Even accounting for her limited observations and other data gathered years after the calamitous rupture in the Barnes family, Venice suspected that the grievances assigned to Nick, her father, were apocryphal.
Yes, it was plausible that he would have referred to the Barneses as the “most devolved and asinine genetic cohort to scorch the southern plains,” but it was doubtful he would have yelled that in her grandfather’s face during an argument as he was leaving Enid, in a cloud of red dust, with Rose.
It just didn’t quite mesh with her experience. Her father did have something of a technical tongue, so “asinine genetic cohort” had the ring of authenticity. But it also seemed, to her, that he exhausted himself trying to reason with people, even difficult people, and that he pursued this approach well past the clock stroke of crazy-making.
A year ago, the two of them had argued about whether she deserved a new iPod, despite her absences from school, despite her routinely unfinished homework in geometry. In frustration she leapt into accusing him of accusing her of habitual laziness. And while one could draw such an inference, Nick had actually been pretty careful to keep his syllogism in the reward for merit ledger, rather than in the punishment for laziness scheme of things.
She started to cry and bellowed at him, “I can’t believe my own father thinks what you’re thinking!”
She did notice his eyes flash at that. But then he quickly pinned his upper lip between his teeth for a couple seconds before just stiffly announcing, “I can’t talk to you now.”
Moments later, she heard him go out the back door, and then heard his shoes climbing up the outside stairs to the deck.
It was February, and it was cold. She waited a half hour before deciding she needed to apologize to him, in part because she felt bad about what she’d said, and in part because she still nurtured the hope of getting a new iPod.
She found him sitting in his down-filled jacket, exhaling little puffs of steam into the winter air, looking into the eyepiece of his reflecting telescope.
“I’m sorry daddy,” she said.
“Oh, gosh” he replied. “I thought you were your mother.”
“Whatcha looking at?”
He motioned her over to the eyepiece with a little wave of his fingers.
She looked into the telescope and saw a stunningly banded, orange and pinkish object, surrounded by a silvery halo that, to her, looked just like Rose’s gardening hat.
“Saturn,” he said. “Lord of the Rings.”