Thursday evening, when Mabel returns from her shift at the 7 Eleven, an eviction notice hangs from the doorknob of the small house. “Damn,” she says, stuffing it into her purse. Not that she hasn’t expected it. Oddly, this last month has gone by more slowly than she’d anticipated. She’d assumed that the days would speed along, crashing into each other in a breathless countdown. Instead, time began to seem like small, independent units: a slideshow of freeze-framed moments. Mabel has even begun to picture herself as a character in these scenes and narrates her own movements: Mabel waters the plants. Mabel empties the trash. Mabel gets depressed.
Inside, the rooms are a clutter of unfinished actions: half-filled boxes are stacked along the living room walls, and piles of books lean against the furniture. In the bedroom, the contents of her closet are strewn across the bed, the sleeves of blouses thrown open as if caught mid-fall. In the kitchen, the refrigerator has been pulled out from the wall, a short-lived attempt to clean behind it. Mabel has to squeeze around when the phone rings. She thinks to herself: Mabel answers the phone.
It’s her brother, Pete. She tells him about the notice. “What now?” he asks. He’s calling from his backyard; Mabel can hear the squeals of his two bossy daughters in the pool. Pete lives in Mission Viejo, in a white-stuccoed condo in the center of a walled community.
“I’m still looking for a place,” Mabel says. “There’s one that sounds pretty good a few blocks over.” She thinks to herself: Mabel tells another lie.
“You don’t have much time,” he reminds her. He adds, “You can always come here.” This, of course, would never work. She knows the smug way his wife looks at her, taking in her droopy clothes, her ratty hair, collecting evidence.
“Thanks but no thanks,” Mabel says. She thinks to herself: Mabel holds onto her last shred of dignity.
She pushes aside a pile of clothes on the bed and sleeps. The Santa Anas are blowing again and all night the bushes scratch against the outside walls. She awakens several times with a start. A jumble of bottles on the dresser blurs into one shape and seems to shift. A scarf draped over the mirror lifts in a hazy way. She is relieved when the first rays of sun break through and she sees the room for what it is: only things, and things on top of things.
She sits up in bed, stretches one arm, then the other. She can see her reflection in the dresser mirror. She says out loud: Mabel makes her move.