Part 1: Chapter 7

(It’s midday. Why is the shower so cold?) Roy is shampooing his hair. The water is warmer than tap but it refuses to raise above…tepid.

After he got off the phone with his wife, he ate a pinch of food and sauntered toward the shower. Her evening with the family had gone well but Heather, Charlotte’s mother, was still unwell. Shirley was being rather opaque about these things, as usual, but Roy supposed that she was having … woman problems. Jake was working now ; Charlotte was sitting and eating solid food. Though Shirley had never said it, she’d always seemed to have wanted a daughter. Shirley had endured considerable difficulty conceiving Jake – the two women seemed to be bonding. (Well enough.)

Shirley wanted to cook dinner for the four of them at Jake’s home in Hackensack. She was already there, watching the child while Heather rested. It was a school day, so Jake would be at work.

“Lasagna or meatloaf? What do you think?” she had asked. Roy had been staring at a screwdriver. He was indifferent.

He must have gone too long without speaking because she spoke next. “I don’t know. Actually, come to think of it, tomatoes have been giving me indigestion.”

“Mmm.” He really didn’t want to think about what that could mean. Another silence stretched taut across their conversation.

“Well I can try that new meatloaf recipe I’ve been trying. You know, the one without the tomatoes. Just meat and spices.”

“That was good.”

“And an egg. I don’t know if they have eggs.”


“But we need something to go with it. D’you want rice or pasta?”


“Oh shit, that won’t do. The kids have been eating gluten-free.”


“Rice. Get some rice from the store on your way over, will you? And meat.”

Grocery runs were not one of Roy’s favorite activities. He always seemed to fall short of Shirley’s expectations. She’d never say it, at least in words, but her body would slump, disappointed he’d forgotten something she’d never said she’d wanted.

When he got out of the shower, his phone had a text message.

“pls also pampers size 4”