October 9 Norm

MOM SETS THE MARBLE-TOP COFFEE TABLE with lemonade and little cakes before disappearing into the basement to fold my father's socks. Her presence won't help any. She knows enough to surmise she can't survive the awkwardness of these vigorous men, this sullen boy, and a girl as innocent as a bird. We leave on a walk at our fathers' urging, as we kids won't be interested in their business talk.

Happy at this mess? That's what I say to my folks after Heidi goes home, unromantically tearful and not a little damaged, after asking honestly what it was like. Daddy, I think we should go. Father is startled. I don't believe he's ever heard her command him with such conviction. I hear him whisper in the awkward quiet while coats are fetched, "What did he do to you?"

It's just beginning to hit the news, how we aren't coming back like the wiser, stronger, mature young men who returned from World War I, II, even Korea. As if they haven't noticed all along they aren't receiving us.




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