"Do you think you'll want the car?" he said as he opened the driver's-side door for her. He walked around, opened his own door, got in, and handed her the key. "Or should I put an ad in the paper?"
"Don't sell it right now. We 'll need it while I'm up here. Unless you're planning on coming down to New York?"
"There 's hospice here, same as there. Except here I'm in my own home, and in New York I'd be forced into some misbegotten nursing home. Thanks to the grateful generosity of Columbia University."
"Grandpa, you weren't really living in that apartment. You were there like, what? Three months a year?"
"More like four."
"They have so many full-time faculty members to house. You can't blame them"
"Forty-six years, Natalie. It wouldn't have killed them to make it forty-six and a half."
She started the engine and then let it idle, warming it up the way his regimen required. They sat listening to the engine in the chill of the car's interior, giving him ample time to regret his bitter words. Having faced or lived through some of the choicest calamities, both personal and world historical, that the twentieth century had to offer, Jack Wiseman had rarely given way to bitterness until now. He supposed it must be a symptom of the disease that was killing him.
"You could stay with me," Natalie said at last. "There 's plenty of room now that Daniel's moved out."
"I'm here," Jack said. "And you're here now, too."
"Might I ask how long you plan to stay?"
"As long as you need me."
"It shouldn't be too long."
"Anyway. Good of the firm to let you go."
"I had vacation saved up." She put the car into reverse with a show, again for his benefit, of checking the rearview and both side mirrors. Then she sighed and put the car back into park. "Actually, that 's not true."
"What 's not true?"
"I'm not taking my vacation time. I quit."
"You quit?" He thumped his hand on the dashboard. "To take care of me? That 's absolutely unacceptable, Natalie. I won't allow it."
"It wasn't because of you. They would have given me leave." She eased out into the street, speeding up slowly so as not to risk a skid on the icy road or, more likely, his reprimand for taking it too fast.
"Why then?" he said.
"Why." She sounded exasperated, with his question, with herself, maybe just with having to tell the story again. "Well, I was in a coworker's office, and she was responding to a set of interrogatories. Those are, like, questions from opposing counsel in a lawsuit."
"They were from Daniel's firm."
"He wrote the questions?"
"No. He 's in the corporate department. This was a litigation document."
"And?" He noticed that she had put her blinker on. "Not Route One," he said sharply. "Keep going until you hit Forty-Six."
"Seeing a document from Daniel's firm made you quit your job?" he asked, wondering if his brain was slowing, if there was some obvious connection here that anyone but a dying old fool could see.
"It made me realize how entangled our lives are. He could end up at my office for a closing. Or I could end up at his for a settlement conference. I just don't want that to happen."
"You quit a job making twice as much money as I made in my last year as a tenured professor because you were afraid you might bump into your ex-husband in a conference room?"
"It sounds ridiculous."
"It is ridiculous."
"I just want a fresh start."
"I don't know. I don't want to talk about this anymore. Is that okay?" He nodded. Not talking about things was always, in the view of Jack Wiseman, a viable if not preferable option. In this case, in particular, because all that he could think of that he wanted to say to his grand-daughter boiled down, in the end, to: What the hell happened to you? She had always been so sensible, resilient, purposeful, even single-minded. But ever since her divorceno, from the moment she had unaccountably decided on her hasty and ill-advised marriage to Daniel Friedman the kid had been a fucking mess.
Excerpted from Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman. Copyright © 2014 by Ayelet Waldman. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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