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FAT C extreme Bob packages from the past


"Forget All That 7-9" {Pendragon} (MF rom wl lact)

by Uther Pendragon

IF YOU ARE UNDER THE AGE OF 18, or otherwise forbidden by law to
read electronically transmitted erotic material, please go do
something else.

This material is Copyright, 1997, by Uther Pendragon. All
rights reserved. I specifically grant the right of downloading
and keeping ONE electronic copy for your personal reading so long
as this notice is included. Reposting requires previous

All persons here depicted, except public figures depicted as
public figures in the background, are figments of my imagination
and any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly

# # # #
by Uther Pendragon

Part Seven:
Continued from Part Six.
Wednesday morning was special. It was Christmas Eve. Bob's
father was home. Vi was coming on the afternoon train.

"You will get your wrapping done before that, won't you
dear?" Katherine said. "I want Kathleen to have the wrappings
before church." Katherine was practicing. Kathleen Violet
Brennan had been Vi for most of her life. She had decided to be
"Kathleen" as soon as she entered medical school. It made sense;
it is hard to imagine a woman less like a violet. Her family
took its time getting used to the change, though. "Kathleen"
would have been easier to learn if Kathleen had ever been at

Although this was addressed to Bob, I answered it. "I still
have to do the fancies for a few presents. Bob has most of his
wrapping done." Bob wraps a very neat package as long as it has
a regular shape. (In the Brennan family, more than half of all
gifts are books, counting magazine subscriptions in the other
half.) He does not put ribbons or bows on them. So he puts the
paper on gifts from me, and I put the "fancies" on gifts from
him. I might say that I am not a real Brennan child in that I
bring my own gift-wrappings, or -- at least -- take less from the
family stash one year than I left behind the year before. Bob
and Vi think that access to the wrappings is part of their

"Too bad that now I can take a long vacation, she can't," I

"I get the impression, dear, that she took some time to
spend with Charles. Apparently, she is very lucky to get a
vacation at this time of year. It would be disloyal of her to
ignore him, don't you think, dear?"

"Loyalty is one thing," Bob's father said, "silence is quite
another. I don't know what we did to our kids. Bob was
practically a blabbermouth in comparison to Vi." He would wait
until she got there to use her new name. "Did you hear about her
last visit home? Kate? You were on the phone."

"She called me up, dear, to ask if she could bring a friend
home with her for a visit. Of course the answer was yes; of
course I suspected that 'a friend' meant a boy. But there was no
reason to jump to conclusions. 'Of course, dear,' I said. 'I'll
fix up Bob's room for her. I hope that she'll be comfortable
without a carpet on the floor.'

"'Don't bother, mother,' she said. 'Charles will be
sleeping in my room.' Of course, I'm not going to put a male
guest in my daughter's bedroom, and I told her so. What they did
after we had shut our door is another story."

"She told me that you asked her to make it look like both
beds had been slept in," I said.

"And they looked like both beds had been slept in. On
separate nights, but both beds." I looked over at Bob's father.
He was slightly amused. Vi thought that he hadn't known about
that part. "I probably would have abandoned my principles if he
could have visited this Christmas," Katherine continued. "Trying
to pretend that he was sleeping on the couch would have been
inconvenient and absurd. It ruins one's self-image to realize
that your principles yield to convenience. Anyway...."

"Anyway," said Bob's father. "The first time that she
mentioned his name to her mother -- to either of us -- was
'Charles will be sleeping in my room.' Had you heard of him

"I don't know how much before," I said. "I think that she
may have organized her visit to us before she organized her visit
to you. We had to schedule a baptism, after all, not just a
visit. And she had called during her first year in medical
school, crying about breaking up with a boyfriend. She
identified that time to Charles as 'the first breakup.' She
never told me about the reconciliation. But then, I was shoulder
to cry on, not a social secretary."

"Well, we worried about you, dear," Katherine said, "and
look how you two turned out. So my worry about her might be
needless. On the other hand, we had actually met you, dear.
And you two never broke up." I looked over at Bob. He was
trying to look innocent; he can't do that look. "Parents do
worry. I don't like that pattern of breaking up, but at least
they've known each other for a long while."

"I think," Bob said, "that you are making too much of my
silence. I didn't keep you informed about every conversation
with Jeanette, but you knew about most of my dates. I asked for
the car to drive to a dance. I didn't specify that the dance was
at my school rather than in Wichita; I didn't specify that we
were dancing on the floor rather than the ceiling; and I didn't
specify that I was taking Jeanette.

"As for Vi, you knew that she was dating in high school.
She kept dating in college. I never suspected that she would
stop dating because she was in medical school. Though it might
happen. At some point, you stop reporting your dates to your

Well, this was classical Bob. Not one statement was untrue.
(Although outrageously untrue statements are also classical Bob,
he scrupulously avoids certain kinds of lying.) There were a few
points that he passed over, however. If Bob took the car for
dates, he needed permission; he also dressed up for dances and
such. Those were "dates." We met a lot of times between dates,
and I doubt if his parents had known any more about those
meetings than my parents had.

parents don't expect to hear about each and every date that
a college girl has. They do expect to hear about someone about
whom their daughter is serious. Of course, I am in no position
to talk. But my parents were different.

"Wait fifteen years," Bob's father said. "You know that
your daughter is an autonomous human being," (I told you that my
parents were different) "but she is still half your future.
You'd like reports on critical areas. She knows that she is
welcome in this home; and she knows that her friends, bar
outrageous behavior, are welcome. I'd just like to hear that she
is dating a man before that I hear that she is sleeping with him
and contemplating marriage."

