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WISHBONESMnn Joslin Williams OUR FATHER ALWAYS called my mother Bean. She was slender and crisp. Now her cheeks sank in darkened hollows. Her nose was a pointy beak. I found her on the front porch, looking off toward the mountain. She flinched when I came up on her; then her arms trembled and one leg quivered in a little burst as if she had a chill. "What are you doing, Mom?" I asked. Her pupils caught the sun and glowed like owl eyes down a flashlight beam, glassy and haunted. She closed her eyes. She didn't want to talk. The ring on her finger was loose, and she slid it back and forth over her knuckle. When I sat down next to her on the bench, her knee jerked to the side and almost touched mine, but not quite. Her yellow, corn-silk hair had faded, grown dull and ashy. It was the first time I really saw how changed she was, and it scared me. It had been nearly two months since the bridge washed out and our father's truck had gone over. David was twelve, and I was almost eleven. We'd been trying to let her alone, not asking for things. Sometimes I thought she was afraid of us, like we might bump into her and knock her over. Or mention something she didn't want to hear about. It was summer, and we lived in a cabin in New Hampshire that my father and mother had built together. They'd made it out of stones and logs. My mother mixed cement in a wheelbarrow, shoveling sand they'd hauled in a borrowed dump truck. She chopped down trees and skinned the logs with a draw shave. My father laid the stones and rigged pulleys to lift beams. Over the fireplace they erected a granite slab, dragged from an ancient cellar hole in the field below their site. On that slab my father chiseled; hen and Carey built this house 1954 AD. This was before David and I were born. Before our father finished graduate school, or got a job writing the "Outdoors" column for Esquire. Back then, when they were building, they didn't know about the future or where they'd settle down. They just wanted a place they could go to every now and then for a weekend. A place they could call their own. They had an apartment in Wentworth Junction not far from Grammie Hagen, but they went up to the mountain whenever they could. Later my father became an instructor at the college just over in Northlee, and it all worked out. When David and I were little they put in a real The Missouri Review ยท 9 bathroom. My mother knocked the outhouse down with a sledgehammer . She was glad to be rid of it. "I'm going to get a Coke. You want one?" I asked her. She shook her head. I left her on the porch and went inside. David sat on the floor, working on the model of a dinosaur skeleton, the bones spread out around him. He acted as if he didn't know I was there. "David," I said. "What should we do about her?" "Hand me that glue," he said. He pinched two pieces of gray plastic between his fingers. I moved the rubber cement across the rug with the toe of my sneaker until he could reach it. Parts were laid out so you could tell how it would look when it was glued together. On the box it said, "Brontosaurus. Probably a herbivore," and underneath there was a picture of it, long necked, munching leaves off the top of a tree. A pterodactyl with bat-like wings and a long snout full of teeth flew in the clouds above. Birds, David once told me, probably evolved from dinosaurs. You could see it in their skeletons, how similar they were, with their curved, horny bills and clawed feet. David said we were all descendants of earlier species, like Cro-Magnon man. Which was easy to see, especially in some cases, such as Jeff Driver, my father's friend, the fire watchman, who...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 9-19
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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