This story is a signpost. Its details are fuzzy, and will probably change significantly.
Its purpose is to help me get a foothold in parts of the story I don't understand yet.


Mom doesn’t make a lot
I want to eat. But she does something
with rosemary and portobellos
I think about a lot
in the lunch line.

When Dad gets home
he always has a loaf of bread.
Mom says it’s because he’s baking.

Tonight Mom’s friend Joanne is here
from Maine. They know each other
from when they were our age, in Madison.
We put a dish towel over the TV
and fill up our plates.
Everything tastes better
the week before school starts.

Tell us the story, Joanne, my sister starts

Joanne looks at our parents,
then at her.

If I tell it one more time
you won’t need me around.

It’s not the same
when we try.
It comes out weird.

Wait until after dinner, at least, Mom says.

Oh, come on, Sarah, Dad jumps in,
smiling. He waves his hand
over the table. Joanne, please.


Noodles first, Joanne says. My sister fills
her plate, she looks them over,
and when she seems satisfied
she stares off. It was… she looks back
at our parents. Jesus, guys,
was it really ten years ago?

Oh my God, I think it was, Mom says
and then sighs.

Anyway. You were napping
at your Aunt Sylvia’s house, and you

she looks at our sister—were just a few months away.
I was sitting right here, probably
in this very chair. Your mother was mixing
baby food, and we heard a commotion
from downstairs.

What kind of noise? my brother says softly.

Oh, I’m glad you asked! It was a big crash,
and then, loud as a plane
taking off, all this air, rushing
through the house.
We could feel the slight rattle
of floorboards under our feet.

Your mother jumped
so high she left that mark
right there—

My sister points excitedly at the ceiling
in front of the sink.

—and we looked at each other
like we both heard a ghost. She pointed at you
in her belly, so I had to open the door
first, and start to creep down. Now,
you know how steep
those steps are, but when you’re scared
they get taller—like you’re climbing
down a mountain! And I had to go
one at a time—left foot, right foot,
left foot—into the basement, where I found waiting
for me was a giant—

Nothing! my sister exclaims.
And you never saw anything!

Well, Joanne winks. Almost nothing.
What do you think, Sarah, are they old
enough to hear the truth?

I don’t know…

Oh, come on, Mom! I say.

Yeah, come on, you never said
there was more story!

Even my brother, who’s always quiet,
leans in like he’s listening.
Joanne looks at my mom again.
Mom looks at the mark
in the ceiling.

Can you handle something
really scary?
she says to us.

Of course, Mom! I’m almost 12.

I’m almost 10!

She nods her head left and right.
Okay, I think they’re ready.

Okay, then listen up, Joanne says.
This is privileged information only big
girls and boys get to hear.

I crept downstairs, just like I told you,
and the sound was amazing: just
like a plane was taking off
in the basement. And in the middle of the room,
right by your dad’s drafting table
were two women.

What were they doing?!

One of them was leaning
on the drafting table, and the other
was pacing in front of her.
They were shouting
at each other.

Were they making all the noise? I say.

Maybe, Joanne says. Or maybe
it was all just the dehumidifier.
I can’t remember.

She looks like she enjoys not remembering.

We all stare at her.

We did have to replace it after that,
Dad says, smiling, too.

Wait, my sister pushes her shoulders
forward. Did you really see those two women
down there, or are you just making that part up?

Oh, you’re too good at smelling
a rotten story, girly-girl!

Joanne says. She looks at Mom
and sighs. No more fast ones for her,

I wasn’t sure, either! I say.

Of course, dearheart, Aunt Joanne says
smooth and slow.

It’s in your blood.

Added: February 20, 2013 | Last changed: June 7, 2014