Christmas Eve afternoon we scrape together a nickel and go to the butcher's to buy Queenie's traditional gift, a good gnawable beef bone. The bone, wrapped in funny paper, is placed high in the tree near the silver star. Queenie knows it's there. She squats at the foot of the tree staring up in a trance of greed: when bedtime arrives she refuses to budge. Her excitement is equaled by my own. I kick the covers and turn my pillow as though it were a scorching summer's night. Somewhere a rooster crows: falsely, for the sun is still on the other side of the world.
I suspect the house we’re renting is haunted. Last night I dreamed my husband was carrying a blond child about three years old. The child was crying. I took the child in my arms but could not comfort her. Then at around 5 am I heard someone say “Mother,” clearly and out loud. The sound woke me up. I looked at the clock and then at my sleeping husband thinking how strange it was that I’d never heard him talk in his sleep before and how funny it was that he’d said “mother.” Just as I was dozing off, I heard the word “Mother” again. It was not my husband’s voice. I heard whispering in what seemed like the next room. I sat up in bed and put my ear to the wall that separated our bedroom from the room our boys were sleeping in—all quiet. And neither of them has ever called me “mother.”