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ALL THESE GIFTS / Kathryn Chetkovich WHEN THE NEWS that Dinah was getting involved with a married man fired through the famUy, her brother CaI caUed to remind her that men were Uke buses: there would be another one along In five minutes. He was handsome and affable, and he was speaking from personal experience. "CaI doesn't know what he's talking about," Dinah's sister, Park, said later. She had just turned thirty-five, and had had her hair frosted. "You've got to grab at aU you can in this Ufe. The wife isn't your responsibUity." Dinah's mother was tickled to be let in on the secret. "There are no accidents, honey. You invited this into your Ufe. So did he. And so did she." She hugged her daughter and said over her shoulder, "It'll be a hard lesson, but it'U be worth it." No one told her father, who could not be expected to understand. He got aU news of the family through his wife, who broke it into manageable bites, as though she were cutting up a lambchop for a chUd. His wife was not fazed by his success in the corporate world beyond their driveway, by the high price that was put on his legal counsel. She referred to the company he kept in boardrooms as "the crowd your father runs around with," and maintained that it kept him insulated from the real world, by which she meant plumbers who would charge you seventy doUars an hour to puU artichoke leaves out of your disposal or old women who needed rides to the grocery store every week. "There's no sense burdening your father with what we can't make him understand," she said. She hugged Dinah again and offered to make her a sandwich. "He means a lot to me, Mom," Dinah said, leaning on the counter whUe her mother rooted through the refrigerator. "I wouldn't do something Uke this otherwise." "We aU have to do what we aU have to do," her mother said. It irked Dinah that her mother did not seem more bothered. "But this is wrong, isn't it?" she said. "An affair with a married man?" "Of course it's wrong. Is this the first mistake you've ever made? The first bad thing that makes it hard to get to sleep, that shakes you awake in the middle of the night?" Marion Fortune waved 60 ยท The Missouri Review a knife at her daughter on the other side of the butcher block island. "Dinah, honey, this is Ufe. You learn to Uve with guUt. You do the best you can. BeUeve me, you don't get away with anything in this Ufe. You're going to pay the price, so you make sure you get your money's worth." Dinah dutifuUy ate her sandwich, wondering when this particular ritual would turn itself around, when she might begin making sandwiches for her mother in some cheery kitchen beyond the reach of her imagination of the future. It frightened her to think of pouring her mother a glass of buttermilk and helping her in and out of the car. She would buy her colorful brooches in department stores, butterflies and birds that sparkled with chips of worthless gems. That was part of paying the price for the sandwich she was eating now, for the underwear and sweaters her mother bought her and left on the bed in the room her parents kept for her in her absence, in case she ever wanted or needed to "come home." In return she owed her parents visits and phone caUs; eventuaUy, when they moved to a smaUer house, her brother would put up shelves for them and she would bring her father 25-pound sacks of birdseed; she would buy him birdbooks and binoculars that he would appreciate and never use. "How do you know Dad wouldn't understand?" Dinah asked, looking out the window to where her father was dragging a hose across the grass toward his vegetable garden. Her mother was sweeping the countertop with a damp dishrag and she turned to face Dinah, a collection of...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 60-72
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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