“Pushing the River,” NEW chapter excerpt

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            Sierra is lounging around on the couch, her belly getting so swelled up it don’t look like it could possibly belong to the rest of her body any more.  She’s wearing a raggedy old pair of sweatpants that she borrowed off of my Lady and a T-shirt she borrowed off of her sister, and a giant sweatshirt she took right off the Boy’s pile of laundry while it was still sitting on top of the dryer.  That girl sure does love to wear everybody else’s clothes.

            The television set is on, just like it pretty much always is, but she ain’t really looking at it, cept every once in a long while.  I swear the child likes mostly to push on little buttons, cause every so often she pushes on some buttons to make the sound go up or down, or pushes on some buttons to switch to a different picture altogether, and then goes right back to pushing the little buttons on her little telephone that don’t need wires.

            Then she holds the little phone right up to her ear and says, “Daddy?  Hi.  Hey, what do you think I should have for lunch?”

            Of course I can only hear but one side of this whole conversation, but it goes something like this:

            “Cereal.  I had a big bowl of cereal for breakfast.”

            —

            “No.  I only like creamy peanut butter, and right now all we got is the crunchy kind.  I hate that stuff.  Plus I only really like peanut butter with marshmallow fluff, and pretty sure we don’t have any of that either.  What else?”

            —

            “No, I’ve had bagels every day cause Marie always brings them home.  Plus that’s what you said yesterday.  What else?”

            —

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            My Lady comes in with a big basket of laundry and sets down at the far end of the sofa to fold it.  Sierra puts her teeny little feet in my Lady’s lap and goes on with her phone talk for a bit.

When she pushes on the little button that makes the call come to an end, she says, “That was my dad.  I was asking him what I should have for lunch.”

            “Your dad?”

            “Uh-huh.”

            “Your father?”

            “Uh-huh.”

            “You were asking your father what you should have for lunch.”

            Sierra can see that it ain’t a question, so she don’t answer.

            “Your father, as in, the guy who put you on an airplane the minute he found out you were pregnant?  Who said that you were dead to him?  That father?”

            “Uh-huh.  He wasn’t a very big help.  MadMad, what do you think I should have for lunch?”

            “Oh, no.  No, no.  I’m not playing that game again.”

            This advertisement comes on the television just then.  There’s all these people setting around a table, completely frozen in time.  One of them is caught right in the middle of spilling a whole pitcher of water.  The first drop is just about to hit.  Another is hanging in mid-air, kicking up his heels, his hair standing straight up in all directions.  He is at the highest point, held in the split second before he starts on down.  Yet another is tipping his chair so far back you know he’s about to tumble over backwards; but he’s caught right at the tipping point, held right there in the balance.  There’s one more person.  The only one who can move.  He gets to walk all around this whole frozen scene, check it from every angle, ponder on exactly what’s going to happen next.  He can take all the time in the world to figure it.

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