Miss Babette placed my father’s vodka and soda on a coaster beside him. The sun was low, made square patterns across the carpet. The radio hummed. My father sipped his drink. Miss Babette sat in a chair near my feet and crossed her legs. She asked my father about his novel.
Who’s to say if any of its any good, he smiled.
I’m sure it’s all lovely, Miss Babette said.
I’d like to take you with me to my meeting with the editor then, my father said. Miss Babette smiled at my father. She smiled without any of her teeth.
I grasped at what they were saying. I wanted, so badly, to participate, but Miss Babette, my father – they were so far away. I was outside, watching from the edge of the forest. I was looking into a dollhouse, while Miss Babette and my father exchanged words for meaning.
My father had us walk arm in arm to the market. I hated it. I was embarrassed every time we passed someone on the sidewalk, we pulled ourselves over.
At the market, my father and I bought blueberries. The tourists crowded the vendors. They all wore clothes designed to be outside. Beside me, a little boy, dressed in neon, grabbed at his older brother’s backpack strings. He held onto them, his fist tight, as the brother wiggled his way through the flock.
At the pond, the ducks were sunning themselves on the concrete rim. A Mallard blinked its famous duck-eyes. I swallowed a blueberry.
The book is done, my father said. This draft, at least. More to come, I’m sure.
Sure, I said.
It’s about a little girl, my father said. Around your age.
She’s twelve, isn’t she?
What does she do? I asked.
My father tossed a blueberry into his mouth and reached for another. Her mother dies, my father said, and dropped two berries into his mouth. And the girl is left alone, so she decides to hitchhike across the country – America, I mean, East to West – to find her father, who she’s never met before. I named her Babette. Just because I thought it was such a beautiful name. Not after our Miss Babette.
I nodded. Between my thumb and my index finger, I flattened a blueberry. I wiped the skin on the side of the bench.
Have you been? I asked.
Across America? From East to West?
I’ve been to places across America, if that’s what you mean.
No, I mean have you travelled it, like the girl in your book.
Yes, I said.
No, not in that way, he said. My father pushed his famous face toward the sun and closed his eyes.
How do you write about something you’ve never seen? I asked.
Easy, my father said. You just have to know how to write. My father smoothed his famous moustache.
How is it real then? I asked.