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thought much about it. Just another of Mother's peculiarities, nothing
obvious and embarrassing, nothing my friends could see like her
busted seams and unraveling hems, or her fat brown arms. More in
line with her Indian stories, her talk about spirits and Old Uncle,
that relative who disappeared one day and then returned singing
in all of creation.
you hear him singing, Iris?"
her no, once and for all, after an enormous rattlesnake it was supposed
to be Old Uncle did nothing more that I could see than slither under
some oak leaves and scare the life out of me while I was helping
pick acorns. She finally quit asking.
weeks from Christmas, and two days from the spelling bee, Mary Beth
asked me if I thought my mother was weird. It was after school and
we were sitting at the table going over the word list, which we
had gained a great command of, me noticeably so. I was shocked.
I thought first of the piece of Angelica root I'd stuck in my dresser
drawer, then I thought better: Mother helping me late at night after
Mary Beth went back to her house. Had she hung around outside the
door and listened? Could she see through her window into our house?
do you mean?" I asked.
been scanning a page of the open dictionary and didn't look up.
"Like my mother," she said finally. "She's weird."
I was genuinely perplexed now.
her finger she marked the word she'd been looking for, then slowly
lifted her eyes from the book. "She has this thing in the bathroom,"
she said. "It's this rubber bag Allison says her mother has one,
too. It's to wash out their you-know-whats." She gestured with the
thumb of her free hand to her lap.
do you know?" I asked.
I saw it. It was hanging over her shower door and Allison told me
what they do with it."