When I woke up again it was already afternoon. Mom cooked some macaroni ‘n’ cheese and a baloney sandwich. She sat next to me as I ate. As soon as I was done she grabbed my hand and dragged me into the bathroom. She pulled off my shirt and yanked my pants and underpants to the floor, then she slammed down the toilet seat and sat me on top of it. She ran water for a bath and clogged the sink and dumped in a whole bottle of turpentine. I studied the bottle.
“Is one point seventy-five liters more or less than one gallon?”
She didn’t answer. Her lips were pressed together. It was like her face was frozen. She plucked me off the toilet seat by the elbows and jammed my blue hands into the sink. It burned. It was like a hundred bee stings. I started crying.
“Don’t you dare!” she snapped, but once her mouth opened, her face came unfrozen. She started crying too, and kept it up as she lifted me and put my blue feet in the sink. She cried as she carried me to the bathtub and scrubbed me all over with soap. She rinsed me off and wrapped me in a towel. Then she just sat right down on the floor. She pulled me into her arms and hugged me up. She cried and cried. And I cried too, because she was so sad.
After that I didn’t see Sergeant Defenbargh for thirteen days. It was like he was back in the war again, except we were living with Grandma. My mom’s real mom was dead from before I was born. Grandma was Sergeant Defenbargh’s mother. One night before bed I asked Mom why we were living here then. “Because Grandma loves all of us very much,” she said.