My mother, in a pink shift and big sunglasses, waves me over
to where shes sitting on the grass with her friend Bob Wuzzy, who
runs Project Genesis. But I hold up the puppy and keep moving
toward the house. Im angry at her. Because of her I cant have a
Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear, my father says as he sets down his
load on the kitchen counter. Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair. He looks
out the window at the pool. Fuzzy Wuzzy wasnt fuzzy, was he?
My father hates all my mothers friends.
Charlie, Ajax, and Elsie smell the new dog immediately. They
circle around us, tails thwapping, and my father shoos them out into
the dining room and shuts the door. Then he hurries across the
kitchen in a playful goose step to the living room door and shuts
that just before the dogs have made the loop around. They scratch
and whine, then settle against the other side of the door. I put the
puppy down on the linoleum. He scrabbles then bolts to a small
place between the refrigerator and the wall. Its a warm spot. I used
to hide there and play Harriet the Spy when I could fit. His fur sticks
out like quills and his skin is rippling in fear.
Poor little fellow. My father squats beside the fridge, his long
legs rising up on either side of him like a frogs, his knees sharp and
bony through his khakis. Its okay, little guy. Its okay. He turns
to me. What should we call him?
The shaking dog in the corner makes what I agreed to with
my mother real in a way nothing else has. Gone, I think. Call him
Three days ago my mother told me she was going to go live with
my grandparents in New Hampshire for the summer. We were standing
in our nightgowns in her bathroom. My father had just left for
work. Her face was shiny from Moondrops, the lotion she put on every
morning and night. Id like you to come with me, she said.
But what about sailing classes and art camp? I was signed up
for all sorts of things that began next week.
You can take sailing lessons there. They live on a lake.
But not with Mallory and Patrick.
She pressed her lips together, and her eyes, which were brown
and round and nothing like my fathers yellow-green slits, brimmed
with tears, and I said yes, Id go with her.
My father reaches in and pulls the puppy out. Well wait and
see what yous like before we gives you a name. Hows that? The
puppy burrows between his neck and shoulder, licking and sniffing,
and my father laughs his high-pitched being-tickled laugh and
I wish he knew everything that was going to happen.
I set up the bed by the door and the two bowls beside it. I fill
one bowl with water and leave the other empty because my father
feeds all the dogs at the same time, five oclock, just before his first
I go upstairs and get on a bathing suit. From my brothers window
I see my mother and Bob Wuzzy, in chairs now, sipping iced
tea with fat lemon rounds and stalks of mint shoved in the glasses,
and the kids splashing, pushing, dunkingthe kind of play my
mother doesnt normally allow in the pool. Some are doing crazy
jumps off the diving board, not cannonballs or jackknives but wild
spazzy poses and then freezing midair just before they fall, like in
the cartoons when someone runs off a cliff and keeps moving until
he looks down. The older kids do this over and over, tell these jokes
with their bodies to the others down below, who are laughing so
hard it looks like theyre drowning. When they get out of the pool
and run back to the diving board, the water shimmers on their skin,
which looks so smooth, like its been polished with lemon Pledge.
None of them are close to being black. They are all different shades
of brown. I wonder if they hate being called the wrong color. I noticed
this last year, too. They like being called black, my father
told me in a Fat Albert accent. Dont you start callin em brown.
Browns down. Blacks where its at.
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