All seven of them were on the patio with the dogs and the cat to see an eclipse of the moon, but unexpected clouds were eclipsing the eclipse. Staying up beyond their bedtimes, they should have been disappointed. Yet the night air felt good and a fragrance from the flowers in the courtyard caressed their nostrils. The tower on the other side raised a taller shadow against the clouded sky, lit by the reflection of the light in the city. The pentagon of roofs and walls surrounded them while the pattern of spray surrounded the fountain across from them. The patter of falling drops accompanied the melody of insect strings, while distant traffic contributed percussion. Familiar sizes and shapes identified them to each other: Mom on her chaise-longue, Dad in the chair beside her, Christy on his lap, jumping down to run after the boys, coming back out of breath, climbing back up and kicking him as she climbed. Reg playing tag with Jimmy, always it because he was two years younger, with Bertrand, the youngest Brittany, in hot pursuit. Jimmy was trying to catch Reg dodging back and forth behind Perseus, whose outstretched arm had caught Reg once and knocked him down. Sabby sat in her chair stroking Amenhotep, the siamese, who purred and pawed at her appreciatively. Who else would she soon be stroking? Sitting next to her was David, whose friends called him Davy for Davy Crockett, because he deplored the cynicism of carving a mark in your rifle stock every time you shot a redskin. Gleaming in the faint light, Amenhotep's eyes disappeared when Davy leaned over to scratch his head. Sabby and Mom couldn't see the hair tumbling over his forehead, which they loved to push up even though it always fell down again. The very futility of the gesture tempted them almost as much as the charm of his annoyance.
What better time to decline the Chinskis' colors than night? They varied from Dad the browny to Mom the beigy in Carminian. A darker brown than his father, Reg, who had inherited some of his agility, was aspiring to the athletic fame he had forsaken. The same shade as Dad, Jimmy not only enjoyed music like his parents, but he also had the talent to play it. A lighter brown, Sabby combined her father's face with her mother's intrepidity. More beige than brown, Davy tended to accommodation until it threatened a conviction of his, at which point he threw a futile tantrum. Where had that come from? Physically, he resembled Uncle Jim at his age. The beigest of the Chinskis, Christy had the kind of blond hair mothers love to comb. She said what no one else dared putting it a way
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no one could refute. Drawing and coloring appealed to her even more than other cute little girls. The combinations of white and russet patches distinguished the three Brittanies clearly from each other even when they were criss-crossing the field of wildflowers around Fivesides. More russet than white, Bertrand ran a hundred yards while Guinevere, more white than russet, ran seventy-five and Fulbert, who had roughly equal portions of these colors, ran fifty. More brown than beige himself, Amenhotep would have no other cat but me.
The Chinskis didn't regret the eclipse they had assembled to see that night very much. The opportunity to enjoy each other's company satisfied them. 'A family of my own!' Doz always thought at such times. His dream come true, he worried about nightmares. "What if... ? What if... ?" What if Siss got breast cancer for instance? She had survived five pregnances with an athletic resilience that astonished everyone. As flat and skinny as ever, she had lost little of her youthful vitality and charm. Her whispery voice tingled Doz's spine as deliciously as ever. Rival women -- and what women weren't rivals? -- had to look closely to see her crow's feet. Lying on a chaise-longue while the rest of the family sat in a chair was merely a maternal luxury that she enjoyed. She had a habit of reaching for Doz and touching him to make sure he was still there. When he didn't feel it for too long a time, he glanced at her to see why. Occasionally, she refrained to see how long it would take. The late thirties had merely accentuated his facial features without wrinkling his skin deeply. Carrying furniture had muscled his chest, arms and legs; it kept him trim and fit. Even when he had nothing to say, his presence inspired an awareness, a congeniality and a curiosity difficult to explain. Whether you asked or not, you wanted to know what he thought or how he felt. Yet this interest had never had its usual effect on him. A happy couple, they needed an occasional quarrel and the reconciliation that followed.
Reg stepped on Fulbert's paw, by no means the first time, and Fulbert screamed like a man being murdered, which he may indeed have thought. Mom told Reg to apologize, which, as everyone understood, meant stroking poor Fulbert and reassuring him by words that he understood less than the tone of voice. Didn't Fulbert realize, to the extent that he could, that the pain was worth the consolation? His
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human screams amused his human fellows as much as they alarmed them, but they were worried about him. Nine was old for a Brittany and he was suffering from arthritis. Nor did Reg, no awkward boy, avoid suspicion of having stepped on his paw to stage the show. Didn't he enjoy stroking Fulbert's white belly when he rolled over on his back, wagging his stump of a tail, rolling his eyes up at you and waving his thick, furry paws in the air? Jimmy grabbed one of them and shook it, while Christy pulled on another. Fulbert was in ecstasy. Once Christy, who had been drawing the house as she saw it from the tower, had started to add the family seated on the patio when Jimmy snatched the paper away. It was his paper. Calling them downstairs and hearing both complaints, Mom reconciled the right of artistic creation with that of private ownership. Christy shook five pennies out of her piggy bank before Jimmy forgave the debt. Playing football with Jimmy once, Reg tackled him instead of tagging him. Since children bounce more easily than adults, hitting the ground scared him more than it hurt him. Rage and outrage brought Dad running with his glasses slipping down his nose and the newspaper rustling in his hand. Jimmy was howling and Reg looked embarrassed. Despite mutually antagonistic accounts of what had happened, Dad guessed only too well. He asked Reg for three reasons why he shouldn't have done it:
"Jimmy's too small for tackle and smaller than me."
"You don't play tackle without pads."
"It wasn't fair to change the rules without saying anything."Dad added: "You see football on television. Even when you are watching from the stands, you are too far away to see what the players are doing to each other. They are hurting each other, Reg, usually just a little bit, but sometimes a lot. Most of the injuries, small or big, never heal entirely. They get worse with age."
Reg was chastened."Tell Jimmy you are sorry."
He looked at Jimmy and it wasn't easy: "I'm sorry, Jimmy."Looking at Jimmy: "Well?"
Reg made it up to his little brother one day when he heard that some boys his age were teasing him about his music lessons. Although Reg didn't like the music, he reminded them that they couldn't play or sing any at all.Jimmy looked at Reg and hesitated: "That's OK, Reg."
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"Maybe you better leave him alone."You didn't mess with Reg Chinski.
