Excerpt from Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
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  • First Published:
    May 2006, 278 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2007, 278 pages

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Print Excerpt


“Cinnamon.”

“Cinnamon? Where’d you get that idea?”

“The Food Channel.” He said it really casual, like he didn’t know what it meant.

Curtis and I looked at each other. Curtis doesn’t laugh,

really—he’s the quietest one in the family, next to him I sound like Oprah Winfrey or something, he makes Mom cry sometimes he’s so quiet—but he was grinning.

I tried to sound matter-of-fact, which was hard because I was just about dying inside: “How long you been watching the Food Channel, Dad?”

“You watch your mouth.”

Curtis went back to his paper, but you could tell from his shoulders that he was still grinning.

I pushed the shingles around on my plate, wishing I didn’t have to say this next thing. “Dad? Joe’s looking real bad.”

“How bad?”

“Bad,” I said. Dad knew what I was talking about; he’d seen her yesterday. I hate it when he acts like I’m stupid.

We didn’t say anything more. I sat there forcing down my shingles and doing the math in my head. I’d known Joe since I was four years old. That’s more than three-quarters of my life, she’d been around. Heck, Curtis was only a baby when she was born. He couldn’t even remember her not existing. Thinking stuff like that, there’s really not much point to making conversation.

After breakfast me and Curtis disinfected all the milk equipment and worked on the barn the way we have to every day, cleaning out the calf pens and sweeping the aisles and shoveling all the poop into the gutter in the barn floor, then turning on the conveyer belt in the gutter to sweep it out to the manure cart so we can haul it away.

Back when Grandpa Warren was alive, the barn just shined it was so clean. He’d spread powdered lime on the floor every day to keep everything fresh, and wipe down the light bulbs and the big fans that brought fresh air in, and whitewash the walls every year. The walls hadn’t been painted in a long time, though. I guess Dad was hurting too much these past few years to do any real cleaning, and I sure didn’t have the time. So the barn looked pretty crappy, and smelled it too.

Whenever I passed by Joe Namath I’d take a minute to pat her and tell her what a good cow she was, because I had a pretty good idea what was coming. When I heard a truck pull into the yard, I knew it was the cattle dealer come to take her away. I gave her another pat. “I’ll be right back,” I said, like that would help, and went out to say hello at least. Delay it. Curtis followed me out because we don’t get that many visitors.

It wasn’t the cattle dealer standing there, though.

Dad came out of the kitchen pushing his walker, this satisfied look on his face. He spotted me. “I’m sure you know who this is?”

Yeah. I did. Curtis right behind me whistled between his teeth, only it wasn’t whistling so much as blowing, like the sound bulls make when they’re really mad. Because standing in front of his brand-new Cherokee in his brand-new work boots, looking about as much a part of our junky old farmyard as a UFO, was Brian Nelson.

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Excerpted from Dairy Queen, © 2006 Catherine Murdoch. Reproduced by kind permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.

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