EXTRACT: Ducks, Newburyport, Lucy Ellmann

THE FACT THAT the raccoons are now banging an empty yoghurt carton around on the driveway, the fact that in the early morning stillness it sounds like gunshots, the fact that, even in fog, with ice on the road and snow banks blocking their vision, people are already zooming around our corner, the site of many a minor accident, the fact that a guy in a pickup once accidentally skidded into our garage, and next time it could be our house, or a child, Wake Up Picture Day, dicamba, Kleenex, the fact that a pickup truck killed Dilly, the fact that she’d successfully dodged cars for three whole years, the fact that she knew all about cars, but during that time the traffic grew, the fact that it’s crazee now, the fact that after she got killed the kids painted a big warning sign with a big black cat on it and stuck it right by the fence, but nobody notices it, the fact that they’re all going too fast to see it, ♫ When the cat died we had catnip tea ♫, the fact that failure to yield causes one in five accidents in Ohio, the fact that car crashes are up twenty percent since 2009, haw tree, buckeye, black walnut, hickory, butternut, the fact that Stacy’s old enough to handle the road but the other kids aren’t, the fact that a little boy was killed in his bed just the other day by a skidding car crashing into his house, Ben asleep, the fact that there are two cardinals right now in the lilac tree, the fact that eleven percent of Americans carry on driving when the fuel-tank-empty light comes on, the fact that you’d think it’d be more like eighty percent, Ronny, chicken feed, the fact that there are macrophages, Ben, the fact that I dreamt I flew all the way to India to get a teaspoon of cinnamon but when I got home I realized I needed flaked almonds too, security, holding pattern, go figure, not in my back yard, the fact that we have to do our taxes and try to remember every little bit of income and expenditure, the fact that there was more of the latter than the former, Family Dollar, Baker’s IGA, password, username, your card is now active and ready to use, the fact that not only do we have to calculate our income and expenditure but we gotta figure out how to get more money, and keep on getting money till we’re dead, Medicare, Medicare For All, the fact that by the time Leo’s old enough to get Social Security it probably won’t cover the price of a ham sandwich, much less a bottle of wine, the fact that we’re in for a wineless old age, oi veh, OJ, the fact that Leo has to go to Philly tomorrow and I’m not so good on my own, the fact that Ben knows so much for such a little kid, maybe too much, the fact that he says drugs work on a molecular level that can be assessed using logarithms and Schild Curves, but I just pop ’em and leave the rest to chance, breakfast, alarm clock, laundry, Spinbrush, the fact that we have to have a cocktail party and I don’t know what to wear, the fact that the only fun part is deciding on the canapés, cocktails, cock-a-doodle-do, cock, oh my word, the fact that words just pop into my head, dear me, the fact that I’ve got to get the dough going for the cinnamon rolls, the fact that at least we’re not having any more dinner parties, the fact that I put my foot down there, ♫ Your feet’s too big ♫, feat of strength, footloose and fancy-free, the fact that our parties are always a big flop anyway because the kids come down in the middle in their onesies and kill all conversation with cuteness, the fact that they look like polar bear cubs and they know it, the fact that sometimes they end up serving the drinks too, the fact that I don’t know what Prof Pranump would make of that, especially since she’s teetotal, tea, Triscuits, Ritz crackers, Saltines, Fritos, Doritos, Frito-Lay, Planters peanuts, Blue Diamond smoked almonds, Prohibition, Some Like It Hot, the fact that soon polar bears and walruses will have nowhere to go, because the polar ice is melting, walruses, cheese and pineapple on sticks, cheddar cheese logs, school bus, ground cardamom, dried cherries, zest, the fact that walruses can swim for four hundred miles, sure, but not forever, for Pete’s sake, the fact that animals behave predictably, they don’t pride themselves on irrationality the way we do, the fact that, according to Ben, half the mammals on the planet will disappear by 2050, pineapple on sticks, the fact that Ben says everybody on earth will soon be starving or suffocating or dying of SARS or Ebola or H5N1, and H5N1 only has to mutate a few more times and we’re all goners, the fact that maybe it was all for nothing, the fact that Stacy would probably approve of a global pandemic, as long as it included us, nearest and dearest, but before that happens, we still have to do our taxes, and Leo needs to fix the