Apollo and I had been reading our books all morning when our parents came home. We were accustomed to waking up without their being present, so we knew what to do. In this case, we had tried to make ourselves omelets, which didn’t look right but tasted OK, and then gotten all of our books out.
We would often read two copies of the same book concurrently and race each other through the pages, sometimes employing tactics such as the turn-five-pages-instead-of-one trick to stay ahead or keep pace. The result was that our knowledge of the content between the covers was often spotty. This morning, though, we were reading different books, so we were paying attention to the words on the page—or I was, at least—and seemed to have become immersed in our separate worlds. This was a bit of a rarity, as even when we were not in direct competition with each other, given the other reading tic we both exhibited of having almost no patience for exposition. The second a book would start to explain things was the second we would put it down and reach for another. Thus, that morning we had a wide selection strewn out among the plates of half eaten eggs on the kitchen table. Conscientious parents might walk in, see the disorder, and claim it a mess to be cleaned up at once. Seeing as our parents were the type of parents who sometimes did not come home at night, we didn’t think they would mind.
We heard the front door open but gave it no mind, and when my parents came in, dad smelling of smoke, mom watery-eyed and tired, we expected that they would walk right on by and go to their bedroom. My father stopped at the table, and I put down my copy of Rosemary Weir’s Pyewacket, my brother his copy of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, and we waited for him to say whatever it was that he was going to say.
He said, “Ramdas, Apollo, I have been out all night drinking and gambling, and your mother came to get me. What I have done with my life is shameful, and I want you know that I have taken money,” he looked at my mom, who nodded severely that he must continue with the agreed-upon verbiage, and then continued, “I have taken money from you and your brother’s future for my own greedy, lazy, and immoral purposes. I promise from now on that there will be no more drinking, gambling, or womanizing.” My mom nodded behind him, and he added, “Family is the most important thing in life.”
Apollo held his book up and said, “If I ever have a son, I am going to name him Black Beauty!”
My dad looked confused for a moment and then said with peremptory authority, “You will do no such thing, young man!” Then he slapped Apollo across the cheek, and the two of them went back to their room, leaving Apollo to cry and me to console him.
True to his word, my father gave up the sinful parts of his life, and that was good in that it provided us a more stable household, but bad because it subjected us to the same. Gone were the mornings of our experimental breakfasts, leaving the house at night whenever we wanted, sleeping late on Sundays instead of going to church, and of planning to name our unborn children after fictional horses.
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Editor’s note: Technically it is her vulva, not her vagina.