For Mary Lou: How to Care for a Troubled Household

1.  Put on your shirtdress, knee-high hose and loafers. Cover your head with a plastic rain bonnet. The bus ride from your home to theirs is long.

2.  Upon arriving, shoo the cats out of the house. The five-year-old girl will tug at your dress; keep her behind you, casually checking each room to make sure the mother hasn’t committed suicide.

3.  Teach the girl to tie her shoes. Tell the bunny story. Yes, that one: make a rabbit ear, chase it around the tree, dive into the hole.

4.  Unfold the ironing board. Sprinkle the father’s shirts with water, roll them up. Unroll and iron. You and the little girl sing with the Supremes on the radio; the iron cackles and spits.

5.  Sweep, wash the windows, do dishes, dust, wax.

6.  If the father has disappeared, you are in charge. The mother is locked in her room; children must be fed. You won’t get paid for the extra hours, but Lord Jesus will know.

7.  Keep an eye on the eldest son, the one who has brain troubles. If he is outdoors alone, holler out the back porch, ring the triangle. Bullies are in the fields, waiting.

8.  Count the children; there should be five. Start them on homework; put the little one to bed.

9.  Take the bus home to your lonely son and liquored husband.

10.  Sing “Try Me One More Time” in your sleep. Angels hover and kiss your temples. You are loved.


- Meg Galipault's publishing experience includes serving as managing editor of the Kenyon Review and executive editor of dialogue: voicing the arts, a nonprofit magazine covering the visual arts in the Midwest. She is a contributing editor for yeah write and has a blog called Pigspittle Ohio. Meg earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from Ohio University. She lives with her husband and cats in Mount Vernon, Ohio.

You can find Meg's companion essay to this piece over on our noteworthy blog, here.

Rajeshwari's Guide to the Care and Keeping of Cats

     Remain unmarried.  Instead of a partner and children, approximately twenty-two tumbleweeding, mewling, hissing balls of fur should inhabit your home.

     Your loving, generous nature should consistently drive your desire to rescue just one more lost soul from the mean streets.

     Vegetarian you, should purchase fish for feeding your furry charges.

     Cats treasure tea.  They take their afternoon tea, with plenty of milk and sugar, in saucers laid around the dining room floor.  Use only your best china for this purpose.

Cats by Meredith Counts

Cats by Meredith Counts

     When sauntering past a furry friend engaged in a battle of howls with another, casually lean forward, pluck your friend from the ground by the scruff of its neck, and arrange it over your shoulder like a fox-fur stole.  Your friend will immediately go limp and be compliant.

     Entwine your psyche with the psyches of your housemates so they become your familiars.  Move in synch with them, adjusting your emotional cycles to theirs until you achieve a harmonious commune of cats.

     Every spare second of your waking day should be spent thinking about the welfare of these creatures, closer to you than even your family members.  These are the children you never had, the confidants you yearn for, the companions of your dotage.  You may be "small mother" to your nieces and nephews, but you’re the only mother to your feline friends.

     You should blithely ignore all pleas and proddings from human family to limit the number of creatures on hygiene grounds.  You know better.  You always have.

- Asha Rajan


The pine-scented candles go on sale right after Christmas, and that is when you make your move. It always smells like Christmas at your house. Leaving the candles out all year is your version of never taking the tree and lights down. And pine scent is what you love most about Christmas.

Buy as many as you can carry out of the store. Buy as many different kinds as they have: glass jars, tea lights, giant pillars with pinecones imbedded in them, giant blocks with four wicks. Haunt the sale aisle all year long, just in case.

photo by  Sade Murphy

photo by Sade Murphy

Every surface in your house should have a candle on it. When they are spent, burned down to residue and charred glass, don’t throw them out. The jars or stubby candle rinds will still give off a faint pine scent. Just place another one next to the husk. There will be about 25 in each room of your small apartment. Light them all at once, just a few for mood, or gaze at their lovely un-lit greenness. Inhale deeply.

They will grow a fuzzy layer of dust. It will burn off when the candle is finally lit, or it will just sit like a sweater on the candle rind. Keep the extra candles in the coat closet on a shelf. Opening the closet door will be the best part of your morning. Your jackets, scarfs, hats and gloves will always smell of pine. This smell will cling to you and remind all of your friends and family of you, long after you are gone.


- Beth Dugan grew up in the suburbs of Chicago where she learned to fear mayonnaise and the suburbs of Chicago. She loves the great indoors and enjoys sitting in beer gardens, looking out of windows and having bugs not touch her. She works for the Man in various capacities as a writer and editor of words. Beth is an nationally recognized theater reviewer, a humorless feminist and a lover (not a fighter.)