garage door, the fact that it keeps sticking, missing button, bathroom grouting, releasing our poor little terrapins into the pond at Northwestern, the fact that I was Ben’s age, the fact that we thought they’d be happy there, free, the fact that nobody ever said they were tropical terrapins, the fact that we actually thought they’d like swimming free in that freezing cold pond, the fact that I saw a dead dog with rabies near that pond once, so our turtles could have gotten rabies as well as freezing to death, the fact that we weren’t much good as pet owners, the bumblebee at Bread Loaf, the fact that what we liked best was going to the Big Building, where Daddy worked, because sometimes you got a free pencil, the fact that we loved to climb on the big painted rock outside, a boulder, right in front of the building, the fact that I don’t know if somebody installed it there, or it was just there because they couldn’t get rid of it maybe, when they built the Big Building, the fact that the paint was chipped and you could see how many layers it had, blue, red, white, yellow, green, Chris Rock, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the fact that Mozart had a starling, the fact that female starlings sing too, not just male starlings, murmurations, Ohio Blue Tip matches, phone call, nearest and dearest, the fact that I don’t know where my cellphone is, the fact that I never know where it is, the fact that cellphones are always trying to escape their owners, the fact that there are earthquakes and tornadoes and tsunamis and volcano eruptions, that red velvet cushion with gold trim, Gillian’s tall bird with sequins, felt and sequins, Christmastime, alone with Mommy in their bedroom at twilight, twi-night double header, the fact that Stacy never mentions Frank, well, not to me anyway, Rex the Walkie-Talkie Robot Man, the fact that I don’t think she misses him at all, sidewinder, sidecar, Reader’s Digest, Hardee’s on 2nd Street, Arby’s, Hy-Vee, the fact that I always liked sequins on felt, Mommy and Daddy’s bedroom in the late afternoon, the fact that I don’t think Stacy minds having a stepdad at all, the fact that these days most kids have half brothers and sisters, so they must be used to it, the fact that all in all we’re really a pretty stable family unit here, just a normal Joy, Pledge, Crest, Tide, Dove, Woolite, Palmolive, Clorox, Rolaids, Pepto-Bismol, Alka-Seltzer, Desitin, Advil, Aleve, Tylenol, Anacin, Bayer, Excedrin, Vitamin C, Kleenex, Kotex, Tampax, Altoid, Barbazol, Almay, Revlon, Cetaphil, Right Guard, Old Spice, Gillette, Q-Tip, Johnson & Johnson, Vaseline, Listerine, Head ’n’ Shoulders, Tylenol, Bayer, Anacin, Safe Owl, Eagle Brand, Jolly Green Giant, Land O’ Lakes, Lucerne, Sealtest, Clover, Blue Bonnet, Half ’n’ Half, Snyder, VanCamp, Wish-Bone, French’s, Skyline, Empress, Gerber, Nabisco, Heinz, Kraft, Quaker Oats, Sunkist, Purina, Vlasic, Oreos, Shredded Wheat, Arm & Hammer, Jell-O, Pez, Sara Lee, Chock Full o’ Nuts, Libby, Pepperidge Farm, Fleischmann’s, Morton, General Mills, King Arthur, Bell’s, Reese’s Pieces kind of household like everybody else, even with all these macrophages and tardigrades around, whatever they are, “Houston, we got a problem,” the fact that there’s a tiny lake called Lake Yueyaquan in the middle of the Chinese desert, the fact that why do I even know that, walruses swimming for four hundred miles, polar bear cubs, the fact that they found a penguin fossil and it was a five-foot-tall penguin, gigantic, and all the paleontologist could say was “Cool,” the fact that it’s kind of lonely getting up in the early hours with all these macrophages and tardigrades, missing earring, Ben’s water project, Ben asleep, Gillian asleep, the fact that I’m surprised Jake isn’t clomping down the stairs yet, sucking on his baby blanket, “Buck up,” President Taft, Mount Rushmore, the fact that the best thing about having four kids is that other people leave you in peace, the fact that I hide behind the kids too much probably, more than is strictly necessary, soccer moms, Tiger Moms, baseball, Magic 8 Ball, the fact that nobody really wants to see you if you’ve got kids, even your best friends, Nanya, Anat, Jess, the fact that they all just assume I’m so preoccupied with the kids I can’t think straight, and they’re right, pretty much, most of the time, fireflies, damselflies, hoverflies, fruit flies, FOOSH injury, the fact that I don’t even know Jess’s address anymore, the fact that you drop all these people and then the kid’ll leave home and then where’ll you be, bumblebees, hummingbirds, red-winged blackbirds, loons, the fact that Ben says there are at least sixty billion earthlike planets, just in the Milky Way alone, and I wonder if motherhood exists on all of them, the fact that I wonder if Land