"Are they thinking about marriage, then?" I asked. Vi
usually tells me things like that as soon as she tells her

"Well, dear," Katherine said, "she hasn't said so, but they
did visit. You know how hard it is for them to co-ordinate times
off. The visit was no casual event. Vi never said so, but it
was something of an announcement."

"I don't want to press her," Bob's father said. "They have
to be sure, and residencies in different cities would make a
mockery of marriage anyhow. I just would like to walk down the
aisle at my daughter's wedding. Please *don't* quote me." He
had a bypass operation years ago. He is reasonably healthy, but
the whole family is conscious of the contingency of his life.
"Anyway, I've seen both my children graduate and receive advanced
degrees; and I've held my grandchild. Although not this
morning." On this hint, Katherine yielded her up. The Kitten
explored his pockets and found chewable wonders. He had taken
one of those sets of plastic "keys" that they make for babies and
cut the connection; those and the pens filled both his pockets.

"Maman," she said, and was immediately handed to me.

"Yes, darling," I said and gave her a big kiss. "Je suis ta
maman." She wasn't much impressed by that information. A minute
later she wanted to go back to the man with the abundant pockets.
Sheer bribery, I call it.

I was determined to add another jar feeding to The Kitten's
schedule. (Or a second feeding of baby food. But I do think
that "baby food" applies to breast milk as much as to anything
Gerber sells.) So when she showed some signs of hunger, I had
her grandfather plunk her down in the highchair.

I made the funny face; she responded; I shoved the spoon
in. She was a little surprised, but closed her mouth on it. We
went on from there. It didn't go as smoothly as it had for
Katherine; for one thing, when The Kitten wasn't grabbing at the
spoon, she was reaching toward my breasts. She knew the
schedule. We got a jar of fruit and a significant amount of
cereal down, however. The mess was much less than it had been
previous times. I cleaned her up and cuddled with her for ten
minutes before handing her over to Katherine. "Come to Grandma
Brennan, dear," she cooed. The Kitten had very little quilt time
that morning. Her grandparents acted like a tag-team.

Of course, I should have waited to change the schedule until
we were home. She got hungry much earlier than I had expected,
just before an early lunch. We couldn't delay that because Bob's
parents were due to leave for the train station. "I'll change
her first," said Bob. "Why don't you feed her upstairs?"
Everybody went their various ways. When I got upstairs, Bob had
the special pacifier in her mouth.

Bob ate with his parents, but he brought sandwiches upstairs
as soon as they left. They were lunchmeat sandwiches with
mustard. Greater love hath no man than to spread a condiment
that he hates on his wife's sandwiches. He stood behind the
rocker and fed me. "I can't speak like this," I said.

"I'll do the talking," he said. "Nod when it's time." When
the Kitten would pause, I would nod, and Bob would say a
sentence. It must have confused The Kitten no end. At first he
used lines of verse, then he changed his tune.

"Your mother, dear Kitten, is ... the kindest mother in the
whole world.... But she is more than that.... She is also the
sweetest wife.... She is beautiful, ... and kind, and sexy, and
smart.... She can manage an office, ... and find her way around a
foreign city.... She runs a house, ... and reads French
handwriting, ... and wows professors.... She prepares good
food, ... not quite so intimately for me as for you, ... but
delicious nonetheless, ... and she keeps the house clean, ... and
translates documents, ... and reminds her husband ... of
birthdays and such.... Good as her cooking is, ... it can't match
the sweet milk ... that she prepares for you.... Doesn't it taste
good? ... Daddy has sampled it, ... and the taste is
delicious, ... but not so sweet as the source.... She is a woman
flowing in milk and honey.

"She makes the milk for you, ... though Daddy steals a
bit.... She makes the honey for Daddy.... It leaks out down
below.... It has the most enticing aroma in the world, ... but
its taste is a thousand times more arousing.... That is how you
came to be.... Your mommy's shape attracted your daddy.... Her
smooth skin and cute ears brought him near." At this point, he
touched my ears. I was blushing while he said this, but he kept
my mouth full. Okay, there was a lot that I could do to stop
this line of blarney, but it excited me while it embarrassed me.
It wasn't the sort of thing one should tell an innocent child
about her parents, but The Kitten was too young to comprehend.
And I had confided some of my plans for papa to her. Anyway, he
was going on.

"The breasts that you suck aroused him.... But the honey
made him gasp with its aroma, ... maddened him with its taste....
It made him desperate to enter her, ... and then it smoothed that
entry.... Anointed with her honey, ... driven by her beauty, ...
excited by her acceptance, ... clasped by her loving warmth, ...
Daddy moved faster and faster within mommy until he shot you
out.... But mommy was holding part of you, too.... When those
parts came together, ... it was a Kitten.... And Grandma Brennan
was glad ... when she heard that it had happened, ... and Grandpa
Brennan was glad when ... he heard that it had happened, ... and
Aunt Kathleen was glad when ... she heard that it had
happened, ... and mommy was ecstatically happy when she found
out, ... which she did first of all... Daddy was happy that ...
there would be a Kitten, too, ... even though he didn't know how
cute, ... and sweet, and funny, and clever, ... The Kitten would
turn out to be.... But Daddy was happy when The Kitten was
started, ... before he knew that she was going to arrive at all."

