The Neverending Adventures of Eleanor Dobbins, a short story by Simon Nadel at
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The Neverending Adventures of Eleanor Dobbins

The Neverending Adventures of Eleanor Dobbins

written by: Simon Nadel


I’m in a bedroom. I probably should make the bed. There’s a picture of Miranda on the dresser. We’re at the beach. Or should I get dressed first? Someone is yelling from downstairs. “Honey, breakfast is ready.” I took that picture. “I need to make the bed,” I yell.

I’m in a bedroom. “Honey, it’s getting cold, come on,” someone is yelling. Miranda’s holding a purple plastic shovel. She has a radiant smile. She has her arm around a small boy. The boy isn’t smiling. He looks like a little shithead. I’m not sure if I should get dressed or make the bed first.

I’m in a kitchen. A man is sitting across from me. “How are your eggs?” he asks. I look down at my plate. It has scrambled eggs and toast on it. “They’re not very good,” I say. “Can I have some more coffee?” The man shakes his head. “You’ve already had two cups,” he says. “That’s enough for now.” I don’t think I like this man.

I’m in a bathroom. Someone pooped in the toilet but didn’t flush. Maybe I should take a shower.

I’m in a living room. I have a pink towel wrapped around me. My husband looks at me. “Honey, you need to get dressed. We have company coming soon.” “Is it Miranda?” I ask. “It’s Skip and Julie,” he says. “Please go get dressed.” “Should I start dinner?” I ask. “Just get dressed,” he says. He sounds impatient. I need to pee. “Where’s the bathroom?” I ask. He leads me upstairs.

I’m in a bathroom. Someone peed in the toilet but didn’t flush. I probably should take a shower.

I’m in a bedroom. “Honey, you need to get dressed,” someone yells. “Is it fancy?” I ask. “No,” he says. “Just get dressed and come downstairs. They’ll be here soon.” He sounds mad. I lock the bedroom door. Miranda was seven. We waded into the water together, hand-in-hand. The undertow was strong and she could tell I was a little nervous. “It’s okay, mommy,” she said, “we’ll get through this together.” I always loved my daughter, but that was the moment I fell in love with her. Someone is fumbling at the door. I’m afraid. “Open the door, honey, please,” he says. “You’ve been in there forever.” I don’t say anything. Maybe he’ll just go away. I hear more fumbling at the door and then it opens and my husband comes in. He opens a drawer and takes out some clothes and throws them on the bed. “You need to get dressed,” he says. “We’ve been waiting downstairs.”

I’m in a living room. There’s a picture of Miranda on the mantle. It’s from her senior year of high school. She’s holding a rose. A chubby balding man is sitting with my husband. He looks a little like my husband but he’s not nearly as handsome. “You look good, mom,” he says. “I like your hair.” “Yeah, it looks great Mrs. Dobbins,” says a woman with a pinched ruddy face and mousy brown hair. My husband says, “Please, it’s Ralph and Eleanor. You’ve known us long enough.” “Did you ever meet my Miranda?” I ask the strangers my husband seems to know. “She was going to be valedictorian. She had a full scholarship to Smith.” The strangers are looking down. I turn to my husband. “Should I start dinner?” “We’re taking you guys out,” the chubby balding man says. “Should I get dressed?” I ask. “Is it fancy?” The chubby balding man looks at my husband and laughs. “It is fancy mom,” he says. “It’s your birthday after all.” My husband says, “Maybe we should take a walk.” “I’ll get dressed,” I say.

I’m taking a walk. A woman is clinging tightly to my arm. Two men are walking behind us. The woman has mousy brown hair and a ruddy complexion. A young man with blond hair so long it makes him look like a girl is walking toward us. “How are you today, Mrs. Dobbins?” he asks. I smile at him. The woman with her arm locked tightly through mine doesn’t answer. She seems rude. “Well, here we are,” I say, pointing to a brick house. “This is my house,” I tell the unfriendly woman. She ignores me just like she ignored the long-haired man who looked like a girl. “No honey, that’s not it, it just looks like ours,” says one of the men behind us. It’s my husband. What’s he doing skulking around back there with that chubby balding man? I don’t like this walk. When can I go home?

