Karen had been married and divorced three times by the time she was 25, and after the third divorce went through, she and her two twins, Marla and Daphne (8) and her other two identical twins–Kevin and Roger (6) sat at the breakfast table discussing what had gone wrong.

“At least we’re all from the same dad,” said Kevin and Roger, in unison.  “That makes things a lot easier,” said Marla and Daphne, sawing at their shared waffle in unison.

“But dad’s new girlfriend hates all of us,” said Karen.  And it was true, she did.  Paul’s new girlfriend Leslie hated Karen and she hated children and she particularly hated Karen’s children because all of them looked exactly like Paul, even the girls.  Also, Leslie suspected that the children might be even smarter than she was, which they were.  But Leslie was young and beautiful, mostly because she had the money to get expensive highlights every three months.  It’s true that without those highlights she probably wouldn’t look so hot.  This is something that Kevin and Roger had pointed out after meeting her.  But Leslie had a great job counseling people who had lost their homes in the foreclosure crisis, so business was booming and she had just bought one of those stacked washer-dryer sets that nobody can afford unless they’re doing really well.  Also she had terrific health insurance and a nice house with a gas fireplace–a house where Paul could have his own room to weave his fiber-art rugs that he sold for 499.99 on eBay.   When the kids came to visit, every other Friday on odd months except March, because he and Leslie were going on vacation to Argentina–they would have a nice place to play, and a big yard.  Leslie thought a big yard was key because she didn’t like a mess and if it was up to her, she would leave the kids outside like dogs to fend for themselves. Paul had never had his own room when he lived with Karen.  So no matter what, this was a step up.


“I guess I’ll be heading back to school,” said Karen, flipping through the catalogue of continuing education from the Illinois School of Generalized Studies.  “What should I major in, kids?”

“Pharmacy” said the girls, their mouths filled with waffle.  “You’ll get a good job that way.”

“Geriatric anesthesiology” said the boys, who were going through some sort of a phase.

“Hmm.” said Karen.  She opened the book at random and her finger came down on a green page, the title of which was “Xylem and Phloem—Making Cacti Work To Your Advantage”.  This might be it, thought Karen, but she didn’t want to say it out loud, lest  the gods smite her enthusiasm, as they were wont to do.

Later when the kids were over at Leslie’s and Paul’s, Karen went online and she looked at his rugs.  Not bad, she thought.  I like the green one.  But, she thought, maybe at this point she should buy such things from someone else.  She tried to remember if Leslie had any rugs in her house.  She seemed to remember that Leslie was a concrete floor kind of girl.  Concrete floor and blonde highlights.  Well.  Maybe she had a good sense of humor.

The kids dug a hole in Leslie’s yard with their bare hands and made it into their fort.