On the largest couch in the living room, whose softness was rivaled only by her mother's thighs, Claire squirmed out of her mother's lap as she listened to a weird-looking lady singing in a foreign language. Claire usually liked playing in the living room, hiding behind the window drapes and carefully testing the sounds that Jerry-dog, Mocha-cat, and Nicki-lizzard made when she dragged them across the piano keys, but today was much more boring. Instead of the blankets and cards and animals that usually inhabited the room, millions of giant people sat in rows of chairs, watching the weird lady sing while everyone collected tissues.
Claire observed the giant people gather the tissues, and whenever she got the opportunity, added to her own collection. She meticulously stacked her tissues, and counted and recounted them, with her present collection containing eleven. She was good at saving tissues, because the giant people were always offering them to her mother, who was usually very generous and shared them.
At first, Claire liked the giant people. They all came in and hugged her mother, and smiled. They all asked a lot of questions, and then sat down in the seats in the living room. But when the weird lady started singing, many of them started touching one another and some cried and ruined their tissues by crumpling them up against their faces. Sometimes the weird lady would stop singing and one of the giant people would stand up in front of her and start talking about her Daddy by his other name, Aron. It was all very boring. Claire buried her head behind her mother's back and went to search for the cat with the big hat that her Daddy and she read a few weeks ago. Her grandmother, sitting next to her, grabbed her wrist and pulled her back into her mother's lap.
A giant person sitting across from the couch handed her a tissue, bringing her collection up to thirteen tissues.
The next time the weird lady stopped singing, she told the room full of people to read a poem. Her mother pointed to a sheet of paper with the poem on it, and Claire practiced her reading. She liked reading poems; they were short. Everyone in the room started reading together, and Claire followed along:
To live in this world you must be ab...le to do three things:
To love what is mor...tal. To hold what is close to your bones as thowe yourrr life dee pen deah ddd on it, and when the time comes,
To let it go, to let it go.
After reading the poem, everyone breathed loudly, but didn't say anything. The weird lady looked at Claire, and asked her to come up to the front of the room. Claire's mother pointed to the front and told her to tell all the giant people about something she remembers about her Daddy. Her mother told her the day before that she would have to talk about her Daddy today, and Claire had practiced with her mother and grandmother. She carefully bestowed her tissue collection to her mother's knee and walked to the front of the room.
All the giant people were quite, and looked at her. The weird lady looked at her, but she smiled and put her hand on her shoulder, and Claire didn't think she seemed so weird when she wasn't singing.
Claire glanced at the rows of giant people sitting her her living room, then looked only at her mother. She knew that these people called her Daddy "Aron," so she did, too. She began her story, "Aron read to me every night."
Suddenly, Claire felt her face getting hot. Her throat started to hurt, and she closed her eyes. She felt her face getting hotter and she cleansed her fists, hoping to grab some tissues as tightly as she could, but for the first time all day, she didn't have any. She desperately flailed her arms for something to grab, and found the table cloth on a table behind her. Her throat began to hurt more and she grabbed the cloth tighter.
"Look out for the candles!" her grandmother cried, but Claire was already yanking on the table cloth as hard as she could. Her mother jumped off the couch and rushed over to her, spilling the collection of tissues on the floor. Claire released the table cloth and grabbed her mother instead, burred her face between her mother's breasts, and sobbed uncontrollably for years as the weird lady stroked her shoulders so tenderly that she turned around to see if it was her Daddy. But all she saw was the weird lady, and the rows of giant people collecting tissues more rapidly than ever.
Published on August 23, 2012