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Head in bag.

They'd been out back in the garden, transplanting a cholla cactus. Her father called it the front, and on this score Stephanie sided with her mother: front was the sliding glass doors and porch that gave way to the beach and the Pacific Ocean. Back was the cramped fenced-in yard set just off the Pacific Coast Highway, even though it was by this way the three of them came and went. Behind the lattice fence--high, to keep out the rush of near constant traffic--was the muddle of a desert garden that was her father's project. An ocotillo next to a barrel cactus? her mother had scoffed. Stephanie felt it her duty to offer moral support, so there she was, lining the hole they'd dug with gravel while her father loosened the soil at the edge of the cholla's pot.

She looked at her father's belly, mounding and spilling beneath the white tee-shirt as he worked, at his freckled arms, and thought how very un-desert-like he was. He offered Stephanie a pair of thick gloves. She shook her head and he said nothing. He put on his own gloves and they picked up the cholla with cushions of balled-up newspaper and eased the cactus in. Stephanie held the cholla straight while her father filled in with his shovel and tamped down the soil with his foot. Her skin was darker than his, but it was a tan with a blush to it, not the earth-skin of her mother. In Stephanie there was water to spare. She was all curve and give, not the edge and angle of her mother. Who would ever describe her as whip-smart, razor-sharp? Though she was, she was certain of it; and her mother seemed to think so, too, often enough.

They finished in the garden, her father wondering aloud if her mother might need help in the kitchen. He tended to her like he tended to his garden, in a fumbling, kind way. Stephanie washed up at the outdoor faucet, taking care, as she always did, to use as little water as possible--here, at desert's edge. She had pricked herself, and that upset her. She had seen her mother handle a cactus, no gloves, no problem.

In the kitchen her mother was draining pasta when they walked in. She wore Clippers shorts that fell below her knees, and her red Miles Davis tee-shirt; and over her head she wore a brown paper bag. Steam rose all around the bag and to Stephanie the effect was absurd and poetic. Her mother was managing just fine in spite of the bag; as if it was an act she'd been born to perform. Stephanie found herself smiling. Her father frowned. He was struggling with how best to respond. Stephanie felt for him; but she enjoyed watching him strain against the moment.


"Oh, hi guys. Dinner in two," her mother said, like this was any day. She tossed the pasta in the colander with one hand and with the other stirred the sauce. Bolognese, it looked like.

"Claudia," her father said, again.

Her mother turned around now, peering at them through dimesized holes too small to see into. There was a small breathing hole at the nose, a slit at the mouth. The steam had wilted the bag, lending her the melting sadness of a clown. "Alan," she said, pointing a redtipped wooden spoon at him. "And you're Stephanie, right? Now that we've all been properly introduced, maybe somebody could set the table while I finish up."

Stephanie put herself in motion. Focus on simple physical objects: knife, fork, napkin. Repeat.

"Are we having a costume party?" her father asked. "I didn't get the memo." He was trying to be funny and light, but it came out brittle.

Stephanie held a fork, and pressed her pricked finger lightly against the tines. Her mother mixed the pasta and the bolognese in a large bowl.


Stephanie pressed harder.

"From the neck up I'm bland as a paper bag," came her mother's voice finally, disembodied, as if from another room. "What you see is what you get." Here we go, thought Stephanie, and stared at the cluster of red pricks on her finger.

Later it occurred to Stephanie this all had something to do with the day two months ago her parents reorganized the study they shared. Her father's venture capital firm was expanding, and in a manner entirely consistent with the logic of her family, that meant he spent more time at home. He had a new office manager he entrusted with day-to-day details, freeing him to stay home and do research. Her parents' schedules weaved around one another in a way that mostly seemed to work, her father getting up long before sunrise, her mother staying up well after midnight. They mumbled as they passed one another like guards exchanging shifts. But her father needed more shelf space, and Stephanie remembered the dead look on her mother's face as she carted several boxes of college books (Classics, literature, astronomy) downstairs to the storage room. She took off on her motorcycle and disappeared into the Mojave until nightfall. For a few days she holed up in the library from open to close, was a ghost at home. Then she was fine.

The three of them ate a quiet dinner. No one seemed happy to be there, her father least of all, but no one attempted a quick get-away. It was one of many things not done, or done a certain way, in the Mendelson household. You sat at the table and ate slowly and talked or didn't talk, and then you rinsed your plate and returned to the table to talk or not talk some more. You certainly did not eat while watching TV. There was a set somewhere in the living room, behind a stack of books, but it was hooked up only for Presidential elections and other world-changing events.

