Natalie turns the TV on. She sits before it in the soft blue easy-chair. She eats a big bowl of chocolate ice cream, automatically, barely tasting it. If anyone asked, she'd say she's watching TV, but mostly she watches the faded wall paper flickering in the fretful television light.

The show is over. She turns the TV off, and washes her bowl and spoon. She drinks a long and tepid glass of tapwater, because chocolate makes her thirsty.

Eventually, she goes to bed. She lies on her back like a corpse. Awake in the darkness, she watches headlights glance off the ceiling. She thinks about today, and decides she does not like the new boss at work. She thinks about tomorrow, and decides she will have chicken for supper.

She sleeps.

When she wakes up, the alarm clock is ringing. She shuts it off, and sits up in bed. There is sunlight pouring in through the window, cascading over the bureau to pool like melted butter on the lemon-yellow carpet. The new morning is fresh and bright and happy. Natalie writes in her diary, with flowing cursive that caresses the page. "Today I will really live," she says. "Today I will do something remarkable."

She puts the TV on while she eats breakfast. She eats a big bowl of cereal, delighting in the liquid crunch of cornflakes in milk. She sways around the kitchen to the music of the morning talk show guest. When she leaves for work, she kisses her aloe plant good-bye.

She drives to work alone, too slowly for the man behind her. When he passes her, the little boy in the back seat makes a face against his window. Natalie scowls back.

At work, she does as she is told. The new boss is impatient. He fought with his wife this morning about his son's preschool, but Natalie does not know that. She mimics him behind his back, quietly to herself. She hopes he will not make her cry.

She eats lunch at her desk. She cannot think of anything even slightly remarkable to do. She frowns upon her early-morning idealism-but she misses it, too.

She buys a chicken on the way home from work. She buys some frozen green beans, too, and boils them on atop the stove while the chicken cooks inside it. She eats supper alone, and reads the daily newspaper. She washes her dishes afterward, and puts the leftovers in the fridge. She reads the rest of the newspaper, but she doesn't get much from it. A lot of people have died.

She waters the aloe plant.

She puts the TV on, and sits before it.