interesting syntax and punctuation

A new snippet from Americca by Aimee Bender (recently published in Tin House). I really love the lines I highlighted in red:

Even as they were talking, I saw it happen on the dining room table. Saw it as they were talking, but it wasn't like an invisible hand. Just one second there was a blank table, and I blinked, and then there was a gift on the table, a red-wrapped gift with a yellow bow. It was in a box, and I went to it and sat at the table. I knew it was for me. I didn't need to tell them, plus they were talking a lot, plus Dad was at work, plus Hannah was out kissing.

It had no card, but it was really good wrapping, with those clean-cut triangular corners, and I opened it up and inside was a toy I had broken long ago. Actually, I hadn't broken it; Hannah had. It was a mouse, made of glass, and Hannah had borrowed it without asking and dropped it in the toilet by accident—so she said—and broken off the red ball nose. I had been so mad at her I hadn't spoken to her for a week and I'd made a rule that she couldn't come in my room ever again and I asked Mom for a door lock but she didn't think I really meant it so I got one myself, at the hardware store, with a key, with money from my birthday, but I couldn’t figure out how to put it on. Here was the mouse, with its nose.

What was next? Grandma?

Thanks? I said, to the air.

I took the mouse and put it on the shelf it used to be on, next to the mouse that had no nose, retrieved from the toilet. The mouse without the nose looked pathetic but a little charming, and the mouse with the nose, well. It had never been in the toilet.

When Hannah came home, I showed her. Mom's taking a new class, I said. That's good, she said. Her face was flushed. She seemed relieved, once she paid attention, that the new mouse had arrived. Sorry about the toilet thing, she said, for the fiftieth time. It's cute, she said, patting the new one.

Let's flush it down the toilet, I said.


My eyes were pleading. I could feel them, pleading.

Please, Hannah.

Hang on, she said. She went to the bathroom and splashed her face and spent a minute in there with her crushiness, and then opened up. I brought both mice in.

Both, I said, the old and the new.

Fine, she said. Whatever.

How'd you do it?

I just dropped it in, she said.

On purpose?


I didn't blame her. Right now, it seemed like these mice were just made for the toilet. I sat next to her on the edge of the bathtub and dropped in the new guy. He floated around in the clean white toilet water.

Flush away, said Hannah, her eyes all shiny from kissing.

I flushed. He bobbed around and almost went down but didn't. He was slightly too big. The toilet almost overflowed. But still, the nose.

That's just what I did, she said. She was putting on lip gloss and smacking at herself in the mirror.

I picked up the wet new mouse and broke his nose right off. It took some pressure, me holding him good in one hand and then snapping it off. You can ruin anything, if you focus at it. There, I said."

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