Back there, he thought, that was the real parade, the one no one had ever seen before, hundreds of ordinary people walking in small groups, some holding signs, others wearing T-shirts bearing the image of a friend or family member whod been taken away. Hed seen these people in the parking lot, shortly after theyd broken into their platoons, and the sight of themthe incomprehensible sum of their sadnesshad left him shaken, barely able to read the names on their banners: the Orphans of October 14th, the Grieving Spouses Coalition, Mothers and Fathers of Departed Children, Bereft Siblings Network, Mapleton Remembers Its Friends and Neighbors, Survivors of Myrtle Avenue, Students of Shirley De Santos, We Miss Bud Phipps, and on and on. A few mainstream religious organizations were participating, tooOur Lady of Sorrows, Temple Beth-El, and St. James Presbyterian had all sent contingentsbut theyd been stuck way in the back, almost an afterthought, right in front of the emergency vehicles.
* * *
MAPLETON CENTER was packed with well-wishers, the street strewn with flowers, many of which had been crushed by truck tires and would soon be trampled underfoot. A fair number of the spectators were high school kids, but Kevins daughter, Jill, and her best friend, Aimee, werent among them. The girls had been sleeping soundly when he left the houseas usual, theyd stayed out way too lateand Kevin didnt have the heart to wake them, or the fortitude to deal with Aimee, who insisted on sleeping in panties and flimsy little tank tops that made it hard for him to know where to look. Hed called home twice in the past half hour, hoping the ringer would roust them, but the girls hadnt picked up.
He and Jill had been arguing about the parade for weeks now, in the exasperated, half-serious way they conducted all the important business in their lives. Hed encouraged her to march in honor of her Departed friend, Jen, but she remained unmoved.
Guess what, Dad? Jen doesnt care if I march or not.
How do you know that?
Shes gone. She doesnt give a shit about anything.
Maybe so, he said. But what if shes still here and we just cant see her?
Jill seemed amused by this possibility. That would suck. Shes probably waving her arms around all day, trying to get our attention. Jill scanned the kitchen, as if searching for her friend. She spoke in a loud voice, suitable for addressing a half-deaf grandparent. Jen, if youre in here, Im sorry Im ignoring you. It would help if you could clear your throat or something.
Kevin withheld his protest. Jill knew he didnt like it when she joked about the missing, but telling her for the hundredth time wasnt going to accomplish anything.
Honey, he said quietly, the parade is for us, not for them.
She stared at him with a look shed recently perfectedtotal incomprehension softened by the slightest hint of womanly forbearance. It would have been even cuter if she still had some hair and wasnt wearing all that eyeliner.
Tell me something, she said. Why does this matter so much to you?
If Kevin could have supplied a good answer for this question, he wouldve happily done so. But the truth was, he really didnt know why it mattered so much, why he didnt just give up on the parade the way hed given up on everything else theyd fought about in the past year: the curfew, the head-shaving, the wisdom of spending so much time with Aimee, partying on school nights. Jill was seventeen; he understood that, in some irrevocable way, shed drifted out of his orbit and would do what she wanted when she wanted, regardless of his wishes.
Excerpted from The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta. Copyright © 2011 by Tom Perrotta. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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