“Honey!” Amy bellowed from the kitchen. “Will you call Dani down? I’m ready to dish up.” This announcement was followed by an explosive clattering of pans.
Peter’s head was nearly walled in on both sides of his small desk, surrounded with his senior students’ midterm papers, two enormous stacks teetering on the ends of his desk. He’d been at it for several hours, and it showed. Though he was weary and, like in all his years of teaching, frustrated by his students’ general lack of enthusiasm, he was so proud of Danielle. Her pretty face smiled at him, from the mahogany frame next to his desk lamp. Now in junior high, he could see her ability to creatively think through complex issues growing daily. What really pleased him, though, was her willingness—even boldness—to ask challenging questions of her teachers.
Smiling at the thought of his daughter intellectually—but graciously, he was certain—poking holes in her teachers’ assertions, he slowly sat back in his old, creaking office chair and laid his bifocals in the small remaining open area of the desk. Arching into the chair, he leaned back, stretched his arms over his head and rocked back and forth a few times. Finally, he pushed his fingers through his thinning, salt and pepper hair—more salt now than he wished—and hollered back to his wife, “Okay!”
Trudging up the stairs to Danielle’s room, he realized he’d been so focused on grading papers that he hadn’t heard her come in from her first route collection. He was proud of his daughter for her spunk. Most of the parents in their neighborhood considered it strange that not only was a girl delivering their news, but that her parents encouraged her! But Amy had made a strong case to him about Dani being up to the challenge, and frankly, Peter couldn’t think of a good reason why his little girl couldn’t do what boys her age were doing. “Really! Why not? It’s the sixties , right, with equality of the sexes and races.”
He reached her bedroom door and paused to knock. There was no response. He knocked again. Still no response. The door was ajar.
“Dani, can I come in?”
Still no answer. She must be listening to her Beatles album with headphones again.
He pushed the door open and could see the evidence that she’d not come back yet, since her books and homework were tossed on the bed the way they always were when she came home from school. Dani wasted no time getting to the next thing she wanted to do.
He leaned over the upstairs banister and yelled towards the kitchen. “Ame…she’s not upstairs in her room! Come to think of it, I don’t remember her coming back from her route yet, leastways not through the front door. Is she in back?”
Another small explosion of pans erupted from the kitchen. Amy came out, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel, and looked up the stairs. “Hm. She’s not in back. I didn’t think it would take this long for her to complete her collection. Maybe someone’s being difficult—probably the Smithers. They live on the corner—the house with that big maple, the next street over. Will you go check on her, Pete? I’m about ready to dish up.”
Peter could see the anxiety on his wife’s face. He realized there was probably a similar look on his face.
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