Cinnamon? Whered you get that idea?
The Food Channel. He said it really casual, like he didnt know what it meant.
Curtis and I looked at each other. Curtis doesnt laugh,
reallyhes the quietest one in the family, next to him I sound like Oprah Winfrey or something, he makes Mom cry sometimes hes so quietbut 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 didnt have to say this next thing. Dad? Joes looking real bad.
Bad, I said. Dad knew what I was talking about; hed seen her yesterday. I hate it when he acts like Im stupid.
We didnt say anything more. I sat there forcing down my shingles and doing the math in my head. Id known Joe since I was four years old. Thats more than three-quarters of my life, shed been around. Heck, Curtis was only a baby when she was born. He couldnt even remember her not existing. Thinking stuff like that, theres 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. Hed 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 hadnt 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 didnt have the time. So the barn looked pretty crappy, and smelled it too.
Whenever I passed by Joe Namath Id 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. Ill 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 dont get that many visitors.
It wasnt the cattle dealer standing there, though.
Dad came out of the kitchen pushing his walker, this satisfied look on his face. He spotted me. Im sure you know who this is?
Yeah. I did. Curtis right behind me whistled between his teeth, only it wasnt whistling so much as blowing, like the sound bulls make when theyre 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.
Excerpted from Dairy Queen, © 2006 Catherine Murdoch. Reproduced by kind permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin. All rights reserved.
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