It takes Little Bill and his girlfriend, Crystal, exactly eleven minutes and twenty-six seconds to lose all their money at Caesar’s Palace. It takes eleven minutes instead of seven minutes because Crystal weaves down the jangling aisles for four minutes rolling her last three quarters between her thumb and forefinger, testing the machines for a lucky slot. Crystal makes such a production of it—slitting her eyes and brushing her fingers along the long knobbed metal handles, rocking her buttocks inquisitively over the cushioned, mushroomy stools—that Little Bill is truly shocked when she finally spins up nothing.
They push both strollers (the single-seater with their two-month-old daughter Ambrosia in it and the high, black, hearse-like vinyl-hooded double-seater that contains the year-old twins) onto the boardwalk where the sun skidding off the Atlantic hits them hard. Little Bill can’t stop thinking about the quarters running out of their palms like ants. “What now?” asks Crystal, toothing a cigarette from its pack. Her lips are chapped from the day’s anticipatory licking. “The bus leaves at five? We have the whole day to kill.”
Little Bill knows Crystal has twenty dollars in the secret pocket of her purse—emergency money she always keeps for when they run out of cigarettes or baby formula. Her self-control impresses him. He wants her to dig it out now and smooth the bills against the thigh of her black stretch jeans. “I’m starving,” he says.
“I’m broke,” says Crystal. “Aren’t you?”
“I’d call this an emergency.”
“Spent it,” Crystal tells him, watching a group of seagulls squabble over the cigarette butt she’s just flicked. “It was supposed to make us rich.”
Ambrosia yelps faintly from her stroller and the twins take to it immediately. They may be scrawny and underdeveloped for their age (no walking or talking yet), but they can scream like they’re getting ground into a piece of rusty machinery. People on the boardwalk give them a wide berth while Crystal digs for their bottles and plugs one in each baby.
They wheel the strollers down the boardwalk, dodging tottering schools of senior citizens and families with small children. Crystal pauses before the shop windows admiring the T-shirts. “Wouldn’t it be funny if you wore this to work?” she says, pointing to the obscene ones. Little Bill can’t look. His stomach contracts at the smells of pizza and gyros. What was Crystal thinking to go and use that money? It might have been different if she’d won, but she hadn’t. She literally gambled away their last meal.
Crystal leads the way into the Ocean Five and Dime, a glittery, humid ocean emporium. An obese woman, wearing a red flowered dress and reeking of a recent permanent wave, smiles from behind the counter. “So many babies,” she says.
While Crystal examines a display of shell jewelry, Little Bill pushes Ambrosia’s stroller to the back of the shop where the “you must be 18 to enter” signs hang and the dirty items are shelved. It’s cooler here, and not so much in the current of food scents. He scans the rows of penis-shaped shot glasses, the x-ray vision display, and the beer mugs that look like bikinied boobs. He’s giggling softly to himself when he sees the nudie deck.
The blonde on the box sits on a bucket with her legs all spread and crazy. She’s holding a scaly green garden hose like you would use to wash your car, and she’s spraying water onto her face and neck. Her head lolls ecstatically. Little Bill’s seen nudie decks on TV before, but the only nudie deck he’s ever actually held was a handmade one he constructed in fourth grade. He carefully cut photos from the underwear section of the K-mart circular and glued them in between the numbers at either end of a standard deck of Bicycles. Other pictures had been ripped out of health-type school library books—the female parts were labeled “ovary,” “vulva,” “fallopian tube.” Little Bill had drawn the rest of the pictures himself.
Kids always wanted to sit with Little Bill on the school bus, and they offered him lunch money to shuffle the cards during study hall. The deck had yellowed and curled from so much pawing. By middle school, though, his friends started getting their hands on porno mags like Club and Barely Legal, which were, of course, much better. Little Bill’s bully cousin had stolen his cards and he’d never gotten around to making another deck. Still, he has always had a soft spot for nudie decks—the time he owned his was the only time in his life he felt popular.
This deck costs $1.99.
It’s so cheap, but he’s broke. He replaces the deck and starts pushing Ambrosia away. At the front of the store, Crystal swivels her head, looking for him.
