Robin has a turquoise thumb. The blue comes from missing her father, the green inherited from his gift with plants. Mine is black. I don’t really even cook. Thank god she grows fruits and vegetables or she might die of scurvy.
“Very little,” I tell the man on the phone who wants to know what I’m wearing. “Panties and a frilly bra.” I think harder. I need the repeat business. “Both are see-through pink,” I add, picking a piece of lint off the khakis I’m actually wearing.
I watch her through the plate glass window working in the garden, my daughter. Tomatoes and strawberries. Robin came home from school today with a report card the likes of which she never got when her father was alive. C’s. Robin isn’t a C kind of kid. She excels at everything. Including the blues. I’ve tried to get her to join the Girl Scouts, a pottery class down the street, to have friends over for the night.
“Right,” she says, “and listen to you on the phone?”
She’s only heard me once. I take great pains. And it wasn’t that bad, simply me telling a man he had beautiful nose, no matter what other women told him.
There is groaning on the other end of the phone.
“I’m working Kama Sutra oil all over your cock. Now I’m pushing and pulling. Such a gorgeous cock. Yeah, I can tell you like it. Maybe I’ll give him a little lick. What did you say his name was?”
“There, Winston. You taste so good. Yes, I’m going to put my mouth and tongue all over you, you’re so tasty.”
“You mean you don’t care, after he’s been inside you?”
“All I care about is making you feel good, darling.”
We now have separate phones, Robin and I. It was the least I could do. I can’t quite figure out how to tell her what’s happening without frightening her, not after I lost my job and couldn’t find another, not with the market the way it is, not with how depressed I’ve been. We almost lost the condo. Her father was so young when he went, early thirties. Neither of us planned to get sick and die young. We didn’t plan.
“Mom? Mom?” Robin throws open the sliding glass door.
“Is that a girl’s voice?” the man on the other end of the phone wants to know.
“Mom? Look—I cut myself!”
Blood streams from one of Robin’s fingers. The garden clippers she cut it with drip blood, so now her thumb is a sticky red, too.
“It could be,” I say into the receiver. Would telling him it is a girl really hurt my daughter? She’s crying now.
“Mom!” Robin says. “What’s the matter with you?”
“Is that a girl?” The voice on the other end sounds horribly excited. He sighs long and hard before an even longer groan erupts through the receiver.
My mouth is open, and I’m thinking any minute now something will happen as I stare at Robin rummaging through the kitchen, no doubt hunting for an appropriate item to sop up the blood with so she can take care of herself. I hear panting in the receiver.
“Thank you, Mom,” she says to someone who doesn’t seem to be me.