Reg stole Sabby's first bra and ran through the house waving it over his head like a pennant. She got her revenge bursting into the bathroom with two friends when he was taking a shower. At first, he whined and twisted away from them. Tess wondered: "How could anyone as ridiculous as that ever grow up and be a man?" He sprang from the shower, yelling and splashing. They retreated shrieking with laughter, until they encountered Mrs. Chinski who wanted to know what had happened. Unsmiling, she sat them down at the kitchen table and subdued them with her hazel eyes and whispery voice. What did it mean when someone closed the door to his bathroom, bedroom or office? What was privacy and why did everyone have a right to it? Sabby took the lesson so seriously that, despite her contempt for sports, she cheered for Reg at a softball game his mother and father didn't attend. Mom's lesson didn't apply, however, when Davy had his first date with a pretty neighbor. Sabby, Tess and Sal harrassed and jeered the couple all the way to the bus stop. Yet David shamed his silly sister by his kindness when, without the slightest hint from anyone, he taught her how to dance. Her gratitude exceeded her surprise. He also helped Reg with his math and his English without lecturing him about neglecting his homework for sports. Everyone agreed that David was the kindest Chinski, maybe too kind for his own good. Yet his brothers and sisters hardly lacked this virtue. After a music lesson one afternoon, Mom found Jimmy teaching Christy to play a duet with him. How fast she learned! Whenever Sabby returned from shopping, Christy followed her to her room, watched her unpack and inspected her purchases, which her sister modeled for her. Mom had a rule about leaving your room neat, even if you were late. Once when some of Sabby's friends were waiting for her, Christy volunteered to put everything away. The next morning, Sabby discovered that Christy had put everything away in a different place according to a logic beyond her years and yet inconsistent with her older sister's habits. It took Sabby a whole week to put everything back where she was used to finding it. David owed the date with the pretty neighbor to Christy, who had discovered her, approached her after she got off the schoolbus, complimented her on her charms, recommended her brother who had some too and proposed
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to introduce them to each other. A few minutes later, she led him to the girl's front door holding him by the hand and, standing on tiptoes, rang the bell. Although neither was especially shy, the situation was new to both, so Christy coached them: "Invite her to go to the movies... Tell him you would love to... Ask her if Friday evening would be OK... " ect. Once their first date had set its precedent on their mental calendars, they didn't know what to say next. Christy burst out laughing and ran home. A half hour later, they were still talking to each other.
Doz and Siss reserved Sunday for their family with the exception of mass early in the morning, which they attended in remembrance of the sisters who had raised him. Later on, all seven Chinskis attended the service at Kingdom Tabernacle, where they occupied a row halfway down the aisle on the left with Maud and Fuss at the other end and, just behind them, Freddy, his wife Allison and their two boys. One of the pleasures anticipated by the minister every Sunday was the smile that Freddy started by whispering a joke to Allison. Moving on from mouth to ear, it lit each successive face like so many bulbs on a movie theatre marquee. After the service, the Chinskis and Fossezes socialized with fellow members of the congregation, among whom they had many friends. Doz had replaced Fuss on the vestry. Then they all went to Fivesides, which Doz had bought from the Heaths when they moved into a retirement home. Even with help from Maud, Allison and Sabby, Siss rarely managed to serve Sunday dinner before two. They lingered around the table, on the patio in warm weather and in the dining room in cold, until three-thirty or four in the afternoon. Long before then, however, the younger children were running, yelling, playing and coming to tattle on bullies or seek consolation for mishaps and hurts. Throwing the ball for Bertrand to chase and retrieve was one of their pleasures. Fulbert and Guenevere took refuge under the table, where unshod feet could reach them, while Amenhotep bestowed himself on the lap that appealed to him.
When they were dining, however, no animal dared approach, because Siss had no sympathy with begging cats or dogs no matter how cute they were. The spontaneous severity of so sweet a wife when she scolded a pet or child disturbed Doz. Although she referred capital punishment to him, he shied away from it, finding ingenious ways to persuade the criminel to regret his crime. When Jimmy kicked Fulbert for refusing to play with him, Dad sentenced him to an hour on all fours.
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Jimmy enjoyed it at first, making a game of it, but soon he tired of a disadvantage exploited by others. Christy ruined his patience by patting him and speaking kindly to him. Reg gave his father another opportunity to exersize his gift when he batted a baseball through a neighbor's window. Reg had to read up on replacing window panes, buy what he needed and do the job on his own. Inspection by Dad revealed a sloppy job, so Reg had to scrape the putty off and apply fresh putty more carefully. Doz asked the neighbor to make sure he cleaned the glass and left no dirt or dust behind. The next day, Sabby saw Reg showing some of his friends the pane he had replaced. She overspent her monthly allowance on a sweater that differed little from the five she already had except for another shade of lavendar, the color that she found suited her best. Mom told her that she would deduct the $13.49 deficit from her next month's allowance along with 1% interest. Sabby's distressed appeal to Dad obtained nothing more than approval of Mom's accounting. Seeing that she would pout the evening away, however, he invited her to model the new sweater. To her consternation, no one at first saw any difference between this one and two of her others. Back and forth between the living room and her bedroom she ran modeling the sweater to show them the difference.
Christy: "I can see the difference, Sabby. They are just making fun of you."Everyone laughed except the two girls.
Mom: "Don't you think they are a little tight, Sabby?"
"You didn't apply to Dartmouth, you applied to ZU and ZU accepted you. I don't mind you driving Billy and Nathan around town to keep them out of trouble, but New Hampshire is a long way away. Every time they stop for gas, they will buy a can of
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beer and, the more they drink, the faster they will drive. Taking you with them will give their parents an excuse to let them go in a car instead of taking the plane. They are trying to use you, David.""You expect me to lie on the floor like Fulbert!" he shouted without realizing that he was shouting. "You just pat me so I will wag my tail."
"You seem more like Bertrand to me," Mom replied, "especially when he barks."Reg and Jimmy laughed, while Sabby rolled her eyes.
Dad: "Why don't you get an interview at ZU, take my car, invite some friends... ?"
"If they spend the night," said Mom, "I want to know where." She didn't have to add that, if he invited girls, they would have to stay somewhere else.
"No!""May I go too?" asked Sabby a little too innocently.
Mom: "That wasn't very nice."
"Take my teeny sister with me?""No, it certainly wasn't!"
