What's Done Can't Be Undone

By Reneé Bibby

She’d done what was right: she’d taken her son to the hospital. A clean, white place—a space of healing, for God’s sake. She’d had to do something. Something more than coming home early for her coupon book and feeling suspicious of the quiet. More than going upstairs and walking in on her husband in her son’s room—pants down, literally, down around his ankles. And her—their—son … Just a boy. A child.

She was supposed to find her husband in flagrante delicto with another woman. To think she’d wasted the word “fuck” on stubbed toes and spilled coffee. So casually! So frivolously! She should have hoarded the word, saved all the little explosives over the years so when she said it now in the hall of the hospital all the accumulated power would blow through the walls, knocking people over, overturning machines, shattering glass. But the word fuck was denuded, a desiccated beetle crunched underfoot. Whispering “fuck fuck fuck” couldn’t compete with the sound of her shoes squeaking on white linoleum.

It wasn’t a doctor who came to see her. The badge, the polyester brown pants and pink cardigan, a bulldog face: a social worker. She had the tiny teeth of a snarffly dog—Good! She needed someone that would lock on and tear a man up. “How is he?”

Bulldog shuffled them to squeaky plastic chairs, scribbling forms. “He’s fine. He’s sleeping now. Let’s just let him rest and see about getting your statement for the police.”

A police report. She didn’t need paperwork. She needed seven men from a fascist country where people didn’t believe in trials, rifles in a row, gunning her husband into Swiss cheese. Barring that: “What I need is a gun.”

Bulldog clicked a pen, poised to write. “Now, would you always say you’ve had a temper?”

“I don’t have a temper!”

Bulldog scribbled.

She remembered the day her son was born, a flash bulb pop in her brain, blinding her. He came out bald as peanut, fat and delectable as a chicken nugget. The love had almost drowned her. The waves of it crescendoing as he yawned, when he startled himself with a fart, as he hiccupped and bobbled—everyday moments that were somehow also so pure and wondrous they shone across all the days. He would be then and always would be beautiful in a way that transcended time and space.

Every particle of him. Every ragged nail, every errant eyebrow, the bony protrusions of his wrist, his stutter, the flop of hair over his eyes. She loved him.

“I love my son.”

“Yes,” Bulldog drawled the word long, an eternity of skepticism. “I’m sure you do. I’m sure you do. There are some indicators that this’s been going on for a long time. I want to confirm, this the first time you noticed something going on?”

The wind went out of her. It’s true, she should have known. No excuse. None. She, of all people, should have wondered about how avidly her husband had planned camping trips—just the boys! We need our alone time—how he’d volunteered for scout master, coach Little League, had considered how lucky she was to have such an involved husband. She’d marveled at her good fortune! To have a husband who cared so much more than other dads about parenting. For him to be so involved.

“I can’t do this today. I promise not to buy a gun or anything, I just want to get my son home.”

“Oh,” Bulldog fluttered a hand. “He’s not going home with you tonight.”

“Excuse me?”

“He’s going into emergency placement. So we can assess the situation.”

What built inside of her was such a gut-boiling rage that she imagined no impediment to reaching down this woman’s throat and yanking her heart right out. Holding this hot, beating mass in two hands and squeezing until it popped like an overripe apricot in her hands, splattering the walls with bright arterial red. No! No. This is what she should have done to her husband.

This is what has been done to her. This is what she had let happen to her own son.


Sunset bruised the sky as she emerged from the police station. She called Reynolds because her car was still at the hospital. He agreed to pick her up and she sat stunned in the front seat until next they were at their usual motel. Sitting on the queen bed, on top of the covers, it was clear the mood wouldn’t arise, so to speak. They sat against the headboard and smoked.

Three cigarettes in, she felt more jittery. She stabbed the butt out.

“What’m I going to do?” She’s wasn’t really asking Reynolds. He still wore beach shorts and flip-flops everywhere. He was basically a child himself.

“About what?”

“About the ugly curtains in this room. My son, goddamnit.”

He billowed cigarette smoke. “Take it one day at a time, I guess.”

“’Take it one day at a time,’” she mocked him with high pitched voice. “That’s such a ridiculous platitude. That’s how we all live. Like, I’m going to build a time machine and leap over months.”

He frowned at her, but didn’t otherwise rise to the bait and what good was it if he wasn’t going to give her something solid to push against? She kicked the sheets off, thrashing them to the floor.