O’ Lakes exists on them, the fact that if you get two Land O’ Lakes packets and cut them and fold them just right, it looks like the milkmaid’s knees are her, well, like she’s got great big, great big, the fact that I don’t know why I’m thinking about that, for heaven’s sake, polar bears, iceberg, lettuce, the Titanic, the fact that the Bourgogne disaster was maybe worse than the Titanic, though more people died in the Titanic, the fact that the Titanic only had enough lifeboats for a third of its passengers, the fact that that’s just silly, the fact that the wreck of the Titanic lies three and a half miles deep, the fact that it’s still down there, nervous wreck, the fact that I like Lucerne butter better anyway, not Land O’ Lakes, AEP, ATM, AA, AAA, A-AAAABA Locksmiths, IBM, ICBM, BMs, the fact that we eat too much meat, though Leo says we eat too many carbs, the fact that every few years they decide noodles are fatal, but I don’t buy that, noodles seem pretty innocent to me, overall, the fact that they never mention the dangers of Krispy Kremes and hog roasts, danger, hydrangea, the fact that you wouldn’t think you’d need the word “hydrangea” all that much but it’s good to have it in your arsenal, the fact that it’s the sort of thing that’s really embarrassing not to have on the tip of your tongue when you need it, like forgetting the name Hamlet or Cher or Miley Cyrus or something, the fact that the Irish are “drunk on remembrance,” the fact that folks just expect you to know certain things, like the word hydrangea, they do, or some do anyway, hydrangea, hydrangea, and if you don’t they think you’re weird, the fact that I should write it down somewhere so I don’t forget it again, but then I’ll forget where I wrote it, and anyway I don’t think I’ll forget hydrangeas again, apples, apple-peeler, the fact that I’ll put it on the fridge, the piece of paper, not the peeler, the fact that nobody will notice it there amongst all the magnets, and even if they do they’ll never guess I put it there because I can’t remember that silly word, the fact that I forgot Casanova’s name once and had to hide it, the fact that I forget how it came up but it did, the fact that he does now and then, I guess, the fact that I gotta go, the fact that sometimes I leave it almost too late, light switch, For this relief, much thanks, the fact that we all have to go to the bathroom all the time and it’s a big, big bore, soap, full moon, the fact that now there’s something in my eye, They say the hen can lay, Vaseline, Q-Tip, the fact that I’m sure we’ve got some Vaseline in the kids’ bathroom, DON’T USE, the fact that I get sciatica every time I use the kids’ bathroom, well, a twinge anyway, the fact that I don’t like bending over, and the seat’s too low, the fact that I get sciatica whenever I get tense, the fact that that’s why I don’t dare vacuum at the moment, or pick up heavy items, or wash the kitchen floor, or use the kids’ sink, which is way too low for me, orecchiette, origami, ocakbasi, mush, cornmeal mush, cornmeal mush pie, much too much, mush to mush, dust to dust, ♫ What makes the muskrat guard his musk? Courage! ♫, coffee and donuts, donuts or no donuts, heart scar, heart operation, Eight Killed In Crash Horror, the fact that I gotta do the dishes before everybody’s up, I gotta, the fact that I’m a slob, slob, slut, tramp, cock, brontosaurus, pterodactyl, raptors, T-Rex, shrunken heads, yellow toy tractor, the fact that it doesn’t take that long to do dishes, ten minutes tops, big deal, so why all the resistance, the fact that every day I have to force myself, ten times a day, the fact that I don’t exult in housework somehow, but dirty dishes are depressing, Anat always said, and I don’t want the kids to be depressed, or Leo either, or me, the fact that Leo really has no idea what goes on here all day, the fact that he’d probably flip out if he ever found out what’s really involved in feeding, clothing, housing and shepherding four whole kids, or kidherding, I should say, ’cause they’re not sheep, far from it, the fact that my entire life is now spent catering to their needs and demands, “Ahoy, my hearties!”, grist to the mill, walking the plank, KP, cleaning toilets, filling lunchboxes, labeling all their personal property, shampooing, brushing hair, discussing everything, searching for lost stuff, or baking fanouropita cake to help find it, Fanourios, the fact that Saint Fanourios is the saint of lost things, and lost causes too, the fact that I am a lost cause, saints, Catholics, Greek Orthodox, San Martin, the fact that I like San Martin, the fact that they make a special croissant for him in Poland, the fact that he really liked to help the poor, the fact that we’re poor, bail-out, buy-out, cook-out, clean-out, freak-out, the fact that then