Okay. That would need editing before we used it for a sex-
ed lecture for The Kitten, really for cat -- which would be her
name as soon as she could walk. Still, there were worse ways of
expressing it.

Aside from brushing my cheek with the arm that was feeding
me, Bob had touched only my ear and my neck, both of them
briefly. I was, however, aroused enough to be nearly squirming
in the rocker. Neither The Kittens sucking nor the rocking
motion helped a bit (or they both helped, depending on how you
figure it).

"So, darling daughter," Bob continued. "As soon as you are
quite done, ... we will set you on the quilt over there, ... and
Mommy will go to make sure that what Daddy shoots into the
honey, ... doesn't cause any rival sibling, ... to our very own
Kitten.... Then, since you won't need ... the rocker, ... Daddy
will use it instead.... And he will rock and rock in the
chair, ... and rock and rock in Mommy, ... until the honey is
flowing freely, and ... Daddy and mommy will rock ... together in
the chair, ... and rock against ... each other as well.... Then
they will be real real happy.... They will try to keep you happy
too.... N'est-ce pas, ma femme?"

"Certainment, mon mari," I said. And we rocked in silence
for a minute while Bob played more and more with my hair and
earlobes, and The Kitten played less and less with my breasts.
"I think that she is done," I whispered to Bob. I handed her to
him for the burping. That is much less necessary these days, but
I think she enjoys the contact. I know that he usually does,
although perhaps not that afternoon.

He was still dressed when I came back from the bathroom in
my robe, but he stripped quite rapidly. The Kitten's quilt was
fairly close to the heater, but separated from it by some
shelving. We need fear neither a chill nor a burn. Bob placed
our suitcase between the rocker and the quilt.

We kissed gently while we were standing there, then quite
hotly. Bob's hands roved all over my body before he removed the

The Kitten was watching us in the sun-lit room. "Bob," I
said, "I can't." He looked as though I had struck him. "Let's
go to the bed."

Bob relaxed. "Sure, the bed isn't 'no.' Can you sit on the
foot?" That was pretty-well hidden from The Kitten. I nodded.
He kept kissing me and stroking me. I broke for the bed. I sat
on the foot while Bob knelt between my legs. I bent over to
exchange one last hot tongue kiss. I looked at The Kitten before
flopping back on the bed. She was looking at a rattle that she
had just found.

I dropped back and pulled a corner of the bedspread over my
shoulders. Bob kissed my stomach, circling my navel before
sticking his tongue into it. I wiggled. "Bob don't," I said.
It was an entirely different "don't" than I had said to the
rocker. He kissed my mound. "Are you sure you don't mind the
hair?" I asked.

"I love your hair," he said. "I loved your offering to me."
I had shaved it for his birthday. I had never said for how long,
but I felt like an "injun giver" for letting it grow back. Bob
kissed the mound a few more times, before he dropped to the

"Remember that Vi's train *might* be on time," I said. "I
want you up here on top of me well before they get back." Then I
lay back to enjoy the trip.

I had been fairly wet down there when I left the room, Bob's
comments about honey having drawn some. I had cleaned all that
off before inserting the diaphragm, of course, and been totally
dry when I came back. Bob's lips and tongue were changing that
situation, but I was really farther along in my arousal than Bob
could tell. I grabbed a pillow just in case. He parted my outer
lips with his fingers. He could have done the same with the
inner ones, but he licked the edges until they slowly spread.

"I do love you," I told him. I couldn't help lifting my
hips as his tongue finally swept along the length of one lip.
"You think it is just your genitals, ..." I shivered as he
licked the other lip. "and your fingers, ..." I was quite juicy
now, and he sucked up a bit. "and your lips, ...." I tensed as he
licked across my bud. I wouldn't say anything coherent any more.
I pulled the pillow across my mouth as he settled in to lick me
to ecstasy.

"Oh Bob," I moaned. My hips were moving under his mouth now,
but that didn't keep his tongue from kindling more fire to feed
the one burning in my belly. "Bob," I shouted into the pillow.
The fire tensed my body into an arc, pressed against his mouth
near the top. He accepted this offering with a long, sucking,
kiss. I screamed something unintelligible into the pillow as the
fire flared through me, shook me, and dropped me back on the bed.

"Oh Bob," I said when I could breathe. He came onto the bed
and held me. "Love you," I managed to gasp out.

"I love you, too," he said. He kissed my face and head,
avoiding my mouth to let me breathe.

"I know you love me," I said after a while. "Tell me you'll
love me forever."

"Forever, despite anything, as long as I live."

"Is The Kitten watching us?"

"Not now" he said. "She is playing with her toes."

"Give me five minutes."

"Of course, as long as you want. Do you want me in you
then?" Well yes, but I had been getting too many of my wants

"What do you want?" I asked. "Not making an exhibition."

"Could you manage an encore?"

"You'd have to manage it, but I could participate. Kiss me
here first." I meant with us both lying on the bed.

He chuckled. "Anywhere you ask. How about here?" He
kissed my shoulder. "Or here?" He kissed my temple. "Or here?"
He kissed my ear. "Or here?" He kissed my mouth and licked my
lips and played tag with my tongue. I had to break it to
breathe, but it was lovely while it lasted. He hadn't any more
questions, but he had lots more kisses.

