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About the Author
Tim SandlinTim Sandlin has published eight novels. Two of his screenplays have been made into movies. He turned forty with no phone, TV, or flush toilet and spent more time talking to the characters in his head than the people around him. He now has seven phone lines, four TVs he doesn’t watch, three flush toilets, and a two-headed shower. He lives happily (indoors) with his family in Jackson, Wyoming.
From Chapter One
“Traumatic events always happen exactly two years before I reach the maturity level to deal with them,” I said, just to hear how the theory sounded out...
From Chapter One
“Traumatic events always happen exactly two years before I reach the maturity level to deal with them,” I said, just to hear how the theory sounded out loud.
“Two years from now I could handle my wife running off with an illiterate pool man. Two years from now I will have the emotional capacity to survive another divorce.”
Hints that I might not survive the crisis cut no slack with my daughter. In fact, I wasn’t even certain she had heard my little speech. Shannon seemed totally absorbed in aiming a garden hose at the front grill of her Mustang. As she rinsed soap off the gleaming chrome, her eyes held a distracted softness that reminded me more than somewhat of the softness her mother’s eyes used to take on following an orgasm. Now, there’s an awful thought. According to the two-year theory, a day would come when I could accept my daughter having orgasms, but for now I’d rather drink Drano.
“They say divorce cripples men more than women,” I said. “Women cry and purge the pain while men internalize and fester.”
Shannon raised her head to peer at me through her thick bangs. “You’ve never internalized pain in your life. Heartbreak to you is like garlic to a cook.”
“Who told you such nonsense?”
“Mom. She says ever since you saw Hunchback of Notre Dame you’ve been looking for a Gypsy girl to swoop down and save. Then later you can die for her and feel your life wasn’t wasted.” Secretly, I was pleased Maurey had seen the parallel, although I’d always related to the hunchback more from the tragic outsider aspect than as a savior of Gypsy girls.
“Do you and your mother often discuss my psychic makeup?”
“Everyone discusses your psychic makeup—Mom, Grandma Lydia, Gus. Hank Elkrunner says you’re an egomaniac with delusions of inferiority.”
“I suppose Hank figured that out by throwing chicken bones.” Shannon shrugged the way she did when I was being too unreasonable to argue with and went back to her chrome. It was evening in October, the silver light hour when thousands of male Southerners all across the Carolinas stand back and toss lit kitchen matches at lighter fluid–soaked mounds of charcoal. Shannon said, “You’ll be mooning over a new woman within a week. Why not save me some teenage anxiety and find a nice one this time? Hand me that T-shirt.”
“Isn’t this my T-shirt?” It was lime colored with Greensboro Hornets in white over a yellow cartoon hornet swinging crossed baseball bats. “Wanda was nice.”
Shannon stopped rubbing the headlights long enough to stare me down—one of those how-dare-you-lie-to-me stares women inherently pass on to one another. Shannon looks so much like Maurey, it’s almost enough to make you believe in virgin birth. Where were my genes in this person who called me Daddy? Both my women had thick, dark brown hair, except Shannon cut hers short, collar length, while Maurey’s hair hung down her back. Long neck, small hands, cheekbones of a Victoria’s Secret nightie model, teeth that had never cost me a dime over checkups and cleaning—the only difference was Shannon had brown eyes while Maurey’s were sky blue. And Maurey had a scar on her chin from a beating she once took at the hands of a man.
I said, “Okay, she wasn’t so nice, but she had potential. Remember her crab salad.”
“You don’t marry a woman over crab salad. Wanda was a dysfunctional stepmother, a stereotype of the Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel ilk.”
Ilk? “My God, who have you been talking to? Are you dating a psych major?”
Shannon reddened along the neck behind her ears. Fatherly intuition strikes again. The only question was whether the blush came from sex fantasized or sex completed. Shannon rubbed my T-shirt across the windshield with all her might. When she spoke, her voice sounded like she was hitting someone.
“You can’t save every fucked-up woman you stumble over.”
“I’d rather you not talk that way when I’m close by.”
She turned the hose dangerously close to my tennis shoes.
“You made fun of me when I said dysfunctional.”
“Let’s try neurotic.”
“Okay. You find these neurotic women, God knows where, and you think that if you accept them as they are, out of sheer gratitude, they’ll change.”
Not a bad analysis for a nineteen-year-old. Of course, I couldn’t admit that; never let a daughter know she might be right. “Why is it children always oversimplify their parents?” Shannon smiled at me. “I doubt if it’s possible to oversimplify you, Daddy. That’s why I love you.”
Tears leapt to my eyes. Wanda’s leaving had turned me into an emotional sap, to the point where I’d cried the day before when I heard the neighbor kids singing “Happy Birthday to You.” Because the picture on the front of the jar reminded me of a young Shannon, I’d stuffed a hundred-dollar check into the muscular dystrophy display at Tex and Shirley’s Pancake House.
Shannon either ignored or didn’t notice my poignant moment. She stood back to admire her shiny, clean Mustang. It was ten years old, creamy white with a black interior and a Lick Jesse Helms in ’84 bumper sticker. I’d given it to her for
high school graduation.
“One thing for certain,” Shannon said, still looking at her car instead of me. “That woman wasn’t worth a heart attack. Why not get drunk and chase women the way you did before?”
“Because I married this one. The grief process is different when a marriage breaks up.”
Her eyes finally came to mine. “Heck, Daddy, you’re only grieving because you think that’s what Kurt Vonnegut would do in the situation.”
“Don’t lecture your father on grief. I was miserable before you were even born.”
Shannon stuck the hose in my pocket.
Length: 8 in
Width: 5.25 in
Weight: 14.85 oz
Page Count: 336 pages