Their mom gets them ready for all the possible disasters that might ever occur. So she reads aloud the headlines from The Tulsa World at breakfast while Amy and Zoe eat their Cheerios. The girls stay quiet while their mother reads, but they don’t really listen. All they know is that there is always a disaster happening somewhere. Besides tornados there are earthquakes, and plane crashes, and wars. There is an AIDS epidemic, although neither Amy nor Zoe knows what AIDS is. They only know they are supposed to wash their hands.
When she takes her baths their mom reads them articles from Good Housekeeping. She never takes showers because she says she saw a movie one time where the main character got killed while she was taking a shower, and then there was blood everywhere. She likes for the girls to keep her company while she’s in the bathtub.
Sometimes she tells family stories. She always tells everyone the one about the crazy neighbor from down the cul-de-sac who shot his family and then hid in the big tree in the backyard. Their dad was off in Stillwater running one of his workshops. So their mom went and picked his rifle up and prepared herself to do whatever was necessary to protect them. She put Amy under the bed and told her to stay there no matter what, and not to make a sound. No matter what, she repeats, and every time she tells the story her voice gets thick there.
Zoe was still a baby and had to be held. Even though she was a baby she could sense that something was wrong because she would not stop crying, and that made you think about those women in the Holocaust that had to smother their own kids so they wouldn’t get discovered.
Amy and Zoe know the Holocaust was when the Jews all got murdered for no reason and dumped into a big pit in the forest.
So their mother had Zoe in one arm, wailing, and the gun in the other. The police were there already and had him surrounded. They knew this from the TV because even though it was literally right there in their backyard their mom knew she had to stay away from the windows in case a bullet came through. The crazy neighbor kept shooting and shooting and even shot one of the other neighbors who had come over to help the police.
Here their mother pauses and looks around every time she tells the story.
But the man who got shot chewed tobacco. And he happened to be chewing tobacco right then. The bullet went in through his cheek at an angle like this—their mother points to her cheek using her forefinger as a pistol—but instead of going on into his throat and finishing him off it lodged in his tobacco!
Everyone always likes that part, which the girls don’t understand because they know that tobacco will kill you too, and besides they see this neighbor all the time sitting out on his porch spitting out his black juices into a big tin pail, skin and bones and ragged-looking, that ugly old scar on his face.
But Amy hates the whole story. She can’t remember being alone under the bed, but she’s heard about it so much she can picture it, so much so that sometimes she has dreams about it: Zoe orbiting around, crying, out of her reach.
In the end, the crazy neighbor shot himself, and then he died.