"Try here," I said and guided him onto the breast that The
Kitten had just left. "Be very gentle." He was gentle,
worshiping it with his mouth more than actually sucking on it.
"Anyway, you think it is just your lovely lips and tongue and
fingers and the other part that fills me and make me feel so
nice. But, beyond them, I love your voice, and your gentleness,
and the way that you talk and read to The Kitten." He licked all
over the areola then, a game in which he tries to avoid the
nipple. He can't quite avoid it, but the touches are
unpredictable, and very light, and incredibly tingly.

"Oh Bob," I said. He kissed the nipple. It was a light
peck for goodbye.

"I love you," he said as he started to kiss down across my
stomach. I was recovered now, and anxious for him to get to his
goal. Bob kissed everywhere on his path, jumped from the path to
tickle my navel again, and continued from there to my mound. He
went on kissing there a long time, probably because he had to
leave me to go any farther.

"Check on The Kitten," I reminded him.

"She's fine," he said from a point above my knees.

Because of everything that I had been through already, my
inner lips were exquisitely sensitive. Bob guessed that, or
wanted to tease, or was just expressing his tenderness. Anyway,
his kisses and licks were soft and slow and sprinkled all over
that tiny area. Then the tension of promise captured me. I
pulled the pillow back to my face. Wave after wave of pleasure
rolled through me from his tongue, each leaving me wound tighter
than the last. One last kiss wound me the tightest.

Then the tightness broke, and flowed through me, and pulsed
inside me, and carried me away, and then stranded me.

Bob was up on the bed beside me, kissing my temple and my
forehead. "I love you," he said. "From the instant in the
schoolyard, to the day we talked of our future, to the long
afternoon, to the time in the woods, to the day you forgave me,
to seeing you walk down the aisle, I have loved you. I loved you
in the hotel room, where you were so brave and accepting. I
loved you in the forest, in the tent in the rain, in the
furnished apartment, the birthday and Christmas presents. When
you followed me to Boston as if it were the ends of the Earth,
when you led me through Paris as if you were born there, I loved
you and admired you and lusted after you. When you asked me for
a baby and wanted to lie there until it was born, when you
presented me with our daughter, when you do so much to care for
her. From meeting you until this moment, I love you, and want
you, and want to care for you. I always shall."

"Let me get all on the bed," I said. I moved up towards the
head of the bed, Bob trying to help. "I love you, too. I always
shall. Can I have you in me this time?" We kissed, and he
stroked me all over, not concentrating on the sensitive parts.
Then our kiss got hotter, and his hand stroked over the insides
of my thighs.

I was running like a river by this time, as Bob found out
when I parted my legs to let his hand reach their juncture.

"Oh love," he said.

"Yes," I said. "Love." It seemed a meaningful statement at
the time. And it must have been, because he kissed me
passionately but briefly on my mouth and climbed between my legs.
Which was precisely what I had wanted him to do.

He entered me quite smoothly. His motions were pleasure and
fulfillment to my body and spirit both, until they became need.
I met his thrusts with mine, and he speeded up. He reached
between us to touch me. I tensed as he did this, and spasmed two
strokes later. He was only an instant behind me, pulsing into my

We lay entangled and gasping for breath until The Kitten
cried. Bob picked her off the bare floor, patted her into
comfort, and put her back on the quilt. I dabbed up our mess and
grabbed my robe. Given the chance, The Kitten will suckle a bare
breast within half an hour of filling up.

I went into the bathroom first, though we might have gone
together at home. I dressed while Bob was gone, but he came back
wearing only his shorts. He dropped down on The Kitten's quilt,
and gestured to me to take the other side. We didn't touch each
other, but formed walls to her play space.

She shook a rattle for a minute then flung it away. Bob
retrieved it but put it behind him. I got another toy from the
pile at the wall end of the quilt and offered it to her. We
hardly talked to her and not at all with each other. The Kitten
rolled until she ran into Bob. He captured her and blew across
her hair. She laughed and tried to roll away. After a second,
he let her go. She laughed more and rolled all the way into me.
So I captured her. Instead of blowing on her hair, I kissed the
top of her head. Rolling back, she got turned a bit. She ran
into fuzzy bear. She started playing with it, the rolling game

I think we may both have dozed.

We were surprised by the slam of the front door. Amtrak,
which you can't depend on for *anything*, had been on time. I
slipped on my shoes and closed the door before running

As my fifteen-year-old bridesmaid, Vi had been strikingly
mature. As an intern of twenty-six, Kathleen (I might as well
make the change here) exuded youthful enthusiasm. We hugged.
"How have you been doing?" I asked. "Did you stop in Ohio?"

"Only two days. I'm fine. Slept almost all the way in the
trains, and have cut my sleep debt almost in half. Char sends
his love."

"I thought that all of that was taken." She laughed. "Talk
later?" She nodded.

"And how come he got pictures that I didn't?" she asked.

"Because he isn't on my Christmas gift list." He only got a
set of pictures from the baptism, anyhow. She had already
received more pictures than that. We hugged again. Bob came
clattering down the stairs.

"Dr. Brennan, I presume," he said. (Have I mentioned how
proud we are of her new status as an M. D.?)

"Dr. Brennan, I presume," she answered. They hugged. That
settled, Bob went out to get the rest of her luggage from the
car. The conversation became general, which is a polite way of
saying that four Brennans were talking at once. "Enough of this
chit-chat," Kathleen said. "I have to inspect my god-daughter's
religious progress. I think that inspection will take until we
leave for church."

"I'll go get her," I said. Bob slid off into the kitchen,
where the remains of lunch hadn't cleaned themselves up while we
were otherwise engaged.

