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I just dropped by my parents’ (to return a disc of 24 episodes that my brother made for me – “illegally, of course,” in his words) to discover a strange state of affairs.

First, my dad is in Costa Rica. Which I knew about, but the strangeness of it still strikes me. My pale, red-headed, easily burned father is fishing in Costa Rica. My three grown cousins invited him on their annual trip in lieu of their dad, my uncle, who died last year.

My dad had to get a passport for the trip, his first ever. Good thing he started applying for one early, because he had a lot of trouble convincing the government that he exists. Or that he is who he says he is. There was some mix-up with his birth certificate not being official. He ended of having to get the only other surviving member of his generation or older, blood-related, to notarize something confirming his identity. Good thing he still had a living blood-relative, his aunt who’s twelve years older than him and relatively hardy, compared to the rest of the family (well, my great-grandmother lived into her 90s and lived at home till the end, but the rest have perished relatively early).

Second, my mom, who had been looking forward to a nice quiet house while my dad was away (my brother, you could say, works at being neither seen nor heard, and my sister has a house with friends), was woken up at three the other morning. She heard some splashy noises in the bathroom, and figuring my brother would only be up if he were sick, she knocked on the door.

“It’s me,” Lucy says. “I’m just taking a bath.”

Apparently she had stopped by, watched a movie, had a snack, and decided that a bath was in order. Why she couldn’t do all this at her house, I have no idea. I promised my mom that I would never show up at 3 am to take a bath.

At the moment, I’m trying (perhaps not quite my hardest) to read Criss Cross and see what the Newbery committee saw. Last time I tried reading it, I got as far as page 16 and this paragraph:

The guitarist on the stage, tuning his guitar, let pure drops of sound fall into the noisy room, making the pockets of quiet. The drops fell into the middle of conversations and hushed them. The drops of sound fell on an unmoistened sponge that was waiting somewhere inside Hector. In his heart or his mind or his soul. He didn’t realize that he was in a sponge state but, having been separated from his moorings – couch, TV, pizza – and led into unfamiliar territory, there was a spongy piece of him left open and receptive to the universe in whatever form it might take, and the form it took was a guitar.

And then I stopped. It’s trying so hard and it ends up being so clunky. Reading the first chapter a second time, I can’t help but think, “If I were back in a fiction writing class, and this were someone’s short story, I would be groaning and trying really hard to think of nice things to say when I critiqued it.

January 2006

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