this, hon." Queenie scooped all the bills together and held them like a green ostrich duster. This was the second time the store had come up short in a month, both times with poor math-addled Fiona at the register. "I see two ways to fix this. No, three. Either I fire you, which is out of the question, or I pinch the money out of your paycheck, or we jack prices in the store for a couple of weeks, until we make up the difference." Queenie had managed Thrift Outlet for over ten years, she was the store, was just like it, worn-down, tacky, strangely vital, complete with a colorful history of having once been married to a Greek immigrant in the Mafia. Queenie was one of the main reasons Fiona stayed on at the store. That and Queenie didn't seem to notice or care how much Fiona filched, ripped off, stuffed in her backpack clothes, plates, cups, napkins, clocks, even the orange TV. Kirby's apartment was completely furnished by Thrift Outlet, the poor man's Target, they called it. Queenie might blow a gasket from a shortfall at the register, but she didn't seem to mind the slow pilfering, the leakage, of goods from her store. "Ok, I'm a beat pup. I want to get home to my crime shows, then hit the hay. We'll make it up tomorrow, we'll jerk up prices in Furniture, Housewares and Shoes." As Queenie dragged on her coat and slugged her fake leather purse over her tiny shoulder, Fiona noticed her green, fuzzy, heel-less slippers, the sort of thing Fiona adored, a boss who wore fuzzy slippers on the job. She got her own purse, a clear vinyl bag with dyed blue water, plastic seaweed and a fake goldfish belly-up along one side, said goodnight and walked out to a parking lot devoid of cars except for Queenie's gold and white Impala and her own charcoal gray Suzuki. What was on the hood of her car, illuminated by the parking lot lights? White rocks, landscaping chips, quarter-sized, that spelled out across her hood: 2 GOOD 2 BE 4 GOTTEN. This had to be Kirby. Suddenly, Queenie appeared beside her, Fiona smelled her Tic-Tac breath.

"A nut case did this. I hope it's not Rodney, that poor guy with the brain of a chipmunk." Queenie looked around at her Impala. "Nope. Just yours, sweet beet." Maybe that Deneen Boyd picture was old, maybe, like he'd said, he'd forgotten it was even in his wallet. Maybe she had been jealous for no reason. Still, it was upsetting, an upsetting picture, Deneen, lying on her side, head propped in one hand, long brown hair sweeping down to the carpet, gazing seductively into the camera, wearing a giant Red Cross t-shirt and nothing else, judging from the look of her long, slim brown legs poking out from the hem of the shirt. Even though she was tempted to forgive Kirby, now that he had done such a cute, dumb thing, she couldn't let him get off that easy. She'd go home and sleep in her own room. Parking her car in the driveway (another sore point of many since Ray parked his Texas van in the garage beside her mother's car, somehow landing Fiona out in the driveway, ousted, it irked her to no end), Fiona made plenty of noise to warn her mother she was home, slamming the car door, rattling her keys before inserting the house key into the front door's lock. As she stepped over the threshold, something crunched and rolled away beneath her foot. More little white rocks. She knelt down, reading them with her finger. I'M SORRY, the "O" shaped like a heart. Leaving the rocks undisturbed, she stepped into the dark, silent house. Mah, I'm home, she called in the general vicinity of her mother's bedroom. Hi, honey, she heard a weak, distracted sounding reply. She tiptoed past her mother's closed door, scooted down the hall toward her room. What if Kirby was in there, lying on her futon, an apology spelled out on his chest? She yanked on her Barbie doll light cord. No Kirby. Should she call? No. She'd make him sweat a little, teach him a lesson. No more carrying sexy photographs of old girlfriends. He didn't have a single photograph of Fiona, sexy or otherwise, anywhere in his wallet, anywhere in his apartment for that matter, though it was true, as he'd pointed out, she'd refused to have her picture taken since she was twelve. Fiona flung herself onto her futon, scrunched her favorite pillow under her head, closed her eyes, turned her radio on so she couldn't possibly hear anything obscene going on down the hall. It had been a day from hell. When the phone rang, waking her, she waited to the count of ten before picking up the beige receiver of her Thrift Outlet phone. Hi, baby. His voice, so apologetic, so sweet, it nearly made her cry.


When she looked into Fiona's room the next morning, Prudence would discover her daughter, still fully dressed, asleep, mouth gaping, the phone next to her ear, the Garfield clock irritably cheeping under the muffled weight of her pillow.  

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