|Rowena's Page, Rowena Gets a Life.||Rowena Deals With Life, Part 4|
Rowena rang the doorbell, wishing Sammy had come too. But Sammy was spending Father's Day with his mother, cheering her up. “How many guys do you know,” he'd asked Rowena, “who buy roses for Father's Day?” Rowena smiled, remembering this, just as her mother opened the door.
“Rowena, come in; how—Oh, really, Rowena.”
Rowena hefted the six-pack she'd brought. “Well, he doesn't drink wine. Don't worry; I've got a proper present for him too. Hi, Mom.”
“Come on in.” Her mother took the wrapped package from her but did not touch the beer. Rowena carried it into the living room, where she found her father in front of the television. There was a commercial on.
“Hi, Daddy. Happy Father's Day.”
“Thank you,” her father said. “Oh, you brought the good stuff.” Rowena smiled. The beer her father liked was just about the cheapest on the market.
“How's it going?”
“Pretty good. We're ahead 14-11, and—”
“Your sister isn't here yet,” said Rowena's mother from the doorway. “I don't know how much longer to wait everything.”
“Why don't you call her?”
“Oh, you know how Maralynne is. She says that's nagging. Nagging.”
“You nag me,” Rowena said. “No matter what I say.”
“Rowena! I do not nag you.”
“She saves that for me,” said Rowena's dad, as the ballgame returned.
“Oh, really, Wilder—” She turned to Rowena. “Call her for me.”
“What? Why me?”
“Rowena, don't be unpleasant on your father's day. Call your sister.”
Rowena called, and got Maralynne's answering machine. Her sister's voice, trying to sound extra sexy. Rowena wondered how many obscene callers she got. She hung up before the beep, before she had to admit who she was and why she was calling.
Rowena went back and sat with her dad and his ballgame. “Well?” asked her mother.
“She's on her way.”
“Did she say that?”
“Three balls two strikes!” said Rowena's father, leaning forward.
“Just because nobody answered—” began Rowena's mother, when the doorbell rang. Rowena's father let out a groan and began to stamp his feet as Rowena's mother went to the door.
When Rowena and her sister were little, their father took them to a petting zoo and bravely went up and fed one of the llamas a handful of food pellets. He held Rowena up so she could pet the llama's neck while it ate. Marilyn was still trying to reach through the fence to one of the turkeys; she joined them at the llama pen and their father boosted her up too; they stood with their feet on the fence and a big strong arm around each of them, the remaining pellets divided up among their cupped hands.
“Hi, Dad,” said Maralynne. “Happy Father's Day.”
He glanced up at her. “What are you wearing?” he asked. Maralynne looked down in surprise. She had on a tight, low-cut blouse, black vinyl miniskirt, and stiletto heels. “I always dress like this.”
“Disgusting. No daughter of mine—”
“Dad, I've been dressing like this for ages. Don't tell me you've never noticed.”
“If I'd seen you like that I wouldn't have let you into the house,” he grumbled.
“You don't even look at me!”
“Go put something decent on.”
“Put on something decent!”
Rowena caught her sister by the arm and pulled her into the hallway. “Come on,” she said. “Let's get you fixed up.”
“Just this once, okay? Because it's Father's Day.”
“Some father. He doesn't even know what I look like.”
“Yeah, well, you're not on a sports team, and you're not a cheerleader any more, either.” Rowena opened the door to their parents' bedroom and pulled Maralynne inside. She locked the door. “Let's see if Mom has anything you can wear.”
“Just for today. For Father's Day. Okay? Nobody will see you.”
“Brian's supposed to be coming over later.”
“He can't forgive you a slightly frumpy dress?”
“Rowena, nothing'll even fit.”
“Pretend you're playing dressup again.” Rowena pawed through the closet, came up with something she thought wasn't too bad. “Look, it's got a sash. You can belt it way in.”
