They smiled then, too, at the memory of our mother's epic battle against our old electric tea kettle the last time she was on one of her occasional quitting-coffee kicks.
"Want to see a failure, girls?" Mom had asked that morning last fall, spinning around to face us.
All three of us nodded. Sure. We wanted to see anything she wanted to show us. When my mother is in the room it's almost impossible to look away from her.
She grabbed the electric tea kettle and thrust it out like a weapon, as water dripped guiltily from the spout. "A tea kettle's spout should stick out," she explained, her quiet voice controlled, intense. "But this one is snub-nosed. It's indented. You know why?"
We all asked why, trying not to smile too much as our cereal, forgotten, soggified in front of us.
"Why?" she repeated. "So that boiling water will spill all over the masochist who is making tea instead of going to Starbucks like a normal person!"
My father laughed.
"It's a design failure, Jed. Admit itit drools!" She spun around toward him. "Look, it left a spot on my new silk shirt."
The spot was microscopic, if it existed at all. In her sapphire-blue silk shirt under her black Armani suit, my mother looked, as always, flawless.
"You just have to pour it slowly, Claire," Daddy told her in his kindergarten-teacher voice. "Easy does it."
"That's so . . . tea-drinker," Mom answered, a small smile tipping up the corners of her mouth. "I'm not Zen enough for this malformed tea kettle? Fine, then, I'm not. Out it goes!" Mom slammed the full glass tea kettle into the garbage can. "That's it," she said, and turned to yank the plug out of the wall outlet so she could dump the base into the trash after the kettle. "Garbage."
Daddy smiled his crooked smile and murmured, "Oh, Claire."
"Let this be a lesson, girls," Mom told us, her chameleon eyes flashing deep sapphire. "We are the Avery women. Nobodynothingcan intimidate us. We will never back down; we will never surrender. Especially not to moody inanimate objects!"
Daddy laughed again.
She pretended not to smile and continued. "We are warrior women! We are Valkyries! We will noteverallow ourselves to be bullied or mistreated! Right?"
The foregoing is excerpted from Lucky by Rachel Vail. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced without written permission from HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
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