The Kitten was still on her quilt. She wasn't complaining
about her diaper, but it was certainly ready for a change. I
took care of that before bringing her downstairs. She was two
hours away from any sulks and happy to greet a new admirer. I
don't believe that she could possibly remember Kathleen.

"Catherine Angelique," Kathleen said. "Oh how you have

"Dear," Katherine said, "let me tell you something that I've
told the others. This is Jeanette's child. Jeanette is
providing her with the food that she needs, and the comfort that
only she can provide. You may have your share of play and
cuddling with her subject to two rules. One, Jeanette makes the
rules; you don't do anything she says not to do, whether you
think it is safe or not; you give her back to Jeanette on demand,
no ifs ands or buts. Two, there are five of us; Jeanette is
providing most of the input; we four take care of the output. If
you can't change her diapers, you can watch the rest of us hold

"Mother, I'm a medical intern. I just went through med
school. A dirty diaper from a healthy baby is nothing. For that
matter, I've changed her before; and I certainly can again.
Maybe I should start now."

"You shouldn't," I said. "I changed her upstairs."

"Upstairs?" Bob's father said. "Bob came down not ten
minutes ago. Bob! Come here!" Those last three words could
easily be heard in the kitchen, probably could be heard in the
street outside.

"Yes sir," Bob said.

"You were included in your mother's rules. You left a wet
baby for your wife to change. Do you duck all the dirty jobs?"

"Sir. I have changed a third of my daughter's diapers since
we arrived here. If Jeanette does a few changes, it's because
she is there when it's necessary, and I am absent or asleep. I
have changed my first-born's diaper almost every day since she
came home from the hospital."

"One diaper a day?"

"Not one diaper a day, many diapers most days. I have
*held* my first-born child *every* day of her first seven months
except when holding her was a threat to her health. I have
*changed* her every day that I have held her since nurses ceased
being available.

"Jeanette does primary care. I won't compare myself to her.
I would, however, ask if there is any other father in this room
who *saw* his first born once in every *week* of that child's
first seven months. For that matter, Jeanette needed me for the
month before The Kitten's birth more than for the month after."
(That wasn't quite true. Bob was forgetting how traumatic the
"minor surgery" was that I had after The Kitten's birth.) "I was
there for her then." (Now, that *was* quite true -- whichever
way you interpret "then.")

Bob had not raised his voice through any of this, though the
intensity came through and some of the 'S' sounds were hissed.
Now his volume dropped in half. There wasn't another sound in
the house; no one missed a word he said, much as we wished that
we could. "I was with my wife and child virtually from the time
that you walked out of that door until you walked back through
it. The Kitten was happy and didn't particularly need changing
when I left her, which was minutes after Jeanette left her. You
*know* that Jeanette wouldn't have ignored her child in need;
why do you *assume* that the need developed while I was there
instead of during the time when I was gone."

"There was no urgent need," I said. "I'm grateful for
Katherine's rule, but it isn't fair to The Kitten to present her
to someone when she is wet."

"I'm considered a good teacher," Bob continued without
taking any notice of that statement, "a fair scholar, a
responsible father. The only person entitled to an opinion
considers me a decent husband. Every employer that I have ever
had has asked me back as long as there was work available. I
can't remember ever being out of the top third of my class. I
graduated on time, completed my course work on time, completed my
*dissertation* on time. I have all the negative virtues, not a
drunk, no arrests. I even get insurance cheaper for being a safe
driver. I don't consider myself to be a world shaker, a record
setter; but the only person in the whole fucking world who
considers me a failure is my own father. And he considers me a
failure in everything."

"I never said that," his father answered.

"You don't say 'everything.' You say them one. Thing. At.
A time!"

I looked at Vi. "It's Christmas Eve," I said.

Part Eight:

"If not now, when?" she replied. "You sit there," she told
her father, pointing to one end of the couch. "And you sit
there," she told Bob, pointing to the other end. They looked at
her without moving.

"Do it," I said. "Or," I told Bob's father, "You won't hold
The Kitten another time the rest of this visit. And you," I was
pointing at Bob, then I stopped dead.

"She's my child too," he said. I was going to say that he
couldn't hold me. But those words wouldn't leave my mouth.

"Because you love me," I said. "I beg of you to sit down
and listen because you love me." He looked at me for a moment
before dropping onto the couch so hard that it bounced. "Stay
there. Katherine, could you hold The Kitten?" She did.

"And get my nitroglycerine, please," said Bob's father.
"It's purely precautionary."

Vi rummaged through her bags while I rushed upstairs. I
returned with a package containing a tape recorder. Christmas
allows you to put anything in your suitcase without your spouse

Vi had hers set up when I got there. "You go first," I
said. After all, Bob had articulated the charges.

The tape player hissed and crackled. The recordings hadn't
been great to begin with, and they had been dubbed. "I'm proud
of both of you." The voice was recognizably Bob's father.

"But Bob," said taped Vi.

"Both of you, but Bob does have the clear eye that Madison
would have loved. I'm glad that he wasn't around to see Bob's
dissertation. That was what he wanted for his people, you know.
I was an anomaly. He wanted clear minds but didn't care about
business courses. You can learn 'business' in well less than a
year. It might take you a decade to learn the inner workings of
a steel mill or an auto assembly line, but general business
practice is a very small area of knowledge. Anyway, Madison
would have paid anything to get Bob. He could have operated the
program. 'Look at the situation. Report what you know, report
what questions remain, report what is needed to find the answers
to those questions.' Madison said, 'Clear thinking can be
taught; indeed it must be taught. But it can only be taught to
some people.' Bob has learned clear thinking. And not only
about history. He would have felt like shit if the trip to Paris
hadn't turned up anything. And rightly so, he grades on results
not effort; he should be graded accordingly. But he evaluated
the risk correctly, and acted on it. 'Toujours audace.'"

