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An excerpt from Cocoon

Back at home, Barth found Seana curled up in a fetal position on the sofa, exactly where he’d left her. Her cell phone, lying on the coffee table near her, was loping away with its God Bless the USA melody. Seana stared blankly at the TV screen.


“Aren’t you going to answer your phone?” Barth asked, slightly annoyed. He knew she didn’t feel well but couldn’t understand this apathy.

Seana didn’t reply. He snatched up her phone, flipped it open, and barked “Hello?”


A startled silence, then, “Barth, I’d like to speak to my mother.” Zoe’s request was cut in cedar.

“Of course.” Barth held the phone out to Seana, whose gaze never wavered from the television screen. She shook her head.

A definite no.


“Ah, look, Zoe. Your mother’s not feeling well and –”


“I know she’s not.” As in I’m not stupid. “She wasn’t at church. Is she awake?” Zoe’s tone was definitely up there with royally ticked.

“Yes, she’s awake. But she doesn’t want to talk to anyone right now.” Barth knew it wasn’t sitting well with his stepdaughter. Couldn’t blame her. He, too, was frustrated that Seana didn’t seem to be trying at all to function.

“Well, I’ll be right over. I want to know what’s going on with her.” The line went dead.


“Sure thing, Zoe,” Barth muttered to the dead phone, staring at it before clicking it shut.

“Have you had your shower?” he asked Seana, knowing full well she had not because she still wore her nightgown and her hair was a mass of tangles.

“No.” The eyes remained fixed on the screen, yet – Barth was certain she did not really see it. For the past two days, she’d insisted on finding a ball game on one of the sports channels. And she was not, as a rule, a really strong sports fan.

“Well, come on. I’ll help you,” he insisted, reaching to help her up.



Hands on hips, Barth sighed heavily, gauged his wife’s dug-in mien, then tried again. “Seana, you have to bathe.” He tugged at her until she finally let him help her onto her wobbly feet and to the shower.


There, he undressed her and guided her into the stall.

He turned the faucet on warm and watched water cascade down her body. She made no move to lather up. Nothing. Just stood planted there like the danged sycamore tree outside their window.

Exasperated, Barth stripped off his own clothes and got in with her. He began to vigorously lather her all over with a nylon scrubby. She frowned at times as if in pain or aggravated and something about her pierced his heart. Vulnerability shimmered over her like an electrical current.


He paused in his ministrations and stared at her, looking into her eyes.

They were vacant. “Dear God, honey. What’s happened to you?” The words ended on a sob. He pulled her unresponsive body into his arms and held her as if she were fine crystal or a fragile egg, weeping as unrestrainedly as he’d ever done in his entire adult life.

When the sobs subsided, he gently dried her off and dressed her in sweats, simply because they were easier to manage. Then he combed the tangles from her chin length hair and silently thanked Joanie for the good cut and perm when the damp strands shaped up rather nicely. As soon as he finished, Seana turned from him and made her way back to the den where she curled up again on the sofa.

Barth shook his head, pulled on jeans and shirt, and went to the kitchen to decide what to do for lunch. The doorbell pealed. He closed the fridge and went to answer the door.

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