Fiction | January 21, 2016

Our mother, Ruth, went on a diet. She drank Tab from plastic cups that she covered with lipstick marks; she ate cottage cheese on wheat toast. She ordered a box of powdered milkshakes by calling the number on a late-night infomercial in which aging movie stars claimed to have been transformed. The box arrived on a Friday in spring, and my sister, Beth, and I helped her fill the pantry with the dainty packets of powder. At breakfast and lunch she was supposed to combine the packets with a thin, anemic milk she kept in the fridge. Then, according to the advertisement, she could eat a sensible dinner and lose weight. The powders came in flavors with bright, surreal colors: hot pink strawberry, red cherry, yellow pineapple.

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