Excerpt of On Beauty by Zadie Smith
(Page 4 of 8)
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Baby try being less facetious, she suggested. She reached
an apple and began to cut it up with one of their small knives
the translucent handles, dividing it into irregular chunks. She
these slowly, one piece after another.
Howard pulled his hair back from his face with both hands.
Sorry I just you laughed, so I thought maybe something was
How am I meant to react? said Kiki, sighing. She laid down her
knife and reached out for Levi, who was just passing with his
Grabbing her robust fifteen-year-old by his denim waistband, she
pulled him to her easily, forcing him down half a foot to her
level so that she could tuck the label of his basketball top
inside the collar. She put her thumbs on each side of his boxer
shorts for another adjustment, but he tugged away from her.
man . . .
Levi, honey, please pull those up just a little . . . theyre
. . . theyre not even covering your ass.
So its not
funny, concluded Howard. It gave him no cheer,
digging in like this. But he was still going to persist with
this line of
questioning, even though it was not the tack upon which he had
hoped to start out, and he understood it was a straight journey
Howard, said Kiki. She turned to face him. We can
do this in fifteen minutes, cant we? When the kids are Kiki
a little in her seat as she heard the lock of the front door
and then clicking again. Zoor, honey, get that please, my
bad today. She cant get in, go on, help her
Zora, eating a kind of toasted pocket filled with cheese,
to the television.
Zora get it now,
please, its the new woman, Monique for
some reason her keys arent working properly I think I
to get a new key cut for her I cant be here all the time,
in for her Zoor, will you get off
Second arse of the morning, noted Howard. Thats nice.
Zora slipped off
her stool and down the hallway to the front door.
Kiki looked at Howard once more with a questioning penetration,
which he met with his most innocent face. She picked up her
sons e-mail, lifted her glasses from where they rested on a
upon her impressive chest and replaced them on the end of her
Youve got to hand it to Jerome, she murmured as she read.
That boys no fool . . . when he needs your attention
he sure knows
how to get it, she said,
looking up at Howard suddenly and separating
syllables like a bank teller counting bills. Monty Kippss
Wham, bam. Suddenly youre interested.
Howard frowned. Thats your contribution.
Howard theres an egg on the stove, I dont know who put it
on, but the waters evaporated already smells nasty. Switch it
Howard watched his wife calmly pour herself a third glass of
clamato juice. She picked this up and brought it to her lips,
then paused where she was and spoke again.
Really, Howie. Hes
twenty. Hes wanting his daddys attention
and hes going the right way about it. Even doing this Kipps
internship in the first place theres a
internships he could
have gone on. Now hes going to marry Kipps junior? Doesnt take
a Freudian. Im saying, the worst thing we can do is to take
Excerpted from On Beauty, (c) 2005 Zadie Smith. Reproduced by permission of Penguin Press. All rights reserved.