Authors: Ann Dee Ellis
There’s a long line.
I get tiger’s blood and Colby gets coconut.
We’re walking to the dock with Colby’s mom just in front of us when she starts running and we hear Mr. Dean yelling.
Me and Colby start running too.
When we get to the dock, all these people are stopping and watching.
Mr. Dean is in the water with the boat.
He’s diving down and then coming back up and swearing and then diving down again.
The Deans’ friend Henry is standing on the shore yelling into a cell phone and the Dixie girl is standing in the shade over
by a garbage can.
“What’s going on?” Mrs. Dean says.
But then we all see what is going on: the boat is sinking.
“Oh my gosh,” Mrs. Dean says, and me and Colby just watch.
“Why is it sinking?” I ask Colby. He shrugs.
“Why is it sinking?” I ask Mrs. Dean, but she is running up the dock.
Then I ask a guy who is drinking a Pepsi and he says, “Looks like he forgot to plug it in.”
I look at Colby. Colby doesn’t look at me.
But I say, “Your dad forgot to plug it in.”
The boat is going slowly and people in other boats are still just watching. “Will somebody help him! Will somebody help my
husband?” Mrs. Dean is running back down the dock.
I don’t get how Mrs. Dean could have a sister like Dixie — like someone you’d see in magazines.
Her boyfriend is Henry.
Henry is white with black hair not just on his chest but on his back and coming out his armpits.
Henry talks a lot.
He used to be in Desert Storm and he has a duck pond.
He told us this while we were waiting for the boat police.
“I never killed anybody, though.”
Colby says, “You didn’t?” all disappointed, and Dixie is chewing on her fingernails. Her bikini is pink with dogs on it. My
mom’s is black.
“Nope. Didn’t have to. They take one look at my natural guns and those Kuwaitis start running for cover.” Then he shows us
his arms and muscles and kisses them.
Dixie says, “So full of crap,” and starts to pick a scab on her elbow.
Me and Colby just look at Henry’s natural guns.
They’re really big.
Mom has a sister who is forty-six.
Mom is thirty-six.
Mom’s sister is named Agnes and she has five kids.
She lives in Kansas.
Mom’s name is Roxie because she changed it from Luella to Roxie after she became an artist.
She lives in Utah.
She only has one kid now.
That kid is me.
Agnes calls on the phone from Jackson and says: Is your mom okay to talk?
I say: No.
She says: Put her on.
I say: She can’t talk.
She says: Put her on.
I hold the cordless to Mom’s face and she breathes.
Then I get back on.
Agnes says: Is she mad at me?
I say: No.
She says: Her breath sounds good.
I say: Yes.
She says: We’re comin’ out real soon to help you two.
I say: Okay.
Then she says: Heard from your dad?
I say: Yes.
And then I hang up.
Agnes will call again in three weeks.
It’s been four hours and everyone is standing by the tow truck boat thing except me and her because we’re in the shade and
she says, “So?”
I look at her. “So what?”
“So, is he your boyfriend?”
Even though Dixie seems like she’s young, her skin is leathery and looks like a purse or my mom’s dancing boots from when
she used to dance.
“Who?” I say.
“Who do you think?” she says.
“Henry?” I say.
“Yeah,” she says.
“No,” I say.
“Why not?” she says.
“I just met him and he’s old,” I say. “Besides, I thought he was
She shrugs and then lies down on the grass and puts her hand over her eyes. I just stand there. “I meant Colby,” she says,
and her mouth sort of smiles so I can’t tell if she’s laughing at me.
The boat is out now and it’s dripping. Dixie rolls over onto her stomach and undoes her straps right there on the grass where
everyone can see.
I look at her back and I look around and then I say, “Yes. Colby’s my boyfriend. So what?”
“How old are you anyway?”
I don’t answer.
She doesn’t say anything.
I bite my nail and watch her some more.
Then I go to the dock.
Dixie is sort of weird. Not like a real adult.
IXIE AND ME AT THE DOCK
: pencil on paper
Besides Mrs. Peet who is trying to be our social worker and Norma who is fat, there is an old friend of Dad’s named Bill who
does home health care.
Dad pays him to come here on the side because Mom needs help and Bill also gets her pills when she runs out.
Bill was Mom’s idea, and when Dad left, we hardly needed him because we were fine.
Now we need him bad.
Bill rolls Mom onto her stomach or onto her back.
Lately he has to wash her because she won’t get up.
I tell him, “Don’t tell Dad how bad she is.”
He says okay, but I think he’ll tell because he and Dad are golf buddies.
Then I say, “And don’t wash her private parts. I do that.” I say that because I don’t think he should.
At first I did do it.
I washed her private parts but every time I did I felt sad.
I said to her, “Will you please do this yourself?”
I always made a mess with bringing the buckets of water to her bed and trying to get her clean.
“Please, Mom. Just do it yourself.”
The bathroom would have puddles all over and she’d just sit there.
So I stopped.
Then Bill found out.
He said, “Mazzy, you been doing your job?”
I was watching a rerun of
where she gives everyone a car.
