The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions | Supersoritis



By Rob Ehle

The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions has been conceived as a monthly random match of mortal sin with family member to create a helpful home reference, not unlike the Merck Manual or the DSM IV.

They live together wrinkling, the two sisters, in an oleandered condo, divorced and widowed, and widowed, respectively, the older one’s things in the younger one’s place. The older one has written and traveled, the younger collected spoons. Ten new presidents since they last shared a living room, you’d think the younger one might finally be choosing a channel now and then, but the opinions, the opinions! are the province of the eldest. They are swollen now like goiters. She was regarded for so many years, this formidablesse, and there is no one left now to regard her. She has nothing left but her commentary. Dressed by eight, sits at her sister’s table with her coffee and Virginia Slims, reading the Chronicle.

The younger one poaches an egg. She is as dependable and unnecessary as a cuckoo clock.

“This newspaper is being run by a student council,” the older one says. “And the world goes on burning.”

“I told Margaret her rhodies needed—”

“Margaret’s tuna casserole. They would flourish.”

How can you begrudge a person who has so obviously earned her arrogance? One does not just shrug off one’s lifelong accoutrements. Her head canted, a wisp of thin glass-blonde hair tucked up behind her ear as she has been tucking it since she was eight, always getting things out of her way.

San Mateo. Her Elba. Her San Clemente. The younger sister in her pale velour reaches for one of her little plastic bottles. Takes one, examines it, puts it back, takes another, examines it, puts it back, takes another . . .

The older one looks up. For a moment watches. She stares unnoticed for seconds and seconds at this addlement, this mildness, this mortality, and then, saying nothing, like a bored and sated lioness, turns away. It is the closest she can come to kindness.


Read more here from Rob Ehle’s project, The Family Handbook of Mortal Conditions.


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