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Sisterland(5)
Curtis Sittenfeld

But now that several years have passed, it pains me to remember this night because I was wrong. Although we were safe in that moment, we hadn’t passed through anything. Nothing was concluding, nothing was finished; everything was just beginning. And though my powers weren’t what they once had been, though I no longer considered myself truly psychic, I still should have been able to anticipate what would happen next.

Chapter 2

Our routine in the morning was that we’d awaken around six-fifteen either to Owen’s squeaks on the monitor on my nightstand or to Rosie chatting with herself on the monitor on Jeremy’s nightstand. I’d go nurse Owen while Jeremy showered, then he’d take both children downstairs to eat while I showered. When I joined them, they’d have moved into the living room, which was also our playroom, and I’d be only halfway down the steps before Rosie began making excited announcements about my appearance—“Mama has a blue shirt!”—or describing her own activities. As I reached the bottom step, she’d fling herself into my arms, as if we were reuniting after many years apart. (How flattering motherhood was, when they weren’t smearing food on my clothes or sneezing into my mouth.)

On this morning, Rosie squatted by the bookshelf and shouted, “Rosie’s driving a school bus!”

Jeremy, who was holding his phone and Owen, said, “The earthquake had a magnitude of 4.9, and the epicenter was in Terre Haute, Indiana.”

“Have you talked to Courtney yet?” I asked.

He shook his head. “I’ll wait until I see her at school. I’m guessing she’s already fielding calls from the media.”

As soon as I sat on the couch, Owen began kicking his legs and reaching for me. I lifted my arms, and as Jeremy passed him over, he said, “By the way, your dad just called. He wants to know if you can take him grocery shopping tomorrow instead of today.”

“Is everything all right?”

“Well, he said he felt the earthquake, but he didn’t seem worked up about it.”

“Since when does my dad call at seven A.M.?”

“Go call him now if you’re worried.”

I held Owen back toward Jeremy. He began to cry, and as I walked to the kitchen, I heard Jeremy say, “Really, Owen? Am I really that bad?”

From our cordless phone, I called my father’s apartment. After he answered, I said, “So you felt the earthquake, too?”

“Just enough to know what it was,” my father said. “I’m afraid I have to postpone our trip to the store this afternoon. Will tomorrow work for you?”

“Tomorrow’s your birthday dinner, Dad.” My father still drove—he wasn’t supposed to at night but was fine during the day—but even so, since my mother’s death ten years before, I’d taken him grocery shopping once a week. We’d get deli meat and sliced cheese for his lunches and plan out his dinners, for which he’d buy himself only the cheapest cuts of beef and pork.

“I hope you’re not planning anything fancy,” my father said.

“I promise it’ll be very low-key. What do you have to do this afternoon?”

“I’ll be giving a lift to your sister. I’m sure you know she has a date.” Though my father didn’t sound like he was complaining, irritation gathered in me. About a year before, around the time my father’s doctor had told him he could no longer drive at night, Vi had stopped driving period. She said she’d had enough of all the jackasses jabbering on their cellphones while going eighty miles an hour; also, not driving was greener. But Vi rarely recycled an aluminum can of Diet Coke, even when a bin was two feet away, and it was obvious that the real explanation was that she’d developed a phobia. I’d meant to get online and do some research, but many months had passed without my doing so. I did get online on a daily basis, usually in the afternoon when Rosie and Owen were both asleep, but once in front of the computer, I’d forget everything I’d meant to do and end up either on Facebook or reading about pregnant celebrities. Meanwhile, Vi showed no inclination to start driving again, and socializing with her and my father, especially during the evening, continued to require elaborate planning.

“Dad, she can take a taxi to her date,” I said. “She’s not destitute.” Vi was always thousands of dollars in credit card debt, as I had once been, too, but surely she could scrape together cab fare.

“I don’t mind,” my father said. “She doesn’t think they’ll be more than an hour.”

“They’re meeting in the afternoon, not at night?”

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