Feeding the Lions

Of the four living Boyle siblings only Kit could tell when a watermelon was ripe, but she never left the house. Grocery duties were relegated to Calvin, who was twenty-eight and had no excuse for living at home. One cold morning in June his mother sent him to the store for jelly beans, gummy worms, eggs, milk for the cereal, and watermelon.

“Would you take Lucy too?” she said. “Get her a doughnut. I’m up to my ears in shit.”

Calvin went upstairs. The door to Lucy’s room was open and she sat on the floor, building a tower out of Lincoln Logs.

“Nice.” Calvin sat beside her and added a log to the stack. “It’s a lot bigger than yesterday.”

“It’s the World Trade Tower,” she said.

“How do you know about that?” Lucy was ten. It surprised him, and sometimes alarmed him, when she knew things.

“School,” she said. “Duh. They put the flag at half-mast for it.”

“There were two,” he said. “Two towers.”

“I know. One of them already got knocked over.”

Calvin rose. “You want to go to Safeway?”

“Yeah.”

Calvin had been home for two months and Lucy already loved him more than she did her other siblings. Jack, the oldest, lived in Boston with his wife, and Lucy barely knew him. Kit lived downstairs and kept to herself, poking her head out of her bedroom each morning like a groundhog, always seeing her shadow. But Calvin was big and could haul Lucy around on his back. He lifted her now as if she were a doll. Lucy had blue eyes and curly blonde hair, and they all agreed that she would be very beautiful one day. Privately Calvin felt that she could never be more beautiful than she was now—that soon her beauty would slip from her, or be taken away.

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