Mabel pulled Peter from the tub and he was slick and pink and glistening. He hugged his towel about his chest and shivered. Half-lidded, mouth downturned; the same as when he was indignant, displeased with something. Droopy Dog. Or a little crewman stepping from the wreckage of the George 1, the downed PBM Mariner that crashed into the Antarctic’s Phantom Coast, or Admiral Byrd himself, who Peter had idolized since his first viewing of The Secret Land. She watched him cast his squinting eyes over a cold and alien place that hated him, cursing it. Bobby kept the house between sixty-five and seventy because he said the cool was good for the boys’ development, good for the brain. Farley watched from inside the tub, in the fading and precious warmth of the water, and Mabel dried Peter’s hair with the towel, and it sprung out like a bush, smouldering and blonde. He closed his eyes as the towel passed over his face; gentle pats, behind his ears, beneath his arms, the beads that slid and fell and clung like small round blisters to his back and shoulders and buttocks.
“That a boy.” Peter wooted and ran away, and she could hear the patter of his steps on the concrete to his room.
Beside her, Farley played with Peter’s green plastic ball. He pulled it down into the milky water where it was a waiting, shivering blur, and letting it go it was a rocket that rushed, that broke and bobbed on the surface and sent out gentle waves that seasawed, circled out and chimed against the porcelain. She put her hand on his head, over his crown, felt his warm wetness, brushed aside a lock of hair from his brow, and he played with the plastic toy.
In the blue dimness of the mudroom Mabel leant against the hallstand, gazed out at the strange and waxy forms of the trees moving gently beyond the door’s glass windows. She felt a coolness crest out from somewhere and brush her arm, felt the fine blonde hairs raise alert, felt her loneness there in the hall briefly as though she were not there at all, but a shadow settling and mixing with the other shadows.
In the livingroom she sat and watched Wheel of Fortune, counted up the letters, guessed at what they might mean, what they might be telling. The last glass of port wine left from the Christmas party she finished in small, guilty sips. In the midst of war, though they were well-off and secure, the last of anything felt like the last seed in a seedvault.
She asked the house again what was the time, and the house replied,
Thanks for checking out this part of my project.
This is a work in progress, so I apologise in advance if summer becomes winter, or John become Joan—it's not the Mandela Effect, it's just me.
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