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Phoebe’s Zoo Photograph

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It was predictable, uncontaminated and authentic in presenting impeccably groomed animals to delight her children. Once Dean had asked her why couldn’t the animals be free to go somewhere else to visit, like a supermarket or to the beach? She couldn’t answer him, the idea of tigers on a beach scared her, hyenas in a shop made her tremble. She thought of her precious photo and patted her handbag to calm herself down. It worked almost instantly. But not as completely as two pink Xanax.

When they had arrived home, she knew what she had to do. The format was set, a well-ordered charade of homecoming. Phoebe and her children were yet again to be his audience, their heads lightly nodding, inert admiring expressions and agreeing sighs. Molly sat on her mother’s lap, to the right side of her brother. The picture-perfect family performance appeased and maintained a satisfactory balance, Dean with his fixed-on Hollywood smile, just as his mother had coached him.

On one occasion he had presented Magic Mike and Toby battery powered toy robots to their children. They obediently thanked him. He gave Phoebe the Olympus Deltis VC-1000 II camera. It was in a marine blue paper carry bag, the same as the Glomesh handbag had come in, from Galleria duty-free LAX. He said he had chosen it with her in mind because he knew she loved cameras. She didn’t believe him, nor did she like cameras any more than all the other gadgets. She knew he was just filling in time between flights. He had found yet another trinket to appease and distract her from asking any questions that would incite awkward conversations. She submitted again to another night of light banter about new technology, flashing toys and travel stories before bed duties. Her good wife role performed, his observant husband and devoted father role executed.

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