Blank Inside

None of the cards is appropriate for what she wants to tell him. She thumbs through rhymed and lilting sentiments, hundreds of them, and eventually they all seem the same to her, cardtalk, neither happy nor sad nor congratulatory. A new baby leveled with a dead grandfather.

He shouldn’t have done that. That’s all. He shouldn’t have been with her—the other her—when this her was rubbing the achy belly of their son. She is worried that he has passed on his deadly habits to his own offspring, that the boy is poisoned with a desire to tear things down, to neglect what’s valuable, to look a naked woman straight in the eye and lie to her.

“Honey, you know I wouldn’t do that.”

She’s not sure now whether that is what he really said, or whether she heard that line in a bad country song, or read it on one of these cards.

Their boy, conceived at the edge of a graveyard after they’d spent the day looking for the headstone of her grandfather, fidgets a little in his stroller and pulls one of the bunches of cards onto the floor of the store. She picks them up (“Hey, look who’s turning 16!”) and distributes one of each of them into all the categories.