My mother, always a large woman, was a voracious reader of paperbacks with lurid covers, and once, shortly after my father had skipped out on us, when I was seven, she found me leafing through a mystery with an illustration of a hand with splayed fingers, two feathered darts in spaces between, and one stuck in the palm, producing a trickle of blood. "What's that you're reading?" she asked, tut-tutting, and she took it from my hands and replaced it with a volume of Reader's Digest Condensed Books, so I could read My Cousin Rachel instead, adding, "This is much more suitable." On another afternoon, several years later, visiting my Aunt Pat, her sister, and looking over a book Aunt Pat had been reading, I heard her say, "Oh, I thought you said it was called The Topic Is Cancer," before sending me to the pharmacy on the corner to pick up a copy for her. I took the money from her hands with trepidation, fearing she would also ask me to buy a box of the dreaded Kotex Super. I remember when I was about fifteen, and she and her friend Max sent me off to see the movie Devil Doll at the Avon, I came home to find her alone reading Terry Southern's Candy, and after I had told her I hadn't enjoyed that one so much, and she just waved an indication to let me know she was engrossed in the book, nonetheless, she said, "Go look in the refrigerator, and see what I made especially for you." There, I found the remains of a chocolate fudge cake, of which I was fairly certain Max had eaten the other half, after being told something similar.