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 Newfoundland.
v 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 Gone.
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 drink.
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.
Father of the Rain © 2010 by Lily King, reprinted with the permission of the publisher, Grove Atlantic, Inc.
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