The doctor told Dad he had a sub-zero temperature. He was almost always home now. My little sister laughed. Tarla laughed at most of what Dad said—but not at what he did.
“That is not possible,” I said to Dad. His doctor’s appointments were twice a week.
“Well, the doctor slapped my bottom and that is what he said!” Dad squawked.
He passed the lint roller over his shoes, which seemed perfectly brown. I could see no lint, but didn’t say anything. I wanted to believe there was at least a bit of lint.
Tarla said the world made Dad try so hard, that it was the wrong world. In some ways she was smart beyond her seven lousy years.
I said to her, “Yes, the world did it all to him, that sounds very intelligent,” and she spit at me.
Today she seemed arrogantly pleased with our lint-hunting dad who had a fun new demand: that we dress up as a kind of animal, any animal with a stubby tail.
“You girls dress up like bunnies or like little pug dogs,” he said.
Mom was away for a week with Aunt Jan in Seattle. Mom had five friends checking in on us, and in just about an hour Eileen would be over with pie or cheese.
Dad said he would turn out the lights, close the drapes, and let us hop around quietly in our creative costumes. He said we could use any of mom’s clothes or toiletries to make the animal suits, ears, and stubby tails.
“Warning—in order to win this game you both have to act cute and harmless and nice but not unreal! And if you win, then we raid the ice cream!”
I knew that Dad did not want Eileen to come over or come in and that was why but I played along. I had a fluorescent bunny suit from a few Halloweens ago and I put it on. I didn’t want to make a breeze and blow his lint around, so I walked and hopped carefully.
I told Dad my name was the River Bunny. He said I looked good all fuzzy which meant linty, and that pleased him. He dusted off his turntable and put on a song by Three Dog Night.
Tarla sang along to it, “Rollin’, rollin’.” She sang in her little pink pig outfit.
“That fucking song is great!” Dad said.
Then, in fine spirits, he gave us numbers. I liked my number but it was a bit high for me. It was in the millions. Tarla’s number was in the hundreds. She cried a bit and said it wasn’t fair. Dad told her life was a thick, spiritual vegetable garden.
The insinuation was that I had big numbers because I had done very well, but Tarla was still a little kid which she hated and thrived on at the same time. I could see her trying to burst out of her own skin at times. The way she jumped and twirled at night when Dad was dead asleep on the living room floor.
Before Mom left, she whispered to me that Dad’s silhouette had become jello-ish and things really had to get better with them. Or they would melt. “And people know,” she said.
She had never really known herself, she told me.
She said I’d be fine because I never did anything Dad didn’t like and I wasn’t going to start.
When he turned out the lights and pulled the car into the garage, I chased Tarla around the house with a flashlight, which made her scream and hide in her bed, and go right to sleep. I knew that in the morning there would be new lint.
Meg Pokrass is the author of Damn Sure Right, a collection of flash fiction from Press 53. Her work has appeared in over a hundred literary journals. She edits BLIPMAGAZINE (formerly MIssisspippi Review) and lives near the ocean in San Francisco with seven animals. Read more of her work and others’ in HFR 1.1.