“You been washing your mom?”
“I don’t think so.”
“Yeah. I have.”
“How do you know?”
“Because she smells.”
“Oh,” I said. And it made me mad because Mom might have heard that.
“What do you want to do? You want me to do it?” he said.
“I don’t know,” I said.
He was standing in the doorway of the TV room and his hands were on his hips like a lady on
Days of Our Lives.
Bill shook his head and went back in Mom’s room.
I think he washes her private parts now.
I wish Mom would just do it.
When Dad found out he had to stay away longer than he thought, he asked Bill to bring us food. Bill asked someone else to
She sometimes forgets. Her name is Lisa and she smells like hair spray.
She’s Bill’s friend who needed some extra cash.
She’s supposed to come every week but sometimes she forgets. I feed Mom what’s in the kitchen even though all she really wants
is sorbet and Diet Coke.
Once I put SpaghettiOs in the blender and gave it to her like a shake.
She threw it up.
Lisa says, “Sorry sister, about last week. José was out of town and the kids were all over and you know how it gets.”
I watch her unload oatmeal and juice and hope she got more marshmallows. “José is working real hard these days but he has
to go out of town sometimes to do jobs.” She takes out ketchup and buns and hamburger. “Oh, what am I thinking. Those are
for us.” She puts them back in the bag. “You and your mama doing okay? You look like you doing okay.”
She takes out cans of soup and a loaf of Wonder Bread, two cartons of sorbet, and three jars of strawberry jam.
I like her big hoop earrings.
“Okay,” she says, “I think that’s all. I got a call from you daddy. He cranky sometimes, eh?”
I nod my head.
“Why don’t he just do this stuff hisself?”
I stare at her.
“He live around here, don’t he?”
I stare at her.
“He the guy on TV?”
I lick my teeth.
“I hear they not divorced.”
Lick them again.
“What’s wrong with your mama anyway?”
I scratch a fly off my face.
“He says I got to bring juices and on time or he won’t pay me.”
“Okay then, I see you next week.”
There are no marshmallows and no milk.
I climb on the counter and wash my feet in the sink.
Colby is outside sitting in the Dean Machine and I am outside sitting in our sprinkler.
It is 108 today.
Colby is wearing football pads and his swimsuit and he’s sitting at the driver’s wheel.
“What are you doing?” I yell.
“Nothing,” he says.
“Why are you out here?”
“ ’Cause I want to be.”
“Are you on a football team or something?”
“Oh.” And then I say, “Do you want to sit in the sprinkler with me?”
He looks over.
“It looks stupid.”
Lately Colby thinks everything is stupid.
“It isn’t,” I say back.
He takes off his pads and leaves them in the boat. Then we sit in the sprinkler.
When Colby sits, he has rolls on his stomach. I don’t say anything.
Two cars drive by, a convertible yellow one and a dump truck.
Another car goes by and a bike with a man on it. The man is whistling and driving with no hands.
“I can do that,” Colby says.
“Yeah. Want to see?”
He gets his bike out from their garage. It has a flat tire.
“The tire is flat,” I say.
He looks at it and swears like his dad. “Stupid piece of crap.” And then he leaves it in the driveway and comes and sits back
in the sprinkler.
“This is the dumbest summer of my freaking life,” he says.
I say, “Oh.”
He lies down in the sprinkler and I do too.
“The grass is pokey.”
“Why does your yard looks so nasty?”
I look around. There is hardly any green grass and so many dandelions. I think it looks pretty.
I tell him.
“I guess,” he says. “I guess it does if you like weeds.”
We lie in the sprinklers.
OLBY IN THE SPRINKLERS
: charcoal on paper
WEDNESDAY AT NOON WITH MRS. PEET
Mrs. Peet comes over and says, “Okay, today is the day.”
I stare at her through the screen.
“I am with Family Services. You are required to let me in or the police will come over here and make you let me in.”
It seems like she’s lying so I say, “We’re fine.”
She says, “That’s not what the neighbors think. Let me in.”
The neighbors? Which neighbors? Mr. Grobin? Norma? The Deans?
She says, “Mazeline, right? It’s okay. I just need to check things out.”
I say, “Show me your badge or something.”
She sighs and shows me her card.
She looks bad in the picture so I open the door.
“So your mother, she lives here with you?”
“Just the two of you?”
“No. My dad lives here too.”
She writes something down and then says, “He does?”
She makes a ticking noise and then says, “How’s your mom?”
“Fine. And my dad is fine too.”
“Is he here?” She looks up at me. Clearly surprised.
“Where is he?”
“On a work trip.”
She nods. “So I’ve heard.”
I don’t say anything because clearly Mrs. Peet knows stuff.
“When will he be back?”
I stare at her then and flare my nostrils. She makes another note on her clipboard.
She moves my Willy Wonka sweatshirt and sits on the couch. I sit on the beanbag.
“Can I talk to your mom?”
“What does she do?”
“She’s a famous artist.”
Mrs. Peet looks at a sheet of paper. “Ahh, yes. That’s right. Well, I need to talk to her nonetheless.”