there’s all the dusting, sweeping, ironing, making beds, washing sheets, towels and clothes, itch, sore eye, ironing pile, tending the chickens, feeding the goldfish, washing the windows, valeting the car, and myself, or hunting down dust bunnies like Elmer Fudd on The Glorious Twelfth, the fact that Mommy and Daddy got married on The Glorious Twelfth, the fact that none of the kids can say twelfth, and it’s catching, the fact that I’m forgetting how to say things too now, the fact that I spend too much time with youngsters, “Feburry,” the fact that they all say “twelth,” the fact that it seems to take years to get that F in there, Twelfth Night, the fact that you’re supposed to keep your Christmas tree up until Twelfth Night but nobody does anymore, pine tree corpses all along the street, the fact that I don’t know when Twelfth Night is but I guess it must’ve passed by now, twelve alive, diner talk for a dozen raw oysters, baker’s dozen, Celebs Who Had Normal Jobs Before, the fact that there’s also the vacuuming, and holding the fort, and fielding phone calls, planning meals, settling disputes, trying to keep track of everybody’s cell instead of my own, Rebel Without a Cause, mending, sewing, making handmade pencil cases for everybody, just because I made one for Stacy years ago, and then of course baking a million pies, shopping, chopping, slicing, splicing, spilling, frilling, fooling, cooling, heating, boiling, broiling and frying, macrophages, Tuesday, dentist, trash, mush, mush to mush, the fact that if I’d known what I was in for, the work involved, the chaos, before I had them, Walter Matthau, Harry Belafonte, like helping him with his homework, Ben not Harry Belafonte, and having to listen to all their groans, and screams, and sighs, and Gameboys, and unexpected bangs and crashes, On the Waterfront, or letting the cats in and out, out and in, tending the chickens some more, Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, the fact that I’m not used to having a moment to myself anymore really, uno momento, no problemo, like, just to read a book or something, Real-Life Revenge Stories, How Protein Helps You, ♫ Figaro, Figaro, Figaro! ♫, the fact that I sound like the factotum, ♫ per carità , the fact that if I try to read anything these days, Jake immediately sits on my lap and makes me read him one of his books, baby of the family, the fact that I was the baby of the family too once, Reasons You Can’t Stay Focused, the fact that I gave up trying to get Leo to share the housework way back, the fact that there’s no point in two senses of defeat, Bedtime Rituals Of Happy Couples, sortie, the fact that I tried to play a little trick on him once, when he came in the kitchen and asked what my nice, square wooden spatula’s for, and I said, “Spatula? That’s a sortie!” and he said “A what?” and I said “A sortie! They’re an ancient Scottish kitchen utensil, used only for certain tasks,” the fact that the whole thing then failed because Leo never asked which tasks, just wandered off, the fact that that was kind of disappointing, since I was about to say a sortie’s for whacking Scottish husbands on the sit-me-down-upon and then I was going to chase him around the kitchen with it, before admitting it’s really just a square spatula, and I don’t even remember where I got it, the fact that I still call it the sortie though anyway, and any day now I’m going to push on with the joke, if I ever get the chance, sticking with “jerk store,” Tetra Brik, bird of paradise, the King’s Ransome, slumber parties, dust bunnies, Playboy bunnies, nurse’s uniform, dolls’ clothes, schoolgirl outfits, apron, housecoat, the fact that I’ve never wanted to buy a proper housecoat because owning a housecoat implies you’re going to do grimy tasks, so now I end up doing the grimy tasks anyway, just without the protective gear, And that has made all the difference, the fact that I don’t like being seen doing housework, for some reason, the fact that it makes me all self-conscious, the fact that I don’t want to be watched scrubbing and sweating and lugging and tearing at things and such, the fact that maybe I don’t take enough pride in my housework, the fact that I don’t take any pride in housework, as far as I know, which isn’t very Amish of me, house-proud Hausfrau, housewife, homemaker, the fact that I come from a long line of people who took no pride in housekeeping, except for Abby, the fact that she did get something out of it, the fact that she liked her system anyway, her routine, and getting it all done right, Polish croissants, the fact that Daddy was terrible at making beds, just awful at it, but he didn’t do it too often, the fact that bedmaking held no interest for him, and that was very clear from the way he made them, the fact that I take pride in my