Yoharie: Existence (part six)
Dad had been the good parent.
Good being seek-outable, or what people who had fun might call fun. When Savannah was of an age to play Barbies, her hero, wholly trusted. A joker sometimes, who didn’t care if Family Guy was too rude for his kids…let them, sat down to watch with them.
On her side. The time they’d gone to the farm to pay a lot, too much, for her Australian shepherd…and she did, after all, mostly take care of him.
She’d have to say goodbye to Beatty. For her dog, the tears could come easily enough.
And then…those times Kate had her taxes, when he’d take them out of her hair (Dad’s dumb gag). Take them on drives to look at leaves and snow, funky little towns with buffet restaurants and antique malls.
Always up for a movie. Never disapproving of popcorn.
They said it to each other, Savannah and Rae, ask Dad. When curfews are too early, when you need extra birthday money, just twenty, fifty maybe? for the boots or the jacket, when you want games for your phone…
(And no, Mom, everyone plays Birds…how could the apps all have viruses, how would they sell any?)
“Up to you. That phone is lasting you five years. Whether it works or not.”
But…a phone with a better camera, even though yours has an okay one.
(It’s for film class, Mom, my videos are my portfolio…)
“Is that what you’re majoring in? Don’t you think you need to buckle down?”
New sneakers after you’d sort of messed a good pair up…
(Black and orange spray paint…)
“Next time you have something like that in mind, we’ll stop at a yard sale. Sixty dollars!”
Kate’s rule: I have to vet it. When I have time. And if you screw up, you better learn to live with it.
Dad let you slide. “You owe that from next year.”
But next year, you still got your birthday money.
Savannah understood. He’d lost his job, they didn’t have enough these days. It was kind of a lie, but maybe it wasn’t…she didn’t know how the salons were doing.
“Are they getting a divorce, you think, Rae?”
A long silence. She had almost apologized, worried the thought was new to her sister, scary. But Rae, being Rae, was only doing mental calculations.
“If they split up, Dad’ll get an apartment. But I don’t think so, now I say it. He’ll go stay with Grandma. So that means we’re both here, and…she’ll make a list, won’t she? All the stuff we have to get done, ‘doing our part’, you know. Poor Mom. I would go live with Grandma. I haven’t worked out all the details, what I’m doing when I graduate. I mean, be an exchange student, or something…”
Anything to get out, yes. Rae was going to leave high school at the age of sixteen, and Savannah was not leaving at all… That was, she was leaving almost at once, but not by official channels.
Customers at her mother’s salons were always paying the Holiday Respects with gift cards. (“Because they got that from someone and they don’t want it. I don’t care, but I want them to tip my operators…”)
On the Hibbler kitchen counter, Kate kept a basket, identical to that behind the reception desk at Kachet Oakbrook, only filled with the twice-rejected. The salons were all Kachets, Oakbrook not as profitable as West, but most gorgeous. It was an arcade-style mall, having its own corporate façading, brass-fitted doors, green and white awnings, café seating along the promenade. Patisseries and confectioneries, perfumeries, soap and candle shops, glove and wallet shops…
But people didn’t slide over a twenty, they slid over a Starbucks or an Amazon. They were all fake well-to-do.
She’d grabbed out a Home Depot. Maybe they didn’t sell that kind of thing, kitchen gear. There was a Macy’s…but her plan was too short-term for ordering. A Hobby Lobby…why stores nobody had?
Maybe Tristanne from one of her trips…
Who was it…?
Dawn, a little subversive on Mat, when she heard the news. “Wow. Lucky ducky.”
Lucky ducky…that’s so retro I’m saying it forever.
An iTunes…oh, well.
She drove to the one farthest out of the way. The nearer was “West”. The obstacle with her mother wasn’t that the surprise would be spoiled or shared. It was just a kind of “there goes Savannah again” attitude that seemed, to Savannah, really avoidable. She might mess the cake up, but then it would just be some idea, not the thing it was—
He was down in the dumps. It would cheer him up. Special, Dad, just for you.
Running into him working there…when if anyone said, she hadn’t listened (and they didn’t, anyway), had been pretty horrific. Another curse on her life. She’d got the special pan at Walmart.
“Oh, cool. Kudos and felicitations. Don’t put those shitty candles on, Hanbo.”
Rae, who also had swiped three violets.
With one of those smiles playing about her lips, that can so humiliate you later when you’ve understood, she had carried out her mother’s pedestal plate from the hiding place in the pantry.
“Happy birthday, Dad!”
“Happy birthday!” Rae, showing spirit.
Savannah had watched him eyeball the white glaze, the frosted violets, as though…
It wasn’t really possible to describe. He caught himself, thanked her, put on the face of a prisoner of war appeasing his captors…
And then she’d watched him take up his plate and walk into the kitchen, like that was a normal thing to do while you were eating dessert…
And then, trying to be normal herself, not choke on the forkful she shoved into her mouth…
But that had been crying. The cake was fine. Rae, Mom, Val Yoharie…
They all said it was fine.
She’d glanced up to see her Dad feed his birthday cake to Beatty.
(2019, Stephanie Foster)