Auto Refill: I hit “Buy It Now” over and over on Amazon. Big blue tubs of lightly salted cashews hit the front porch softly, pouched in plastic. I do it so often they intuit when I need more. They send more. I place them on my husband’s tongue like exquisite medication. He closes his eyes. I feed him more. They don’t crunch so much as they soften and slide. Little beige rafts floating him downstream to calmer waters.

S’mores: Bonfires become the new currency of our teenaged children. Girls in high ponytails and newly popular “Mom” shorts, boys in wildly overgrown hair and flip flops. Graham crackers, marshmallows appear, but it’s a ruse and we know it. Clouds of smoke camouflage their social distance fails. I slap blowing embers in abandoned lawn chairs as they all rush out into the night. Streetlights cast shadows on their Sunday night confusion. There’s no school tomorrow. Or the next day. Or the next.  Sometimes I hear them screaming in the streets. They think it’s funny; I know it’s fear.

Crowns & Tridents: My Sea Monkeys arrive in bubble wrap. My daughter feeds them green dust with a tiny pink spoon. Our nostalgia bubbles up in the yellow water, then sinks. Later, a robust family of four breast strokes around and around for our viewing pleasure.  We peer into the little magnifying circles for close-up views. Once, one of them taps on the plastic, asking for news. I shrug: nothing yet.

Nighthawk Black: I make the call quick, quiet, furtive as a drug deal, from the front seat. The Volvo hatch wide open and hungry. In minutes, the masked man makes the drop: four Bota Boxes of Red Blend wine.  I tuck a loose $10 in the back under the jumper cables: “That’s for you.” He slams it down and knocks the roof twice. Four boxes of wine equals too much wine for two people. We drink it down to the wilted bladder. We don’t like measuring spoons. We do not sip slowly.

Urban Sunrise: Our (sweet sixteen) daughter’s room rolls from aqua to gray mid-pandemic.  Clean white trim, sleek white dressers, white sailcloth curtains, bleach out the 1880 Victorian charm she now loathes. Dark antique castaways shuffle up to the attic and hang their heads in shame.  At night as I walk the dog, I look up and spy my daughter’s rainbow LED lights pulse slowly around the perimeter of her crown molding: green, blue, purple, red, orange, yellow. And then a flash of her walking past, ponytailing her hair, whipping through some Tik Tok moves so frantically she’s a blur. Old-Fashioned:  After spending so many nights with Don Draper, I begin to long for my own sunken living room. Except I want mine sunk down so low it’s a deep dark well and only Don can send supplies in a wooden bucket on a rope. Once he travels down himself in the bucket. He offers me an ice-cold Coca Cola, a paisley dress Megan’s left behind, his hand to hold.  When Don passes out, beautiful head in my lap, I steal a Lucky Strike from his pocket and run it under my nose. I don’t have a light; I don’t want to wake him; I want this to end; I don’t want this to end.

Anne Panning
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