Her father ate grimly. For now he'd decided to wait this one out. Stephanie was appalled and fascinated: by the spectacle of her mother eating dinner with a paper bag over her head; by the silence that surrounded it all. Her mother was still getting the hang of it and sometimes her fork scraped the bag and the sound was like dry leaves on a sidewalk. Stephanie looked back and forth at her parents and waited for something to happen. They ate and sat and listened to public radio and nothing happened, and finally her father got up and left the room.

Stephanie stayed and helped with the dishes, and then sat at the table half-reading her history textbook while her mother drank coffee and scribbled notes for her next LA Weekly column. Several minutes went by without Stephanie turning a page and her mother put down her pen and looked across the table. "We're stuck with this bag for now, we'll have to make the best of it, Stephanie." We. Stephanie felt a small thrill. "Paper or plastic, they ask you it every day. Let's see what it's all about."

The next day she and her father went to church together, as they always did Sundays; and her father suggested they have lunch and go for a long walk on the beach, give her mother some time. Stephanie couldn't talk about God with her mother. It wasn't like she and her father talked a lot about God. But they shared a space in which it was safe to wonder about such things, even if you didn't talk about them.

Today there was a lot Stephanie wondered about. The drum of the surf loosed something in her.

"Dad, how do you know when a certain thing is part of God's plan, and you should accept it, and when it's something you should maybe try to change? "

"That's a good one," her father said, squinting. He never wore sunglasses. "If it's a hill, that's one thing. But if God has set a mountain before me, I assume he's telling me to take a different path."

"Don't they say faith moves mountains?" She was joking when she said it.

"I'd have to see one get up and walk."

"Mountains do move, Dad." And now, the thought of this massive shape, god-like, traversing the skyline, moved her. "Only so slow we can't see them."

Her father smiled, shook his head. You could take a thing only so far with him.

Back at the house her father said he'd sit outside for a while. Stephanie washed her feet and headed in. The salt air fresh in her hair, the burn of sun tingling her cheeks, the sight of her mother seated before the computer wearing the paper bag didn't yet fill her with unease. It was one of those quirky mom things she took a secret pride in. The blue glow of the screen peeked around the edges of the bag, a dark silhouette in the dim light her mother preferred. Stephanie lingered in the doorway and thought vaguely of Halloween, a day her mother was always at her best.

"And how are you today, daughter of mine?" Her mother had the uncanny hearing of someone who paced the house alone at odd hours.

"Church was good," Stephanie said, easing into the room a step. "Dad and I had lunch and went for a walk on the beach. How are things with you? "

"Never better. Come here, look at this," her mother said, pointing to a graph on the screen.

Over the week, Stephanie and her father would become familiar with a rotation of paper bags. Now, her mother was wearing her writing bag, a two-inch slit at the eyes where an industrial worker might place a protective visor. She leaned toward the screen, the bag pulled snug against her face and her green eyes emerged briefly from shadow.

"You know how I ask for paper bags at the market? No mas, mja. They seem so wholesome, especially the ones at the co-op with that dark fiber mixed in. They are nice to the touch, they smell good, they make that great parachute puff when you open them up. Look at this. Life Cycle Analysis. When you add everything up, they're a disaster for the environment. Even worse than plastic."

Paper or plastic. Stephanie heard the question so many times it barely registered. Her mother heard it in a different way, had been hearing it all along. Mr. Leonard read the class a passage from Invisible Man about hearing things on the lower frequencies, which made Stephanie think of human beings and their hearts as a kind of radio, and of her mother as a very particular kind of radio. Stephanie hoped she had some of that wiring; but also hoped she could turn the radio down, or off, in a way her mother could not.

Stephanie's friends said she was always complaining about her mother. You didn't get far criticizing a mother who picked you up at school on a motorcycle; who wrote articles for LA Weekly her teachers mentioned in class; who spoke nearly fluent Spanish with the janitor while she waited for you to finish drama club. She must know that, Stephanie thought. It was part of her plan. It was fun to ride off on the back of the Ducati, to speed down the coast from Malibu High back to the house on the beach. It was also embarrassing, because when you came right down to it, her mother should just grow up. It was even more embarrassing that the older boys on the sports teams whistled when she pulled up, and that she flirted with them. She was always stopping by. Not just to pick Stephanie up, but for PTA events, or simply to get to know her teachers. She actually socialized with a couple of them, if you could imagine that.

