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377 not the end of the world Howard and Leon grew up and got married, Howard to a woman who was fascinated by his story. Chad worried that Howard was a sullen husband, but as the years passed it became clear that Mella wouldn’t leave him, that the adhesive glamour of his tragedies stuck Mella to him too firmly to pick off. Chad overheard Mella once at a picnic when Howard stayed in the car. “I don’t push him, I would never push him after what’s he’s been through.” As Mella spoke she had the baby ( Janeth) in one arm, and the bigger children (Howard Jr., called How, and Katherine) clutching at her legs. She was the household’s wage earner, working as a repair crew supervisor for Consort. Howard stayed home with the children, grilling sandwiches for lunch and stringing cranberries and popcorn for Christmas and making flash cards to use with How, who was a slow reader. “You’re a very active parent,” Chad had told him once. “Like you and Mom were,” Howard said. Like you and Mom were. A comment Chad remembered as he lay in bed, wondering what his life had been good for. Leon, in contrast, couldn’t seem to keep a family. His first wife was a beautiful woman of East Indian background with 378 s ha r p a n d d a n g e r ou s v i r t u e s whom he had a son. After she and Leon divorced she married another Indian, and Chad often wondered if her parents resented her lavish first wedding, involving imported foods and costumes and much strained goodwill. Leon’s second wife had a stroke and six months later Leon left her, telling everyone he was planning to leave her anyway. His third wife, another beauty, abandoned Leon for a fireman after bearing Leon’s second son. Leon was witty and always seemed to have a crowd around him. He worked in global investments and made enormous amounts of money. He had gotten a corrective plate to fill the gap between his front teeth. To most people he appeared much more successful than his brother. Chad wasn’t sure. He wondered if Leon was capable of living in peace. Chad worried that something in Leon’s motor was broken and intrinsically dangerous. Leon gambled; he was always looking for a new vehicle or a more remote vacation spot or a better place to live. Howard’s motor was slow to start and sputtered, but basically intact. It wouldn’t rev up and fly off the boat like Leon’s might. Chad was thinking of boats because he, his wife, Howard and Mella and their children, along with Leon and both his sons were vacationing beside a lake in Tennessee, a TVA lake that had been created in the 1930s by flooding a valley and its two towns. This was the first group vacation they’d managed since Leon’s adulthood; in the past, Leon’s custody quarrels and travels had kept them incomplete. Chad and most of the crew were sitting on the porch of their cottage at a table overlooking the water when Leon mentioned, as he often did, his mother. “She planted all those bulbs, remember? She was a maniac for bulbs.” Leon’s glass of beer, like his forehead, was sweating. He lifted his head and squinted at something far out on the water—probably a female water-skier, Chad thought. “Is he talking about Mrs. Sharis?” Janeth asked her mother. How they came up with that appellation Chad never knew. 379 not the end of the world “Yes, baby,” Mella said, wrapping her arm around her youngest. “You should have seen her. She was really, really pretty.” Of course she knew this from Howard, but also from old media images, still available on the Internet, that had popped up when Sharis was killed. “She’s with Jesus,” Janeth said. Chad was always startled to hear his grandchildren talk about Jesus—that was Mella’s influence—but life, he’d realized, was full of such surprises. Still, he was relieved to see his granddaughter Katherine’s quick frown. Chad suspected that Katherine, like himself, didn’t want a God to snuggle into. She and Chad both preferred a God that was grander. Sharis was beautiful, Chad wanted to say. Beautiful and intelligent and tough. He ached to say this as a tribute...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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