Famous Fathers

My father is the mayor of Texadelphia, so he gets to work early and stays late in his wood-paneled office with red leather couches. A window looks out on a small green square with a fountain and some park benches. On the tile floor in front of his desk is the mayoral seal, and everyone steps around it like it’s religious. I’d like to remind them he’s just a man, but his office impresses me too. When I’m in there it’s easy to feel like a voter and not a daughter. Since his election, he’s improved drainage and fought back an overpass because he worried the little businesses under it would get killed. People pile up in his reception area to ask for his help, or to complain.

I’m a senior, and I have a sister, Judy, who’s a freshman. People kiss up to us. Judy hates it, but I’m okay. Sometimes they stop me on the street and ask me to pass on their requests. I don’t, though. I try to shield him from problems, even my own. It’s scary getting him to stop what he’s doing because he looks at me, and while he’s waiting to hear what’s so important my comment evaporates. Gusher to trickle.

Judy is trickle to gusher. Last year she tried to drown herself to get our father’s attention. She swallowed five Vicodin and went for a swim in the reservoir so there’d be more than one cause of death. On the digital camera my parents gave her for Christmas were five photographs she’d left as a good-bye, but a man fishing in a bright yellow bass boat saw her sink and pulled her out, so now the pictures are her screensavers. The empty garage at 6 a.m., her green bathing suit on the bed, the city bus driver behind the wheel, the gray water with a speedboat cutting through. The last picture was a self-portrait of Judy kneeling on the pebble beach, with her head bowed toward the sand like she was praying.

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