Dad: "Then you accept my proposal. You are going to ZU and not to Dartmouth?"Making a face: "Do I have a choice?"
Mom: "Yes. You could stay home, for instance, and take your teeny sister out."
"Date my own brother? Mr. Grownup? No thanks! I don't need his charity!"
Mom: "That wasn't very nice either."
Everyone laughed.Reg: "If I could drive, I would take my friends to a ballgame. I wouldn't waste any seats on girls."
Dad: "Men can't even have a baby."
Jimmy: "I think you ought to take Sabby with you. Those girls you run around with are pretty silly."
Sabby ran over, leaned over and kissed him.
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"All right, I will take her, but she is going to sit on the back seat and keep her mouth shut. No backseat driving, no sisterly advice and no silly nonsense."
Sabby: "Nuts! I can't think of anything more boring than sitting on the back seat of a car with my brother and his date holding hands on the front seat and giving each other dreamy looks. With his friend and his date beside me doing the same thing. Like a spare tire or something!"
Reg: "dreamy looks? You should talk! How about that guy"
"That wasn't very nice!Sabby: "Shut up!"
Mom: "No, it certainly wasn't! It was downright nasty!... Besides, I wanted to know which guy."
Reg: "Nathan Elbox."
which made everyone laugh,Sabby stomped her foot,
except Christy: "What's wrong with dreamy looks?"
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on the Fossez board along with Fuss the chairman, Maud, Doz, Siss, Nelly Simpson the personnel manager, Mark Jacob the director of the Mapleton Museum and Meg Halstrup the former directress of the Mapleton Theatre Company. They enjoyed meetings because they liked each other and the company had continued to prosper under Doz's management. He had found solutions for all the problems that beset the business, such as lesser demand in recessions and attempts by the International Brotherhood of Loaders and Drivers (IBLD) to organize his workforce. Treble Moving and Storage, Fossez's chief competitor, had been three times as big during Fuss's tenure, but now it was only twice as big. Treble continued to attract more customers by cheaper rates and obtain contracts from the city and the schools. On the other hand, Fossez, which served the Mapleton Auditorium and the Mapleton Museum, dominated the market for quality and specialized moving and storage. Mapletonians agreed that Treble was cheap and Fossez, safe.
Of all the employees working for Fossez when Fuss had hired Doz, only Doz and Nelly remained, but Doz invited retirees like Plug, Jason, Mack and their families to a Labor Day picnic and an Easter Egg hunt, which the grownups enjoyed as much as the children. Twice a year, he also assembled the employees for a meeting to discuss business, operations and problems. If several of them wanted an extra one, they only needed to ask Nelly or Doz and he called it promptly. Either Doz or Nelly or both were in the office for a half hour after every workday to see any employee who wanted to talk to them. If an employee had a problem and even one unrelated to the company, they tried within reason to help. Since such problems often amounted to a need for money, Doz sometimes negotiated, underwrote or even made a loan. He could take such care of his employees because he trusted them and he trusted them because he continued Fuss's policy of recruiting and hiring for the long haul. Nelly gave no greater priority to the actual or potential ability of a applicant to do the job than a preference for the work and a long-term commitment to Fossez and Mapleton. Divided into three crews, the workforce could now do three different jobs at the same time. They remained essentially the same although Doz temporarily assigned members of one to another when the circumstances warranted it. He named each of them after its foreman: Lawrence did the Museum work,
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Carver did the Auditorium work and Peter Paul, who didn't like his initials, did office and institutional moving, but all three did ordinary household moving, the bulk of the business. There were also three packers who usually worked independently of the crews. The company now owned a tractor-trailer, two trucks, three vans and two company cars, all of them light gray with "Fossez Moving & Storage" in dark red letters on both sides, along with the telephone number and the address of the depot in Wheatfields. The same presentation appeared on the walls of the warehouse, which Doz had renovated, and the company advertisement in the telephone book. He had also added a second floor and an elevator to the special storage facility. Fossez had the respect of most Mapletonians as a local business that reconciled efficiency with humanity. Employees made a good impression when they said they worked for Fossez and customers, when they said they moved with Fossez. Yet a white third of Mapleton considered it a nigger company and hence neither trustworthy nor respectable. Furthermore, the residents of Dabney Orchard still had the same old grudge against Doz.
He had realized five ambitions: marriage with Siss, a career in moving and storage, five healthy and happy children, a comfortable and beautiful house, and, the most difficult, the serenity of forgetting skin color for days or weeks at a time. Rejoicing in the same blessings, Siss had the additional satisfaction of doing more than she had time for: raising children, keeping house and running the office, for which she had baby sitters, house cleaners and secretaries. She had a BS in economics from ZU and an MBA in transportation from Mammoth University (MU). Although Doz had never found time for a degree, he had taken courses in business and fine arts as well as training in moving and storing artwork and stage scenery. Even more than his success in business and his professional expertise, his intelligence and congeniality had won him election to ever higher offices in the American Association of Moving and Storing Executives (AAMSE). The youngest president in the history of this association, he was in the second year of the two-year term. You must have noticed, however: success and happiness always incite envy and suspicion. The Chinskis' enemies belonged to three classes: white socialites, poor whites and black militants, but they all had the same excuse, hostility to interracial marriage. Each had its own
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reason: the white socialites considered it a degeneration, the poor whites, a contamination and the black militants, an intrusion. Siss had married beneath her family; she had married a racial inferior; Doz hadn't descended from slaves; he behaved as if he were white. Yet many members of the three classes joined the vast majority of middleclass Mapletonians, black and white, who admired or respected the Chinskis. Whenever they saw "Fossez" in dark red on a light-gray background, they remembered the black baby found in an orphanage mail box; the intelligent, hard-working young immigrant; his romance with his employer's charming daughter; his renunciation of a career in football; the honest mover, manager, father and fellow Mapletonian.