Once every spring, near the end of school, her parents hosted a big thank-you party for all her teachers. "Front-line soldiers, Stephanie. It's the least we can do for them--they deserve medals." Stephanie would dread the day but it ended up being kind of fun, last year especially. Stephanie hung back and took her time cleaning up in the wide airy kitchen, the French doors swung open so she could keep an eye on the deck. The grown-ups drank Mexican beer and scooped into the seven-layer taco salad she'd helped build, and her mother told stories. She told stories with her entire body, her rust-brown hair whipping behind her. A group of teachers stood around and laughed and even clapped. Her father smiled and soaked it all up. At the end of a story her mother caught Stephanie's eye, holding the look as though everyone else had vanished, and motioned her out onto the deck. Stephanie had just turned fifteen and her mother shared some of her beer. Her father frowned as Claudia handed Stephanie the bottle. For that afternoon they became a team, the two of them, ganging up on her father, teasing him.

At school Stephanie forgot about the paper bag, or if she didn't exactly forget, it seemed it might just go away, the new week fresh and clean like the blackboards in class on a Monday morning. So her heart sank a little that afternoon when she walked into the study and again found the paper bag silhouetted against the computer screen.

"To make paper bags in the first place, they take wood chips and grind them and boil them down for hours. Look at all the chemicals they use." She didn't even say hi, she just went straight into it.

"That's nice, Mom. I've got a monologue to study and a story to write. Let me know if you want help with dinner." Her father was downstairs on the couch, still in his pajamas, reviewing a thick report he'd been buried in since she left for school. "Can't you do something?" she asked. "I've been doing something since four in the morning," he said, not looking up. Be that way. Both of you.

That night, her mother turned to her at the dinner table and in perfect deadpan normalcy asked, "So, how was school today, Stephanie?" Her mother's voice--rich, finely grained, jazzed--emerging from the blank inquiry of her paper bag face struck Stephanie as unexpectedly hilarious. The resentment of the afternoon fell away. Her mother had a genius for such moments: tossed-off, casual weirdness that would never fade.

"School was fine. None of my teachers were wearing paper bags over their heads," she said, grinning across the table at her father, who was not amused.

"None is singular. None was. More sauce, Alan?" Today, pesto. Her mother was not much of a cook, or chose not to be. But she knew her sauces and could rip off a week's worth in an afternoon when she was on a roll. "Stephanie, you've always known your parents were a little different. Your mother, at any rate. It'll build character, just you wait and see."

"Speaking of character, are you going to pick me up from drama tomorrow like that? "

"You know, just right now, playing chauffeur isn't my bag. Ha!" She laughed and again Stephanie flashed a big smile at her father. "What do you say, Alan?"

"I can pick you up, Steffie," he said, looking at his wife.

"Teamwork, that's the ticket. I've always said that good teamwork is the key to a successful marriage. And I'll say it again: Good teamwork is the key to a successful marriage."

Stephanie helped with the dishes and after asked her mother how the research was going.

"It's complicated."

Stephanie was wiping down the table where her mother sat drinking coffee, her notes beside her. The three of them ate at an old Craftsman table pushed to the far end of the wide open kitchen. The dining room table was covered in books and cleared off only occasionally for guests. Books spilled as well from the kitchen shelves around them, broken up by Mexican folk art, stones from the beach, an old cassette player. Her mother would sit there for hours listening to Coltrane and Monk while she read and drank coffee and scribbled notes and ideas on a legal pad. At dinner she would often reach out and grab a book and start reading a poem, or follow a word through the thesaurus. Those were good nights.

"A lot of it is weight, volume, transportation costs. A thousand plastic bags weigh a little under twenty pounds and stack just over four inches; the same in paper is over a hundred-fifty pounds and stacks forty-six inches. That adds up to higher transportation costs, more petroleum, more pollution. Then there's fiber degradation."

"Fiber degradation?" Stephanie had to smile.

"Every time paper is recycled the fibers get shorter. Paper for shopping bags is from a high-grade mix, but even then they have to introduce long fibers by adding virgin pulp. The sorting to get that mix is a nightmare, mostly by hand. The labor costs here are so high they end up shipping a lot of it to Asia to be sorted there. More transportation, more petroleum. It's a mess."

Stephanie held up the tattered sponge. "Fiber degradation," she said, and they laughed together.

