When Daisy and I were kids, our cousin Carol came to live with us. In thrift shop dresses, with plastic shoes and a crooked clip in her hair, she said nothing, ate little, moved in a kind of shuffle.
We didn't like her. Mother didn't like her, and when Carol left vegetables on her plate or closed a door too loudly or failed to say "please" and "thank you" Mother instructed Dad to punish her. Until Carol came to live with us, we didn't know the word "punish."
"There's something wrong with her," Mother told Dad each time. "She's got something bad in her, just like your sister had."
Carol was told first to remove her panties and leave them on a chair outside the den, where Dad waited. Once the door to the den was closed and locked the world was silent for a time--then the whistle of leather in the air, and the clack of a belt buckle hitting--something. Soon the screams would come, and the voice of Carol--the only time we ever heard her voice--begging.
Daisy and I would sit on the floor in our room, quietly building the next Barbie house. With a solemn sigh, Daisy might offer a new piece of colored cardboard to bend into a miniature sofa. Or she might carefully cut a square of pink cotton and say:
"This would make a pretty curtain for the kitchen window."