Adeline looked around the small, clean dining room. She bought the one-bedroom rancher ten years ago, after her divorce from Ray. It seemed the perfect size for her new, modest life of work, television dinners, rented movies, and the occasional bus trip with coworkers, a life that had the right amount of excitement and softness, absorbing the disappointments of marriage and the other minor stresses.
Then Adeline’s mother moved in. Suddenly, Adeline’s life moved toward the edges, like the last item packed in a bag that barely zipped. Suddenly there were tubes of garish lipstick stuffed into her medicine cabinet, even though Adeline’s mother hasn’t worn lipstick in years. What was once an orderly if sparse bedroom closet now reeled with internal congestion, Adeline’s sweaters and pullovers fighting with her mother’s old winter coats and cocktail dresses from Hoshild Kohn, zipped in thick, obtuse plastic, smelling of mothballs. Everywhere Adeline turned her mother’s life leered at her, from the dentures in the cup by the sink to the word search books overfilling the magazine rack to little stations throughout the house, stations with moisturizer and nail files and aspirin and note paper so that, wherever Adeline’s mother was, she would not have to endure the pain of a hangnail or dry, scaly hands, a vague ache, or the omission of an item from the ever-important appended grocery list.
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