My parents were entertaining guests when I stumbled into the room covered head-to-diaper in white powder. The guests laughed at such a thing—a child getting into the baby powder! Then they saw the Ajax.
I had found the cylinder of bleaching agent in the bathroom. I held it up to shake any Pringles out. I was blind by the time I reached the hall. My face was filled with a drumroll made of fire.
After dropping me onto my arm in the bathtub and holding my head under a faucet, my stepfather stood me in front of the guests to apologize. I had to guess as to the direction of my sorry. I saw only quivering kaleidoscopes of wet color. “Stay away from that stuff,” a guest said. “It’ll clean your insides out.” That kind of clean sounded pretty good to me.
Stepfather was gone by Easter. Our grave could not hold him and he went looking for a new heaven to beat the shit out of. I stood in the drugstore cleaning aisle—where everything smells like snowdrifts and warm oranges—looking for something strong enough to cut through grease in the burial chambers of a human heart.