Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sunday Nights.

On Sunday evenings, fresh out of the bath and in my nightgown, I'd saunter down to the basement and to Dad, who was usually hunched over his drafting table, measuring, drawing lines, writing meticulously on plans, whistling to music on the radio. A cigarette burned in the ashtray and a cup of tepid coffee was at arm's reach. I'd hover next to him and watch him work, hypnotized by his confidence and flair while working on drawings. He bristled with energy.

"You brush your teeth?" he'd ask without looking at me.

"Yeeeesssssss," I'd answer, sometimes lying, sometimes not.

He'd place his pencil on the table, turn to me and say, "Let's see."

I'd pull my lips back over my teeth, a rictus, and Dad would grip my chin firmly. With his thumbnail, he'd scrape my teeth and inspect his thumbnail. "Very good," he'd say, turning back to the drawing board. "Did you finish your homework?"

"Yeeeeessssss," I'd answer, dreading what came next.

He'd stand up and stomp up the stairs to the kitchen. I followed after him, bracing myself for the inspection. He'd sit down at the table and shuffle my papers, looking over my homework. I was always amazed at the speed with which he checked my work, which seemed so hard to me. He would grab a pencil and check the incorrect answers with a big, sharp checkmark that indented paper three pages underneath.

"Do those again," he'd order, and stomp downstairs.

I'd do them again.

Stomp, stomp, stomp. Shuffle, shuffle. "Okay. This looks good, except for the math. See this, this and this-- they're still wrong."


"Just do it. I'll stay here while you do."

He'd get up from the table, wander into another room or get a glass of water. He'd smoke. He'd pace. Minutes would pass while pressure built in my head, struggling to line up neat columns of numbers, nervous he'd catch me counting on my fingers. He'd stand behind my chair, arms stretched out on either side of my head, his palms pressed to the table. I could hear him breathing loudly through his nose. I was trapped under his blue gaze, adding numbers slowly, uncertainly, my writing shaky and sloppy and the paper bruised with the smeared erasures that had scrubbed the paper thin.

"Okay. That's good," he'd say, "But you need to recopy it. It needs to look neat."


"Just do it. I'll stay here while you do."


the Redhead said...

OMG. So embarrassed. That's Gant and me about three times a week, minus the cig. Right down to the "I'll stay here while you do it". The teeth and everything. The poor child, I feel so sorry for him and for little you.... but not sorry enough to quit doing it.

Gina said...

That's a picture of a patient Daddy caring for his little girl.