And Margaret felt herself almost say, Me, too. But she didnt know how to say it, because she hardly knew, even as old as she was, what person she had been.
The teakettle was whistling in the kitchen, but they wouldnt be drinking any tea. Pete, staring at the coots, leaned forward with an intent look on his face, and the whistle of the kettle rose in pitch, as if in desperation. She said, You take it. I want you to take it.
He stood straight up and looked at her, refusal written on his face, but then he relented. His smile came on slowly, and he kissed her on the forehead. She stepped forward, took the picture, and placed it in his hands. It wasnt terribly large, though it had always seemed to be. She said, The teakettle is going to burn up.
While she was in the kitchen, Stella entered through the dog door, her tail wagging, but Margaret went out without greeting her, and closed her in the kitchen. In the hall, Pete had his hat on, the picture under his arm. She walked him the step or two to the door and opened it. As he went out onto the porch, he pressed her hand.
Thank you, he said, then again, thank you.
She stood on her porch and watched him walk to his car, get in, and, with a wave, drive away.
Excerpted from Private Life by Jane Smiley. Copyright © 2010 by Jane Smiley. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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