"Why do you do it?" her husband demanded again the other night while she soaked in the bathtub.
"You know why, Frank."
It's stupid," he barked in exasperation. "Some nights you're so wasted you can hardly support yourself."
She did not answer him but slid farther under the soothing hot water.
"You hobble around here like someone twice your age."
She really had no choice but to continue the project their daughter started last summer before her sophomore year in high school.
Marny had seen a report on television about a farmer upstate who for almost six years had rolled scraps of twine into an enormous ball that was nearly the size of his tractor.
She decided to start her own ball because she wanted to be on television some day so every night, after dinner, she rolled twine for half an hour. Her father thought the whole thing was ridiculous but her mother, as usual, was supportive and asked her friends at church to save any twine they didn't want for Marny's project.
By the end of summer, the ball was as thick as a fire hydrant.
"In another year you'll be on the tube," Janice predicted one evening while she watched her daughter toil away in the shed. Round and round like a hamster in a cage.
“You really think so?"
"I know it, dear."
To her amazement, Marny appeared on television much sooner than her mother imagined - just seven weeks after her prediction.
One afternoon the girl did not come home from school and soon reports of her disappearance appeared on the newscasts of every television station in the area. For weeks volunteers scoured the neighborhood for signs of her, and her photograph was posted in store windows and on bulletin boards throughout the east side of town.
Night after night Janice sat by the television, waiting to hear from her daughter, then one night she went out to the shed and looked at the squat ball of twine which already had begun to collect dust.
The next night she returned to the shed and got out the spool and rolled a few strands. It felt good to be doing something, she thought, certainly better than sitting idly by the telephone all night long.
When her daughter returned, she wanted her to find the ball as large as it would have been...as if she had never been away.