“What do you want me to say? He’s probably going to turn into a pervert.”

“What does that mean?”

“Your son, he’s been messed with, so you know, he’ll go on to mess with other kids when he’s older.”

She looked at him. Really looked at him. She’d been planning to break up with him, because she’d worried it was getting too serious. She’d been thinking about him outside of the motel room. Daydreaming of long days somewhere far away, say Florida, laying naked under a fan with his head on the cushion of her stomach, smoking, breaking beams of sunlight with outstretched hands, rousing well after noon to eat stone crab at the corner bodega, until sunset turned the sherbet walls neon and they could go back to the hotel to start all over again —and the effort, the heartache of wrenching herself back to the aisle of Kroger to decide which frozen chicken was the best deal for dinner, drained her. A punctured hole in the reserves of her energy.

Turns out, she’d had it wrong, their relationship wasn’t serious—it was frivolous. It was soap scum along the rim of the bathtub. He was someone she could leave without a second thought. Because no matter how much fun they might have had in Florida, somebody had to buy chicken and cook a meal for her kid.

He misread the look on her face and flopped a hand on her thigh. Not in a sexual way, more like a pat for an anxious dog. She knocked his hand off. She wasn’t some pet to be consoled.

“Jesus,” he chuckled, “calm down.”

She blasted from the bed to the chair by the table, marshalled every complaint she had: “Reynolds, you need to get a real job. And do something about your halitosis. You need to learn more about the female clitoris. You need to cut your hair.”

Reynolds laughed.

“I’m fucking serious.”

“I know you are, luv.”

“We’re done.”

He snorted and it made his face ugly. The impending separation soured the room. He rolled off the bed, stood slowly, tucking in his shirt, slipping into flip-flops.

“I get it, you’re a mad momma. Going all momma bear.” He mimed a bear rearing up, clawing the air. “But that schtick is boring. Call me when this is over. Ta!”

He slung his bomber jacket over one shoulder, and, fresh cigarette tilted out the side of his mouth, sauntered out.

That didn’t quite go as planned. Reynolds had always seemed chill. The type to bob back up like a punching bag. Not delicate and never too hurt by what came at him. She’d found that chillness such a relief from her husband’s structure. His color-coded calendars of after-school sports, meal times, intimate times; his giant digital watch always on and metering their day, his relentless lists—oh god the lists! Lists of daily chores by person and time of day, lists of nighttime routines, lists of weekly shopping items, lists of monthly shopping items, lists of Costco-only shopping items, K-Mart lists, Target lists, inventory lists of the cupboards, the freezers, the pantry—all the lists syncing on their shared apps. Reynolds had probably never made a list in his life.

She wrenched apart curtains to watch Reynold’s progress across the inner courtyard. He beelined to the three girls bobbing in the shallow end of the blue gem of the courtyard pool. Un-freaking-believable! He squatted to chat them up. One of the girls swirled towards him, upturned face glowing gold. No way! No way he deserved some fresh-faced teen to blow him twenty minutes after he’d broken up with her.

She yanked the door open and yelled, “Hey! You girls! Stay away from that guy! He gave me AIDS!”

The girls howled and Reynolds flipped her the bird, but moved on, disappearing into the dark wedge of the parking lot. The dark-haired girl, her hair an octopus swirling around the water, waved a hand high and wide as if it were the universal gesture for “thank you for saving us from AIDS.”

She waved back and turned into the room. The air, smoky and dense and as yellowed as the inside of a poorly maintained mouth, crept towards her, intent on suffocating her with banality. How could she have not have noticed the chintzy, chipped furniture? The faded prints of flowers something her grandmother may have liked. Is this what it had come to? Midnight alone in a motel room, her son victimized by the only other person she loved. Had loved. She pawed through the sheets in search of cigarettes and of course Reynolds had snitched the pack. Back at the window, she yelled down to the trio, “You girls got cigarettes?”

They swiveled their heads to the sound of her. One of them, who knows which one, answered, “Hell yeah, come on down!”


Poolside, she took an American Spirit cigarette from the African-American girl lounging on the cheap chairs. The girl’s hair, two poofs on the crown of her head, were tied with pink hair-clackers the same shade as her polka-dot bikini. The hip, cute one of the trio.

