Meg Tuite

We live in an echo. Graysons, across the street, Billinghams, Coopers... what Mom calls the reason for venetian blinds. Although, she says the blinds are made in Ecuador. Have you been to Venice? We live in Chicago, have cousins in Des Moines, a rheumy great-aunt in Nebraska. Stacks of books reach in teetering high-rises on the carpet next to the couch. Books are not meant to hold up tables, Mom says. Venice is all dark gutters and moldy grays. Ecuador is netted in by hurling hot coils of sky. Elva, remember when you thought that wasp nest was a lampshade? That’s all I’m saying. Mom’s glowing face abandons us, as if we were a carpet stain, to the book open-mouthed on her belly. I follow Ermine upstairs. A stash of Mom’s tiny vodka bottles home inside the sliced bowels of her stuffed bird collection. Mom buys one from the Audubon Society every year on Ermine’s birthday, believes Ermine will become an ornithologist. Vodka burns blisters like a sunburn on the inside. Tom Jone’s sings, She’s a Lady, back-up to Ermine whispering tales of boy’s sticks pillaging girl’s sliced tomato halves. You know, Ermine says, and points to her crotch.