Anne Marie plays horologist. The black hour hand creases her finger as she pushes it counter-clockwise. “Anne Marie. Stop that, you’ll break it,” Mrs. Dumont says, closing the grandfather clock door. The mother turns on the television and throws the remote on to the couch. The cotton cushions and gray upholstery sit frayed and uneven. Anne crawls up on the couch and picks at threads. She tugs the dirt smeared face of her favorite doll from between cushions and cradles it wrong-side-up in the crook of her arms.
She hears her mother breathing over her, and then a cool absence behind her. Anne Marie turns to catch a glimpse of her mother’s back disappear into the kitchen. “God Damnit,” she hears her mother say, just as a box of cereal hits the floor with a thrown force. Little balls of grains treble against the floor and then nothing. Anne Marie turns the doll right side up and stares into the television.
A lighthouse scans jagged waves in front of a stucco prison. Earlier in the day, a small craft advisory was issued. Prison officials call off the execution. Ethical constraints. The doctors discovered problems in the procedure. They’d have to resuscitate him if he felt any pain. Clearly unethical with so much barbiturate in Fernando Montoya’s veins. Anne turns down the volume and can’t find the channel switch.
The phone rings. Mrs. Dumont ashes her cigarette before lifting the receiver. The burning cherry falls off and burns with old butts. Mrs. Dumont takes an empty drag and picks up the lighter. She picks up and then hangs up the phone. The teakettle whistles. A diesel engine passes on the small street and Mrs. Dumont lifts to the balls of her feet to make sure Anne Marie is still there.
Beside the checklist sits her pack of smokes and a pencil. She checks off “bedroom”. Staring at the list, she pulls out another cigarette and lights it. “Opossum,” the list says. The smell of wet dog and urine sits in the kitchen. At first she thought it to be the dog. She brought the terrier to the other side of the bayou, where she saw other strays come out at times. He had always liked the woods. Leaving him there was the right thing to do. Annie Marie stopped asking about him after two weeks.
But the smell stayed after the dog was gone. Rats? No, it couldn’t be rats. Then there were holes in the cereal boxes. Big ones. Sometimes whole boxes disappeared and she found them later in the garage. Then she saw it. The opossum’s size frightened her. It hissed like a cat. For six months now Mrs. Dumont hadn’t been in the garage. Something stinks like death in it.
The living room is dressed in last week’s clothes and littered with to-go boxes and coke cans. She sits at the table next to the phone. She looks at the back of the couch and the crest of her daughter’s head. Mrs. Dumont thinks a moment about placing her hand around the ponytail stem. Annie Marie’s head felt like a dangling beet from the stalk of her hair. Mrs. Dumont’s cheeks make pits when she takes a drag.
Anne Marie stands on the couch and turns to her mother.
“Anne Marie, how many times have I told you not to stand on the couch? You’ll ruin it,” Mrs. Dumont says with her cigarette pointed at her.
Unabashed, Annie Marie asks “What does resuscitate mean?”
“It’s what you can’t do to your doll. Look at her face. Dirt collects in the plastic scratches. You can’t fix that. You know I paid good money for that doll?”
Annie Marie let loose the doll, which dangled from her arm by its feet, then falls over the ledge of the couch and hits the floor. She turns back to the television with both palms on the remote pressing buttons. The channel and volume didn’t change.
“I’m throwing that doll away.”
“25 years?! That’s a long time,” Tiny said beneath the tin port at the transit center.
“A lot can happen in twenty-five years,” Daryl agreed. He looked around the bend for their bus.
“You can’t hardly speculate about the Federal Pen,” Tiny added.
“What about Rusty? Where he at nowadays?” Daryl now asked the questions.
“In and out. In and out. He’s just a drunk now. Not up to no good, though. Clean as a whistle, even if it smell like gin.”
They both laughed in their tuxedos. A little boy ran up to them smiling.
First, the boy stopped and looked at Tiny, furrowing his little brows. Only a moment after the boy saw Daryl’s smaller and petite frame, the boy smiled and ran back to the fiberglass casing.
“How your daughters?” Tiny asked.
“Good, I guess. You know how they are,” Daryl responded. Tiny nodded his head while staring at the pavement, his hands tucked in his tuxedo pants.