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Winter 1997
How to Do the Twist
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"Please, Evie. Please." My father had a way of saying please that hurt my ears. He looked at Johnny and me, as if to apologize for our mother's language. I wanted my father to stand up to her. I wanted him to say, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn," and walk away. But he didn't. Instead, he opened the picnic basket and offered her some Oreo cookies, which she took all of them and stood up.

"Fuck you," she spit at my father. He bowed his head.

She walked away, and her nurse or guard I wasn't sure which had to run to catch up with her.

"Your mother's a little upset," my father told us. And we packed up our picnic basket and went home.

When my mother was let out of the mental hospital, my father decided it would be nice to take the family to Key West, Florida. He thought it would be a good rest for Mother, hanging out by the Key Ambassador Motel pool, while he spent the day on a battleship teaching young sailors the ins and outs of chemical warfare.

On the night before we left for Florida, my mother took me to the side of the garage and told me what they did to her in the mental hospital. She told me they changed the clocks around and teased the patients. She told me they made her scrub the bathroom floor. The staff told her she was being dramatic when she complained. She made me promise not to let them put her away ever again. Then she popped three little pills and squeezed me hard against her plump bosom.

Two days after we arrived in Key West, the Cubans pointed their missiles at the U.S. My father came home to the motel early and said we needed to buy canned foods. We were going to spend the night in a fallout shelter. My brother and I were very excited.

"It's the end of the world!" Johnny yelled to my mother. "We're all gonna die!"

But she didn't hear him. She was floating in the blue water of the pool, and her ears were submerged. She was wearing that black twist dress and the fringe floated all around her. She looked like a poisonous jellyfish.

"The bombs are coming!" my brother screamed louder.

Finally my mother did look up. She lowered her sunglasses and smiled at us. "That's nice," she said as she twisted slowly in the water.

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