Glitter and Glue
pot. From in a cookbook.” She points to the shelves behind me.
    I’ve never made soup or been in a kitchen where soup was being made. Restaurants make soup. People open cans, or they go to restaurants where soup is made.
    I pull out the most likely resource, a thick book covered in faded blue linen called
New South Wales Favourites
, and flip around in the “Soups & Sauces” section. Crumbs fall from the pages. Then, in the margin of page 26, next to the ingredients for “Fall’s Best Minestrone,” I see handwriting—delicate, easy, feminine—perfectly matching the composite I’ve created of Ellen Tanner in my imagination. This is as real as she has felt to me, as if she stood in this exact spot only a moment ago, so present that if I knew how to parse the smells of this house, I’m sure I could pick up her scent.
    Her note—to whom, I wonder—next to
pasta shells
says,
Use barley here
.
    “So, okay, here’s one,” I say with hesitation. “Minestrone. Do you like minestrone?”
    “Yes, with barley.”
    “Ah.”
    To me. The note was to me, I guess.

 

    “When is Daddy coming home?” Milly asks when I pick her up from school, sounding like me for the first ten, or twenty, years of my life.
    “Around dinnertime.” I reach over to put on her seat belt but she shakes me off. She’s got it.
    “That’s so long from now,” she whines.
    I’ve done a fine job these last two days, but the kids miss John all the same. Even if he sometimes seems lost or out of place, more like a stepfather than a father, the kids want him more than anyone. I guess that’s the thing about parents.
    “How do you like my new hair? I dyed it.”
    “Your hair died?” Martin asks.
    “No, I colored it. I made it red with a dye, like tie-dyed shirts.”
    “It doesn’t look red,” Milly says, meeting my eyes in the rearview mirror. She’s right. It doesn’t look anything like the plastic hair in the supermarket. Some things you can’t change.
    As we pull out, I turn on the radio. “Okay, guys. This is Tom Petty.” I jack up the volume. “Listen. Hear that organ?” I raise my finger and tap it in the air.
“ ‘… Said a woman had hurt his pride …’ ”
I turn it up louder, maybe louder than this radio has ever been played.
“ ‘Don’t do me like that …’ ”
    “Do me like what?” Milly asks.
    “And what means
pride
? How does it hurt?” Martin wants to know, challenging me to rephrase the line using only the words a child will understand.
    “It just means you feel dumb, someone made you feel stupid.”
    “By hurting you?”
    “Sorta. Just listen to the song.” I sing a little louder.
    There’s so much to define and differentiate. As I stutter through a definition of terms, I wonder if John and Ellen used all the big hard words, like
tumor, neurosurgery, chemotherapy
, or just kept it simple.
Boo-boo. Owwie. Yucky medicine
.
    “Stop!” Milly shouts from the back.
    “Stop!” Martin calls. “Keely!”
    “Aw, come on, this is a great song!” I call back over my shoulder, belting out the refrain.
    “No!” Milly barks.
    “Dammit! I just went the wrong way!” I am now on the Pacific Highway, which is dramatic and curvy, like the roads in BMW commercials.
    “Move over!” Martin shouts as I accelerate into the turn, leaning forward, hoping for an exit sign.
    “No!” Milly screams. “Stop!”
    “Hey! Not another word,” I say, verbatim Mary Corrigan. “Not another word!”
    “Keely! Keely!” A car beeps.
    “Shhh!” Another car beeps.
    Two cars are driving straight toward us.
    “We’re on the wrong side!”
    “Oh God!” I swerve, prickling with adrenaline. “Oh God.” I flip off the radio, turn on my hazards, and pull over to the shoulder, my breath caught in my throat.
    “I’m so sorry. Thank you. I thought … Thank you. I’m so sorry.” I put on the emergency brake and wait for the rush to pass, to feel safe and competent and level again. I slipped into autopilot. I

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