By Makai Andrews
When she was in grade school the boys would make fun of her because her thumbs looked like toes. She painted them orange and dotted them with silver rhinestones to prove them wrong. No one would waste that much time on a foot.
Mother was having an affair with the pool boy when she was eleven. He was a young man from Arizona, moved here in hopes that he’d get in with some celebrity housewife who needed a pool cleaning and an actor for her next movie. He wasn’t having much luck, so far.
Mother had the gardener drive in a big tree on one of those trucks that are too big to turn at normal street corners. She planted it next to the pool, where she was sure dozens of leaves would fall everyday. She shook a branch to make sure, dumping piles of leaves into the crisp water. Now the pool boy would have to come four times a week, not two. There’s just so many leaves in there, silly me for planting a tree right above it, she tells Father. Oh, but isn’t it just beautiful.
Father liked his whiskey. Liked his whiskey with ice. Liked whisky with ice that looked like little islands of glass were floating up from a pool of golden mud. Sometimes she thought if she stuck her finger in the liquid, it would harden around her finger and she’d have a gold-capped nail. She tried it once, but instead of a special finger she got broken glass in her arm and bruises from Father’s hard day at the office. She wiped up the golden mud after he was finished.
Brother was born when she was thirteen. He had eyes like hers but his skin; it looked darker than Father’s. Looked more like the pool boy who Mother was still fucking while Father was at work. No one would ever admit it. No one would even hint at it. He was going to be a lawyer like Father when he grew up, because the kid was his and that was that. Baby boy got a career set for him at birth.
She came as close as you can to failing her SATs. Barely got enough to pass as sane. Father got her into his alma mater and she went to study law. Father didn’t want her to because she shouldn’t have the same career he had, it would make her brother feel like he couldn’t pursue it too. Five year olds really care about law degrees and the family trade.
She dropped out to go surfing and try her hand at hitchhiking. Father didn’t want her to be a lawyer, anyway.
Mother had a mole on her back and was dead two months later. The pool boy didn’t come to the funeral.
The first boy she ever loved had a scar down his spine from when his grandfather caught him reading his dirty magazines from the hidden slot in the back of his toolbox. His grandfather used a screwdriver because he said he was too busy looking at dirty pictures to actually go out and screw anyone. And that just wouldn’t do. He’d always had a flare for the dramatic.
By fifteen Brother took eight pills a day. Two for depression, one for anxiety. One for anger management. One to suppress his appetite. One to go to sleep. One to regain his appetite. One fish oil pill, which was supposed to make him happier in the winter. And four vitamin supplements, because God knows that boy just won’t eat his vegetables.
When she got married, Mother didn’t come to her wedding because she was dead. Father walked her down the aisle and later asked if she knew if they had any whiskey at the bar.
Brother snuck out of the house a few weeks later to kiss a boy in the backseat of his car.
She had a cat when she was a girl. Named him Chester because he was yellow and she thought that Cheddar was pronounced Chester. Chester Cheese sandwich. When the cat died she stopped eating cheese and Father buried him in the backyard.
When Mother was in the hospital she asked if the pool boy had come by. She told her he hadn’t. She said that if he came by she should tell him she was just in for a sprained ankle.
She had veins you could trace all the way from the palm of her hands up to her armpits. Green and purple. She was disappointed they didn’t stretch all the way to her fingertips. She felt cheated.
Brother wanted to take art classes. But Father said lawyers don’t paint.
On her honeymoon she kissed the man she loved. She got a tan and bought a tube of red lipstick. She shaved his scruffy chin with a straight razor and when she accidentally drew a little blood, it matched her lipstick, so she kissed it too.
Before she left college she dated a boy she met in her Spanish class. They talked about breweries and Spain. She lied and told him she was from Canada so she could disappear after the semester ended and never see him again.
She had a son and she named him Cooper. When Cooper needed his diaper changed her husband would hold the child out in front of him and run down the halls, hollering Cooper the Pooper.
When Brother came out to the family he moved in with her because Father wouldn’t let him back in his house. She bought him a paint set and kissed his forehead. Her husband bought him a sketchbook and a beer. Cooper drooled on his arm and then fell asleep.
If she went to a bar, she would take off her wedding ring. That way she never had to pay for her own drinks.