baking, now and again, but that’s about it, and when I do, I do it in private, because Mommy taught us never to be proud, the fact that some moms teach their kids the opposite nowadays, bolstering ’em up non-stop, little gods, telling them how great they are, ye gods, E-G-O, E  mc2, the fact that maybe Einstein had a right to be proud, the fact that you can still be positive, without being overly proud, positive-negative, negatives, electrical circuits, the fact that the more you bake the more you brood, on your brood, but when I vacuum I wonder if movie stars ever vacuum, or aliens on other planets, the fact that it’s pretty unlikely we’re the only creatures in the universe bothered by dust after all, the fact that aliens probably think we’re real slobs not to Swiffer our moon more, the fact that it probably drives them bananas having to stare at our dusty, pockmarked little moon for millions and billions of years, to thine own self be true, Crooked Creek, mean dogs, stay-at-home moms, homemakers, heartbreakers, working moms, young marrieds, Diseases You Never Heard Of, the fact that I don’t know why you’d wear a white dress unless you absolutely had to, the fact that poor kids do better at school if you give them glasses, well, the ones that need glasses, the fact that maybe I needed glasses sooner than I got them too, come to think of it, the fact that I’d sort of stopped looking at the blackboard for a year or two, around 4th Grade, the fact that I thought I was just a dummy but maybe I was just nearsighted, or maybe both, the fact that I wore a silvery-gray dress for my first wedding, and a nice summery blue-and-white cotton dress for the second one, the fact that I never wore white, who wants white, dirt, stains, stain remover, bleach, starch, the fact that I know I should teach the kids to do their fair share of housework like kids in olden times, the fact that Laura Ingalls Wilder always had chores, and even more of them after Mary went blind, Passengers Freak Out Over Pilot’s Warning, penguin fossil, “Cool,” the fact that the Ingalls’s life was really essentially Amish, and they seem pretty happy too, even though they’re poor, hair collector, the fact that Laura Ingalls Wilder glossed over stuff though, like that dead brother and all the times they lost their land, or their homesteads, and their horse team, even their dog, and how they nearly starved during the hard winter, the fact that I think her publisher made her change it to the long winter, the fact that the idea of a “hard” winter was too dismal to contemplate, tough sell, cell, phone, the fact that my only problem with Laura Ingalls Wilder books is when she tries to describe how to make stuff, like a bobsled or a door latch, or the whole door, or a bullet, or a milk churn, the fact that I just skip those bits I’m reading out loud, the fact that you’re none the wiser anyway, after she tells you, though it’s good of her to try and all, the fact that Laura and Almanzo find an Indian mound once when they’re out courting in the buggy, the fact that it’s near Silver Lake, the fact that they both got diphtheria when Rose was just a baby, and she had to stay with Ma and Pa, Charles and Caroline, the fact that Almanzo was really sick, and always had a limp from then on, Chartier guys, celeriac, choke cherries, limp, cane, jalopy, toaster, Van Allen Belt, tipping point, the fact that Pa seems kind of Amish, with his beard and all, the fact that the only thing unAmish about them is Laura’s interest in dresses and hats when she gets older, the fact that her clothes get less and less “plain and simple,” and she insists on cutting her bangs, the fact that Kelly McGillis laughs at Harrison Ford because the pants she gave him are too short, Harrison Ford in his Amish pants, chores, milking the cows, carpentry, the fact that kids used to have chores, then they had allowances, and now they just have devices, the fact that Laura Ingalls Wilder always wanted blond hair like Mary’s, but later she’s proud of how long her hair is, and her bangs, the fact that Ma disapproved of the bangs but Laura did it anyway, the fact that Stacy wouldn’t dream of asking my permission about her hair, the fact that she’ll probably dye it green next, hoop skirt, Carrie, Cap Garland, the fact that hoop skirts are dangerous in a blizzard, the fact that Laura feels envious of Mary’s blond hair, the fact that I still don’t really know the difference between envy and jealousy, the fact that sometimes I can see the difference but mostly I lose track of it, the fact that they seem pretty much the same to me, the fact that I don’t get the point of trying to differentiate between them, envy, jealousy, envy, the fact that Laura might have been happier if she was Amish and not burdened with the hair worries and fancy