The devil never gives up whether you believe in him or not. Retiring as the president of Treble Moving and Storage, Frank Treble, who remained the chairman of the board, appointed his nephew Horace Treble to replace him. Young, ambitious, shrewd and aggressive, Horace, who had an MBA from MU, had already made friends and enemies working for National and International Moving and Storage (N & I), with which Treble had a contract for long-distance moving. Horace promptly obtained a franchise from N & I, a step Frank had never taken because it would have reduced his control of the company. To his regret, the mover with the bulging muscles who carried a box labeled "TREBLE" across the sides of his trucks disappeared under a coat of dark blue paint with the words "NATIONAL & INTERNATIONAL" in gold. As everyone knew, this figure had represented Frank himself. Horace overcame his objections by stressing his influence with the management of N & I as well as the prestige and efficiency to be gained by integration in a big company. Horace's ambition to relegate Fossez to a small share of the business in Mapleton by an advertising campaign, to which N & I had promised to contribute, consoled Frank. Horace also counted on an increase in earnings to pay for improvement of storage facilities and employee skills. Raising pay to the level negotiated by N & I with the IBLD would ensure a more stable and reliable workforce, hence lower insurance rates. Although Frank had always resisted attempts by the IBLD to organize his employees, Horace persuaded him that the N & I would restrain the union, while Treble had an interest in helping it to organize Fossez.
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A few of the friends Doz had made at AAMSE meetings worked for N & I and they resented Horace's careerism. Predicting that Horace would take Treble over ten days before it happened, they warned Doz against his new competitor. Aware of Frank's limitations, Doz saw how Horace could make Treble more competitive. He also guessed that he would obtain a franchise from N & I and use it in an attempt to take customers away from Fossez. Calling a meeting of his board, he proposed to affiliate Fossez with a national carrier for long-distance moving and thus eliminate Treble's advantage in this respect. Although Fossez would lose a little of its independence and personality, it would be in a better position to compete with Treble. The number of local moves was increasing at a decreasing rate in Mapleton, while that of long-distance moves was increasing at an increasing rate. While regretting erosion of the familial and local character of the company, Fuss admitted that he saw no better solution for the problem. The next day, Doz called a meeting of the employees, who accepted his analysis and proposal. Some who knew unhappy Treble employees offered to keep him informed, while others worried about attempts by the IBLD to organize them. The union, Doz replied, would try to organize Fossez whether it affiliated with a national carrier or not. If the company obtained a franchise like Treble's, however, it would have to accept a contract already negotiated with the IBLD. Evidently all employees had the right to join the union if they wanted to, but they might regret the expenditure of their hard-earned money by officials they didn't trust for purposes they disapproved of. Other industries had more enlightened and more reputable unions. If the employees kept Doz informed of attempts by the IBLD to coerce them, he would do everything in his power to protect them. They should feel free to notify him, Nelly or their foreman any time they needed help and even, in an emergency, late at night. Neither the mayor, nor the police, nor many fellow citizens would welcome the arrival of the IBLD in the baggage of N & I.
When Horace heard that Doz knew his plans even before he took over from Frank, he threw so violent a tantrum that the news leaked to the press. The Vigilant and Channel Eight amused the public with a report of Frank Treble trying to calm someone else down. Scoundrels like Horace often assume that other people are dumb. He further alienated his
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enemies at N & I by trying to find out who they were. Their irritation complicated negotiations for the franchise, hence a delay welcomed by Doz. He was finding that the other national carriers wanted a franchise in Mapleton to compete with N & I and not just an agreement with a local company. He and Siss invited Fuss, Maud and Nelly to cocktails on the patio at Fivesides to discuss the situation. They had mentioned the IBLD and N & I several times, when Nelly asked:
"International? What's so international bout them?"Doz: "N & I has franchises in Toronto and Montreal. Other American movers may too and, if they do, the IBLD probably has chapters in those cities."
Maud: "Very American! Everybody who does the least little thing in Canada or Mexico calls themselves international."
Siss told Doz: "You must have thought of something.""Yes. Why haven't we thought of it before?"
Nelly: "Canadians who do business heah?""Yes, Ours/Bear in Montreal. Pierre Sauvageot is an AAMSE friend of mine. He has franchises all over eastern Canada and agreements with local firms in the big cities in the northeast: Boston, New York... "
Fuss: "That wouldn't be enough to compete with N & I here.""No, but the national carriers in the US are afraid of Pierre. They have done everything they could to keep him out."
"So, if they heard you were talking to Pierre about an agreement... "
Nelly chuckled."One or two of N & I's competitors might take more interest in an agreement with us."
"No. Mapleton would be too big a leap for him, but he would enjoy a joke on his enemies."Maud: "Wouldn't Pierre mind being used like that?"
When Pierre arrived in Mapleton for a few days visit, everyone except Frank and Horace believed the ostensible reason for his visit. Hadn't the Tinhorn Impresario Kindergarden invited him to give a talk about trade with Quebec? Pierre knew how to exaggerate his accent and make
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Americans laugh, especially when he resorted to facetious distinctions between ordinary Canadians and Québecois, a word he pronounced as if referring to an exotic species. It was easy to tell the difference. Anglos resembled Americans and swore they weren't; Québecois resembled Americans and swore they weren't with an accent that proved it. Anglos who didn't know that his name was Sauvageot addressed him as Mr. Oursbear over the phone. Since customers are always right, he never told them that both words designated the same animal and that he had added the second one for people who didn't know the first. Some Anglos had even assumed that the bear standing on his hind feet on the sides of his trucks represented Mr. Oursbear himself. "Don't you stheenk I look like one?" He bared his fangs, raised his paws and looked back and forth in search of prey. A big man with a lot of unkempt hair, a big nose and big teeth, he did look like one enough to bring the house down. Once he had exposed all the ways Zenia could do business with La Belle Province, a friend of Frank's wondered why he hadn't mentioned his own business.
"Ah! My own beezneess! You have Fossezz! Why would I try to move or store anystheeng heerre? But, if you need to send anystheeng to Québec, Doz has my telephone numbah."Asked to elaborate by a reporter from the Vigilant, he lavished praise on Doz's accomplishments at Fossez. The reporter, who knew that Doz had been seeking an agreement with a national carrier, wondered whether Ours/Bear was interested. The question sent a shiver up the spine of the moving industry.
Doz's phone began to ring and he received two offers, the most attractive of which came from Cross-Country Van Lines, the smallest of the national carriers, but the one growing the fastest. Negotiations lasted longer than either side had expected because Cross-Country kept trying to insert clauses in the contract that would facilitate pressure on Fossez to accept a franchise. With Fuss and Freddy at his elbows, Doz rejected them all and demanded others that would guarantee the independence of the company, such as the right to collaborate with other movers in places where Cross-Country had no franchise. La Belle Province, for instance. Meanwhile, Horace was working on two projects, improvement of his workforce and construction of a new warehouse.
