Girls’ Night In by Cathy Ulrich


We’ve run out of forks, so we use wooden chopsticks to eat with, use our hands. Mama bought the chopsticks at the Asian market down the street. She bought them and sriracha sauce and a packet of red beans that she boiled with sugar on the stove for an entire afternoon to make anko.

It was still lumpy at the end, though, and Mama muttered can’t do anything right, like she does, and dumped it down the garbage.

I wanted good anko, you know, she said, and that night we ate takeout from cardboard boxes. We used the chopsticks then, too, and Mama tipped the Mandarin-speaking delivery boy with a ten.

We’re eating mashed potatoes that came out of a box, we’re eating pieces of bacon that Mama cut with scissors before frying on the stove.

Aren’t we lucky we have a gas stove? Mama says. Aren’t we lucky we have matches?

We boil water in the teapot and pour it into the bathtub, over and over, until it’s full. We sit in it in our bathing suits, Mama stretching her legs over the edge and sighing. Candles flicker on the bathroom counter. Reflections of candles flicker in the mirror.

I wish we could watch a movie, says Mama.

Right now, she’s in love with Greta Garbo.

Those eyebrows, sighs Mama, shakes her head. I know they’re plucked.

There’s potato flakes on your chin, says Mama, and wipes them off with a damp washcloth. Don’t you think this water’s getting cold?

Mama moves the candles one by one back into the kitchen. We drip water onto the floor, even though we’re all bundled up in beach towels. Mama tosses paper towels over the puddles so we won’t slip, puts the mashed potatoes pot in the sink with the rest of the dishes.

I should wash these. Says: I should, I should.

Outside is black, the blackest we’ve ever seen. We look out the window for any lights that aren’t the moon, aren’t the stars. We miss the neon light from the nearby casino, miss the lit-up billboard advertising dental surgery. The whole world is dark when we look out the window, dark for days.

When will the sun come back again?

Soon, says Mama, soon, and blows out the candles, one by one by one.


Cathy Ulrich is a writer from Montana. Her work has been published in a variety of journals, including Rappahannock Review, Lost Balloon and Cheap Pop.