Last time she'd seen her father, Suzanne had been able to tally her age on one hand. Now she'd have to remove her socks and make nearly two full circuits on all her digits in order to count the years. Yet here he was on her doorstep, suitcase in hand, claiming a long layover at DFW, saying he'd found her in the phone book and needed a place to sleep for the night. So Suzanne did the only thing she could think of: She made up the guest bedroom with her best sheets and set her alarm for 4:30 so she could make him breakfast.
When the clock trilled, and she stumbled out into the kitchen's unexpected brightness, she discovered he was already awake, the day's copy of The Wall Street Journal spread out before him on the table.
"Daddy, is there anything special you'd like? I can make you French toast, coffee, an omelet --"
Her father shook out the front page and studied the headline. "One slice of toast, no butter, no jam. Water. And a hardboiled egg."
Still trying to shake off sleep's fog, Suzanne filled a pot and cranked a burner to high. "So where are you headed, Daddy? Will you be coming back through here again soon? I'm really glad you decided to --"
He flipped to the editorials. He didn't look up. "I'd like to read the paper, Suze. We can talk in the car."
Suzanne nodded dumbly. The pot was beginning to roil, to steam and tumble about. She put an egg on a spoon and eased it in so the shell wouldn't crack. Then she went to the china cabinet and pulled down a place setting, sans coffee cup. She fed the toaster a slice. The Brita ga-lunked as it filled a glass.
The paper rustled as her father refolded the front page and reached for the Business section.
The toaster chimed. She found a linen napkin in the back of a drawer. She set everything in front of her father, who seemed to be examining an article about the Department of Justice stepping antitrust prosecutions. "Daddy, I think your egg's almost ready."
"No," he said, squinting at a picture of some CEO. "I like it hard."
Suzanne went to the sink and gazed out of the window set above it. The sprinklers had come on in the front yard, that one by the flowerbed still broken, spitting and sputtering in the general direction of the marigolds. She peeled a banana, ate it slowly.
"Think your egg's ready, Daddy?"
"No. Harder." Money & Investment now, a piece on inflation in Germany.
The egg bobbled in the pot, churned by the boiling water. Suzanne watched it, saw evaporation slowly draw the level down, depositing mineralized sediment on the pot's sides. The egg's shell was beginning to split, the white expanding, breaking through under the heat.
"How about that egg?"
The words fairly leapt out of her: "If that egg gets any harder, Dad, it could do twenty to life without blinking."
Her father glanced up from the Lifestyle section. "Well, that's how I like them." Then he went back to a column on fashion design.
The stove, the countertops, the dishwasher -- Suzanne fussed over them all, made meaningless adjustments to dials, wiped down already clean surfaces, anything to keep her back to that man, to keep the thirty years of tears inside. She was about to dump the pot's contents down the drain when she heard him say, "Okay, that's probably good."
She swiped at her eyes before she faced him. "Oh," she said. "Good. Do you want salt and pepper?"
"No." The paper crinkled as he folded it, sliding each section neatly back into its place. "I wish you subscribed to something other than the Journal. I find the Times to have much more informative reporting."
The spoon slipped, and Suzanne could only watch as the egg broke itself on the kitchen tile.