Nicole sits up in her creaky bed, waiting for the house to quiet down, which isn’t her house, nor her husband’s house, even though it will soon be his, if Carol and Christopher, her husband’s parents don’t change their mind once again, which is not at all implausible, because these two old birds have a long history of mindchanges, as her husband was not tiring of telling her, night after night, ever since a decade ago this obsession with his parents and their changes of minds had started and he was getting more and more obsessed, from the time on when Carol told him that they had wanted to have an abortion but changed their mind in the last minute, as the doctor was already lifting the shiny instruments up from the greasy looking table in that dirty shack which had made her feel all dirty herself and infested with lice, she had felt them crawling all over her body, enter all her orifices, ears, nose, later she even swore they were crawling up her arsehole, these dirty lice, she had heard them crawling towards her, even though the shack had been practically lice-less, as Christopher had been telling her over and over while she had mentally prepared to have that baby scraped out of her, but when a smell of something rotten had crept up to her nostrils and nestled there, she had screamed out loud enough to startle a bird on the roof of the shack and kicked at the doctor, in the course of which action she had irreparably broken all the fingers on his right hand and he had never been able to properly practice afterwards, which, according to Carol, was just punishment for letting his lice feed on the poor and frightened girl that she had been, and decades later, without having told him of the incident, Carol frightened her son with stories of a one-armed man with shiny knives who kept lice in a box beneath his bed and let them out whenever an unsuspecting traveler came by, the lice paying him in gold, which they miraculously produced in the place of ordinary feces, because, “the rich always feed on the poor, that’s the only way to make such a big amount of money”, a moral which put the fear of god in him every time he encountered his uncle afterwards, who was as rich as Rockefeller, and that’s not an exaggeration, his uncle was a pedant and he counted his money and calculated how much money Rockefeller would have had, if he had been his contemporary and, once a year, exclaimed triumphantly that, yes, he had more money than Rockefeller and everybody would come and congratulate him on his amazing fortune, because they all wanted a piece of it, except for Nicole’s husband, who was too busy cowering upstairs, waiting until the booming voice of his uncle was heard outside of the house, and he could be sure that his uncle would finally be gone, so it was surprising that Nicole’s husband inherited quite a substantial chunk of his uncle’s “blood money”, as he called it, and even though he knew, deep down inside himself, that his fear and disgust was based on superstition alone, he could not bring himself to touch that money and forbade Nicole to touch it either, which had been especially hard given their relative poverty, compared to her husband’s parents, who kept telling her that it was all her fault for not staying with the baby at home all her life, making her husband sacrifice his career for her fancy, they would have continued to attack her, in their quiet and sly way, which made their attacks hard to pinpoint, impossible to quote exactly and, thus, tough to make a reproach, if they hadn’t had that falling out with Nicole’s husband when he’d learned that he almost would not have been born, she would still be attacked on a weekly basis, so, until the obsession had set in really badly, some quiet had returned to their household, yet still, sometimes they did have to visit his parents, because they couldn’t keep their grandchildren away from them, and so they drove nine hours across Germany once each year, never on Christmas though, as that was the time when her husband’s uncle had chosen to visit his poor relations, many years ago and he couldn’t bear being in the house on that day, so they came on Good Friday, unfailingly arriving with half a dozen large suitcases, and his parents greeted them on the porch, large, portly Christopher thrusting out his hand, which had been half burnt at work, 30 years ago, when he had had a job welding beams in the large pits in East Germany, behind him stood Carol, white as a wraith, and fragile as an old book which has been too long exposed to the world, and just like that book she is full of words and the worlds created with them, and just as these she rarely steps out into the world, she has to be kept dry, behind drapes and cared for, a woman you’d never expect to have such a sharp tongue, and to harbor such an intense amount of mépris for anyone as Carol always harbored for Nicole, and because of that hate neither Carol nor Christopher ever looked at Nicole, because they were still mad after all these years, even though, years ago, Nicole had tried to explain to them that she as a foreigner needed to work herself into that new country, that she had needed to take that job and that she could not have stayed home for the kid, because all the paths which led into this strange country would have been suddenly barred to her, and under no circumstances could she have had a child that first time she was pregnant, Nicole and her husband barely having graduated from university, Jesus, they had been kids themselves, but his parents didn’t care then and they don’t care now, and now Nicole sits upright in her bed, stiff as a rabbit waiting for the predator to go by, barely even breathing, as she does not want Carol to notice her, so she waits and waits, afraid to death, maybe because of that recurring dream she has whenever they visit, in that dream she sees his parent’s house, painted in a sick mint color, leaking blood and the blood collecting in a pool under the large tree in the foreyard.


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