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By Jacinta Bunnell

No one cooked dinner anymore. The mother was always playing Boggle with the commitment of a graduate school teaching assistant at the large kitchen table. She didn’t do much else these days when she was home. The wallpaper, adorned with colossal yellow and silver flowers, had been peeling off for a year strong now. This was troublesome to me, ever the eye for interior design. You just don’t decorate a kitchen in silver and let it go to pot. If I had been her, I could never have gone on playing Boggle day after day when there was dried and browning glue exposed. She didn’t seem to care either that the mountains of clothes from the laundry room were oozing out of boundary and into the place where we were supposed to eat, had anyone enough slack to actually prepare a meal. The father brought home Kentucky Fried Chicken and pizza from Dino and Francesca’s that we ate under the dripping wallpaper, kitchen chairs balanced on gym shorts and Forenza V-necks.

I can still feel the thick, soft wood of the kitchen table where our fast food meals were served. I would slide my hand under the oil cloth to get a feel for something solid and firm under my fingers. Nothing seemed to stand up anymore. Everyone and everything was melting. Thank god for the kitchen table. It was the thickest, sturdiest body I could find to hold on to. The clocks were wrong. The stove smelled. The yellow refrigerator just didn’t fit. I can’t explain. It just didn’t fit. The floor tiles, pretending to look like white bricks, were coming up at a rate of one a week. They were collecting in a pile near the old dog bones from the butcher.

And the mother just kept at her game, getting smarter and smarter, coming up with new, longer and better words every day. The backs of envelopes, margins of the local newspaper, empty spaces on old math homework: all were useful tally sheets for her eternal word game lists. She was resourceful, just not in the places we needed her to be. Lettered litter from months past was scattered everywhere. Some got lost and turned up later in the cat box. The sight of them made us cross-eyed. And the sound of those wooden lettered cubes shaking around in their plastic tenement, always falling in a new order, made our skin prickle. But we didn’t know how to share our pain with each other, about her, about Boggle, about our drunken family. The brothers would grow and smoke pot in their rooms. The sisters would run away in falling-apart green cars with boyfriends to feel better. We, the young ones, did neither. We just kicked the white bricks across the floor and hoped they didn’t land on our best school clothes.

Excerpted from I Do Not Want You To Go

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