Two other girls twirled in the pool. Both were dark-haired, but one, an Asian girl, wore her hair 70s-era long. Her big breasts bubbling up out of her blue bikini. There was something gregarious about her that the others didn’t have. Something in the way she chattered loudly and dipped under the water, breaking back up again with laughter, jetting to toward the deep end. Or probably it was the size of her chest. Breasts are always mesmerizing, and a solid rack forces a girl to interact with the world all the time, build up ways to manage attention, attract it if she wants it.

The third girl, in a chaste full-support black bikini, had an angled bob and tattoo sleeve of a snake chasing a rabbit the full length of her arm. Native American or Latina? Hard to tell.

Bikinis, cheap platform flipflops, couple of weathered towels, and about ten packs of cigarettes, but no wine coolers or cheap beer. A little red cooler on the deck could have as easily contained soggy sandwiches as Pabst Blue Ribbon. No sloshy woo-ing like most girls their age. Like she’d gotten up to at their age: a gaggle of her friends, dancing together, boys angling around the periphery, staying up late at someone’s house, ending up in a neighbor’s pool, drinking, smoking, snorting whatever the guys brought, sleeping on pool chairs, rousing at sunrise to grab a breakfast burrito at Mickey’s.

No, these three, slim and shadowed above the waist, legs thick and warped by the amplification and lights of the water, seemed content to splash around, talking to each other. Shame, really, she wouldn’t have said no to a drink right now.

“Oy,” Blue Bikini yelled, “Come on in! Water’s fine.”

But it was such a cool wintergreen almost white. It must be cold and she told them so.

“No, it’s fine! You’ll warm up!”

Pink Bikini ghosted past and slid into the pool without a sound. All three of them looked up at her. They were fresh faced and vibrant. Unspoiled. Not party animals, but still up late swimming in a motel pool. A surfeit of youthful vitality. If life weren’t such shit she’d hate them for it. But all of her energy, low burning and ragged, was tangled up with her current problems.

“Haven’t got a suit…” she said. The cigarette was almost out. Maybe another...

Blue Bikini lazily back-stroked into the shallow end to stand close to her friends. “Have another cigarette, stay!”

Or, she could go home. And do what? Go into every room in her house, stare, listen hard—seeking an echo of her son’s trauma? Re-analyze moments in the house for the clues she’d missed? Surely, she would drive herself mad! In the absence of answers her mind would fill the vacuum, building innocuous details into sinister signs of her own negligence. In such a state, even the way her son had left the toaster pulled out on the counter and dirty would seem significant: a plea for her to come along and fix it—fix the fucked-up situation. To look at his hairbrush and see all the long threads coiled and tangled as a sign of his distraught mind. To reconsider all of his anger, his stints in detention, pulling out his eyelashes, punching the lights out of the neighbor kid, his chapped and picked lips—

Fuck that.

She shimmied out of her jeans and shirt. Any other day the faded bra, frayed top ridges and loose elastic, and the greying, stained panties would have been embarrassing—before her husband, before kids, back when she was a fine young thing like these girls, everything under her clothes was color-coordinated, silky and small—but she had no energy to care. She snagged another cigarette from the pack on the chair and fought with the wind to light it.

They cheered her slow slide into the pool. The relaxation wasn’t instant. The water nipped cold but moving against the pressure of it felt good.

Blue Bikini swam closer. “Rough night?”

That question pierced her, pulled tears close to the surface.

“Rough day.”

“Rough life,” from Black Bikini, a Mona-Lisa phrase: not quite a question, not quite a comment, directed more at the sky than at anybody else in the pool as she lulled back into the water.

What’d these girls know about rough?

“I’m Kramer,” Blue Bikini said and stuck out an honest-to-god hand like it was a job interview. Damp but firm handshake.

Pink Bikini snickered. “I’m Elaine.”

Still in the reclining position, Black Bikini said, “Guess that makes me George.”

No way she was going to be left out of the joke, “Guess that makes me Seinfeld.”

She passed their test—they didn’t laugh but a wave of delight passed amongst them.

Whole sentences in the girlish lexicon of looks built between female friends. She used to be in the loop on relationships like that. Girls she’d known since running barefoot down the road in the frilly dresses their mamas put them in, grown into women with jobs, kids, people she used to commiserate with when husbands ran late from baseball practice. What she’d given up, settled for phone calls that became less and less frequent, for her husband’s job advancement in that twister-prone butt of the world.

George popped up, spraying them all, and walked like the water was air to paw through the pack of cigarettes on the edge of the pool. Made her think: It would be good to have another. The one in her hand already smoked to a bitter nub.

