I truly do not remember if I read this story first, and then realized that Beth had a collection with MacAdam/Cage (Beautiful Girls), or if I'd read the collection first, and asked about possibly including this story - it's been that long.
However, my guess is it took me to about the end of the third page before I knew I wanted this story to be included in Visiting Hours.
"Her father is spelling with his finger. M-O-N and then the rest is gibberish. "Slow down," Libby tells him. He slaps the bed sheets and mimics choking her. Without language he's been reduced to bad acting: smirks, eye rolling, muffing. There's no subtlety; even his eyes are luminous and bald. Some days, like today, he's just too tired to move a pen across paper. He blinks up at her and tries again, slicing his angry finger through the air. "Okay, M-O-N." Her mind is as dull and heavy as a butter knife. "Monkey, monsoon, money."
This is how Bauman opens the story, immediately giving the two main characters definitive traits. We know who is sick, who is visiting, and with the simple second to last sentence, Bauman infuses Libby with the tired feeling that anybody that has made regular visits to a hospital for one in serious condition knows all too well. Note again the simplicity of Bauman's allowing us this knowledge:
"Her mind is as dull and heavy as a butter knife." No great details. No explanation of the many days she's probably visited, having to try to figure out this combination game of password and charades.
The story itself, beyond the subtlety that Bauman writes with, is a crushing story of Libby, her father and his deteriorating lungs, and the routine that Libby falls into during her visits with the Coin Laundry across the street from the hospital.