11.21.2004

whoops--I forgot to give you chapter two. Here is a little chunk, honeys:

excerpt from chapter two: the first girl
from GIRLY, a novel by Elizabeth Merrick

Button:

When Amandine came out of the hospital, she took too many painkillers and stayed in bed for weeks, making loud efforts at lifting the pages of wallpaper sample books, huge heavy squares. Lyman fawned on her for awhile, hoisting the books up onto the breakfast tray that spanned her legs as if a bridge, Amandine a dull, slow, silent river—murky. Every few hours she would say, water or tissue or pills (meaning a codeine or later, a Demerol) or saltine, all she would eat. She would lift the pages of the huge square books and run her limp white hands up and down their textures as if her wrists were broken.

When she was silent, she seemed to be whining. And when she spoke, something bigger than her voice seemed to be shattering. Something of the finest crystal, smashing apart: Pills. Water. Tissue.

She would doze off within minutes of Lyman propping the wallpaper book up for her, and start snoring so obnoxiously — something Lyman swore she had never done before, even in those last heavy months of her pregnancy — that Lyman hurried to lift the book off of her and leave the room just to get away from the noise. When she woke up again, she would call him to her from anywhere he happened to be in the house by swiping her hand across the bedside table, knocking prescription bottles and often her lamp and a glass of water tumbling into a racket against the wall. Reckless. I winced every time I heard Lyman's feet run to this.

Sometimes I would bring the baby into her room for a visit. Amandine gave the impression of being a sort of a zombie, sleeping propped upright on a pile of satin pillows, looking like she was awake but just playing a joke with her loud heaving. I hated going into that room, and left Amandine's care up to Lyman. Without makeup, she didn't look so hoity-toity anymore, she seemed washed out and exhausted. The mess droned out of her. For the first week home, Amandine would keep on snoring, despite me nearly shoving her off the bed in trying to wake her up. The baby, who kept a normal baby schedule, waking every few hours for a feeding during the night, going about its business of stretching and flexing and staring up at me and the mobile and empty space, was undisturbed by her mother's ruckus. The baby navigated the crass noises without noticing the difference.

As the baby settled in on her sleeping mother's belly, I tapped gently on Amandine's shoulder, then nudged, harder, then started flicking Amandine's white cheek with my middle finger propelled off my thumb.

Amandine's eyes hovered slightly, opened a tiny bit as her voice stumbled.

"Pill!" she said, "Pain pill!" wakening but still muddled, "Where's Lyman?"

"Amandine, Lyman went back to work," I lied. "Look–it's your daughter on you."

A streak of horror crossed Amandine's pinched, mousy little face as she turned—scared stark white— to look at me:

"Are you going to take care of me?"

"Oh just say hello to your daughter," I said. "Lyman doesn't go back till tomorrow. And he's getting you a nurse. Just say hello."

Amandine leaned back into the mounds of smooth pillows, before starting, as if she just then felt the nine pounds of baby on her lap. She looked over to me for guidance.

"Just give her your finger for gad's sake. Like this."

I unfurled Amandine's hand—clenched so tight the yellow skin on her knuckles was blanching itself—and placed the tip of her smallest finger into the baby's pink fist.

Amandine tensed, made a wavering sound, high-pitched but quick, then seemed to settle in. The baby stretched herself out then contracted, again and again, as if trying to climb up to see her mother's face better. Amandine stared down, but didn't pull the child to her. For a minute I thought Amandine was softening, and about to make some normal, mothery gesture, but I had too high of hopes: the snores started again. Her daughter reached pitifully, trying to move herself like an inchworm up her mother.
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