The Reaction

As if her teeth were on fire. She clawed and whimpered. Hives sprouted in the nook of her right arm. McCormick wiped the peanut butter off her lips. Julie called the doctor. A modest dose of antihistamine seemed to end the crisis. Julie left for work. She was presenting to all of North American sales.

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McCormick took June to art class, by the end of which her movements were slow and wobbly, more animal than human. Sometimes extreme cuteness made him think of her that way. Today danger did. Her breathing was shallow. McCormick saddled up the stroller and prayed.

The Marriage of Safety and Sanity

SIDS he warded against by keeping the room at 68 and the crib next to their bed. For six months, Dr. Minh said. Julie moved them to the loft after five, leaving June the master.

Then there was that second nanny, who randomly turned off her phone and often returned late from the playground. “You think I’m going to kidnap your baby?” she asked. Julie authorized him to fire her that same night.

Now, to reduce the worry list again, he offers June a nibble of peanut-butter toast. Stay calm, he thinks. In five minutes you’ll feel so much better.

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The Seven Chinese Sisters

“Why didn’t the dragon just take what he came for? Doesn’t the soup look more delicious than the baby sister?”

McCormick beams.

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June lays her hand on the page, her fingers spreading, pink, blue, pink. Julie let her get them done.

“The dragon’s tears run down the mountain and they are the river.”

McCormick’s eyes go salty. Somehow this world earned June. He closes the book for bedtime though sunset is just underway.

She climbs the back of the chair, looks into the courtyard. The neighbor’s tulips. The magical light. “They would be more pretty if they were really ours.”

The Rewards

June dancing as she dresses, shaking her butt, rolling her shoulder. The homeroom teacher says it’s ok, girls should be happy when they look in the mirror.

Jenka arrives. Recently they have cut her hours in half.  “Goot Morning,” she says as always, but last night her mother was struck crossing the street. Unlicensed driver, one-year-old in back. When Jenka came a decade ago her husband was promptly shot dead. “People don’t care about people,” she tells them.

June displaying a string of boxes, flags, beach balls. Pretty, drawn to her workbook’s specs. “Sticker worthy?” she asks. “Totally,” McCormick says.

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The People Upstairs

“If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?”

McCormick imagines perfect pitch, abdominal muscles, the return of love’s first moments, a round of golf with Pops lifted from the grave.

He says, “Just you and Momma, that’s all I want and I’ve got you.”

June says, “Well I want a beach house like Whistler’s. With a pool.”

McCormick never winces at her privilege or its limits. The waiter leaves a mango smoothie by their deck chairs. She swims for it.

He thinks, if the renters in 5B lay a thicker carpet I might get some sleep.

 

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