I think so.
She slurped at her shake.
Additional capital must be raised. I need you to try to sell a photograph today. Thats your quota, she said.
I sighed softly.
What? she said. What is that dramatic breathing?
The photographs are costly, I said.
The photographs are art objects, she snapped, and they are priced accordingly.
I sighed again.
Would it surprise you to know that your numbers are down since August? she asked.
I dont know.
Well, they are. Theyre down.
I avoided her stare, but I could still feel it on me. An education means knowing how to do everything. Including things you dont have a predilection for. You should have seen the way Bucky made things salable. He could make men salivate over a new kind of winch. A winch!
Bucky was R. Buckminster Fuller, Nanas onetime colleague and personal hero. He was the inventor of the Geodesic Dome, among other things, and, according to Nana, the most unappreciated genius in all of human history. His lifes work had been dedicated to futurist inventions and ideas, which he thought could eliminate all negative human behavior. Fuller dabbled in everything: architecture, physics, engineering, cosmology, design, and poetry. And he dreamed of creating a Spaceship Earth where every human could prosper and grow. Nana had worked with him at Southern Illinois University in her younger days. And by the time she was finished in his company, there wasnt a single one of his ideas she disagreed with.
This included his belief that Nana, aka Josephine Prendergast, was the most beautiful and vibrant woman hed ever met. Nana claims to have been Buckys mistress for two years, though it has never been mentioned in the biographies Ive read. Whatever their relationship, though, I had been homeschooled almost exclusively according to his philosophy. And these were the guiding principles that were tacked directly above my bed:
1. Every day I will give myself wholly to futurist thinking. Not to useless past thinking, which will steer me very far off course.
2. I will learn all the organizing processes of the universe, so I may use them to accomplish startling feats of triumph.
3. I will use my mind, not just my regular brain lobes.
4. I will forge my journey alone to keep accepted and totally boneheaded notions from blinding me to truth.
I woke up every morning and read this credo. If Nana was in the room, I read it aloud. If she wasnt, I did not. Either way, it kept my focus sharp for the hours ahead.
Outside now, a teal minivan passed and we both turned to look west at the top of the hill. This was the place where the road from town passed our drive. The van didnt stop.
Id better change, said Nana. Meeting dismissed.
But she didnt move. She just placed a hand on top of mine. Her palm was cold from gripping the smoothie. She stared at an indistinguishable spot outside. I looked, too, but I couldnt see anything.
I felt her pulse ticking through her palm.
Nana? I said.
She snapped back and looked at me as if for the first time.
You have your fathers eyes, she said. Have I informed you of that before?
You have, I said.
They are very striking eyes. They havent dulled a bit since your childhood.
Are you all right? I said.
She rose from her chair, using my thin shoulder for leverage.
Then she walked off toward her bedroom, slower than usual. If I had really been attuned to her patterns that morning, I probably would have noticed something was amiss. She hadnt mentioned my father in over a year. He had died, along with my mother, in a Cessna crash more than ten years ago. We almost never spoke about it.
Excerpted from House of Tomorrow by Peter Bognanni. Copyright © 2010 by Peter Bognanni. Excerpted by permission of Amy Einhorn Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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