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Though bigger and more advanced than Fossez's, the warehouse would come at a bargain because it would replicate others already built by N & I. Horace had borrowed a personnel manager from N & I who specialized in bringing the workforces of new franchises up to company standards. Supervised by Horace, D. P. Score fired the allegedly incompetent and unreliable employees, most of whom were blacks, retired the aging and unhealthy ones, provided training for the others and recruited new ones, all of whom were white. He hired two young men impatient with temporary employment by Fossez and another one in his thirties tempted by a bonus. This modest success disappointed D. P., who usually crippled local competitors by luring their best employees away. Nelly inflicted an embarrassing counterstroke on him by hiring two of Treble's best movers and it's very best packer, who didn't trust him, Horace, N & I or the IBLD. All three were black. They didn't get a bonus for signing and others would have followed if Fossez had needed them. Thus D. P. learned the same lesson as Horace: never think you are so smart that you can treat your adversary as if he were dumb. They could have asked since all Mapletonians knew better.
Though busy with business, Doz and Siss were preoccupied with Sabby, in whom adolescence was cresting. It tormented her with unpredictable, sudden, violent and conflicting emotions. Anger, which made her pretty, and affection, which made her plain, sometimes alternated at an astonishing rate. Neither she nor anyone else knew when he would get a slap or a hug and whether laughter or tears would accompany the blow. Left-handed like her father and strong for a girl, she swung fast and hard without warning. When Davy objected that her hair, which she had had straightened, looked fake, she hit him so hard he staggered. The dignity and disdain with which he took the blow converted her anger into remorse even as her tears continued to flow. His scorn for her kisses on the cheek intended to repair the damage punished her far worse than he intended.
"David!" Mom gave him a look he couldn't ignore.Obediently, he offered his cheek, but with a hint of condescension that reignited Sabby's anger:
Mother and son burst out laughing, while the daughter's brown eyes suffered with a distress that knew no consolation. Being laughed at was"You need a shave!"
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absolutely intolerable. From Siss, Sabby had inherited a strangely feminine inability to fear any man. She had even taken a swing at her father, who had ducked and laughed, a reaction that had humiliated her even more than her mother's outrage. What had he done? Why he had merely reassured her that she was going through something that she would get over. He had hit upon the fact of life that she was least willing to admit. She would have had a fist fight with Reg if he had fought back fairly instead of warding her blows off with his arms, which made her even angrier. He had an absolutely detestable habit of caricaturing the voices of her idols, mostly popstars who changed once a week. His imitations had the inconceivably bad taste of resembling them too closely.
"When are you going to grow up?"He had a different answer every time and all of them were absolutely disgusting: "How about you?" "Never, if you are an example!" "Like those idiots with their guitars who howl and squirm as if they couldn't find the right door?"
"The right door?""Yeah, the one to the men's room."
Swinging and missing because he ducked: "What a filthy mind you have!"
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surprized no one, although it revolted many, most of them over twenty-five. The overamplified sound and wild agitation claimed as usual to free music from the constraints of the past and endow it with a radical originality. Writhing imitations of copulation accompanied the howl of the voices, the twang of the guitars and the boom of the drums. The smirks and scowls that twisted the histrions' faces purported to similate a passion beyond pleasure and pain. Endlessly repeated simplifications of moral, social, political and even religious problems masqueraded as self-explanatory solutions. The noise, which cost the neighbors their sleep for miles in every direction, earned hundreds of thousands of dollars for the histrions and the indigent farmer who owned the field. The parents, who paid most of the bills, regretted it when they saw, heard and read what it had bought. Only too well did they recognize their sons and daughters by their intoxication, promiscuity and servility.
Early that morning -- no one seemed to remember when -- lightning struck a nearby hill, making everyone jump. Neither the weather forecast nor distant rumblings had warned them. The strike cut the electricity, silenced the audio, froze the histrions and the audience in grotesque positions. Then panic drove them in opposite directions so that they collided, staggered, stumbled and fell over each other. At the worst of this confusion, a downpour swatted them, drenching their clothes, their bodies and the furrowed ground under their feet. Seeking the field where they had parked their cars, SUVs, vans and pickups, they turned in a great clockwise sweep. The muddy furrows made them slip, trip, lurch, slide, fall, struggle to get back up and wallow in their frustration. Leaving as abruptly as it had arrived, a cold front drove the temperature down enough to aggravate their misery. Once our carefree youth had tumbled into their vehicles, they spun their wheels, swerved and collided with each other, causing more damage than injury. They formed a huge fan-shaped traffic jam at the exit to the highway, wide enough only for one vehicle at a time. The pleasure of freshly bathed young bodies seated together for the drive to Fox Hill contrasted with the discomfort of soggy, muddy, smelly contact during the unending return. The warmth that had excited them barely comforted them now. They dreaded the confrontation with their parents that awaited them, even those who could expect sympathy or pity. After this ordeal, they faced another one
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when the press published the worst details of their adventure. Even worse than the spectacle of their departure, the one they had left behind them in the dark exposed clothes and underclothes, trash and garbage, vomit, urine and excrement over a furrowed expanse of mud. Reporters complained of the stench and especially near the portable toilets. Never numerous enough for such an event, the portajohns had succumbed to more urine, feces and paper than the acid could dissolve. Fox Hill had set a precedent revolting to some and celebrated by others who remembered the pleasure and forgot the pain.
The event made a profound impression on Sabby, who couldn't escape the fact that Mom had spared her the humiliation suffered by her friends. The fiasco offended a sense of dignity she had inherited from her father and learned from her mother. Her disgust climaxed when a laughing rival bragged of washing the mud out of her suspect blond hair as if she regretted a heroic trophy. The girl's ironical admiration of Sabby's curls had driven her to have them straightened, hence David's remark and frowns from the rest of the family. Home from school, Sabby restored her unpredictable curls, which enhanced her impish eyes. The entire family from Fuss to Christy complimented her on being herself again. Dad even got up and came over to kiss her on the cheek instead of waiting for her to sit on the arm of his chair. The next day at school, in the corner of her eye, she caught a few boys, who had always ignored her, looking at her. Evidently, something had happened, something more mysterious than her curls. She didn't have the courage to thank Mom for keeping her away from Fox Hill, instead she gave all four bathrooms a thorough cleaning without even being asked. Everyone was wondering what had happened to his toothbrush, comb, etc. Instead of complaining, Siss teased them, they should thank Sabby for cleaning up their mess. Maybe Sabby was getting over "it."
