Excerpt from The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Garden of Small Beginnings

by Abbi Waxman

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman X
The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman
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    May 2017, 368 pages


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"Yes." Annabel was expressionless, engrossed in the TV. "Hundreds of worms."

I put water on for the pasta and started making dinner. I thought about the times I'd watched my mother chopping onions, the radio playing, an empty tomato can holding her wooden spoon on the counter, the smell of melting butter permeating the air. I wondered if she'd been as underwhelmed as I was. Every day around four o'clock I would start making dinner for the kids, which meant for me, too, because otherwise I would eat alone, or not at all, and then they would eat (if I was lucky), take a bath, get into their jammies, have stories, and go to bed. When Dan had been alive, he would arrive in the middle of it, full of adult thoughts and complaints about his work, which at least provided some visual interest and the possibility of polysyllabic words. Now Rachel was often here, which worked, too, but sometimes I found myself singing the Curious George theme song under my breath in a way that probably indicated brain-cell death.

Rachel leaned against the counter and examined me. "You're pissed about the Cousin Itt thing, right? I'm sorry. That was thoughtless. Besides, it's not Itt so much as it is Morticia. I can still see a slice of your face. And it's a good slice."

I looked at her silently, poking my wooden spoon at the bacon, breaking it apart. She was lovely, my sister, both to look at and as a person. She was single, but not celibate, largely by choice. She had been married once, very young, and had taken a pledge not to do that again. Taller than me, thinner than me (which was forgivable, seeing as she didn't have kids), with better hair and firmer thighs, she nonetheless made it clear that she put the kids and I above her own plans. I worried sometimes that the sad circumstances of my life had curtailed her freedom. I said as much, once, and she pointed out that the sad circumstances of my life were also the sad circumstances of her life.

"Hey, my brother-in-law, who I really loved, got killed in a car accident, and my sister went insane for a while, so I had to take care of her kids. That happened to me, remember? You are just a bit player in the drama that is Rachel Anderby's Life, starring Rachel Anderby, written by Rachel Anderby, directed by Rachel Anderby. In my life, you're simply a supporting character. Lili, the kids are billed above you."

But I knew it had cost her something, to be available for me, and I knew that she knew that I knew, and that if it ever came to kidney donation or taking a bullet, I was her girl. Mind you, she did have a hectic social life these days, and was even, on occasion, busy for an entire weekend.

I drained the spaghetti.

"So, what are you doing on Saturday afternoon?" I asked her. "After our thrilling new gardening class."

"A date, what else?" She was folding the napkins into swans, a trick she had learned one summer waitressing at a theme-park restaurant. At the time, it had seemed as though the entire three months had been one long, drunken orgy of seasonal workers in the sun, but the napkin origami had made it all worth it. Otherwise, it would just have been fantastic and frequent guilt-free sex with other happy young people, and who needs that?

"With whom?" I raised my eyebrows but kept my tone neutral, a trick I had learned one summer interning at a publishing house (no sex, no origami, but loads of free irony and all the bookmarks you could carry).

"A new guy."

"From work?" Rachel worked at an international import-export firm that specialized in art and artifacts. She was the head of logistics for them, and could be routinely overheard on the phone saying things like, "Well, the sarcophagus can overnight in Cairo, then, but it better be in Budapest before Tuesday, or the Pope's going to throw a shitter." She often met men through her work, but she never dated anyone who worked for her company. She was a bit of a slut, to be honest, but a slut with rules.

Excerpted from The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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