Family show

Dad says, “Get the fuck over here… Get your asses over here!” They are four and five, the younger one chubby and rude, grabbing whatever she can get, hands grubby from grabbing for what never turns out to be love. The other girl, button-eyed and silent, strives for invisibility. She pretends that her life is just a television program she is watching, that could change at any time if she wanted. The parents’ eyes like sanded bullets, dull and hard, hair greasy, too much going on to get it all together. Yanking arms and barking threats. If they’re like this in public, the whispers wonder, what do they do to those kids at home? Not able to put on the show of acceptability that other troubled families play, richer troubled families with fences and houses, with combed hair and clean clothes, but whose well-fitted windows still leak accusations and cussing, suspicion and manipulation. The misery seeps from tight seams there; here it gushes around this mother and father, causing bystanders to veer away, fearing their own hems will be stained if they get too close.