Chapter Twenty-Eight JIM Anger is the least effective emotion when it comes to getting what you want in this get-along/go-along world, but unable to control myself, I hurl a plastic baby rattle so hard it shatters against the wall above Laurel’s head. Grains of brown rice burst...

Chapter Twenty-Nine LAUREL Shivering and wet, I’m melting away into nothingness. I must have fallen asleep hours earlier. Jimmy must have carried me into bed. There’s a damp washcloth on my forehead dripping water onto my face, and though three blankets wrap around me, I’m...

Jimmy lets go of my hands. His mouth turns clumsy, and his eyes gape, giving the impression he’s only now coming to terms with what he’s saying. “I’m not rich. I’ve never been rich.” Jimmy stares at the glorious sunrise outside our window. I can see that he’d rather...

Chapter Thirty JIM Laurel’s hand is rough, her skin dried with fever, dehydration, and the demands of motherhood. As she drifts off to sleep again, I sing the pinnacle of Arlen and Mercer’s songs to her—“It’s Only a Paper Moon,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Jeepers Creepers,”...

Jack leaned back, rolled up his sleeves, and cracked his knuckles. “Do you want to know?” he asked. His arms were scaly, reptilian, inflamed with xerosis and dried out by too much sun. He grinned, and when I assured him that I really wanted to know, he mentioned the wife of...

Chapter Thirty-One TRISH I take James’s hand in mine and watch his startled eyes as I undo the silk sash to my bathrobe. There’s a fire raging in my brain, ants in my fingertips. I’m so excited I can barely stand still. Surely, he sees it too: the burgeoning baby bump. In...

I explain for James’s benefit the circumstances of Laurel’s episiotomy. Doctors had erroneously calculated Anne Elise would be so large that Laurel’s health would be jeopardized by a natural vaginal delivery. They performed an episiotomy to lessen the risk of serious tearing....

Chapter Thirty-Two JIM Trish shoves the fountain pen in my hand. A sheaf of preprinted promissory notes, complete save for the blank spaces where she fills in the date and the dollar amounts, lies in an open drawer. Humiliation scorches my cheeks. I can’t believe it’s come to...

Chapter Thirty-Three LAUREL I can barely keep my eyes open, awakening cotton headed for mere moments, shivering, and calling Jimmy’s name before lulling myself back to sleep every few minutes. Hours seem to pass by. I find myself weaving in and out of consciousness. The room feels...

Chapter Thirty-Four TRISH After James leaves, I stare at the promissory note, scarcely believing he signed it. And then I sit down and bury my face in my hands. I didn’t tell James everything about my meeting with Simpkins. James might fear he’s going to get kneecapped, but...