The next day her father picked her up after drama, as he sometimes did when her mother was not wearing a paper bag over her head. It was a different thing altogether, riding home in the Buick, with the plush seats, the windows up and the air conditioning on. Stephanie was more comfortable with her father, closer to him, she thought. But this was not like being on the bike, her hands tight on her mother's narrow bony hips.

"No change with the bag? "

At school, she had found herself mouthing fiber degradation. She wondered why her father couldn't find the humor in the whole thing; but it weighed on him, and she tried to sound sympathetic.

"No change."

He packed so much weariness into these two words. Her father was an open book. He was either sad or joyful, you never had to play detective to figure out which. Stephanie felt bad, and wondered about her parents, together, at the end of the day.

"Dad, does she wear that thing at night? "

Her father sighed.

"She has a different one, but yes. It has an open square in the middle. I heard her get up the first night and cut it out. It makes a lot of noise when she turns in bed. In the morning she looks like this weird kind of astronaut. Like in those movies where they take a long voyage and go to sleep for a few months. I can't figure it."

Stephanie peered into the study. Her mother was seated before her computer, but the monitor was dark and the outline of the bag melted into it. "Mom, can you talk? "

"Talk? With my favorite daughter? Always."

"I'm your only daughter."

"And my favorite one, too." Was she trying to be funny? No, her voice sounded as weary as her father's had.

Stephanie moved closer and stopped a few feet behind her mother, who sat still, hands in her lap, as if in prayer. "Mom, what would Mr. Leonard, who is always telling me how lucky I am to have a mother like you--what would he say if he could see you now? "

"He'd say, Stephanie, why does your mother have a paper bag over her head? He'd say, Stephanie, see what happens when you hide your mother's medication? I don't know, hon. What's your point."

Stephanie pulled up a chair at a slight distance. They sat quietly. Her mother's breath hummed as it struck the paper bag. Stephanie thought of monks chanting softly. Her mother was lacking something, it wasn't just a matter of putting on a paper bag and taking it off.

"It's mush, Stephanie."

"What, Mom."

"My head. I just can't think sometimes. I used to be able to think at will, and I can't even remember when that stopped happening."

Stephanie moved closer and her mother reached out and took her hand.

"On my good days I'm reviewing avant-garde theater nobody sees, or doing profiles of homeless people. This week it's paper or plastic. We're trashing the planet, it's important. And I'm going to get to the bottom of it. But still."

The next day the general weariness of the household caught up with Stephanie. She felt drugged as she readied for school. Her mother was asleep, her father was printing out a report and talking on the phone to someone in New York or London; no one noticed her leave. She was on her own, and barely made the bus.

Stephanie tarried after English, hoping to grab an extra moment with Mr. Leonard. Only instead of asking her how her story was going, or what play drama club should put on next term, he asked about her mother. What was the new column?

"Paper or plastic, that is the question," Stephanie said.

"The existential dilemma of our time, I look forward to it." He wore expensive shirts, untucked. His hands were in his pockets. He should be in a night club.

"Oh, we all do," Stephanie said, hefting her stack of books.

"Tell Claudia to give me a call, will you Stephanie?" Mr. Leonard said as she was leaving. Claudia. He did that sometimes. It was all kinds of wrong. "When we have our next face to face, I'll be sure to pass Claudia the message," she said. Mr. Leonard put his hands up and she left him like that.

During her free period Stephanie stopped in at the office of the school paper, which she'd just joined. Jake, the senior editor, was the only one there. He never brought up her mother, and she respected him, infinitely, for that courtesy. Stephanie could tell all the same he wanted to meet her, and now was a perfect time to invite him over. But what could she say? Jake, stop by today after school if you're free. Oh, wait, let me call ahead and see if my mother's still got a paper bag over her head. We're having a weird week at the Mendelson house. Oh, I'm sorry, it's almost always weird week. But it'll build character, just you wait and see.

She pretended to be in a hurry, got out of there quick.

In the study the monitor was on and her mother was typing. "Mom, can you take a look at my story?" She wouldn't say yes, not with her fingers flying like that.

"Stephanie. I'm thinking. Please give me some time to myself." She kept typing, hardly missed a beat.

"Mom you've had all day."

"I didn't sleep well and I've only been up a couple of hours. I'm just getting going here. Please."

"Maybe you'd sleep better if you weren't wearing a paper bag."

The typing stopped. "My bedroom attire is none of your business. Please, honey, I'm not asking for much."

