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Today's Story by Serena Cavanaugh

Will he be nice to me?

Meeting Dad

The sun that day shone bright, but the fierce wind canceled any promise of warmth. The buildings rose before us—their shadows dark and unrelenting—and created a tunnel for the wind, strengthening it. My mother held me against her leg to shield me from its bite, but refused to go inside the diner.

I would never volunteer the information, but she asked, “Are you cold?”

I nodded, keeping my chin tucked into my jacket.

“I know.” She gave my back a vigorous rub. “It’s always cold in San Francisco. But he might miss us if we go in.”

So we suffered. Cars raced by, horns honked occasionally, a truck beeped its incessant warning that it was reversing. The smell of frying food wafted out of the diner behind us every few moments as people entered and exited—some in suits and fancy shoes, others in jeans and t-shirts.

Mom had taken special care that day. Her lips were bright and glossy. They pressed together, or they remained slightly open, or they got chewed. Her eyes looked bigger and darker and they darted here and there and also just stared, focused on something I couldn’t see. Her scent was different, sweeter. Her neck arched out as she searched the passing traffic, the sidewalks. Waiting.

“Is he big?” I asked.

“He’s tall, but not big.”

“Does he look like you?”

“Me?” She kept her eyes on the passing cars and people, but smiled. “No. He looks very different from me. He does look a lot like you though… of course.”

“Will he be nice to me?” I was thinking about the daddy bear on the Discovery Channel who ate his cub when it was swept away from the mamma by the current. That’s why you should be happy you don’t have a father, Mom had said as she shut down the television. I wondered if that was making her nervous now too.

“I believe so,” she answered.

“Are you sure?”

She stood on tip toe, but didn’t answer.

After a while, the diner door opened only now and then to welcome a few late lunches or maybe only desserts. The anticipation for me had worn off, scoured away by the sharp breath of the wind and the tedious passing of the afternoon. She squeezed my hand now and then. I kept returning the squeeze, but she never remembered to double squeeze back like she usually did.

I gave up standing and sat on the chilled cement, level with the heel of her shoe graceful and skinny, her calves shiny in their nylons. The sky, peeking from behind the buildings, mellowed into something powdery, rather than bright. People rushed by us, their shoes pounding on the sidewalk so loud I thought I should feel vibrations, but I remained oddly isolated.


Serena Cavanaugh was born and raised in the SF Bay Area where she lives with her two kids and their poodle. A graduate of Santa Clara University, she enjoys reading, writing, cooking… and of course eating. www.serenajcavanaugh.com


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