High School Parking Lot, 7 p.m, Ventura, CA

I’m in the car, parked under a streetlamp, writing while my daughter swims. It’s dark, but I know that the pool is surrounded by strawberry fields and lemon orchards and rows of broccoli growing all the way to the beach. It’s November, the fruitless pears are in full bloom, and the camellias are loaded with buds. Anacapa and Santa Cruz Islands were clearly visible until sunset, but now they’re hidden in thick mist. I have an hour and a half.

I negotiated with Chris: time in the car in exchange for a State of the Union when I get home, after four of the kids are in bed. He’ll feed everyone while I’m gone, and then I’ll eat with Katie while he reads to Thomas, and then I’ll practice piano with Katie while he reads to Sophie, and then we’ll leave Thomas, who is three, in the shower with a spatula and some plastic vegetables while I read to Michael and Katie, since we’re almost done with The Diamond in the Window. Andrew is at school late, running cross-country, doing a chemistry lab. The last book I read to him was Robinson Crusoe, three years ago.

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