Neither was she. Ask was barely a part of her vocabulary. "Well, I'm sorry that having one child who honestly doesn't seem like too much trouble throws such a wrench into your routine."

Her mother winced. Stephanie could sense it through the bag--anyone else would have missed it.

"Apology accepted. I'll talk to you later."

Apology? Her mother typed on. Stephanie reached for the door knob, pulled and slammed the door shut as hard as she could. Opened it, slammed it again. When she opened it her mother had stopped typing. "You know, I can go on strike, too," Stephanie said.

Her mother was silent and still a moment before wheeling around in her chair, the paper bag rustling. "Let's explore this one, shall we? "

Stephanie lost three inches.

"Being on strike involves a work stoppage. A basic prerequisite for a work stoppage, it would seem to me, is to be engaged in some manner of work in the first place. So that one may subsequently decline to do so.

"You do not work, Stephanie. In school you are preparing yourself admirably for a time in the future when you may indeed work. Until that day arrives you are in an economic holding pattern. You spend other people's money. Namely, your father's.

"And the kicker? That goes for me, too. I spent years studying the ideas of people who walked the earth two thousand years ago. Fascinating, useless knowledge. I still read more books in a year than your father will in a lifetime. I'm smarter than he is and frankly it isn't even close. But when it comes to the bottom line he's the only one in this house that matters."

Her voice caught and in the terrible silence Stephanie couldn't breathe.

"Look at me, honey." Her voice was naked, and Stephanie thought she might take off the bag; just might do it; and it, this, would be over, for now. "Virginia Woolf wrote about having a room of one's own. I've got a corner. What can I tell you, I fucked up, I misread the lay of the land. But I can't go on strike and neither can you. Maybe you think this paper bag stunt of mine is a way of going on strike. Don't be stupid. Don't misread the lay of the land. This is not a call to arms on my head, it's a white flag. Don't be stupid, honey."

Stephanie backed away. There was no victory in there, for anyone. She felt as if a roof had caved in. She remembered to breathe and headed up to her room, up the stairs that also served as bookshelves, oversized art and reference books wedged between the rails. When she was a girl she and her mother would take an hour moving up the stairs at night, one step at a time, Stephanie on one knee and an open book on the other.

Stephanie stood at her open window and took in the salty bite of the air and looked out at the ocean, a bruised purple in the overcast afternoon. Pacific--appeasing, of a peaceful nature. She knew the dictionary inside and out; she wasn't stupid. She should pray. She looked at the pricks on her finger, gone purple, too. She curled up in bed and burrowed into her comforter as if disappearing into her very own paper bag.

A knock on the door woke her. Her mother, still in bag. "Your father will be home soon. I was going to make linguine. White clam sauce or red? "

She had hit bottom on sauce. "Either or."

"Was there something you wanted to show me? A story?" Maybe there was a sadness to her voice.

"I lied, Mom. I've got nothing. I lied, OK?"

When her mother had retreated Stephanie went to her desk and wrote the word astronaut on a blank sheet of paper. She still had to come up with a story for class. She thought of what her father had said and at that moment it seemed entirely plausible: her mother was an astronaut. She was an alien who traveled other galaxies at night, which is why she was often so tired the next day and had to sleep in. Or she was a time traveler from the future, weaving in and out of history and dimension like she wove through traffic on her bike. It would account for so much.

"Mom, can I have a friend over for dinner? It's been a while," Stephanie said that night over the linguine. "This party's getting stale with just the three of us."

Her father smiled a little. Her mother said nothing, locked up tight in her paper bag world.

"Oh, and Mr. Leonard would like you to call him. Have Claudia call me, he said. I think he wants a date with you." A laugh spilled from her, uncomfortable; but she was not going to let this house wear her down, no sir. "Can married people go on dates? What do you think, Dad?"

He gave her a look, the kind she expected from her mother. "I like Zach," he said, not quite to either of them. "I really do. Let's have him over for dinner. Tomorrow. I'll grill salmon." The paper bag rustled but no words came out. "I think that was a yes from your mother. Why don't we call him up now while we're thinking about it. While we're all seeing eye to eye."

Stephanie dropped her fork to her plate in a clatter. "Dad, that wasn't my point."

"Hey, don't get mad at me. I'm on your side."

"There are no sides here," Stephanie said, standing. "We're a triangle, everyone's their own side."

She tossed her napkin up in the air and watched it float down. "There's my white flag, Mom." From behind the paper bag, her mother seemed to acknowledge her. "You guys settle this on your own."