He’s going to be thinking about those cards all week. He ought to just take them. Nobody’s around to see him. He won't get caught. It’s not like $1.99 is a big deal. It’s not going to send the store into Chapter 11. People must steal from here all the time. The way the store is—mazes of shelves piled with cheap, pocketable junk—it’s as if they almost want you to steal. He runs his thumb over the edge of the box. “Fifty-two different poses,” the box advertises. “Hottest girls anywhere.” His cheeks get hot. This is so stupid. He starts to slip the box into his pocket, then freezes when Ambrosia coos. He can’t shoplift a deck of nudie cards in front of his baby daughter. She’ll get corrupted. He’s pulled the cards back out of his pocket and started them toward the shelf when Crystal barrels into the aisle behind him. “What are you doing?” she says loudly.
Little Bill drops the cards into Ambrosia’s stroller. “Shut up, shut up!” he says, flapping his hands at Crystal.
Little Bill kneels and tucks Ambrosia’s blanket over the cards.
Crystal is trying to see around him. “What are you doing?”
“Nothing,” he says. “Shut up.”
“Did you—” she narrows her eyes, glancing around the sex aisle. “Don’t you tell me to shut up.”
“I’m going back to the boardwalk,” Little Bill tells her, turning Ambrosia’s stroller with one hand and grabbing Crystal’s elbow with the other. He knows his face is as bright as the clerk’s red dress, knows she must have watched him in the round shoplifter mirror, but he doesn’t slow down, even when she steps suspiciously around the counter and reaches for him. Little Bill can hear the clerk huffing behind them, can smell the chemical smell of her hair, but they’re moving too quickly, and she’s too fat, and she soon gives up the chase.
“Little Bill, Little Bill,” Crystal says, shaking her head. But she wheels the twins after him and doesn’t say anything else.
“Let’s find a restaurant where we can sit down. My feet are swollen,” Crystal says when they’re safely away from the Ocean Five and Dime and Little Bill has stopped looking behind him for cops. “Then you can show me what you stole.”
Little Bill’s face flushes. “You said we didn’t have any money for lunch.”
Crystal brings the twins’ stroller to a halt, puts her hand on her hip, and leers. “There are ways around that.”
“No! ” says Bill. “I don’t want you even thinking that.”
“What I meant was we could eat lunch, and then one of us could find a roach or a fly on our sandwich. Or a piece of pubic hair or something. They have to give you a free meal if that happens.”
“How could we be sure we’d get a roach?”
“We’d have to put it there, Dumb-Ass.”
“They’d give us a free meal? Are you sure?”
“They can’t make you pay for a sandwich like that.”
“I don’t know, Crystal. It’s kind of wrong.”
“You’re giving me a lecture on right and wrong?” Crystal snorts. “Why don’t you tell me what you’re hiding under Ambrosia?”
“I don’t know,” Little Bill says again.
“It’s not like we’re really costing them anything. They throw the extra food out anyway.”
“There aren’t any sit-down restaurants on the boardwalk.”
“We’ll have to go back a street or two to find one. I could really use a drink, and it’s about time we got these kids out of the sun.”
“I guess you’re right,” Little Bill says.
“Of course I am,” says Crystal.
They find a ramp off the boardwalk and a major street a block away that they get to by one of the side streets, which are all named after properties in a Monopoly game. Glass crunches underfoot, and they have to keep wheeling the strollers around swamps of vomit. Walking slowly, they scan the ground for dead or dying insects. “You know this town is positively buried in them,” Crystal says. “Why won’t they show themselves for us?”
Almost every barred store window advertises “Cash for Gold” and displays arrangements of necklaces and nicked rings on scuffed velvet pedestals. Crystal presses against a window, and Little Bill thinks she’s checking the inside sill for trapped flies, but then she holds her hand so that its reflection in the glass superimposes a faded hand form inside. One of the twins starts crying again, and Crystal absently jerks the handle of the stroller so that the plastic wheels rattle the sidewalk. “You could buy me a ring,” she says.
“I’d do it if I could get you to marry me.”
“Ha. Where would you get the money?”
He would marry her, though, and has asked her—the first time when he found out she was pregnant with Ambrosia and then again on Christmas. They didn’t have room for a Christmas tree in the apartment, but they bought a set of lights with a special remote controller that programmed the lights to blink in different patterns. They tacked them around the windows and hung ornaments from that. Crystal was programming the lights when he asked her.
“I’m not ready to be tied down,” she said.
“But we’re living together and having a baby.”
