From the title story Dirty Love by Andre Dubus III
She'd done it herself without asking her mother for any help. She'd felt grown-up and a little scared but strong and ready for whatever would come next. But this magazine of her father's made her feel young and stupid, ugly even, and Devon closed it and put it back on the stack. And was it later in the kitchen, dipping the eggplant slices into the milk and raw egg, then the bread crumbs, that she began to wonder about her mother? Her heavy, beautiful mother who smiled at everyone and treated them as if they were special and deserved kindness just because they were alive? Was it then, the first time Devon had helped her to bake eggplant parmigiana, that she began to feel sorry for her own mother?
"Sixteen minutes, Devy," Uncle Francis calls this out from the living room. Devon stares down at the notebook. She reads what she's written, ending with my first tampon. She crosses out the small t and makes it a big one. Then she crosses out the whole paragraph because this is bullshit. All of it. The reason why she hates school in the first place. Everything so fucking fake. She can't write about her vagina or her father's magazines. They want her to write about making eggplant parmigiana with her mother so it shows how close they are; they want Devon to write that this is a precious memory for her, one that has helped her to become "the confident person I am today," and she needs to do all this in five paragraphs, her conclusion a neat echo of her introduction, which she does not have. They want her to type it up with no misspellings, all the rules obeyed, every mark of punctuation right where it should be, then they want her to solve math problems and science problems; they want her to memorize important dates from history and be able to point to any country and its capital on a map, all of this and more so that she can what? Pretend she walked up onstage in a borrowed gown with a bunch of fucking drunks and hypocrites like Trina? Get a framed piece of paper with her name on it so she can look forward to another four years of sitting in more classrooms on some campus somewhere, memorizing and writing and reading just so she can get another piece of paper with her name on it? And then what? Get some job sitting at a desk in some office in some building in some city where they'll pay her money just so she can use it to have a house of her own on a quiet street like Haven Court with a green lawn her husband will cut on the weekends when he's not sitting in the pool drinking a vodka tonic, thumbing through his iEverything for a half-naked picture of his girlfriend?
I found out about my father's girlfriend because I used his phone.
Excerpted from Dirty Love by Andre Dubus. Copyright © 2013 by Andre Dubus. Excerpted by permission of W.W. Norton & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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