Babylon And Other Stories by Alix Ohlin

Babylon And Other Stories
Buy eBook Price: $9.99
  • Publication Date: 2008
  • Category/Subject: Fiction
  • Formats: EPUB
  • MNETID: 39918877

Excerpt

The King of KohlrabiIt was a summer of disasters. I was sixteen and just starting to relax fully into my vacation when my father took my mother and me out to dinner at the New Chinatown and told us over the Kung Pao chicken that he'd fallen in love with his law partner, Margaret, and the two of them were "going away for a while" to "sort things out." While he was talking, he twisted a corner of the tablecloth into a ring in his right hand. My mother, leaning back in the corner of the booth, said, "Oh, for crying out loud." She sounded annoyed. She was drinking a Mai Tai, as usual, and had given me the umbrella, also as usual. Tonight's was blue and I twirled it between my fingers. I was always pleasantly surprised that it really opened and closed, just like a real umbrella. I stuck it into a piece of my chicken and moved some baby carrots and water chestnuts into an arrangement around it, like small, edible patio furniture. No one said anything. I stared at the couple at the table next to us, who were sharing a Volcano, holding hands over the blue flame in the center of it. They saw me looking and loosed their hands as if they were embarrassed. "You know how much I love you both," said my dad. My mother and I didn't say anything to this. Margaret had been at our house for Christmas that year. She was a quiet, large-boned woman with a wide, dark mouth and I'd always thought she was a lesbian. "I thought she was a lesbian," I said. "Well, she's not," said my dad. I drove home from the New Chinatown. I had just gotten my driver's license but my parents wouldn't let me take the car anywhere without them. My mom always sat in the front passenger seat, making a big show out of white-knuckling the armrest and covering her eyes when she thought I was being reckless. My father sat in the back seat and whistled. He was a good whistler, and that night he did an up-tempo rendition of "I Get a Kick Out of You." I looked at him in the rearview mirror and wondered if he was so happy with Margaret the lesbian that he couldn't stop being happy, even for just a few minutes, even for us. Then a guy came out of nowhere in a red Toyota Corolla, turning in front of me off a side street with a stop sign. I don't know what he was thinking. "Aggie!" yelled my mother, gripping the dashboard. "It's not my fault," I said quickly, and braked hard, too hard I guess, and the car skidded to the left; the right front fender of our car collided with the side of the Toyota. The driver, steam pouring from under his hood, got out and started walking around the dark street, clutching his arm and howling. Next to me my mother began to cry in a dry, sharp way, jaggedly inhaling. These two noises, my mother's and the driver's, were the only two sounds, the night otherwise quiet. We all sat there breathing. My father whistled the first few notes of "Be Careful, It's My Heart." This was the second disaster. The next day my father packed a suitcase and left for Santa Fe, where he and Margaret had sublet an apartment for the summer. She came to pick him up in her Saab and they drove away together, leaving our crumpled Honda in the driveway. I watched from the bedroom window but didn't say good-bye. As soon as they were out of sight, my mother walked into my room without knocking and plopped herself down on the bed. "Things are going to be different around here now that your father's gone, Aggie," she said [...]
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