Then there was a break. The whole tape was a series of

"I don't know. Talking about a woman's loyalty to her man
seems like putting a demand on your mother, although she has been
constantly loyal. And I *don't* know. Loyalty is not
the-way-to-win-a-woman, it is the essence of being a man. Ask
your mother, not I, what the essence of being a woman is. But a
man is loyal. Your brother would die for Jeanette, that's easy;
he'll also live for her, which is the hard part."

A silence.

"Well, he might have turned Madison down, but I'm glad that
he didn't have to decide. I like to think that I might possibly
have been as hot as Bob is intellectually. (You never saw your
father when he was dealing with real scholarship every day.) But
he clearly is smarter about life than I was before my heart
attack. Maybe than I am now. Then too, you kids have the
benefit of my bad example. But that sort of money is a horrible
temptation. 'My wife is slaving away in an office without the
benefit of a decent education. I could buy so much for her
including full-time college; I could relieve my parents of the
burdens of debt and my sister of her worries about school loans.'
Bob was never greedy -- never past the age when any kid is. But
you want so much for others."

A sharp crackle.

"He asked me once, 'And did you deserve Mother?' Nasty kid.
Well, I never claimed to deserve your mother. And I will admit
that I deserved the question. The odd thing is that he may
actually deserve Jeanette. I know that he's done things to hurt
her, although she is too loyal to allow anyone to mention
them -- let alone to mention them herself. Maybe not deserve her
exactly, but have you noticed the changes in her year-to-year?
All brides glow, but beneath that glow she always looked a little
brittle. Maybe it's simply that she was nervous around us and
grew less nervous. Maybe it was her pregnancy last year that
made her seem much more settled in herself. I dunno. But she
sure-as-hell isn't a woman in a *bad* marriage. Except
economically, of course. I just made so many blunders myself,
that I want to help him avoid them."

A longer pause.

"Success? Would he teach more students at Harvard, or teach
them better? I made twice the money at thirty that your brother
makes. Nominal. I thought that I was a success; I was wrong. I
hope that he makes more money, that he gets tenure in the Ivy
league, that his research is cited in all the best places.
(Though I don't know what the best places are for history.) But
he chose satisfaction over money. And I hope that my example
serves you two. It's hell when all you can give your kids is a
bad example, but it's worse if they then ignore it. He's a
success on the standards that he chose; I'm a failure on the
standards that I chose; and his standards are gold to my brass.
Which is odd, when you consider that the standard that I chose
was gold."

The tape hissed until she stopped it.

I handed her my cassette. There was silence as she put it
in. The first voice heard was mine, I'd started the tape a
little late.

"Thrown in jail?"

Bob answered me on the tape: "Well, the official penalty is
prison. Stock swindlers don't serve prison time. But every
stock offering has to say that previous growth doesn't guarantee
future growth. He has a long list of investments that 'couldn't
go down' which later crashed. Let's ask him about this at
Christmas ... if it isn't moot by then. This bubble could last
another two years; sometime I'll tell you about Disraeli. It
could burst tomorrow. I remember this much of what he told me: a
stock can be valued at the dividend it is paying now; it can be
valued at the profit it's making now; it can be valued at the
increased profit you think that it will make in the future; it
can be valued at the increased price that you think that others
will pay for it. Marketers call the last, 'total return.' The
dividend plus the increase in price is the 'return' on the
investment. Economists call it a bubble or the 'greater fool

The timbre of Bob's voice seemed to change for the next
passage. Actually I had used a different recorder.

"They made a serious mistake. My father points out that
most people would like to know whether others would bow to
threats before making them. They want to say, 'Choose between
him and me, unless you would choose him.' This pattern he calls
'seriously limited credibility.' Anyway they threatened to
resign unless their demands were met, and the board replied by
accepting their resignations. The board couldn't have behaved
better if my father were on it."

Then, without a pause:

"Doctors get it. You ever hear the joke about 'That's God;
he only thinks he's a doctor'? But once out of residency,
doctors deal with reality rather than with senior doctors.
Executives are surrounded with secretaries and subordinates. The
only thing that they have to deal with, rather than assigning
others to deal with, are senior executives. That makes
socialization in the corporate culture their only survival task.
My father is tough-minded, but I still don't understand how he
survived all those years without succumbing."

A short pause.

"You'd do better to wait until Christmas. I argue economics
with my father all the time. 'Wrought ideas are always better
than cast ideas.' And who taught me that? But I would never buy
when he says sell. That is a practical matter."

The timbre of his voice changed again.

"Charles, you misjudge my family. My father, Kathleen's
father, will back his daughter against the world. Give him a
what-if, and he'll answer a what-if. Why blame him for that?
Draw up sides, and he's on Kathleen's side. Period."

A hiss.

"The weird thing... You sure I'm not boring you?"

"Not in the least," I said.

