Wallace Page 9
couch across the room from me.
    "Well!" she announced, and I knew what she meant.
    "Well," I said.
    She picked at a tomato sauce stain on her black blouse. "This isn't very noticeable, is it?" Although her belly was wide and firm, her face was soft and hollow. It looked as though she were slowly rotting from the stress of being alone.
    "Nah," I said. Neither of us had changed all day, and by dinnertime I didn't dare take off my jacket since I knew the shirt underneath was badly pitted-out. I sweat like a hog, so does Clarissa. I'll bet she has to put on some pretty tough deodorant since ladies aren't supposed to sweat. We'll probably both die of aluminum-induced Alzheimer's forty years down the road-locked away and asking after each other. Our kids will call us crazy.
    "Hey," she said, coming to. "Sorry you had to sleep in the car last night."

    "Don't worry about it. I slept like a baby."

    She grinned fiercely. "That's a lie. You nearly fell asleep in your mashed potatoes tonight at dinner."
    I loosened my tie, realizing it was still done-up tight. "Well, don't worry about it. I shouldn't've shown up like I did."
    She picked at the stain. "I'm really glad to see you again."
    "Yeah. Too bad about Mom though." I hadn't really thought of the woman all day. I imagined her standing at the top of the staircase and telling us to get to bed.
    Clarissa shrugged. "Let's be honest: she made a crappy grandmother. My kids hated going to see her on the weekends. She used to make them read the Bible aloud and chew with their mouths closed. Never stopped nagging them. I'm really glad to see you though. You have no idea how much I missed you. It tore me up when you disappeared after college."