George offered a cigarette, lighting it before passing it over.

She’d smoke their whole pack if she wasn’t careful. “What’re you girls doing here?”

“On holiday,” Elaine answered.

“Here? In Squaresville?” She gestured to the weathered, crumbling façade of the motel but she meant the whole town of square, sprawling and ageing suburbs with its mile-long downtown full of tchotchke shops. “You’re kidding, right? What’re you doing during the day? Attending seminars on Strategic Initiatives for Market Implementations?”

“Ha!” Kramer swam closer. “We are! We’re going to take super detailed notes. Put together a PowerPoint presentation when we get home.”

Elaine cut Kramer’s momentum, “No, we’re on the road again, tomorrow. On our way to California. This is just a pit stop.”

“The best pit stop,” Kramer whooped.

“Tomorrow, first thing, we sail,” George insisted to Kramer.

Kramer flipped the bird over her shoulder, “Here’s some wind for you.”

“We have an appointment to keep,” Elaine said. The peacekeeper.

“But tonight, tonight we have our dear friend here,” Kramer crouched low and eased closer, looking up from the water, like a nymph or water sprite, “our friend here who, like so many, has cast her fate in with a ‘good man,’” air quotes, “because he seemed so safe, so normal.”

Best to dispel that silly notion, “I knew Reynolds wasn’t a good man.”

“Wasn’t talking about Reynolds.”

How uncanny, how close to the quick. “Who are you talking about?”

Kramer sank lower until she was just eyes.

Spuming a jet of smoke, George interceded, “You’re wearing a wedding ring.”

“Okay. But the way she said it—do you know my husband?”

Kramer eased upward, “No, let’s just say we know of him.”

If she’d known karate she would have chopped the girl on the shoulder. Nunchucked that smile away. She pointed at Kramer, “You mean you know husbands or you know my specific husband?”

Kramer smiled again, but George appealed to her friend, “This is no heath—and that cauldron on the fire is not yet ripe for stirring. Premature attention will cook it quick until it’s burnt and beyond salvation.”

Some new weird code meant to keep her out, talk around her as if she wasn’t there.

In rebuttal, Kramer, “I say thrice to thine.”

George: “Don’t invoke this.”

But Kramer responded to George, “’Tis not premature, ‘tis prime, nay it bubbles. It calls to be stirred.”

George appealed to Elaine, but Elaine, lifted a shoulder in a whaddya gonna do?

Focus! She slapped the water so it splashed Kramer. “I asked you: Do. You. Know. My. Husband?”

Freed from the caution of George, Kramer stood up again, “Not biblically. I’m not a pre-pubescent boy.”

She wanted to throw her cigarette up on the deck. Let it land on the towels and set the whole motel ablaze. Let it grow into a torrent, burn for a thousand days and nights, reaching to the stratosphere, burn away the atmosphere, buckle the earth’s mantle—sucking in clouds, space stations, satellites, birds, cars, sno cones, playgrounds, stars, sidewalks, dirt, and worms, and nannas, papas, taking guilty people and innocent people. Nothing and nobody should escape the inferno of retribution. Let it burn these girls. Let it burn her.

“How the fuck do you know that?”

Kramer put up her hand, “Hey, hey, haven’t we all been diddled by an adult?”

“Just guessing again? Just a stab in the dark?”

“Yes, let’s call it a guess.” George edged close to Kramer.

Kramer paddled away, said, “It’s no guess.”

The water turned cold, crackled like a freeze swept across. The hair all over her body prickled, her scalp tingled. The worn-thin cotton of her undergarments felt too spare. Practically naked in front of strangers! She crossed her arms, steadied her cigarette hand with a long inhale. “So you overheard our conversation in the room. You listened in. Not that it’s any of your business, but it’s going to be okay. My son will be fine.”

Kramer bobbed up, water spilling off the ledge of her breasts. “Well, you would know. He could turn out fine. He could get married, have children of his own, pretend everything is okay, look the other way as his wife crawls into their little boy’s bed at night.”

The cigarette dropped from her hands, landed with a sizzle. No! How could they know?

“Let us not toil to summon apparitions,” George said.

“Hush,” Kramer hissed.

“You can’t know—”

“It’s simply the wheel of time turning upon its great hub, churning your line endlessly on the broken road. An uncle, the priest, the man next door, a friend’s father, some disconnected citizen can be borne. But did not your own mother, your lifeblood, your heart slither into your bed and take from you that which should have been yours to choose to give?”