On the porch Stephanie kept the door open a little so she could hear what was going on in the kitchen. At least they were talking. Now and then a phrase rose over the easy night surf: Method parent, her father; I believe you had some say in the matter, her mother.

"Bad news on plastic, kids," her mother announced as she brought out dinner the next night, pasta for the sixth day in a row. She was strangely energized again. Stephanie looked at her mother and then back at her father as if she were watching a play. "The same problems with fiber degradation as with paper. And it goes from bad to worse. Cross-contamination. All those different polymers for all those different-numbered plastics? You guessed it, incompatible, big time." She grabbed her legal pad. "Even fifty parts per million cross-contamination, 0.005% of the wrong plastic, and you have significant debasement of the resin stream.

"We're screwed either way, really. The government has to distribute free canvas bags and tax people a dollar for every shopping bag they use, paper or plastic. It's the only way."

No one said anything.

"The parmesan is freshly grated."

Her father pushed his plate away, canned tomato sauce sloshing over the side. "Claudia, when are you going to take off that bag?"

"When I'm good and ready, that's when."

"You know, Mom," Stephanie said, half-heartedly, "you can't keep your head in the sand forever."

"A poorly chosen metaphor, hon. And a tired one."

"OK, how about this? "

Stephanie sat up straight.

"Dad said you look like an astronaut in the morning. He's right. You're an astronaut experimenting with time travel and you're looking for a time and a world where you aren't a mother, where you don't have me. Well guess what? You're never going to wake up in that world, you're always going to wake up in this one. You're stuck with it, you're stuck with us, you're stuck with me."

Her mother stood and grabbed the plate she'd hardly touched and tossed the food in the trash and stood at the sink, running the water. Her father looked pained. "Claudia, take off the bag," he said, his voice soft now. "Take off the bag and we'll go for a walk."

Stephanie was up, approaching the sink. "I didn't hear everything last night but I heard enough. You never answered his question, Mom. Why did you ever want to have me?" Her father tried to wave her off. She barely saw him. "One more question and the witness can step down, isn't that what you say? You're under oath, Mom. Why?"

When her mother turned the faucet off, water continued to drain down the sink in a thinning trickle, and at the end it was almost like big leaves dripping after a sudden rain. She dried her hands and turned and took off the paper bag and began folding it neatly. Her face had been hot under the bag, and damp strands of hair clung to her flushed cheeks. Under her eyes, seeming small as they squinted in the light, dark circles glistened. She leaned back against the counter as if she needed to catch her breath. She looked at Stephanie, her face soft and moist and melting. "Well done, mja. You know, if we're lucky..."

The thought trailed off and she finished folding the bag, absorbed by the simple task. Her mother, minutes before imposing, ridiculous--now unsteady on her feet before them; a woman who hadn't left the house for a week. "Maybe we'll get this right someday." She stowed the bag in the bin and muttered something about tomorrow being Friday, recycling day. She grabbed two beers from the refrigerator and stepped almost daintily around Stephanie, who found herself dimly recalling a phrase from a sixties activist her mother liked to quote, about walking the earth softly. Sometimes her mother missed the earth altogether. "I need a nap," her mother said. "You guys will be alright." Stephanie and her father watched her go. "I'm going to take that walk now," her father said. Stephanie would stay and clean up. It was understood.

The next morning Stephanie woke to the smell of pancakes. She and her father sat at the table and her mother served them. A sit-down breakfast, all very formal. Stephanie and her father complimented her mother on the pancakes. Her mother--freshly showered, dressed in gray sweatpants and a light-blue Oxford--stood nibbling pancake scraps and drinking coffee. Her father had to head downtown for a meeting, he'd give Stephanie a ride. As they were leaving, her mother gave Stephanie a snack in a small brown paper bag, pointing to the bag and mugging a comic smile as she handed it to her. Stephanie took the bag and knew what to do. She turned it over and emptied it onto the table. She took the plastic-wrapped piece of banana bread and stashed it in her purse. She tore the small brown paper bag in half, in half again, in half yet once more, and let the pieces drop to the table, holding her mother's green desert eyes the whole time. Her father looked on, dismayed. Her mother laughed. She would.

In the garage they got into the car, his big, un-desert-like boat of a car, and her father started to say something. "Don't even," Stephanie said. Yes, she knew.
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Author:Doyle, Scott
Article Type:Short story
Date:Dec 22, 2009
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