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Vol. 3, No. 2

The Worst Thing a Suburban Girl Could Imagine
by Melissa Bank

VIII

I woke up early. I found my mother crying in the kitchen. She'd always been a big weeper; there were balled-up Kleenexes in the pockets of every one of her bathrobes and coats. In the past, I'd teased her about it. We all had. But now I thought of the times she must have been crying about my father and couldn't tell anyone about it. I put my arms around her.
    She said that my father had a high fever and his cough was worse; he was talking to Dr. Wischniak on the phone now.
    As I got dressed, I could hear him in the next room, not words, but the tone; he spoke as though consulting another doctor about a patient they had in common.
    When my mother told me that Dr. Wischniak wanted them to go back to Philadelphia to get an X ray, I said, "I'm going to wake Henry."
    She didn't answer.
    I said, "I think he'd want me to."
    "Okay," she said, though I could tell she wished I wouldn't.
    We had breakfast out on the porch. Henry entertained us with stories about his boss, Aldo, who was a great architect from Italy. Aldo kept opera playing in the office all day, which Henry said made everything seem grand and dramatic.
    To demonstrate, Henry composed an opera about calling his mechanic: "The transmission?" he sang in a baritone. "No! No! No! That cannot be!"
    My father urged me to stay at the shore and enjoy the rest of the weekend. "I'm going with you," I said. "You need me to drive."
    He said, "Mom can drive me."
    I said, "Has Mom driven you anywhere lately?" I reminded him that she drove the car like it was a bicycle, pushing the gas, then coasting until she slowed down, then the gas again.
    "Oh, stop," my mother said.
    She was showing Henry what was in the refrigerator for lunch and dinner when Rebecca came into the living room.
    "Dr. Rosenal isn't feeling well," my mother explained to her. "I think he'll be more comfortable at home."
    "Did he eat those mussels?" she asked.
    My mother said, "It is not the mussels."
    I felt sorry for Rebecca then, being in our house and not knowing what was really going on.
    At the door, my father shook Rebecca's hand and said, "I hope I'll have a chance to see you again."
    For a second, I thought he meant, If I live, but then I snapped out of it. "Me, too," I said. "Thanks for the great water."
    Henry said, "Call me."

 

~

The X ray was clear, but Eli--Dr. Wischniak--had a tank of oxygen delivered to our house, just in case. It was the size of a small child, and stood by the bed.
    My father seemed glad to be at home, in the suburbs. The house was old stone and sturdy, cool inside and pretty. Because they'd lived there for so many years, they had everything just as they wanted it to be. As soon as my father got into bed, under the fresh white sheets and blue cotton blanket, he seemed better.
    I said so to my mother.
    "I'm so glad I had the house painted," she said. "I think it really makes a difference."
    "It does," I said, though I wasn't sure exactly what I was agreeing with.

 

~

By dinner, my father's fever was down, and he was making jokes. When he took a sip of water, he said, "Louise, this water isn't triple-filtered."
    I rented the kind of action-adventure movie he liked. In the middle, Henry called. My father motioned for me to stop the video, and as I did, I said, "Freeze, asshole."
    My dad exhaled a little laugh.
    When I got on the phone, Henry said, "Is Dad really okay?"
    "He really is," I said.

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