“Nobody knows that. I never told—” She backed away as Kramer advanced, low and close to the water.

“Except thy father, who bade you hush and attribute your greatest grief to dreams.”

“I’m dreaming now, I’m dreaming!”

“And did you not bury this darkness deep in the loamy soil of your soul, amongst rock, worms, and mole, and thought it gone, but lo! How it took root, grew, until it sickened and twisted all you do, until you regarded women—nurse, teacher, babysitter—with suspicious eye. Guarding your nest to the west, you left a space in the east for a snake to slither through. By seeing askew, the very thing you wished to prevent came true.”

Elaine: “Double, double toil and trouble.”

“Stop!” She kept backing up and her foot clocked against the bottom step. Tottered, unbalanced for a few seconds and crashed backwards into the water. Air slammed out of her.

Water slowed her fall, and time, too. Her hair wafted up in dark coils against the electric blue of the pool lights. Her elbow cracked against the concrete of the pool and bubbles foamed up in a crescendo, trilled around her ribcage, and were gone. A red thread of her own blood spooled upward.

Peering through the crystalline distance of the water she saw no legs. Where were the girls? She’d cooked them in her fevered brain. Hot ramen stew of her own thoughts.

Towards the deep end, away from the bright zing of underwater lights the water darkened. Was that laughter? Giggles and the wah-wah of a voice above water. Shadows in the depths. A pair of beams of pale forms crisscrossing through the pool towards her.

Then, emerging as the sturdy stalks of a man’s legs. Bulging calves and long fur of a hirsute man. A man walking slowly towards her. In the way of dreams she knew that it was her son—burly, matured version of her child. His voice barely audible.

So it was a fever dream! Sunlight from this possible future glowed above the break of the surface. A summer time, with light and heat. He carried something half in the water, a melon? No, little legs kicked, small hands splashed, breaking water. A baby! Her future grandchild. And her heart lifted.

The apparition of him kept moving forward, but in slow motion like a movie. Too slow! Come closer. To see the face of her grandchild through the wobble of water. But, as she spun from the impact, she turned sideways, away from him, and she could see, behind him, other pale figures. Ghostly, half-formed: the wavery shadows of great-grandchildren. The children of those children, a horde of them, pressing upward from the depths. Stooped, naked, curled and pale. They shuffled forward towards the future sunshine, clawing, gasping—a whole line of her echoing into the future suffering, drowning, all of them.

A dread infected her, a horror so intense she abandoned the chance to see her grandchild’s face, flailed, got her legs under, and pushed up into the air with a great bellow. Heaved the wet cement of her hair away from her face.

Unbelievably, there were the three girls. Kramer and George still in the pool, Elaine perched on a deck chair. All eyes on her. She gripped the metal bar of the stairs so hard her wedding ring bit into her skin. Looking out to the deep end, nothing. Not even a ripple of what she’d seen.

“You bitches,” out of breath, could hardly gain her voice, “tell me. You brought this out—you started this so now tell me.”

Kramer: “Speak.”

Elaine: “Demand.”

George: “We’ll answer.”

“What happens to my son? Does he become the sort of person who hurts his own kids?”

The three girls looked one to the other.

Elaine said, “What is warped cannot be set straight.”

“That doesn’t sound good. What does that mean?”

To her sisters, Kramer said, “Her line stretches out to the crack of doom. Did we not all sense it when we chose this place to stay? Do we three not have the power to unweave the harrowed tapestry and change what grief may be visited on this world?” To her, “Know that the line that binds you is a dark weave spun out generations before you and goes forward into the future, multiplying in magnitude, so that what was wrought upon your son will be visited tenfold.”

“I saw that in the water. I saw the future. Tell me how to change it.”

Kramer snaked backwards, drawing her into the depths, “Yea, a mother’s love is a balm to the wearied soul, but have ye not set guards across all your borders? Afraid her perversions might spill across time to soak and warp your own, you left him long in the cold without the blanket of your love.”

Had Kramer punched her? She couldn’t catch her breath.

She admitted: “Yes, maybe—maybe I was distant from him... to protect him, just in case something dormant... But I always thought, he has his father. He has his … loving father. He had.”

Elaine chortled. “That’s some shit luck.”

“But, it can be fixed. Tell me how.” She lunged at Kramer, grabbing her shoulders, shook! By god to crack her open like humpty dumpty. “I love him—I can fix him. How do I fix him? How do I fix him?”

