Excerpt from A Brief History of The Flood by Jean Harfenist, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

A Brief History of The Flood

by Jean Harfenist

A Brief History of The Flood by Jean Harfenist
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jun 2002, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2003, 224 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


Later we're on the dock, painting, hammering and tying this to that, music so loud it's like the house is bending its knees, dancing to Louis Prima. Mom says, "Can't you feel that bass in your chest?" holding her breast like her heart's in there. Mitzy grabs herself with both hands where her breasts would be if she had any, turns to Randy, arches her back and slides her hands down her sides and over her hips. He gives her a fake smile, showing every tooth. I say, "Gross."

We sprint to the shed and the woodpile, finding things, then jump into the lake because it's eighty-five degrees and we're sweating like pigs. Having a blast. We race across the sizzling sand--Mom says it only burns if you think about it. She holds up a finger that means stop! We wiggle our fingers in the air and shake our bottoms while we sing the chorus: "So Chattanooga Choo-choo, won't you choo-choo me home? Whoooo-whoooo." That's the Andrews Sisters.

Mom says, "Drag two stools out onto the boat." We ask, "What's it going to be?" She shouts, "Screwdriver," holding her hand in the air for it. "Mommmmmm." We eat an entire package of Oreos. Mom shouts, "All the snow goose decoys!" Pepsi-Cola, Frosted Flakes. "You kids won't know what I'm creating until it's done." We feed ripple chips to the dog, cookie crumbs to the sunfish that live in the shadow of the dock.

I'm wrapping railings in white crepe paper, Randy and Mitzy are cutting cardboard hearts, when Dad appears on the lawn in his baggy black swim trunks, carrying a tall glass of tomato juice. We're hoping he's out of his mood. Otherwise he'll sit in a lawn chair all day shouting, "Marion, why can't you sit here with your husband for a while?" If Mom's awake, she's working on something.

Dad walks hard on the wooden dock, barefoot, heel-toe, thud-thud, pigeon-toed like Mitzy, and thin all over except for a potbelly like a bowling ball. He has a scar across his middle too, a giant frown where the doctors cut out seven-eighths of his stomach because we gave him ulcers. He still pushes there with the heel of his hand when we upset him, and Mom whispers, "Must have been the wrong seven-eighths."

She's standing in the shallow water behind the boat, a paintbrush in her hand, her face paint-speckled white. She's beautiful.

Dad steps to the edge of the dock to look, and his mouth falls open like she's running naked down Main Street. "What in creation?"

She dabs at the motor, lifts her chin. "Tah-dahhhh!!! Tomorrow we're going to win the Fourth of July float contest!"

Randy whistles like a train and we all clap except Dad who points his finger at her like otherwise she couldn't figure out who he's talking to. "For Chrissake, Marion. You don't paint motors."

Randy and I move toward her, but she tilts a hip, cocks her head and winks at Dad. "Darling, later I'll paint your motor any color you want."

After a long drink of tomato juice he smacks his lips. I hate lip-smacking. "After dinner?"

With the tiny tip of her paintbrush, Mom circles the top of the motor again while he watches.

"Heh," he says finally, smiling now, shaking his head because he can't get over how cute she is.

Randy shouts, "Camouflage. Mom, you could paint it camouflage for duck hunting. Gray and green and brown. All swirled together. I could show you."

Dad walks back toward the house.

Mitzy's finger shoots out toward Randy. "Drop dead. It's not a duck-hunting float. Don't be stupid."

Me? I'm hoping for yellow. Mom's favorite color and mine. We paint everything yellow.



We're moving like the wind. We work straight through until dark, when Mom strings extension cords all the way from the house to clamp a spotlight on a dock pole. We can't stop for dinner, but Mom slows down long enough to lift her arms to the sky and twirl, saying in a voice like she's praying, "Star light, star bright," while tiny waves kiss the pontoon floats and the crickets are the loudest you've ever heard.

Excerpted from A Brief History of the Flood by Jean Harfenist Copyright© 2002 by Jean Harfenist. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Smoke
    by Dan Vyleta
    In Dan Vyleta's universe, set in an alternate Victorian England, people engaging in sinful thought ...
  • Book Jacket: Golden Hill
    Golden Hill
    by Francis Spufford
    Spufford brings American history to raucous life through the story of Mr. Richard Smith, a ...
  • Book Jacket: Midnight at the Electric
    Midnight at the Electric
    by Jodi Lynn Anderson
    The world changes, but humanity stays the same. Whether a book takes place in the year 1510 or 2010,...

Win this book!
Win The Library of Light and Shadow

The Library of Light and Shadow by M.J. Rose

"Possibly her best yet. A sensuous, sumptuous, and spellbinding novel." - Kirkus Reviews

Enter

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Almost Sisters
    by Joshilyn Jackson

    A powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South.
    Reader Reviews

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T H Are B T O

and be entered to win..

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood

A richly layered novel of hearts broken seemingly beyond repair and then bound by a stunning act of human devotion.

About the book
Join the discussion!

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.