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opportunity to fail as a mother. She had to ask herself, as a matter of simple logic, what the point might be in going on. Robert had a box of heavy duty plastic bags that he used for leaves and lawn cuttings. She could put one of them over her head and suff ocate herself, like she had heard of people doing. Robert would fi nd her that way, in their bed, one more bag of trash that he had thrown away. She prayed for a sign and went outside for a walk. It was a Saturday morning in early June, and the world was green and damp and fertile. Birds sang with no apology. How little it would take to be happy, she thought. To have the things that others around her had—Robert with his mistress, her father with his cause. A horn honked beside her. She turned and saw Cindy Berkshire, a crooked Black & White 299 grin on her face, leaning out the driver’s side window of a new Cadillac. “Hey, Ruth,” she said. “I haven’t seen you in a dog’s age.” It had been more than a year, and Ruth saw that liquor and cigarettes and loose living had
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