Kramer flopped, rolling into the shakes, but didn’t answer.

A cell phone trilled and Elaine checked it. “Paddock calls.”

“Gotta go.” Kramer stiffened and pulled away.

“You don’t get to open up everything and leave it undone! Tell me.” She grabbed at Kramer but the girl had already slipped out of the pool, toweling off. “Don’t leave me.”

From behind, George, still in the water touched her on the shoulder, forcibly turned her so they could look in each other’s eyes, so close the little pebbles of pores across her face were visible. Her eyes ringed dark by lashes so thick it looked like kohl. “Okay, listen. This stuff with your husband? It’s been going on for a long time. You could let your son grow up, maybe get him in therapy, but he’s already started in with the animals in the neighborhood. It helps with his rage, but soon it won’t be enough. A stint in juvie won’t straighten him out like they say it will and he’ll come out pretty fucked up. He’s going to get really bad. Like, Jeffrey Dahmer bad. He’ll build a special basement to keep his daughter in. And the police won’t catch him for a long time. He’ll have a perfectly long life.”

The freeze was inside her then, a cold so intense it seemed to stop all of her organs. She had to wait for it to lessen a fraction before she had enough air to speak. “I could let him grow up?”

“You could...” George wrinkled her nose as if a draft of pool pee had warmed them, then slapped her hands together.

George hauled herself out of the water into the towel proffered by Elaine. They zipped up cutoff jeans, fished for flipflops and discarded sunglasses. Picked up their cooler stuffed it with their crushed, half-emptied cigarette cartons.

Though she was shivering—cold to her very bones—she waded to the edge. They couldn’t leave! Not like this. “Wait! What if I don’t believe you?”

Curtly, without any coyness, Elaine asked. “You doubt us?”

“Let’s say for discussion’s sake that I do nothing. That I let everything run its course?”

They all turned to consider. From that angle, they looked older: thickened jowls, looser skin, burnt, finer flatter hair. She could see what time would do to them or maybe what time had already done? They seemed more menacing, with their towering angles, flare of nostril, long fingers, and interminable weight of time curving bones.

Elaine answered, “If you do like your father, then all of what follows—the girls in the basement, the nighttime assignations of parent and child—it’s on you.”

“No!” She grabbed at feet, “unsay what you said!” but they backed away, and if her whole body wasn’t shaking she would have pulled herself over the lip of the pool and beached herself across their paths. Crushed their delicate ankles with her weight until they spooled back everything they had said that night. She started towards the stairs to get at them. “Don’t leave me like this.”

She half tripped up the pool stairs, righted herself, and scrambled onto the deck, nearly fell into a split as one leg slipped out from under her, but sheer will over muscle, righted herself only to stumble again, flail, and fall to her knees with a sickening crack.

Supernovas of pain blacked out everything for a stunning, unbearable minute. She moaned and rolled onto her side, breathing hard against the concrete, looking for the girls to help her, come close to lift her up and give her a chance to claw at them until they recanted. But they were gone. Quiet and quick as cats. As shadows.

The pool deck radiated cold through her flimsy underwear. She straightened her knees, slowly, cartilage crackled, and her legs pulsed with pain, already swelled puffy and purpled. The first layer of skin scraped away. She scooted forward and put her feet into the pool, easing forward until the chlorine stung the raw burn of her skin. Her blood swirled like a snake into the water.

It was sharp, the pain of her knees. Of her day. Of her life. Of all of it.

“I love him,” she said, again as if by doing so if they were still listening they would know it wasn’t up for debate. It could go on record. A cosmic record where the magnitude of her love would outweigh everything that had already come, what was yet to come.

Maybe if she’d been able to rush home and plough through the tequila and wine she could have put the three girls out of mind, obliterated them after the fact with black-out drunkenness, but her knees refused to bend. No tearing pell-mell to a bar. No calling Reynolds back and telling him to bring weed. She’d be lucky to claw herself to a pool chair and wait for management to find her the next morning.

Her knees were their final brutal parting gift: a night to stew. Time to think, while above, the night sky, unshelled and sparkling, hovered in the purple between dark night and coming day. Not then just tonight, but weeks propped up on a bed, moving slowly, deliberately to the bathroom and back again. TV no real distraction, and hours to plan. Think through everything she would do for her son. Because, she would do something—she wouldn’t abdicate action. She loved her son. She would do what was best for him. She would do what was right.


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