"The weird thing is that he hadn't *managed* anything up
'til then. He'd evaluated plenty. But all that he had bossed
was a small, totally dedicated, team. A skunk works, if you know
that term, of never more than twenty men. If they had known what
was wrong with Brewster, they'd never have sent him. They figure
him for a dollars-and-cents man; but he finds out that the
trouble was personnel. So he deals absolutely fairly with the
men, gets rid of the worst supervisors, and bides his time. He
waits until he knows an upturn is coming. One of the biggest
companies in the field was in the middle of a bitter strike. As
you can imagine, office furniture companies aren't hurt much by
union boycotts. Anyway, he invites the union leadership to the
house. He sells them on an agreement to have them sign a direct
mail piece to union locals around the country to ask them to
*look* at Brewster's product the next time that they bought
office furniture. The pitch was that this was a company that
dealt fairly with the union, they should have a chance. Second,
he gets them to agree that every time a man is called back from
layoff, productivity per person would also increase. (He knows
what was happening on the shop floor, and that surprises them.)
Every time a man is called back, he calls him into the office
first. He tells him that his call-back is because the other
workers on the floor are doing better work, and asks him to do
better work so that the next man can be called back. Two years
later, quality is through the roof and prices have been
relatively stable. No one is laid off, and wages are
competitive. The union leadership looks like champions, and so
does management. They only fight about what they should fight

The tape ran out, and I handed her another.

"Ihm hmm. Have you looked at the heater in the corner?
Those shelves are attached to the walls. I might be able to pull
them over on me; you're too light; The Kitten doesn't stand a
chance. There is a switch controlling the heater; it is attached
to the shelves at eye level. A little bit of overdesign, there;
but my father doesn't miss a trick. Now, aren't you glad that
you married me?"

Then something of a pause.

"You know it's odd. When you two financed the tape, we all
spoke of it as Jeanette's education. Some tiny fraction for her.
Without it, however, she might have gone on with the literature.
I very much doubt that I could have written the dissertation
without that and the radio and the magazines. When we got to
Paris, Jeanette knew what was going on. She was au courant in a
way that most French majors wouldn't have been. The magazines
and the short wave taught her about twentieth century France in a
way that nothing else could have."

"Russ wondered whether the gift of the magazines had gone on
too long," Katherine said.

"It's clearly too late to worry about this year," Bob said.
"There is a little backlog now. Nice to have someone else in the
house storing old magazines. By the summer, Jeanette will have
some idea of her new pattern of living. If the backlog is
larger, then she can read it down after the last subscription
expires. For that matter, Dad must be running out of possible
magazines. We have money, Jeanette can subscribe to one of her
favorites from the selection that he gave her. The real gift was
the experience. That is permanent. On the other hand if he gave
her *Science*, ..."

"But Bob is right about the magazines," I said. "They were
an incredible gift. So was the radio."

"And the tape recorder," Bob said. "He always sees how
things will work together."

There was a squeal.

"I've thought about that for two reasons," Bob said. "Not
about it being shoved down my throat. He was right in the past.
That wasn't where I would have spent my money. I never objected
to reading *Newsweek*, though. I did think that it might be time
for an assistant professor to buy his own."

The recorder hissed quietly until Vi turned it off.

"Now," she said, "You two know what everyone else in the
room has known for years, how the other speaks about you when
you're gone. Bob, *I* might think that you're an idiot. Dad
does not. Dad, Bob *listened* to all those stories. He retells
them. It is patently absurd for you two to bristle at each other
all the time."

"May I get up now?" Bob's father asked.

"Go right ahead," she answered. "So will I. I have
packages to wrap."

"I would appreciate it if you left The Kitten in Katherine's
hands a little longer, sir," I said. "You are certainly entitled
to your anger, but she's too young to tell that it isn't directed
at her."

"I bow to your wish," he said, "but you've lost the enormous
respect that I had for you. You should never, ever, have taped
Bob without his permission."

He and Bob went their separate ways. He with a book, Bob
with the print-outs. I will never understand men. I finished
the clean-up of the kitchen.

Katherine brought me The Kitten somewhat later, it was time
for another meal. "Did I do wrong?" I asked.

"I'm sure that I don't know, dear. You should
know -- Kathleen should certainly know -- that people don't
behave according to the facts, but according to something
deeper." The new feeding schedule put The Kitten on the edge of
her late afternoon grumpy time just as I was trying to feed her
out of a jar. I would have to watch that. Kathleen came in to
watch, but I shooed her away. When we were finished and washed,
I took The Kitten into the living room and lay on the couch.
Soon The Kitten was asleep on my stomach.

Bob came downstairs. "Do you want me to put her in the
crib?" he asked. I nodded. He picked her up and took her
upstairs. I wandered into the kitchen and finished his cleanup.
Kathleen (I have to remember not to call her Vi) was putting her
presents under the tree. I considered getting ours, but I didn't
consider it to the extent of leaving the living room. We looked
at each other.

"It seemed such a good idea," she said.

"With The Kitten," I said. "I wasn't being nasty. Your
mother showed me a trick to feeding her, and it only works if
she's looking at me. You were too diverting."

"I didn't think you were blaming me. It isn't your style.
Don't bother cutting me down a peg; Dr. Schumacher will do it for

"What did he say," I asked her, "about your plans?" She had
brought up her analyst, after all.

"It didn't ever seem to come up."

"Vi!" I'm not at her level of perceptiveness, but *not*
mentioning something like that must have meant some ambivalence
towards the idea.

