Don't Cry: Stories

Don't Cry: Stories by Mary Gaitskill Read Free Book Online

Book: Don't Cry: Stories by Mary Gaitskill Read Free Book Online
Authors: Mary Gaitskill
like there’s something wrong with you,” said Dr. Ramirez. “Don’t they know about overpopulation? I mean yeah, there’s biology. But there’re other ways to be a loving person” She had quickly bent to take her candy bar out of the machine. “You know what I mean?”
    Ever since then, Laura had felt good around Dr. Ramirez. Every time she saw her, she thought “ways to be a loving person.” She thought it as they rode up in the elevator together, even though the doctor stood silently frowning and smoothing her skirt. When they got to their floor, Dr. Ramirez said, “See you,” and gave Laura a half smile as they strode in opposite directions.
    Laura went to the lounge to get a coffee. Some other technicians and a few nurses were sitting at the table eating doughnuts from a box. Newspapers with broad grainy pictures of the White House intern lay spread out on the table. In one of the pictures, the girl posed with members of her high school class at the prom. She stood very erect in a low-cut dress, staring with focused dreaminess at a spot just past the camera.
    "She’s a porker,” said a tech named Tara; “Just look at her.”
    Laura lingered at the little refrigerator, trying to find the carton of whole milk. Everybody else used 2 percent.
    “It makes me sympathize with him,” said a nurse. "He could have anybody he wanted, and he picks these kinds of girls. Definitely not models or stars.”
    "That makes you sympathize? I think that makes it more disgusting.”
    "But it might not be. It might mean he wants somebody to be normal with. Like somebody who’s totally on his side who he can, like, talk about baseball with. ”
    “What? Are you nuts? She was a homely girl sucking his dick!” Laura had to settle for edible oil creamers. She took a handful, along with a pocketful of sugars and a striped stir stick. She walked down the empty hall whispering, “Ugly cunt, ugly cunt.”
    The day they brought their father home, the plumbing in the bathroom backed up. Sewage came out of the bathtub drain; water seeped into the chenille tapestry their mother had put up around the window. It was like snot was everywhere.
    Laura lay with Anna Lee on the foldout couch in the living room. She and Anna Lee had slept close together in the same bed until Laura was fifteen and Anna Lee thirteen. Even when they got separate beds, they sometimes crept in together and cuddled. Now they lay separate even in grief.
    Anna Lee was talking about her six-year-old, Fred, an anxious, overweight child with a genius IQ. The kid couldn’t make friends; he fought all the time and usually lost. He’d set his room on fire twice. She was talking about a psychiatrist she had taken him to see. In the light from the window, Laura could see her sister’s eyelashes raising and lowering with each hard, busy blink. She could smell the lotion Anna Lee used on her face and neck. The psychiatrist had put Fred on a waiting list to go to a special school in Montana, a farm school with llamas the children could care for and ride on.
    “I hope it helps,” said Laura.
    There was a long silence. Laura could feel Anna Lee’s body become fractionally softer and more open, relaxing and concentrating at the same time. Maybe she was thinking of Fred, how he might get better, how he might grow happy and strong. Laura had met the child only once. He’d frowned at her and looked down at the broken toy in his hand, but there was curiosity in his mien, and he was quick to look up again. He was already fat and already bright; he seemed too sorrowful and too angry for such a young child.
    “I had a strange thought about Daddy,” she said.
    Anna Lee didn’t answer, but Laura could feel her become alert. Even in the dark, her eyes looked alert. Laura knew she should stop, but she didn’t. “It was more a picture in my head,” she continued. “It was a picture of a woman’s naked body that somebody was slashing with a knife. Daddy wasn’t in the picture,

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