house, and he accepts it because her joy outweighs his qualms. After the
dream, he wakes in a mood, stranded with little to say.
After their split, he spent some years at a simmer while his ex-wife
remarried and made vague apologies and kindly overtures. Julie, who
was five at the time, expressed her feelings with an unexpected facility
for swearing and a penchant for tipping furniture at school, later telling
a behavioral therapist that she didn’t want her dad to talk mad at her
mom. This surprised him and his ex-wife, who were so careful around
each other they didn’t know their own feelings or how apparent they
were to their daughter.
Over breakfast Parrish studies the fine, oat-straw-colored hairs on
the back of his daughter’s neck. The light straight on turns them so white
they almost disappear; the same light from the side turns her brown eyes
green. She is a skinnier, taller, prettier version of her mother, whose image and a mild sense of alarm remain fresh after the dream, because it is
plausible. Her current union is showing signs of wear.
He blows on his coffee and watches his daughter furrow cold egg
yolk with the tines of a fork and massage the husky mix under the table with her bare feet. She slips bacon fat to the dog, which takes the
contraband and disappears. Julie worms her feet into socks and shoes.
Parrish drinks coffee and struggles with a sharp-cornered sensation, a
worrisome feeling that he’s forgotten to do something for her. It’s partial
and vexing like the memory of his dream. Whatever it is, it fills him to
choking and makes him look away from her. He would call it love except
for the unrest it causes him.
When a muted horn blows outside, Julie leaps up, chair legs and
sneakers hiccupping on the linoleum, and spears her school bag off the
chair stile and onto her shoulder. She goes by him, pausing only to give
him a milky kiss and a hasty mumble before heading out the door and
pulling it closed with an explosive percussion that rattles the casement.
The dog appears at the door, silent as a ghost. She huffs and whines and
looks from the door to Parrish and back to the door. He gets up from
the kitchen table and peeks out the window. The year before, after Julie’s
eleventh birthday, he was demoted and no longer accompanies her to
and from the bus. He squints slightly at the risen sun and watches her
stick figure walk to the end of the gravel drive. A spirited hop lands her
on the second step of the bus, and she pinballs through the doorway just
ahead of the doors winging in and the hiss of brakes.