Reg had worse to get over. Cursed with a football team, his middle school gave him an opportunity he could have done without. The more Mom and Dad tried to talk him into tennis, the greater his determination to try out for football. The coach, who also taught Health, found that he was fast, but not fast enough to run the ball, strong but not heavy enough for the line, quick but what position did that qualify him for?
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Quarterback? Left-handed like his father, he could throw a bullet, but that was the only kind of pass he could throw and he usually threw it too high or too far. He could even punt and place-kick, but he tried so hard that the ball rarely went where he wanted to kick it. Yet he did have a lot of determination, more in fact than Coach had ever seen. Maybe experience and growing up would make a good football player of him. Coach found a temporary solution in letting him kick off, although, in his determination to nail the receiver, he usually missed him since the slightest feint threw him off. When he tackled or blocked, he hit his opponent as if he wanted to break every bone in his body. It was usually the latter, however, who stayed on his feet while Reg lay on the ground. Desperate to make the cut, he tried and tried only to find that his efforts were making his deficiencies worse. Reluctant to forfeit his potential, Coach decided to keep him on the team in hopes that he would realize it. Two touchdowns ahead in their first game, he tried him in several different positions and discovered that he could deal wicked psychological blows however unintentionally. When Reg was on the field, the other team never knew what position he would play next. On offence, he might play quarterback and throw a long pass which, though beyond the receiver's reach, scared the secondary into mistakes on other pass plays. On defence, he might play end or linebacker and crash, which didn't cause a fumble on that play but later on. When Reg tried to block or tackle an opponent, the impact surprized him, thus exposing him to more effective blockers or tacklers. This success made him popular with his teammates, but they kidded him and he didn't like it. He wanted to justify psychological success by his physical performance, so he implored his father to help. Such conversations always took place in the field in front of Fivesides, while they were throwing a football back and forth.
"What can I do that your coach isn't already doing?""He's got thirty guys to coach and you've only got one."
"I've got a job to do and five children to raise. Football distracts you from your education. It keeps you from learning how to make a decent living and lead a good life.""My grades have slipped because I'm worried about football. If I could play better they would improve."
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"That's the illusion of all young men who have committed themselves to sports.""Dad, I've made the team!"
"A middle school team must be the easiest kind to make.""It's an opportunity and I'm still growing."
"You have to adjust for a gusting crosswind. Either throw into it when you feel it on your cheek or wait until it stops.""I'm adjusting for it by throwing harder."
"Then why do I have to reach for it on the downwind side?""OK... How was that?"
"Better. But your coach is right about your passing. If your accuracy doesn't improve, no coach is going to take the risk of letting you throw in a game.""He already let me throw in a game."
"He let you throw a few long ones on third and long yardage. He didn't expect you to complete them and you didn't.""If you saw me play, even if you saw me practice, you could give me some advice, better advice than Coach. He only played on a small college team and not even on Saturday."
"Even so, he played more than the vast majority of young men like you, who can't imagine anything better to do with yourselves.""Come on, Dad!"
"No one knows whether you will ever do any better.""Aw... !"
"You aren't going to like this, but I don't think you will. I only hope you stop before you get hurt. I wish I had never started.""Your injuries have healed."
"Have they? Some injuries heal for good. Others heal only for a while. Some of mine will probably catch up with me... Don't say anything about this to your mother. She knows it as well as I do, but there's no use in reminding her."
Jimmy: "How many touchdowns have you scored?"
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"It takes eleven men to score a touchdown."
Dad: "How about the defensive team, the kickers, the other players on the sidelines, the coaches, the equipment manager, the trainer, the tutors... ?"
Mom: "How about the alumni?" She explained alumni to Christy.
Jimmy: "Why are all those people going to all that trouble? It's just a game.""It's not just a game!"
Sabby: "What purpose does it serve?"
"It builds character!"Mom: "Besides paying the coaches' salaries."
"How does it do that?"Dad: "We hear about the character it builds on television and read about it in the newspaper."
Mom: "Your character needs construction, not destruction."
Christy: "I like his character the way it is."
Sabby: "If only my brother weren't a jock!""If only my sister weren't a girl!"
Christy: "If you don't treat her better, she's going to turn into something else and bite you."Even Reg laughed.
Sabby: "All you think girls are good for is running after men."
"Hey! What is this? Why are you ganging up on me? I only want to do what millions of other guys my age are doing."Mom: "Maybe it would help if some ran after him."
Dad: "How about a deal: you study hard and we will watch you play football."
"Come on, Mom!"Mom: "We will cheer every time you score a touchdown."
At times, Reg did study harder, so the rest of the family watched him play, although he was never in the game long and did little to cheer about. At others, activities that he considered important kept him from studying, so they stayed away from the next game. Complaining of their absence, he said he had made a spectacular play, so they congratulated him, lukewarmly.
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When David called home from ZU, the family gathered around a speaker phone in the library, plying him with questions, commenting on his answers, teasing him and telling him how much they missed him. When was he coming home for a weekend? This Friday? Next Friday? Their solicitude pleased and yet embarrassed him into excuses of tests he had to prepare for and term papers he had to write. Couldn't he do that just as well at home? Well, no, he wouldn't be able to concentrate...
Sabby: "You never could tell a fib!"
Mom: "He's got a girl friend."
Christy: "What's her name, David?""Hey, I always had girl friends! Christy even found me one. What's the big deal?"
Dad: "There's a difference between the plural and the singular."
Reg: "It was only a matter of time. It happens to the best of them."
"... You know Sadie Freelock."Jimmy: "Is she pretty?"
Sabby: "She's your friend, not your girl friend."
Mom: "You might as well confess and get it over with."
Christy: "You are afraid we won't like her."Desperate: "Why don't you all come up here... like Saturday or something?"
Sabby: "Just one day? That's not very hospitable!"
Dad: "We can't get away. We have our hands full with Treble and the IBLD."
Mom: "You could bring her home with you."
Sabby whistled."... That's awfully kind of you Mom... "
"But I would have to decide which one."Dad: "Yes, I thought it was too!"
Mom: "Sabby is right. You never could tell a good fib."
Christy: "You are afraid we won't like her."
