Excerpt from Cool Nation

This is the eleventh section from the fourth chapter of the novel.� All other excerpts are on the sidebar.

Lives Forming�

��������� On a Sunday afternoon in April Stephanie came home one from the Y, where she and some of her friends had gone to swim in the indoor pool, and flirt, and show off in their bikinis.� Stephanie was now thirteen, and was rapidly becoming aware of her power over boys, lifeguards, and even men.� But that power didn�t extend to my father, as she was about to learn.
����������� We were sitting down to Sunday dinner and waiting for her to come in when she finally did, wearing only a t-shirt over the bikini.� Dad asked her what she thought she was doing.� She sat down and picked up her fork and said, �Eating.�� He said, �Not dressed like that, you�re not.�� She said, �Why not?�� He said, �Because I said so.� Now go get properly dressed and don�t show your face in this room again until you are.�
����������� This was said half in humor, half in sternness.� Stephanie was his favorite.� He�d always felt badly about her dyslexia.� Also her hip had been broken in a playground accident when she was seven, and in her body cast he had nursed her, and cared for her, and watched over her every night in a way that even Mom thought spoiling.� Whenever she rode in competitions he attended every meet; when the year before she won a ribbon in dressage at the American Royal he nearly wept.� On Sundays they often rode together, he on Rex, she on Shasta, both of them going up into the hills to cover the country, and sometimes to race, but mainly for him to try and arrest time before she would too soon grow and leave him.
����������� She stared at him before getting up from the table, then rose and started out of the kitchen, stopping by the stove, where a half-filled pan of water was resting.� She looked at the pan, then at him.
����������� �Dad,� she said.
����������� �What?�
����������� �What would you do if I threw this water on you?�
����������� The shock at the table, the silence as we all turned, the hilarity as we realized she meant it.
����������� With granite-like calmness he laid down fork and knife, resting his hands to either side of his plate, and quietly said, �Why I�d get up and spank your little butt.�
����������� �If you could catch me.�
����������� �Oh I�d catch you.�
����������� She took the pan and said, �Jean, go hold open the front door.�
����������� All of us starting to laugh now, Dad not moving but staring right at her, waiting.� Then she swung the pan, the water sheeted out over him, his chair shot back, and she was gone, he right after her.
����������� Everybody was dying, even Mom.
����������� We knew where she was going, to Nicole Matson�s house a mile away, and we knew that he would chase her the entire distance, limping on his polio-weakened leg.
����������� Mom at first wouldn�t get the car out but we said she had to and finally she did, we catching up with them on Indian Boulevard, Stephanie running in her t-shirt, laughing across the great lawns, with their redbuds and forsythia just beginning to bloom, Dad ten steps behind her, winded and blowing but there.
����������� He caught her on the Matson�s porch as she was trying to get in the door, and turned her and raised his hand but never brought it down.� Then with his arm about her he walked with her back to the car, blowing and laughing.� Mom said, �For God�s sake, get in before you both catch cold.�� But she was smiling when she said it, and it was the way she said it, and the way she looked at him, that told you why she had married him all those years ago.
����������� We went home and finished dinner, Stephanie at the table with us, only dressed this time.

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