Willa C. Richards


Failure to Thrive

Alice read John Mark’s letter, her eyes narrowed, as I paced our tiny apartment. The envelope contained in-structions for retrieving two sets of human remains from the University of Florida. I sometimes worked for John Mark, the director of the Milwaukee Public Museum, in exchange for modest paychecks and access to the museum’s research collection. I often did the jobs the museum interns refused to do, like retrieving artifacts originally accessioned by the MPM from other institutions and bringing them back to Milwaukee. I hadn’t taken one of these jobs since before Tess was born, afraid to leave her or Alice, but we were so poor we had begun to eat only the casseroles Alice’s mother sent over in weekly batches.