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Winter 1997
Monopoly
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As outlandish as the rubber contraption sounded to me, I neither tried to picture it or gave it a second's thought. I was relieved. Mary Beth only wanted to talk.

"That's not as weird as my mother," I said. "Look at how she dresses rags, a hobo."

"Yeah, since your father left."

"Well," I quickly added, "she was never a great dresser." Mary Beth shrugged and looked back down at the dictionary. "What's the word again?"

"Miscellaneous," she said.

Easy, I thought to myself. It was her word I'd pitched it to her but I spelled it anyway. "M-I-S-C-E-L-L-A-N-E-O-U-S."

"Yep," she said.

After she left, and before Mother came back with my dinner, I asked myself why I'd been so alarmed by her question. What was I afraid of? When Mary Beth asked if I thought Mother was weird, I felt as if I'd gotten caught cheating.

Mother wore a dress: ink black, three white buttons the size of half-dollars in the front, low-collared; I had no idea she had it. And a white wool sweater, buttoned at the neck, somewhat old lady-like, but from my point of view on stage, it looked like a mantle of soft flowers over her shoulders. I hadn't seen her before I left the house. I had to be at the auditorium early, so I went with the Polks. But there she was, only a few rows in from the front, and if not for her wide brown face and shining black hair, which was pulled back clean and tight, she could have been anyone's mother. She seemed still, quiet, as if she might be uncomfortable; but as the losers in front of me drifted one by one off the stage, I could see her more clearly and knew otherwise. Her eyes were only on me.

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