Rev died first. My grandma didn’t hang on for long after that.
There was nothing left, our parents said, a little stunned. The coffers
were empty. For once, my aunt was not the only one not
laughing. There was not enough left to continue paying the taxes.
Would the rich man even want our little cabin, our unbuildable
Of course he would. A man like that wants it all. He even
took the little skiff off our hands. You should see what the
mooring fees are around here.
Ken exaggerated our poverty all summer long. It seemed to me
that he was purposefully snapping the kids’ shoelaces, was willfully
dissatisfied with tints of paint so that we had to buy more,
and took more left-hand turns than necessary. Setbacks which—
the message was—didn’t have to be setbacks.
He lost weight. He started saving his second helping of
lentils for lunch, just to make a point.
I don’t know what changed. I didn’t change. I thought
about lying, about telling him I’d tried to accept the offer, that I’d
made a call, but that it was too late, that the rich man had
changed his mind, or had already hired somebody else. But in the
end, I didn’t. We’d stopped talking about it. It had become easy
to ignore his antics. I replaced shoelaces without comment. I
packed leftovers into Tupperware. I ignored the shudders of our
van, put my feet up on the dash, laid my head back, and felt the
sun on my face.
One night he just went back to the stove for seconds. We
were mopping our plates with fried bread, and he got up, without
breaking off his sentence, and served himself up another
It’s September now and the summer people are mostly gone, so
we take our children to the city beach. there’s no charge after
dusk, just like there’s no charge before dawn, when I do my
swimming. We can see the island out there, across the bay, but
don’t mention it. The kids don’t know it from any of the others
that line their horizon. they swim like dogs in the chilly water
and come out tired. We butter our faces with corn-on the-cob as
the darkness settles in. We tuck the children into sleeping bags
and watch them fall asleep, their faces glistening in the firelight.
My husband and I crack open a couple of beers, and then a
couple more. We chase each other across the sand, our feet calloused
enough, by now, that the broken clamshells don’t bother
us. I run first through the shallow water. Phosphorescence in the
wake of my feet surprises us both. We splash around in the shallows,
watching the blue-green lights sparkle and fade in the agitated
water. Who knows why this happens only one in a hundred
Otherwise the water is dark. the sky is dark. Only the fire
is bright behind me, lighting up the sweet, needful faces of my