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May 1, 2009 | Fiction

Discontent

Stephanie Johnson

Discontent photo

When the weatherman warns the roads will become impassable, your mother sends your father out for supplies. Your mother tucks the money in your mitten. She sends you along to keep him honest.

At the store, your father lifts you into the metal cart. You spin donuts near the bakery, faster and faster, until your chest is tight and your stomach lurches, but you're still laughing and so is he. Your father dances through the aisles — past the bread, past the eggs and milk — singing "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds." He introduces himself as Sgt. Pepper to the old ladies who stare. Your father hollers Incoming when he throws the cases into the cart. In the checkout line, he holds out his palm. C'mon, honey-honey, he says. When you hesitate, he leans in and rubs his whiskers against your cheek until you take off your mitten and surrender.

As he rushes you back to the truck, he pretends to race the cars in the parking lot. He slips and slides as he pushes the cart, runs faster and faster. He makes a wide-mouthed, big-eyed face like something is chasing him, and for a minute you think it's out to get you, too.

In the cab of his truck, you'll pull back the cardboard, hand him one for the road. He'll take the long way home, and the two of you will sing his favorite songs. Once you're on the back roads, he'll let you sit on his lap and pretend to steer. He'll tell you you're the best thing that ever happened in his sorry life, and he'll make you promise never to leave. The snow will continue falling and for a while everything that's turned dead and gray will look clean again. For now, this is what it means to you, and your Daddy promises he'll get you home before the worst of the storm.

image: Ryan Molloy


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