“Nah,” she’d said, and fucked with the lights some more.
There are more abandoned, boarded-window buildings in Atlantic City than Little Bill’s ever seen. The whole mess is set against the backdrop of glittering high-rise casinos. Caesar’s, where they’ll meet the bus, is designed to look like ancient Rome with statues of gods and heroes. Even the parking garage resembles the Coliseum—arched openings and mirrors. But once you get off the boardwalk, away from the open air of the ocean, the town smells like a crotch.
“What will we do if we can’t find a bug?” asks Little Bill. He’s had the shits of stooping in the gutter.
“We’ll use a cigarette butt,” says Crystal. “Marty Getz did that once and it worked like a charm.”
Marty Getz was Crystal’s last boyfriend and the twins are from him. He kept them when Crystal left him. But seven weeks ago Marty Getz married a woman and they moved into an apartment over a liquor store that didn’t allow kids for legal reasons. Crystal and Little Bill got the twins. Little Bill had never heard about the twins or Marty Getz before. He was very confused when they showed up on his doorstep in the hearse-like stroller next to a trash bag filled with bottle nipples and a tangled-string mobile featuring fighter planes dropping bombs in various stages of fragmentation.
The twins are girls, a little over a year old, small, dark, and walnut-faced, so identical that when they’re naked Little Bill doesn’t even try to tell them apart. It’s easier to keep track of them when they’re dressed, because somebody at Marty Getz’s house took a black permanent marker and drew big asterisks on the backs of one of each set of matching baby outfits.
Once, when they were finishing lunch on the front steps at work, Little Bill confessed to his friend Robby Jr. that he can’t tell the twins apart except for the asterisk. Robby Jr. seemed horrified. “You mess with them when they’re naked?”
“They’re just babies. They have to be changed and cleaned.”
“But they’re not yours, man. Ambrosia, now she’s yours. That’s fine.”
“They all shit at once.”
“Uh-huh.” Robby Jr. plucked something from his sandwich and flicked it into the bushes.
“Crystal can’t get them all, and I have to help.”
“You can get in a lot of trouble for that. Pederast or something. Little nudie girls.”
“It’s not like that.”
It isn’t like that, but that conversation made Little Bill worry. There are laws about what you can and can’t do with little kids, and he could probably get in a lot of trouble since he’s not their legal guardian. What if he takes one into a men’s room to change her diaper and somebody using the hand dryer sees him poking around? If a Pamper goes on right, he’s lucky. He doesn’t have the fingers for Pampers, hasn’t even figured out how they work yet, and he gets frustrated and red-faced and, well, panty. Somebody could easily mistake that for pederasty.
Even though he has had almost two months, Little Bill still can’t get used to the idea of having so many children. He hasn’t even fully adjusted to Ambrosia, the way her cries rock the apartment in the middle of the night, the new way Crystal stalks the hallway, cursing, when they smell a dirty diaper.
One time, while watching the twins lie quietly in their playpen, Little Bill asked Crystal why she hadn’t mentioned these other children to him, not once while she was filling up with Ambrosia, and they were talking about the name Ambrosia, and how they both thought it was the most beautiful name in the world, and how they’d both like to give it to their first daughter. It seems like that would have reminded her. “It never came up,” Crystal said, making a troll’s face that ended discussion. Was she afraid to tell him because she didn’t think he’d want to be her boyfriend if he knew she had kids? He sometimes wishes that the twins had never come, or that they could be given away to someone else, but when he thinks of Crystal being afraid, he wants to draw her to him and tell her he’ll never not want to be her boyfriend.
Little Bill and Crystal find a restaurant called the Poseidon that looks OK. The door is old-fashioned and revolving like it leads somewhere important, and it’s dark enough inside that stuff might fall into sandwiches and never be missed. A bank of six television sets tuned to different channels hangs over the bar. Little Bill and Crystal sit in a booth in the back corner and pull the strollers underneath the table. It’s dark down there and, after they get their bottles, the babies should go to sleep.
“This weather,” says the waiter, picking something off the rim of Crystal’s glass. “I’m drowning in sweat. I called in this morning and said I was too sick to come in––coughing all over the place. I mean green stuff’s coming up––but my boss wouldn’t let me off. No matter what. I was up all night.”
“I’m sorry,” says Little Bill.