A sigh, which made them laugh. "Her name is Suzy."Dad: "They are going to run your phone bill up."
Mom: "Is that all you are going to tell us?""Susy Wu. She's a Chinese American, from Mammoth."
Christy: "Does she have squinty eyes?"
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Sabby: "Jimmy asked you if she is pretty.""Compared with the three of you..."
Loud protests."We don't even know each other very well yet."
Sabby: "So you are going to keep on getting to know each other!"
Mom: "David... ""Don't worry, Mom."
The leaves were turning when he finally came home and brought Suzy with him. She surprised Christy because she wasn't slender and willowy like the ladies on the screens at the Museum and her eyes didn't squint as lengthily as theirs did. Pretty she was, however, enough to satisfy Jimmy, disturb Sabby and upset Mom. Though average in height, David looked tall beside her. She wore her black hair long and kept her emerald eyes down except for sideways glances at him. Complimentary humor prompted a fleeting, doll-like smile. Addressed, she raised an exquisite hand with a ring the color of her eyes to brush her hair away from her eye before speaking. Her voice had a husky tone, which caused a slight silence while her listeners wondered whether she was hoarse. No, that was her voice and it reminded them that she wasn't a doll. A yellow wool dress with wide straps over the shoulders and a hem above the knees conformed with her shapely figure and exposed the relief of her silky arms and legs. Her complexion dazzled them, yet black shoes with low heels completed a picture of modesty. Gesturing and moving infrequently, she stood and sat straight, leaving space between herself and the back of the chair. The Chinski men from Jimmy up, yielded each in turn to an apparently innocent charm. From Siss down, the Chinski woman began to detect a deliberate pose intended to disarm them.
Suzy had driven David down from Concordia in a red Honda Civic she had bought with earnings from summer jobs. As soon as the couple entered the living room, attention converged on her, reorienting the relations between the members of the family. David's fascination with her disturbed the women first and then the men. His family's discreet curiosity about her brought such copious replies from him that she needed only to deflate his praise. Finally Christy demanded:
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"What about you, David?"He didn't even seem to hear, although he had heard and answered all the other questions she had asked. This incident prompted Mom to intervene:
Perplexed: "she did?" Looking at Christy: "What did you ask me?""David, Christy asked you a question that we would all like to hear you answer."
The men laughed, but the women had a straight face.
"I said: how about you?"David didn't know what to say.
Suzy smiled and glanced at him: "He's a good student and he hates football."Dad and Jimmy laughed, Reg frowned and the women smiled politely.
"I have?"Mom: "We haven't seen you in over a month. Tell us what happened... You have changed, you know."
Sabby: "For better or worse!"Embarrassed, he didn't know where to start.
Dad: "Your courses, your professors, your roommates... "
"Oh there's a plenty to do. Don't worry about that."Mom: "Your recreation, your entertainment... "
Suzy, amused: "I have never known anyone more courteous, considerate and modest. He's a wonderful dancer too."Prompted by her, he limped from one anecdote to another, associating each of them with her, much to his family's impatience. The deathly appearance of the biology professor who kept talking about "the life sciences" might have made them laugh if he hadn't been so anxious to get a smile from Suzy.
Sighing, Sabby shrugged her shoulders.Chuckling, the family men conspired to reassure the guest, although Dad took her innocence less for granted than Reg and Jimmy. Irritation over David's subserviance incited the family women to treat her with exaggerated tact, but Mom more than than Sabby and Christy. During lunch, Christy turned to David:
"Do you really have to ask when to bite and when to chew?"
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Suzy was staying with relatives in Mapleton. The next morning at breakfast, Mom and Sabby took advantage of Suzy's absence to investigate her influence on David. Again and again, he told of initiatives he thought he had taken, but, cross-questioned by them, he admitted that she had induced him to take them. He had met her when he got on a bus to go to class. Looking for a place to sit, he saw one next to her where she had left her books. She took them on her lap and, thanking her, he sat down. He recognized the one on top as the novel they were reading in English. Had she ever heard of one that begins with the death of the heroine and, from then on, relates only what happened afterwards? Reluctant to converse with a boy she didn't know -- "What's so funny about that?" -- she said no, she hadn't. They had a friendly argument about that, which they hadn't finished before they came to their stop. The argument turned into a conversation on the way to their English lecture, where they sat together and they had been sitting together ever since.
Sabby: "Was she sitting by the window on the side of the bus next to the curb?""Yes. Why?"
"... Yes."Mom: "And you stood in line to get on?"
"Were there any other empty seats?""There were some in back, but I wanted to sit next to her."
"She wanted you to sit next to her."
"How do you know?""She saw you before you got on."
Sabby, Mom and Christy laughed."Hey, what is this?"
"She was saving a seat for you."
"Naw, she had a pile of books.""Like dropping a handkerchief. Nobody has cloth handkerchiefs any more."
"Two or three and a notebook? That was never too heavy for my lap."
"How come she didn't have a bookbag?""... She did have a bookbag."
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Christy: "Unh hunh!"
Dad, looking at Reg: "Did you hear an echo?"
Reg: "Yeah! But it sounded like women."except David, whose face blazed. Shouting: "Damn it! You would think she was a seductress or something! I meet this nice girl, I bring her home so you can see how nice she is and what do you say? You accuse her of making an idiot of me: thanks! I'm no fish swimming around and she's no osprey plucking me out of water."
The rest of the family roared. He was still sputtering when Mom reached for his forehead and brushed his hair away, although it flopped back down. Sabby jumped up, ran around the table, leaned over and hugged him from the rear:
"Don't worry, Davy! We are just jealous. That's all."Dad took him aside later on and told him that Suzy was a nice girl, all right, but he had to assert himself. She wouldn't respect him unless he did. Taking it with a solemn face, David agreed to follow his father's advice.