sewing projects, and the dresses they make really sound so complicated, like Mary’s clothes for college with the flared sleeves that’s such a tight fit, at first she can’t get it on, but they get her into it in the end, the fact that pages and pages are spent on Mary’s clothes for college, the fact that it’s pretty amazing they all fit in the trunk, as well as on Mary, the fact that Ma stuffs the gaps with newspaper, gaps in the trunk, not the dresses, the fact that flared sleeves with loose lacy cuffs don’t sound very nice to me, but I guess they were all the rage then, Leghorn chickens, brown dress, chores, the fact that I used to tell the kids to make their own beds, but it’s easier if I just do it, the fact that by eleven or so, Anne of Green Gables knows how to organize a whole tea party for company, blacksberries pie, the fact that at the diner people called eggs cackleberries, or Adam and Eve on a raft, Adam and Eve on a log, two dots and a dash, wrecked and crying and let the sun shine, the fact that I couldn’t keep up with it all, the fact that I was so nervous I dropped a whole tray of dirty plates once, just like Mommy with the glasses, the fact that she didn’t last long as a waitress, and neither did I, come to think of it, the fact that Anne of Green Gables could get Matthew’s supper for him and even cure croup with Ipecac, ibex, Prudential, Anne Shirley, Chuck Schumer, Chuck, eggs over easy, sunny side up, scrambled eggs, skunk eggs, Eggs Benedict, Washington Square Diner, pinball, Mo’s Deli and Diner, give it shoes, hockey puck, hold the grass, mama on a raft, the fact that pride goes before a fall, mushroom omelet with a side of slaw, the fact that Ethan played pinball in college, the fact that I guess he was pretty good at it, the fact that that a New Jersey Transit train derailed at Penn Station, or was it Hoboken, Paterson Falls, hunted to the point of distinction, Montclair, NJ, 9/11, schnitz pie, Mo’s, Ipecac, the fact that Stace wouldn’t be caught dead treating anybody with Ipecac, the fact that I used to think eventually the kids’ll develop a liking for nicely made beds and start making their own beds but it hasn’t happened yet, the fact that that was pretty dumb, the fact that once I start paying Stace to baby sit, they’ll all start wanting to be paid, just to do a few things for me around the house, and I don’t believe in paying family members to help out with the dishes, the fact that they’re not guests, and they’re certainly not orphans, the fact that we can’t afford a cleaner, so how can we afford to pay a staff of four grouchy kids, the fact that I have struggled to get even a dishwashing rota going around here, though it should be possible for anyone over eight to handle a dishwasher, it’s not like I’m asking them to do the dishes by hand or anything, members, the fact that I am at the mercy of four little American brats, the Trapp Family, the fact that Jake and Gillian do set the table, when I ask them, but I don’t know how long that will last, House Calls and Hitching Posts, the fact that I still have that book somewhere, the fact that it’s not very good, but he sounds a nice man, the fact that he set up a birthing clinic just for Amish women, the fact that Amish women needed that for some reason, the fact that they’re growing up and losing the urge to help me out, the kids, not Amish women, ketchup, mustard, BBQ sauce, the fact that ketchup stops rust on cast iron, the fact that kids are much nicer before the age of reason, the fact that the best age is two, the fact that two-year-olds have a sort of politeness to them, when they’re not having tantrums and things, and I like their plump smooth skin and the four dimples on their hands, and toddlers don’t criticize you so much, or at least not as artfully or hurtfully as teenagers do, the fact that toddlers show a little mercy, they really do, or maybe I’ve just forgotten what two-years-olds are like, the fact that I missed Jake’s best years, being busy embracing change, having chemotherapy, in other words, the fact that my oncologist told me to embrace change, the fact that what was that medicine they gave me for nausea, Bupadell or Budpell or something, Budapest, Buskydell, Buscopan, the fact that Leo took care of everything at home, and he did a great job, so he does know what goes on here, the fact that you should never underestimate Leo, though Jake did start eating cat kibble at one point, and once we found him hiding in the cupboard under the stairs, Jake, not Leo, which was pretty upsetting, painkillers, nausea, the fact that we cured the poor kid of his cat kibble problem by giving him little boxes of raisins and Crackerjack instead, the fact that he just liked pulling bits of food out of a box, it didn’t matter what, caramelized popcorn, oatmeal