Donnie was there to see it. It was the main event of the day and the infield was crowded with coaches and students, in particular a sassy flock of ribbon-haired girls who had been giggling and batting their eyelashes at Kevin all day. He finished the race two strides ahead of everyone else. All spectators cheered him. The ribbon-haired girls flocked around him to give their congratulations until they were batted away by Coach Cliff, who gave him a fatherly bear hug and fawned over him as if he were his own son. You gonna do good things in sports next year.
Yep, I just know it, Coach Cliff said. Their usually inattentive father looked up from his mashed potatoes to say, Well, no kidding. And even though Donnie, too, gave a look of approval and congratulations, Kevin looked at Donnie in a way that said, "Ha, I beat you out there in that race today, too. After Donnie got dressed, he walked to the stairs. His mother was singing in the dining room below, so he sat at the top of the stairs, out of sight, resting his head in his hand. She was setting the table for breakfast, singing Waltz Across Texas.
Her voice was soft and motherly, but sad. Her low notes were distant and longing. And when you look at me, she sang, with those stars in your eyes. I could waltz across Texas with you. Of being in her arms. Head on her shoulder, face in her long, dark hair, dancing around the living room. Kevin was at school. His dad at work. He was alone with her. My heartaches and troubles are just up and gone She stopped singing to look at herself in the large, gold-trimmed mirror on the wall. I hardly recognize you anymore, she said. Where have the last ten years gone?
She leaned closer to the mirror and put her fingers on her cheekbones, softly stretching her freckled, brown skin away from her nose. Even if these were due to laughing, only the passage of time could have created them. Her long hair was still jet-black. She always said it was her best feature and she took the greatest pains to keep it looking like it did.
She always brushed it, and she had a habit of flipping it over her shoulder when she spoke to people—especially men. This was a characteristic of her personality his dad always picked on her about. Sometimes he would be mean and accusatory, especially now that she did it exclusively around other men. But his dad could be just as bad around other women.
There were plenty of females that caught his eye. It seemed that any woman under the age of thirty—even the ugly ones—provoked longing glances from him. His mom was still pretty. His mom stepped back from the mirror. That little tart! She walked over to the window and peeked out. She started talking to herself again. She started massaging her temples in a circular motion. She exhaled deeply.
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I just know it. Who are you talking to, Judith? He was always the first one to the dining room. His dad flipped his gray tie over his shoulder and, very business-like, picked up his fork and began eating. So many years of being an insurance adjuster had turned him into a machine. In his line of work, having to hear about the countless tragedies of policyholders everyday car wrecks, illnesses, homicides, suicides , some adjusters broke down and quit because the overwhelming brutality of human tragedy was just too great.
Some, however, became cold and assimilated their personalities to the job. His dad had been absorbed into the machine of Stratton Life and Auto long ago. Kevin ran down the hall, almost trampling over Donnie. I think this is a wonderful approach and in the hands of this very skilled musician the instrument itself is singing and dancing.
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