Girija Tropp

She is making an effort to make the house right, starting with the fish. The rest of the stones are wet inside the package, wrapped over with a rubber band, next to a folded sarong, pink and gray stripe, silk, that her husband wore in hospital.
He came down with pneumonia and is not quite recovered, some months now. She would like to take eucalyptus oil and a oil diffuser and set it up in his bedroom but the new woman is unlikely to appreciate the gesture. The light outside is pressed against a buttery film on the kitchen windows.
There are lumps forming along her tongue and when she checks in the mirror, the tip is eroded. Her son who was born with a sixth finger has dreams of being normal. In a particularly chatty mood, he tells her that he gets depressed for no reason at all. "I am emotionally confused." He says as if he is standing apart from himself offering advice. When he was born, she had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer but kept on living in a tired fashion, and after the initial fuss by those close to her, it had become necessary for her to scheme. If she repudiated the baby, the father would fill the gap. It cut her to do so, but that was the only way.
She is making pancakes and thinking about his father when a man climbs over her fence. Her son yells out for new shoes. They can see him, Frank, the next door neighbor, through the glass. "I fixed the vines at last," he says. He gives her a bottle of champagne. "How is your husband?"
The cat is on top of the fish tank, swatting. "Same as," she replies. He keeps forgetting that her husband is now someone else's husband. She touches her raw-feeling tongue to the sharp edge of a tooth.
"You bought more goldfish?" He squats down to check.
"No," she tells him. Only cleaned off the mould and put in plants. The oranda is floating upside down. "Would you like some stones for your tank?" she asks. Her son interrupts, unhappy with the amount of money she is willing to spend on his footwear. "Don't be cruel," he says.
The neighbor has given up on feeding fish and is into frogs, building a pond out the back. He scratches his face with an age-pocked hand. She has never been able to imagine having a happy conversation with him. The neighbor is always telling her about his sex problems with his wife but he is circumspect in front of the boy. He is perspiring under his red hat.
The stones are a waste. So was the sarong. It had been expensive.
Her son takes batter out of the fridge to make pancakes, offers a plate to the neighbor. They sit down together and the neighbor opens the bubbly. While he talks, she plans to go down to the video shop and get a comedy, or even a romantic comedy. She might buy some milk chocolate as well and try a new variety of tea. She and her husband used to walk down to video store after dinner, to get rid of the carbs, and were often side-tracked to the nearby supermarket.