Excerpt of On Beauty by Zadie Smith
(Page 6 of 8)
Printer Friendly Excerpt
Levi, said Kiki, honey, Im interested do you know who I
am? Pay any attention at
all to anything that goes on around here?
Remember Jerome? Your brother? Jerome no here? Jerome cross
big sea to place called England?
Levi held a pair of sneakers in his hands. These he shook in the
direction of his mothers sarcasm and, scowling, sat down to
putting them on.
So? And what? I know about Kippses? I dont know nothing
about no Kippses.
Jerome go to school.
Now Im Jerome too?
Levi go to school.
Man, why you gotta be all . . . I just ahks a question, thats
and you gotta be all . . . Here Levi provided an inconclusive
that gave no idea of the missing word.
Monty Kipps. The man your brothers been working for in
England, conceded Kiki wearily. It was interesting to Howard to
see how Levi had won this concession, by meeting Kikis
irony with its opposite.
See? said Levi, as if it was only by his efforts
that decency and
sense could be arrived at. Was that hard?
So is that a letter from Kipps? asked Zora, coming back down
the stairs and up behind her mothers shoulder. In this pose,
daughter bent over the mother, they reminded Howard of two of
Picassos chubby water-carriers. Dad,
please, Ive got
to help with
the reply this time were going to
Whos it for? The
No. No, its nothing to do with that its from Jerome,
Getting married, said Howard, letting his robe fall open,
away. He wandered over to the glass doors that looked out on to
their garden. To Kippss daughter. Apparently its funny. Your
mother thinks its hilarious.
No, honey, said Kiki. I think we just established that I
think its hilarious I dont think we know
is a seven-line e-mail. We dont know what that even
Im not gonna get all hepped up about
Is this serious?
interrupted Zora. She yanked the paper from her
mothers hands, bringing it very close to her myopic eyes. This
a fucking joke, right?
Howard rested his forehead on the thick glass pane and felt
the condensation soak his eyebrows. Outside, the democratic East
Coast snow was still falling, making the garden chairs the same
the garden tables and plants and mail-boxes and fence-posts. He
breathed a mushroom cloud and then wiped it off
with his sleeve.
Zora, you need to get to class, OK? And you
really need to
use that language in my house
Hup! Hap! Nap! No!
said Kiki, each
time masking a word Zora was attempting to begin. OK? Take
Levi to the cab rank. I cant drive him today you can ask
if hell drive him, but it doesnt look like thats gonna
I dont need drivin, said Levi, and now Howard properly
noticed Levi and the new thing about Levi: a womans stocking,
thin and black, on his head, tied at the back in a knot, with a
inadvertent teat like a nipple, on top.
Excerpted from On Beauty, (c) 2005 Zadie Smith. Reproduced by permission of Penguin Press. All rights reserved.