raisin drop cookies, hip, sip of coffee, Suck in your gut, coffee flip, rum flip, the fact that I lugged all those pink dishes up from the basement to give the kids practice dishwashing, the fact that they’re pretty ugly, the dishes, not the kids, so ugly I didn’t care if a few got dropped, bright pink with gold filigree, just the kind of thing she went for, the fact that Grandma always liked gold trimming on things, lamps, chair legs like lions’ feet, bobbly glasses, the fact that she sure amassed a lot of icky stuff, the fact that Ethan inherited all the lamps, and Phoebe and I got the costume jewelry, and a few huge chiffon creations that fell apart before we could grow into them, Good Housekeeping, Home Ec, Freaky Friday, the fact that Phoebe got the spoon collection of course, since she’s asked for it when she was six or so, the fact that Stacy sabotaged that whole dishwashing scheme, saying I was turning everybody into slaves, the fact that she hasn’t been the same since she studied the Underground Railway, the fact that to her everybody’s a slave, the fact that I’m a slave, Leo’s a slave, the orphans on Prince Edward Island were all slaves, the fact that, according to Stace, the orphans in Anne of Green Gables were unpaid farm laborers, the fact that she says it’s just by chance that Marilla and Matthew happened to like Anne and didn’t turn her in to a slave, the fact that they brought her up more like their own child, though she still has a lot of chores, I pointed out, but that discussion kind of floored me, so I abandoned my whole help-with-the-housework drive, boy, what a chump, the fact that nobody around here wants to treat the kids as slaves, my word, so now I slave for them instead, the fact that I’ve more or less given up asking Stacy to do anything, just for fear of her sulks and freak-outs, “Speak, voice of young America,” EZ Squirt, Philly Dip, ETHS, the fact that it would make my day if Stacy would just put her clothes in the hamper once in a while, in that lion’s den of a bedroom, the fact that she hates me going in there too but sometimes I have to, the fact that pigs are cleaner than people any day, the fact that hogs make their own beds, apparently, though I’m not sure if they do it every morning, the fact that they’re cleaner and smarter than anybody realizes, and don’t deserve to be made into bacon, but everybody likes bacon so much, the fact that I used to think nasturtiums were nasty but now I think they’re nice, and I want to grow some this year, the fact that you have to plant them out in May, the fact that I’ll probably forget, the fact that when Almanzo Wilder was a boy he’d come home from school and do all the milking and clear out the horse stalls, unharness the team, Teamsters Union, the fact that Farmer Boy was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s second book, the fact that I have led a lonely bereft life since Mommy died, but I do have Leo on my side, life partner, ow, the fact that now I’ve got a pain in my side, the fact that Leo has ankle pain and knee pain and thumb pain and his back itches and he won’t go to the doctor, the fact that I don’t know if it’s all to save money or because he hates going to the doctor or had some bad experience with a doctor once or what, the fact that maybe all men hate going to the doctor, Obamacare, co-pays, flu shots, the fact that Jake has a constant cold, possibly because he eats only Spaghettios, or raisins and donuts and bagels and Crackerjack, and Spaghettios, the fact that I’ve tried to get him to try new things like canned ravioli, or franks ’n’ beans, but he won’t even taste them, the fact that Trump wants to take cover away from 630,000 Ohioans who took up Obamacare last year and, and if he gets away with it some of those poor souls are possibly going to die, genocide, the fact that I’m glad we’re not on Obamacare, the fact that I will never see Mommy again, or Abby, or Bathsheba, or Pepito, and these are permanent sadnesses, “never since the loss of her dear mother,” Anne Elliott, Do The Macarena, doing the dab, a little dab’ll do ya, the fact that Anne Elliott thinks about her mom every time she plays the piano, and that’s how I feel, but without the piano, just all the time, the fact that I haven’t felt loved since Mommy got sick, well, apart from Leo, that is, and Abby, and maybe Phoebe and Ethan, but they’re far away, and Daddy, and Chuck maybe, and Nanya, I suppose, or Anat sometimes, and at least the chickens, the chickens really do love me, the fact that we kill fifty or sixty billion chickens a year, not me, other people, the fact that Mommy’s illness wrecked my life, the fact that it broke me, the fact that I am broken, heartbroken, heart operation, heart scar, broke, …

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