A trace of lipstick on the collar of a shirt David had left for Mom to launder disgusted her, but she wondered why. Was it because she had never worn any herself? Or rather because she expected greater continence of her son than she had of her lover? Was it fair to condemn Suzy for choosing the boy she liked best after a social revolution that had interchanged the roles played by young men and women in courting? Hadn't she herself chosen to wait on Doz at the Orchid Inn that Saturday instead of letting one of the other waitresses do it? Shouldn't the choice of her son by a girl as pretty and intelligent as Suzy please her? Why shouldn't he be proud of her? Yet these questions persuaded her without convincing her. She and Sabby began to put remarks by David in e-mail and over the telephone, and rumors from friends who had children or siblings at ZU together like pieces in a puzzle. David was trying to study hard and get good grades, while Suzy didn't study very hard and, although she didn't care about grades, got better ones than he did. She was keeping him from studying and sleeping. He too often faced a choice between getting enough sleep to stay awake in class
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the next day without being prepared and staying up to do the assignment at the risk of falling asleep in class. Evidently, Suzy had only played the role of an ideal girl friend. Although her parents hadn't treated her more strictly than others when she was in school, she had resented their rules and circumvented them whenever she could. Their attempts to dissuade her from drinking and smoking cigarettes and marijuana had only incited her to indulge in them every opportunity she had. She enjoyed them less than the thrill of doing as she pleased. The more her mother warned her against sex, the more she tried it, although she stopped short of intercourse, exasperating her partner and enjoying his exasperation. Ignoring her parents' wish for her to attend a college or university in or near Mammoth, she had applied to ZU because friends had praised the parties. She had even come to Concordia determined to recruit a boy friend who met specifications that she had established after thorough reflection. David was perfect in every respect!
The frequency and freedom of the parties at ZU exceeded her expecta- tions. They began on Friday afternoon if not earlier and continued until Sunday afternoon if not later, with a pause between early morning and early afternoon on Saturday and Sunday. They took place in fraternities, dormitories where they were prohibited, apartments off-campus and, on sunny afternoons, in the open, in a nearby state park in particular. The talk, the jokes, the laughter, the pranks, the dancing, the necking, the extravagance, the horseplay, the promiscuity, even the occasional quarrels, fighting, urinating and vomiting amused Suzy. She smoked cigarettes and pot, drank beer, wine, gin or anything else available, mixing them indifferently and sharing her cigarette, joint or glass with anyone who wanted to, while David, who didn't smoke, caughed and nursed a glass of beer. When offered a pipe or cigar, she smoked them too to everyone's amusement. Always in the middle of the room, always the center of attention, always the life of the party, always pleaded with when she left, usually to attend another party, she encouraged the activity all around her by a smile, a laugh or a remark in her husky voice. She danced with any handsome stranger who asked and as closely as he liked and let him kiss her, but kept his hands off of her bottom, even disappeared sometimes with him for five minutes, while David tried to appear nonchalent dancing on hot coals. Amused by his rage or
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despair, she quelled it with a hug and a kiss. When he threw a tantrum, she waited patiently until it blew over and brushed his hair away from his forehead, although it flopped back down again. A few sweet words in her husky voice and a dramatic kiss on the cheek overcame his most stubborn resistance. When he hinted that it was time to leave, she agreed so gracefully that he asked her, merely to show his appreciation, whether she would like to go to another party. What she really wanted to do, she insisted, was to do exactly what he wanted to do and, to his astonishment, she took his arm and started off in the direction of the next party. Soon forgotten, such incidents never disturbed his conviction that he loved to go to parties with her. Far from conforming with her wishes, he was making his own decisions, which just happened to agree with hers.
Over the phone, Christy infuriated him by telling him he was just a Yorky on Suzy's leash. Still upset the next morning, he asked Suzy: "Am I just a Yorky on your leash?"
She burst out laughing and it sounded sincere. "No. I'm the Yorky on your leash! Yap! Yap! Yap!"People were staring. Suzy didn't even ask who had told him that. Alone that afternoon, he ran across Sadie Freelock, a black girl he had often seen at Kingdom Tabernacle and dated several times in Mapleton. When he met her on campus, she didn't ask him why she hadn't seen him at the tabernacle in Concordia as he feared, but rather a movie, a play or a concert she knew he would like. While he had always explained his absence by the need to study for a test or write a term paper, this time he admitted that he had gone to a party.
"With that knockout I see you with all the time?""We are just friends."
"Why don't you take her to the student recitals in Bekka Hall on Saturday afternoon? They are free and a good cellist is going to play. I know you are fond of the cello.""I told Suzy I would take her to the football game."
Laughing: "David! You used to hate football!"Laughing insincerely: "Who knows? Maybe I will change my mind."
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"Well, you are going to the football game with her this afternoon. Why don't you take her to the Barber of Seville tonight?"Raising his voice: "Look! I don't need any advice about where to take her. I can decide that myself."
"... Then why don't you?"Shouting: "What do you mean by that?"
The spectacle of a white man shouting at a black woman was turning heads. Appalled, they spun on their heels and left in opposite directions.
After a few weeks of Suzy this and Suzy that, Sabby got an e-mail message from Davy with an attached photo of himself. His hair parted down the middle and fluffed out on either side like wings. "How do you like my haircut?" His eyes were gleaming and Sabby had never known her brother to be vain. Furious, she dashed off a reply before she could could think: "Just like a Yorky!" The quarrel escalated as each correspondent read worse than intended into the other's message. When they quarreled over the telephone, Mom imposed peace. She couldn't resist the temptation, however, of letting him know what she thought of his hair, so she asked Sabby to hang up. "Uh oh!" thought son and daughter recognizing her tone of voice.
Sigh."What was that for?"
"I saw that photo.""How did you like it?"
"Not at all."...
"Would Suzy really mind if you washed your hair and combed those wings down?""What's she got to do with it?"
"You know perfectly well!""Well, I didn't think it was such a bad idea. It's in fashion."
"Everything in fashion isn't in good taste.""Is only one taste good?... It will hurt her feelings."
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"Does she have a right to hurt feelings? It's your hair.""If it's my hair, do you have a right to hurt feelings?"
"I'm your mother.""I know it. She's my girl friend."
"So she outranks me!""I didn't say that."
"Your father proposed a compromise: Suzy can have the part down the middle and I want those wings folded.""You are in Mapleton and we are in Concordia. What difference does it make as long as you can't see me?"
"I see you all the time. Those wings keep me from sleeping and, when I finally doze off, they give me nightmares. Besides, I do want to see you. So do the rest of us.""... I could shave my head."
"I hope she i'sn't going to let you do that."Raising his voice: "Damn it, Mom! Nobody decides for me. I decide for myself."
...Shouting: "You are jealous! All of you are jealous! You are just a bunch of jealous females!"
...Christy had picked Sabby's phone up: "No we aren't either!"
"You yap like a Yorky too!"