“Either the weather or the beer. I’m not a drinking man, but I had three beers last night helping a friend paint his kitchen.”
“That can do it,” says Little Bill.
“You ought to have one of these Earth Shakers,” says Crystal, pointing to the bar specials menu.
“He doesn’t drink,” says Little Bill.
“Green,” says the waiter. “I mean like frogs or Christmas!”
Little Bill worries that the plan might not go as well as they hope, so he sticks to water, but Crystal drinks the Earth Shakers, viscous blue mixtures of liquor and sugar that come speared with blue plastic tridents. She pokes Little Bill with a trident. “So what did you steal, Little Bill?”
“Come on, Crystal.”
“Come on, Little Bill. You think they followed us? Got an agent to trail us to the Poseidon?” She laughs. “For a penis key chain?”
“It’s not a key chain.”
“You know I’m not going to give up until you show me.” Crystal leans back and crosses her arms. Little Bill knows she can stare like this for hours. Her persistence was something that had been really attractive at first. He sighs and digs in Ambrosia’s stroller. When she cries, he gives her his finger to suck and hands the cards to Crystal.
“A nudie deck. Aren’t I enough for you?” Crystal throws her head back like the woman on the box.
“Go ahead and open them,” Little Bill tells her.
“I’ll have the Pastrami Polyphemus,” Crystal says when the waiter comes back.
The waiter snuffs and writes on his pad. “And you?”
“Just a burger,” says Little Bill.
“You want the Busiris Burger, the Bacchus Burger, or the Trojan Horse? That’s our special. It’s not made with horse meat, ha ha. It’s freshly ground horseradish.”
“Look at the women on these cards,” says Crystal, fanning the deck so the waiter can see. “Some of them come straight out of the sixties.”
The waiter purses his lips primly, but it makes him hack.
“I’ll have the last one. The horse one,” says Little Bill.
When the food comes, Little Bill gulps his burger and all his fries. Crystal eats more slowly, taking drags on her cigarette and sipping her Earth Shaker between bites. Little Bill watches her, and when she’s nearly finished her sandwich, he says, “Shouldn’t you find the cigarette butt now?”
Crystal looks at her final crescent of sandwich regretfully, then selects a bent butt from the ashtray and squashes it between the roll and the sliver of meat. She raises her hand.
The waiter comes over. “What?”
Crystal lifts the top half of the bun. The cigarette hasn’t been there long enough to suck up any grease, Little Bill notices. “This is an outrage,” Crystal says. “I could have choked. I could have been poisoned.”
The waiter steps back. Then he smiles. “I couldn’t tell you were teasing for a second.”
“I don’t know about you, but I’m serious,” says Crystal.
The waiter looks at her, frowns. “Just because I’m sick—”
Little Bill takes a deep breath and stutters, “We should get our meal for free.”
“I’ll get the manager,” says the waiter and disappears through the swinging door to the kitchen. After a few minutes he returns with a second man wearing a pin that says “manager.”
“What’s the problem?” the manager asks.
“I found a cigarette in my Pastrami Polyphemus. I could have been killed.”
“Bullshit,” says the waiter, softly.
“Charles here says that the cigarette’s the same brand you’ve been smoking yourself.”
“Perhaps you accidentally dropped it into your own sandwich.”
“No, no,” mumbles Little Bill.
“I saw her do it,” the waiter insists.
“That’s a lie,” Crystal roars in her angry voice. She rears up from the table as if she’ll swat the manager over the strollers.
“OK, OK,” the manager backs away, blocking with his hands. “I’ll tell you what. I’ll make you a new sandwich. On the house.”
“Yeah, since she ate so little of that one,” says the waiter.
“We should get our whole meal for free,” says Little Bill.
“Yeah,” says Crystal.
“Not a chance,” says the manager.
“I’ll tell you what,” Crystal is on her feet. “I’m not taking this shit. I’m not paying for defective food. I’m leaving.” Her voice sounds flat, like a stone falling in an empty concrete stairwell. It feels wrong. Little Bill wants to hold up his hands and tell the other men that none of this is happening, but before he can move, Crystal shoves the twins’ stroller out of her way and forces past the manager. The waiter’s mouth flops open. “Faggot,” Crystal tells him. She turns around when she gets to the revolving door. “You coming, Little Bill?”
