Mary’s house shakes itself down to the ground each night. It is the sort of house where everyone stumbles. The girls bump into walls when they walk down hallways, and sneezes send them flying down the stairs. The house is a garden, and roses are always in bloom across the sisters’ cheeks and bottoms.
The three sisters catch the light like the wet flesh of a ripe peach cut into slices. Down flutters along their jaws. They are cut from the same cloth. When they are lined up on the sofa at night to watch TV, they smell like a bowl of fruit in a warm kitchen.
Mary twists powdery silver paper from sticks of gum into small curls and puts them in the creamer of her tea set. She is a strange bird of a child. A pair of wings flaps along her spine, and her bones are a pile of toothpicks. She does not play with her sisters. She rocks in her bedroom. She swings on the swing set in the backyard at the bottom of the hill by the barn. She thinks about about the plastic family that lives in the dollhouse in her bedroom. In her best daydream, the family goes canoeing and the green canoe tips. The family walks out of the river with their clothes sticking to their bodies, lifting their knees high while their hair streams and droplets of water swing from their eyelashes. The canoe floats into a vase of light spread on the river’s surface as the sun sinks.
Rosie is the loud sister. She laughs like she’s holding a sparkler tight in each hand. Her brown hair is cut into a bowl. You will never see her ears. She is missing four front teeth. When she smiles, her tongue flicks out of the gap and lifts the light.
Rosie has a temper and she sits astride a cannon when she’s angry, the palm of each foot resting on a wheel. She carries a pouch of gunpowder at her side.
Sandy’s nose is dotted with freckles, and her face bears the sign of the cross. She has a deep widow’s peak and a pointed chin, and her cheeks are marked with flushed red knobs.
The neighborhood passes stories about Mary’s family from one mother to the next over the dairy case in Acme. “I don’t know what goes on in that house, but Jimmy said the police were there last Tuesday night. Those little girls,” Aileen tutted and fingered the lid of the sour cream.
The sisters scan his face. Their minds work like an accountant’s. They run numbers and analyze data. Their record books are private, and they do not compare figures.