Caren Beilin

Americans, Guests, or Us: Siblings

Children were gutting the least popular child’s pet turtle on the street, its shell put to the pavement, its guts soft, accessible by butter knife. I told them to stop, in a moral tone, and they did, they sulked away, leaving me, Adult, in charge of clean-up. None of the kids were related to each other. There are a lot of only-children on our block so they call us China because of it.

The fortunate thing was that in the gutting of the turtle, there were lots of turtle eggs exposed that with care and basic know-how would hatch. We just had to build a simulated turtle womb, which I reasoned correctly would be an instructive project for all the children involved in the slaying, and could serve perhaps as a curative for the turtle’s young, picked-on owner, a solution to death and also, a way to make friends.

We did it at my house, in the mud room. There was green goo everywhere, and lots of packed needles in nitrate boxes that came from abroad-based labs—scientists we wrote to in a humble tone seemed to smile down at our activity and we even received congratulatory notes on our commendable actions which we framed and hanged as part of our project. I’m instilling pride, I went around—the lawn, the trees, the living room—thinking. I did other things thinking only this.

The children, you could really tell, looked down with envy at the eggs, which vibrated in the self-amassing ball of green goo, the expanding makeshift womb, the chemicals that we injected into a basic kitchen solution. They were all only-children and their egos were worked on by all of these siblings, the thousands. They expressed their feelings of loneliness and their fears of being the sole caretaker for aging parents, of turning out a homosexual disappointment—all that you would expect.

“Oh,” I said, “don’t worry about that now.”

We all reached in together and touched tenderly the green goo.

“And besides,” I said, “when these are hatched, there will be so many of them that it won’t matter if you kill some of them.”

Americans, Guests, or Us: Rx


Elephants are often foreign but use their bone marrow on local acne. If your teenager is wailing on her bed, if her skin is popping up drek, if the redness won’t dissipate and her heart, because of this, is broken, if she is sexless and sorrowful, order some. Order it online. Go straight to checkout: express yourself. Do not delay when it comes to elephant marrow. It is white and feels, to the fingers (yours and hers as you bond) (mother, daughter) (over the cold sink) like pureed silicone. Rub it into the skin on her face. Do not get it in or near her eyes, which are full of the wetness of tears, the marrow of emotion. This is emotional. Tell her that it will be alright: “It will be alright.” Say to her that you once went through the same thing, and in your day . . . : “I once went through the same thing and in my day, there was no elephant marrow, they hadn’t made the right needles to get it, let alone the internet. There was nothing.” Tell her that your face, too: “looked like the moon if the moon were in color, if it were a Caucasian.” Tell her, assure her: “This will work.” And that: “It has to.”


Americans, Guests, or Us: Letter Left on the Counter

Prioritize the rooms that you clean in our house. We are in dire need of dusting, and the trash smells rotting, as if somebody lit melons on fire, though that’s not it. There are food stains on everything in the kitchen, food is like ink. The carpets go next. We make a real effort around here not to drink on our carpets, but the occasional loose drink splatters, our hands occasionally jolt out of control, and some of our guests’ muscles have diseases. The pink you may notice, like an exploded tongue, flecked unfortunately, is blood we tried to bleach. See what you can do. There are dove rags draped over the oven door.

Don’t go into either of our studies or the room that is farthest from the guest kitchenette, but please get to that kitchenette. In the master bedroom, clean without opening. Have a no-opening mindset. Do not open our drawers or our closets, our containers or the cages. Do not open boxes in the storage pod no matter how alarming their labels. If you do end up using bleach as the primary curative for stains, keep the windows up. Wash the windows with Windex. Don’t use Febreze on even stinking furniture. It doesn’t work.

If you are tired, take a light break. If you are done, the money is under the Buddha.