Little Bill’s going to cry. He can feel it coming on in his nose, his sinuses, that place behind his eyes. He stands and tugs at the strollers. He’s not looking at the manager or the waiter, but he knows they’re looking at him. He needs to pee. Crystal should have taken one of the strollers. He won’t be able to cross the room smoothly with both of them; he’ll have to––
“If you follow her, I’ll call the cops,” hisses the manager.
“Little Bill?” calls Crystal.
Little Bill sits back down and stares at his empty plate. He hears the whish of the revolving door as Crystal exits.
“Bitch,” the waiter says.
“I’ll go get you that second sandwich,” the manager says. “Can’t have people saying the Poseidon rips people off. Keep an eye on him, Charlie.”
They’re going to call the cops. This meal must cost like thirty dollars and they know he can’t pay. Little Bill could say he forgot his wallet, but nobody comes to Atlantic City without his wallet. Crystal left forty-five minutes ago and hasn’t come back. She’s got the bus tickets in her purse. Why would she walk out like that? Does she have another plan? Does she think she can get money? She wouldn’t sell herself, would she? He pokes at the second burger, picturing Crystal on a street corner, thrusting her hips at passing cars. The waiter watches him from behind the bar and every so often, he coughs quietly. The excitement and the responsibility of being a guard seem to have improved his health.
Little Bill sighs. He’ll just have to wait it out. He’ll get through this somehow. He always does. He deals a game of solitaire with the nudie cards to calm himself. He almost wishes he hadn’t stolen them. Crystal was right—many of the pictures seem really old—women in beehives and tacky, mustard-colored lingerie. If he hadn’t lifted the cards, then maybe Crystal wouldn’t have talked him into this mess. He looks up from his game to check the waiter, and there, coming into the dining room is the fat woman in the red dress. The same woman who’d been working the counter at the Ocean Five and Dime; he can smell the chemical hair. She sees him too, takes in the spread nudie cards, and raises her hand to point.
Little Bill knows he can’t haul both strollers and run, so he scoops Ambrosia out of her stroller and drops her in with the right-hand twin. The cards scatter as Little Bill breaks for the door. He heads right for the Ocean Five and Dime woman to intimidate her and buckles her knee with the front of the stroller as she attempts to dodge. He veers for the door, stroller wheels buzzing over the stained carpet. The waiter sees his directional change and lunges, but Little Bill panics and throws his arms up, and somehow elbows him in the neck. The waiter makes a gravelly sound and drops, and Little Bill is able to get by and into the revolving door. He thinks he’s through, actually gets a sniff of the street air, when the wheel of the stroller gets caught. He tries to back up, but a couple wants to come into the restaurant from the outside. They’re only about six inches from Little Bill in their separate compartments, but they haven’t noticed him. They push the door together, each placing one hand on the frame and the other on the thick, smoked glass, and really get their shoulders into it. A vein in the woman’s forehead pulses. Little Bill glances fearfully back into the restaurant, but the waiter is still doubled over caressing his crunched neck near the gum machine. Nobody has come to his aid. Little Bill can’t see the Ocean Five and Dime woman, but he pictures her straightening up, cocking her head, maybe pulling a gun. He hits the door as hard as he can with his hip. The woman in the door shakes her hair, and suddenly they’re through, but the stroller wheel has been broken off.
There’s no time to attempt a repair. Little Bill pushes the crippled stroller onto the sidewalk and scans for Crystal. He thought she might be waiting for him out front, but there’s no sign of her. Hopefully she’ll be at the bus because there’s no way he can hang around here—the cops will arrive any moment. He’s a fugitive. He’d like to get off the main street—duck into some alley and hide out awhile—but he’s got to get back to the bus or he’ll get left in Atlantic City. He could call Robby Jr., but it would take five hours for him to get here, and the cops would surely pick Little Bill up by then—a sweating stranger wheeling around a bunch of babies. It wouldn’t take much to sniff him out. The bus depot in the basement of Caesar’s Palace is six blocks away, and he’ll have to make a run for it.
The wheelless leg grits the sidewalk, and the babies, who had quieted slightly during the lull in the door, start right up. “Shut up, shut up,” Little Bill whispers. “People are looking.” He starts running, jerking the stroller every few feet to keep it from careening into the street. The diaper bag hanging on the back of the stroller keeps getting between his legs. He hears the waiter’s thick, stuffy voice somewhere behind him.
