Family Home Evening
TO PUT IT AS SIMPLY AS POSSIBLE: THIS IS THE STORY OF A POLYGAMIST
who has an affair. But there is much more to it than that, of course; the life of any polygamist, even when not complicated by lies and secrets and infidelity, is anything but simple. Take, for example, the Friday night in early spring when Golden Richards returned to Big Houseone of three houses he called homeafter a week away on the job. It should have been the sweetest, most wholesome of domestic scenes: a father arrives home to the loving attentions of his wives and children. But what was about to happen inside that house, Golden realized as he pulled up into the long gravel drive, would not be wholesome or sweet, or anything close to it.
The place was lit up like a carnival tentyellow light burned in every one of the house's two dozen windowsand the sound coming from inside was as loud as he'd ever heard it: a whooping clamor that occasionally broke up into individual shouts and wails and thumps before gathering into a rising howl that rattled the front door on its hinges and made the windows buzz. Golden hadn't heard it like this in years, but he knew exactly what it was. It was the sound of recrimination and chaos. It was the sound of trouble.
"Oh crud," Golden said.
Even though he'd just driven over two hundred miles without so much as a pit stop, it was not easy to convince himself to turn off the ignition, to let go of the steering wheel. A need to pee that bordered on spiritual torment was what finally made him pry his long body out of the cab of the GMC. He stood bewildered in the dead hollyhocks, his hair full of sawdust, squinting and rubbing his aching behind with both hands. He was a large, wide-shouldered man with knobby hands and a slight overbite that he tried to hide by pursing his lips in the manner of somebody preparing to whistle. He pursed his lips now, and surveyed the front yard, which, in the watery moonlight, had taken on the look of a recently abandoned battlefield: mittens and scarves and jump ropes hanging in the bushes, parkas and broken toys and heaven knows what scattered all the way up to the road as if left there by a receding tide. On the propane tank, in blue crayon, was scrawled the word BOOGER.
"Nice," Golden said. "Would you take a look at this."
Not only was his bladder set to give out at any moment, but his bad leg had fallen asleep on the drive home. When he tried to cut across the lawn and mount the front steps it was as if he had been afflicted with a sudden palsy. His leg buckled and bowed as he hopped across the grass and up the steps, grimacing and pivoting on his good leg in an effort to stay upright, tripping on toys as he went, until he had to make a blind grab at the rail to keep from going sideways off the porch. He limped up to the front door, a feeling of doom settling on the back of his neck. His leg tingled painfully and he could feel the noise of the house in the vibration of the boards beneath his feet.
A hand-lettered sign next to the front door commanded:
WIPE YOUR FEET
and Golden obediently scuffed the soles of his boots on the rubber welcome mat. He took a few deep motivational nose-breaths, put his hand on the doorknob, but couldn't ?nd the will to give it a turn.
There was no getting around it: he was afraid. Afraid that, finally, the truth had been discovered, that he had been exposed as a sneak, a cheat, a liar. Look at him: a man afraid to walk into his own house.
Once he'd thumbed his shirttail into his pants, knocked some of the sawdust out of his hair, dug a breath mint from his shirt pocket, and taken a couple toots of Afrin nasal spray, he felt a bit more sure of himself. He put his hand back on the doorknob and closed his eyes.
Excerpted from The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall. Copyright © 2010 by Brady Udall. Excerpted by permission of WW Norton. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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