“Look.” Rowena pulled out an ancient chartreuse thing with flowers of a suspicious off-lavender. “How 'bout if I wear this?”
Maralynne stared at her a moment, then despite herself began to giggle.
Maralynne stood in front of her father. “Er-hum,” she said. “Dad?”
He glanced up. “That's better,” he said. He turned to Rowena. “Isn't that better?”
“Sure,” said Rowena, in her chartreuse-and-purple dress. He looked at her more closely.
“I like that dress,” he told her. “Is it new?”
Brian arrived as they were starting dinner; in other words, just in time. Rowena went to let him in. He gawped at her.
“What the hell's that?”
“One of my mom's dresses. And if you say a word about the one Maralynne's got on, I will kill you. I will kill you with my own hands and I will not go to your funeral.”
“I'm sure Maralynne will explain it all later. C'mon, dinner's ready.”
“Dinner?” And in he went.
After dinner they did the presents. Maralynne had brought her father a beer stein, which was duly passed around and appreciated. Rowena's gift was a book of sports statistics, just in case there was anything the recipient didn't already know.
He busied himself with this for several minutes, making h'mm-h'mm noises and occasionally reading a bit out loud. And then he let out a bellow.
“Two years off!” he roared. “Don't they know ANYTHING? Look at that!” He showed the book to his wife, who stared at it uncomprehendingly; then thought the better of that and shoved it at Brian.
“The year they claim Gaylord Perry started in the majors. Right there. How stupid can you get?”
Brian looked, dutifully. “Which way are they off?”
“I mean, I'm not, like, real up on all the old days and stuff.”
“Old days? Old days? Let me tell you—How do—When—What do you know, anyway?”
“Oh, right; I don't know anything. You still owe me ten bucks on the Knicks game.”
“The Knicks? Listen—”
“Oh, stop that,” said Rowena's mother. “Who wants cherry pie and who wants lemon?”
“Just see if I ever do anything nice for him again,” said Maralynne, gathering up her miniskirt. She was near tears.
“We should have—I don't know.” Rowena sighed. Maralynne slumped into the bathroom (she had wanted to change there because the mirror was better), and Rowena kicked off her shoes and unzipped her dress. She thought she heard something like crying from behind the door; she hesitated, and decided to ignore it tactfully. She got dressed, and presently the crying stopped. She was sitting on the bed reading an article in one of her mother's magazines (“Should You Look For Your Biological Parents?”) when Maralynne called her.
Maralynne stood there in her underthings. “I'm getting a stomach, aren't I?”
“Tell me the truth; am I getting a stomach?”
“Maralynne, you just ate.”
“Look at me!” Rowena looked. Front view and side.
“No,” she said. “You are not getting a stomach.”
“You're just saying that.”
“Maralynne, why are you asking for an opinion if you won't believe it when you get it? Your stomach is fine. You don't have one.”
Maralynne stood a bit longer. “My ankles are fat.”
“They're fat. I should start wearing those shoes with the thick heels. But they'd make the rest of my legs look too thin.”
“Your ankles are fine. You just see them from the wrong angle.”
“Yours are better than mine.”
“Maralynne, for Pete's sake. Why don't you just go home, have a nice—”
“Fight. Brian's gonna be furious.”
“So go to a movie. Or—” Rowena was surprised at herself. “Walk in the door and start right off telling him how angry you are with Dad. He'll have to either agree with you or say something nice about him.”
Maralynne considered. She smiled. “Maybe I should put this stupid dress back on,” she said. “Tell him Dad wouldn't let me change.”
“Is this supposed to be evidence, or is it comic relief?”
Maralynne laughed. She gave her sister a pat on the cheek, as if Rowena were much younger than she instead of a little older, stepped back into the bathroom and closed the door.
Rowena sat back down on the bed. She looked at the article she'd been reading. “‘When I was little,’ says Amanda, ‘I wanted my real parents to be circus clowns.’”
Rowena looked up at the ceiling and started to laugh.
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