At the end of the block, just before the Ventnor Avenue crossing, four men have erected scaffolding. They’re high up, chipping the front of a building, but they pause and look down as Little Bill approaches. “This sidewalk’s closed. You’ll have to go around.”
The road he would have to cross to go around is four lanes plus a turning lane, and it hums with fast traffic. Little Bill looks back the way he came. If he goes back to the light to cross, he’ll have to go right past the Poseidon and the gesturing, neck-holding waiter. The manager and the red-dressed woman have joined him on the sidewalk, and when they see Little Bill turn around, they begin to yell. “Stop thief!” They must be afraid he’ll deal out more physical abuse if they chase him down, but they’ll surely point him out to any cops who arrive. Little Bill can’t keep going the way he wants to because there’s no way to squeeze the big stroller under the scaffolding. The men on top have noticed the waiter, the manager, and the woman, and now they brandish and feint with bricks and trowels and begin to yell down aggressively. “You steal that kid?”
“No,” Little Bill yells back, hoping they’ll let up so he can squeeze by in the gutter when there’s a lull in traffic. But one of the men has started to swing his way down, a huge ogre of a man, tanned almost black, and the others are flinging paint chips and bits of mortar.
Little Bill jettisons the diaper bag. Without looking, he sucks in a huge breath and plunges off the sidewalk. The stalk leg of the stroller sparks on the concrete road, and when Little Bill looks up from that, a wide-mouthed woman behind the windshield of a red car is jerking her wheel. Little Bill shoves the stroller forward, and in his peripheral vision he sees the front tire of the red car bump over the curb. He doesn’t actually hear the crash itself, but the flurry of horns and cursing and agonized screams from the workmen come to him clearly, each sound separate and identifiable.
He dodges to the center lane. Still struggling with the stroller, which only wants to go in a weighty circle, he glances at traffic, which is too close. He goes ahead anyway. He’s almost safely to the curb when the broken leg wedges in the storm gutter grate. He gives a mighty jerk, but the stroller sticks.
All he can see of the minivan is the grille and the shocked face of the driver. Little Bill grabs Ambrosia by the front of her playsuit and yanks as hard as he can. It’s like the reverse of throwing a fast ball. His arm swings in a side arc with Ambrosia at the end of it and knocks him off balance. His body twists and he goes down, cracking his tailbone on the pole of a streetlight. The minivan pops the stroller into the air and up over the hood. The stroller skitters on its side along the minivan’s bike-racked roof, then drops with a crunch into the next lane. The black umbrella roof has collapsed, Little Bill can see, and stuff has scattered. Traffic has stopped and he can’t see the babies, doesn’t know if they’re still in the stroller or were flung out and lie hidden behind tires and other cars. He thinks he might hear crying, but people are starting to get out of their cars—slamming doors, Oh-my-Godding—so he footballs his own howling baby under his arm, supports her head with his palm, and ignoring the very real pain in his lower back, sprints to Caesar’s Palace.
He almost runs into Crystal on the sidewalk under the marquee advertising that night’s Neil Diamond concert. She’s smiling and laughing, and he has to shift Ambrosia to keep her from getting crushed when Crystal hugs him. Crystal is digging in her pockets and shaking handfuls of money at his face. “I know it was risky,” she blurts. “But I couldn’t not do it. I sold our bus tickets and took the cash into the casino. I was going to get it all changed into quarters for the slots—I’d even walked around looking for a good machine—but when I went up to the window, something made me get chips instead. I slapped them down on a roulette table, and I won three hundred and twenty-six dollars!”
“Crystal,” Little Bill tries to say, but he’s too out of breath to be coherent.
“I could have played again, it was eating at me, but then this old man growled it was beginner’s luck, and I decided to quit. I got the cash and was on my way to find you, to pay for our lunch because I didn’t think you would ever leave that place without doing it.” She pauses to light a cigarette.
“Crystal,” he says again.
“What happened?” she asks, looking him over. “Why are you so gamey-looking?”
Little Bill stares at the sky, at the lighted arched entrance to the parking garage, at a dead beetle on the ground. Crystal’s voice is changing. He can feel her looking around, knows she hears the far-off sirens. She’s stopped smoking and all that money has disappeared. In her pocket? Blown away? “Where’s the stroller?” she whispers. It’s the first time she’s spoken quietly all day.