Harriet chewed quietly while I talked but didn’t say much afterwards—not, at least, about what had been bothering me, even frightening me, in recent days and weeks. The history of our house. The voice I heard. She finished, stood, and started putting things in the dishwasher and cleaning up a little. Not normal Harriet behavior.
She was looking ready to leave when I said, “I thought you wanted a little help with your science fair project.”
She stopped, then whispered, “Oh, yeah.” She sat.
“Let’s see,” I said, “you and Eddie are doing a solar hot-dog cooker, right?
“Well, what have you come up with so far?
Not much, it seemed. But I gave her some ideas so good that I shouldn’t have shared them, and she headed out toward home in a little better mood than the one she’d been in right after my horror stories.
Not long after she left, Father called from the newspaper, saying he’d be home in the middle of the afternoon. He’d been working on a story that he’d stumbled onto.
He finally got home about 3:30—very unusual for him on a Saturday.
“Sorry I’m so late,” he said when he found me reading in the parlor.
“No problem,” I said, looking up from my book.
“What are you reading?” he asked.
“Another novel by Mary Shelley,” I said. “I’ve read almost all of them now.”
“Which one is it?” he asked.
“Lodore,” I replied.
“The one I just finished.”
“Yeah. Seems pretty good.”
Father slumped down in one of the parlor easy chairs and just sort of stared off into the distance for a while. I went back to my reading, but when he didn’t leave—and when he took a couple of deep sighs—I closed my book and looked over at him. He was still staring.
“Is something the matter?”
“No,” he said … then seemed to change his mind. “Well, no … and yes … and no.”
“You’re not making a lot of sense.”
He sat up straight. “Vickie, let me ask you a question.”
“I’ve got a story … a good story, really. Well, not ‘good’ in the sense that it’s going to make people happy. But … oh, I’m not sure what I mean. It took me half the day to write it,” he went on, “and now I’m not sure I even want to run it in the paper.”
“What’s it about?”
“Well, that’s the problem,” he said.