I’m in a crowded restaurant with my husband and a chubby balding man and a woman with mousy brown hair and a ruddy complexion. It’s too loud. I don’t like this place. Why did they bring me here? There’s a glass of red wine in front of me.

I’m in a crowded, noisy restaurant. A chubby balding man is very mad. He’s cursing and frantically wiping at his pants. A ruddy-faced woman with mousy brown hair is also frantically wiping at his pants, which are stained with what looks like red wine. “Just calm down,” my husband says. “It happens.” The man sits back down. He seems slightly out of breath. I don’t think I like him. “Maybe if you visited more none of this would seem as shocking,” my husband says. “I visit,” the other man says defensively. “We visit. But it’s tough, with work, the kids.” “You’re only an hour away,” my husband says. “It’s two hours with traffic,” says the chubby balding man. The woman next to him is looking down at her lap. “I’d like a glass of wine,” I say.

I’m in a crowded restaurant. There’s an empty plate in front of me. “Did you like it, mom?” a chubby balding man asks. “Oh God, it was terrible,” I say. “I could have made something so much better at home. I don’t know why we waste our money on places like this.” He and the other people at my table begin shushing me. “It’s your birthday, mom,” the chubby balding man says. “I just wanted to buy you a nice dinner.” “Did you ever meet my son?” I ask the two people having dinner with us. “He lost all his money gambling and got into terrible debt. We were able to bail him out but it was a big strain on us financially.” Everyone is quiet and looking down at their laps. “We didn’t talk to him for a while but I think things are okay now,” I say. “Though he rarely comes to visit.”

I’m in a crowded restaurant. My husband is across from me. “Thanks for dinner,” I say. “It was Skip and Julie who paid,” he says. “But they had to go. They had to get home.” “Can I have some ice cream?” I ask.

I’m in a restaurant eating vanilla ice cream out of a silver bowl. It’s cold and sweet and soothing. I look up and the man across from me is smiling and has tears in his eyes. I finish the ice cream. “Can I have more?” I ask. He shakes his head. “We need to get home,” he says. I don’t think I like this man.

I’m in the kitchen. My husband is reading the newspaper. “Is Skip still here?” I ask. “He hasn’t been here in over a year,” my husband says. “Maybe they’ll come again soon. I’ll call him.” “What about Miranda? Can she come today? I can make her favorite, eggplant parmesan.” My husband puts down the paper. “No, Miranda can’t come,” he says. “Not today.” “Can I have more coffee?” I ask.

We’re at the police station. “If I can’t have you, no one can.” That’s what people heard the boy say before he did it. I think about the prom dress Miranda picked out. She looked so beautiful in it. Now it’s shredded and caked with her blood.

I’m in a bedroom. The man next to me is still asleep. I go downstairs to the kitchen. My husband must have gone out. He didn’t make me coffee.

I’m in a bedroom. The man in the bed won’t wake up, no matter how much I jostle him.

I’m in a bedroom. The woman in the bed next to me is singing a Joni Mitchell song. She has a terrible voice. “Will you please be quiet,” I say to her, but she keeps on singing.

I’m in a bedroom. The bed next to mine is empty. I miss the woman with the bad singing voice. A black woman in a pale blue uniform comes into the room. “It’s a special day Mrs. Dobbins, you have a visitor.”

I’m in a lounge surrounded by old people. I’m waiting for my visitor. I hope it’s Miranda. There’s a fat bald man coming toward me holding a bouquet of flowers. It’s mostly carnations. I don’t like carnations.

I’m at the beach with Miranda. We’re being pushed further and further out into the black water and I worry about not being able to swim back to the shore. Miranda is holding my hand tightly. She smiles reassuringly at me. She’s a child. She’s a teenager. She’s the grownup she never got to be. “It’s okay, Eleanor Dobbins,” she says. “We’ll get through this together.”

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