Stanford Chaparral

Shelley thumbed the pages of the book her mother left outside her door.

“Geez,” she said, exhaling noisily. She rolled over on her bed and stared at the ceiling.

On her bedside table, the sea sponges were trying to squirm out of their box. Her mother had also left a note.

“Just take your time, angelfish. I love you!”

. . .

“Once a month, fancyfluke,” her mother had said, trying to avoid looking at the sticky, reddish pearl on the sofa. It was the size of a softball.

“Just once a month, honeygills, and really, it’s a wonderful, natural thing.”

Shelley had never been so embarrassed.

. . .

“Leave Shelley alone, Ray. This is a nice restaurant.”

“Gross,” said Ray, ignoring his mother. “Shelley’s fluke smells like caviar.”

“At least it doesn’t have barnacles all over it,” Shelley said, blushing.

After the salad came, she went right to the bathroom to change her sponge.

. . .

Ray Sr. tried to look parental, but he couldn’t find a comfortable position in his chair. This had been a much easier talk to have with Ray Jr.

“Now, Shelley,” he said, clearing his throat. “You know that saying, ʻHappy as a clam?’”

Shelley looked down at her lap. Her eyes widened.

Dammit, thought Ray Sr.