Play

I am on the outside now like my childless aunt
the one we all hated because my uncle doted on her
  
she didn't like children you could tell
and wore silk dresses that had to be dry-cleaned
how extravagant said my mother she's spoiled said the other aunts
who were busy in their polyester blends busy with their kids
  
I have a memory of this aunt eating bonbons
as I swung on a tire hung from a tree branch in her yard
my aunt didn't offer us any candy and that was just bad manners
even as a kindergartener I knew that
  
but now I have become that aunt
my sister-in-law wants my husband
  
to move in with her to take care of her children
and what do I know about suffering and divorces
and restraining orders what do I know about staying up all night
with a daughter with a fever
  
when I called about the $300 worth of extra cell phone charges
the woman at T-mobile said honey I hate to be the one to tell you
but there's a number and she read my sister-in-law's number
all the calls are to and from your husband's cell
  
sometimes they're on a couple of hours
they talked when I was at work
  
the woman said I'm sorry thinking my husband was having an affair
but the affair was with his sister and it wasn't an affair really
it was therapy and my husband was the therapist
even though he isn't a therapist
  
our niece wrote a one-act play in which a man is being abused
by his wife who is a witch a demon
and the man's kindly sister is trying to help him escape
I know you are being abused as I was once too the heroine says
  
my sister-in-law thought her brother was abused because he vacuumed once
I guess she thought he was doting on me
my husband thought he was abused because I asked him to cook dinner
when he didn't have a job for over a year
  
I understand why my aunt never fought back
because once you are labeled as someone terrible
there is nothing much you can do to change your reputation
there is no way to prove your kindness
  
if you are nice everyone will think you are phony trying to trick them
and if you are cold well it just confirms their theory
  
sometimes my husband disappears from this story
only to come back to say please don't call my sister
the other woman
it grosses me out
  
OK I won't
  
our niece got an A for her play
portraying me as ugly and cruel
and the teacher thought it was so realistic
her theater class even did a staged reading of it
  
a loud eighth grade girl playing a shrill me
a small eighth grade boy cowering as my husband
  
sometimes my uncle disappears from this story
only to come back
with a giant stuffed animal for me
and a kiss on the cheek for my aunt
  
when I stole two of her chocolates
and poked holes into the rest left in the box
she knew enough not to complain
and kept her squashed candies to herself
How It Will End
Denise Duhamel
Duhamel_cover

How It Will End

Denise Duhamel

Floating Wolf Quarterly Cover_wolf