engaged in a lot of arguing about whether or not they should have a
second child. Simon said yes. Anny was reluctant. When Dennis was
born, Anny was nineteen years old. Simon was twenty. Simon had held
a full load of classes and bused tables four nights a week, and Anny had
quit her classes and was staying home with Dennis. It was not what she
had planned, and she wanted her life back as soon as possible, she said.
But Simon had gotten over his fear that Anny might leave again, and
he didn’t want his boy to grow up a coddled, maladjusted only child.
Finally they did try for a second for a while, but after a year without success they went to see a doctor, and it turned out that Anny’s fallopian
tubes had been wrecked by an infection after Dennis’s delivery. Despite
all the arguing, it was Anny who was most demoralized by this news.
Now the years of childhood had passed. When Simon considered his
son’s attitude and character, he didn’t exactly feel as if his fears about
raising an only child had been invalidated.
In the morning they sat in a café eating churros and drinking coffee. A
hunched, gray-faced man at the bar was smoking his cigarettes halfway down, then dropping them. The cigarettes on the floor continued
to smolder, and by the time Simon and Anny were finishing their coffee, smoke rose from under the man as if his shoes were on fire. Anny
squinted at him and coughed. She held Simon’s hand, which made Simon
glad but also anxious. So much hand-holding was definitely unusual.
“I missed you terribly,” he said. “I’m glad you’re back. I know you
don’t care for it here.”
“I shouldn’t complain,” she said. “But I don’t like to let that stop me.”
She smiled. “I brought some books. I’ll be fine.”
She read books of poetry and cultural criticism that he could not
understand at all. He believed she was brilliant. He had often encour-
aged her to go back to college, but she’d always refused. He could not
understand it. During the last ten years she had worked in a series of
sales jobs, in furniture and clothing boutiques, poor-paying, mindless.
He feared the two of them hadn’t much between them with Dennis gone,
and that fear had deepened during her absence. Her decision to go home
had been abrupt.
When he rummaged for his billfold, he took the Cheerios-Dale spoon
from his pocket. “What’s that?” Anny asked.
“Dennis’s spoon,” he said.