It is the kind of morning where I pour the day’s coffee into the remainder of yesterday’s coffee and then hold the cup for a long time before I begin to drink.

 

The youngest boy asks, “When’s swim team practice?” Nobody told him the group disbanded because only one kid at a time could fit in the pool. “Don’t worry,” I say, “It’s more of a solo sport anyway.”

 

The cat has been sunbathing in the flowerbed, getting yellow pollen stuck on the end of his whiskers. He’s got yellow around his mouth, as if he were a cartoon cat that just ate a yellow bird. The youngest boy has been eating flowers too. He says it’s not because he wants to be like the cat, but because he likes the taste.

 

The cat smells like litter and sweaty paws and dirt from the tomato garden that didn’t produce any tomatoes this year. The youngest boy still has that sweet little kid smell. I sometimes wonder if the flowers make him smell sweeter.

 

Last night, the youngest boy grabbed a slingshot and told me he was heading to the park to take down some baddies. I suspected there were no baddies, only a field of dandelions with heads to pop off with rocks. When he got back he was covered in pollen so we threw him in the kiddie pool. We threw the cat in too. We scrubbed both their pollen mouths until all our limbs were covered in criss-crossed red lines.

 

My coffee is cold. The youngest boy must be cold too. He’s been sitting in the pool all night, picking at the scratches that have not yet formed into scabs, the lower lip of his clean mouth sticking out. He tells me he doesn’t care what I say. He’s going to wait for the rest of the team to show up.

***

Madeline Hanley lives and writes in Raleigh North Carolina. She received her MFA from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pithead Chapel and Cease, Cows.

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