"Yeah," she said, "I know. Clear after the fact, isn't it?"
She went back upstairs, and I looked for something else to think

Bob's family had a Britannica from before Micropedia. I
pulled out the volumes that would cover all the authors whose
names I could think of, nearly half the volumes. I read their
article on Balzac first. Bob taught me that trick. Reading an
article on matter that you know lets you see the depth of the
articles. Then I went through the others in alphabetical order.
Celine was interesting; maybe I would tell them that I couldn't
come to the table until I had read about Verne.

The adult Brennans might or might not have accepted that
argument, but the youngest certainly wouldn't. A few hours
later, when I had read more than my mind was ever going to hold,
Bob called that The Kitten needed me. "Upstairs or down?" he

"Upstairs," I yelled back. I left a pile of books beside
the couch, my claim to be a naturalized Brennan, and went up to
feed The Kitten in the rocker. As I rocked, I murmured what a
pretty baby she was. But soon the events of the past afternoon
overcame me. "Ta maman t'aime, ... et ta maman aime ton
pere, ... mais ta maman est un ane."

"That's all true," called Bob from the bed, "if une maman
can be un anything." (Bob think that every noun should have a
feminine form.) "Mais son pere aime sa mere, aussi. Tell her
that." And I gladly did so.

"Do you really, Bob, after all I did."

He got up and stood beside me. "And didn't do. Remember
that. Anyway, I said that I love you and I do. I didn't say
that I wasn't furious. But I'm a lot less furious than I was
when I left the couch you had me confined on. (Y'know, that
sounds a lot more intriguing than the reality.) Anyway, we'll
talk. Does everybody have their presents downstairs."

"Kathleen does."

"Well, if Kaytoo has hers down," he said, "I can take ours

"Bob...." Calling her "Kaytoo" was a declaration of war.

"Not even she will claim that I started this one."

"I think," I said, "that you have a quarrel with me and she
has a quarrel with your father."

"My father has a heart condition. Planning a quarrel with
him violates her hypocritical oath, even ignoring her duty as a
daughter -- as the two of you were so eager to do." Bob stumped
off, conveniently ignoring that he had verbally slashed at his
father just before the incident in question.

I couldn't even figure out whether "didn't do" was supposed
to aggravate or mitigate the offense. I mean, there was a whole
raft of things that I didn't do. I didn't include our lovemaking
from the tape in which Bob told the story; I hadn't got Bob drunk
to pour out his feelings for his father to the tape. On the
other hand, I hadn't warned him that I was taping him; I hadn't
included some bitter statements he had made about his father. I
hadn't blown up the federal building in Oklahoma City or won the
Nobel Peace Prize. Just what that I hadn't done did he mean? I
went back to pouring out my feelings to my daughter.

I knew how Bob would feel if his father died without
resolving this tension between them. This had seemed the only
chance. It had failed miserably.

Life went on. They make extra picture holders to fit in
wallets. I think that these are especially intended for
grandparents. We had filled two for Kathleen, except for one
position left open for a picture of Charles. I had elided the
truth a little with her. Bob, not I, was giving her the
pictures. Which meant that her presents were one load for Bob to
carry down the stairs. You can't expect him to put both the
picture sets in one box, let alone a small box. He came up from
that trip to ask, "Are those encyclopedia volumes by the couch

"Uhn huhn."

"Are you done with any?"

"I'm on the volume with Gide."

"Alpha order?" he asked. I nodded.

He stayed down a long time after the last trip. When he
came in, he asked, "Are you two done?" We weren't. "Start
without us," he called down the stairs. When The Kitten was
finished, he changed her and put her in the Snuggli. He wore her
down the stairs, and then put her down on the living-room quilt.

They had waited for us. Bob's father said grace and we all
began to eat. Bob had a sudden thought. "Sorry about the mess I
left in the kitchen," he said.

"Mess?" said Katherine. "It was neat as a pin."

"I cleaned up," I said. "I knew you had been interrupted in
the middle."

"You didn't even clean up the kitchen?" Bob's father
started. We'd just gone through hell to avoid this pattern.

"Mr. Brennan, sir," I interrupted. "We are your guests.
Anything *we* can do to ease your burdens is *our* obligation and
*our* pleasure. Please feel free to ask *us* to do anything.
But, so long as *we* deliver, which one of *us* does it is *our*
goddamn business." I could not read the expression that he
turned to me, but it didn't make look like either pain or anger.

"He had hours..." he began.

"Dear, why did you slam the door so loudly when we got back
home?" Katherine asked.

"He could have done it...."

"He couldn't do it immediately, dear. Jeanette hadn't eaten
yet. Perhaps he offered to do it as soon as she had eaten, and
she preferred his presence and said that they would do it
together later. Perhaps she thinks he should have done it, and
wants to tax him with it in privacy. If one of them did it, it
was done. She's declared their independence, and they don't need
our supervision. And I do believe that she did it much more
nicely than Kathleen declared hers, don't you?"

Kathleen gave a "what have I done" look. I couldn't help
her there.

"And perhaps," I put in, "we are writing a book together and
rearing a child together. If Bob is working on the book and
listening for the child, it makes no sense to climb the stairs to
interrupt both rather than do ten minutes work downstairs.

"I was serious about our division of tasks. It's
comfortable for us. I got the encyclopedia off the bottom shelf;
The Kitten needed me; Bob returned the volumes that I was done
with. We are in the middle of an argument, but he doesn't say
'That's her mess, let her deal with it.'

"When we were newlyweds, we divided up all the tasks very
seriously. As time went on, we found ourselves internalizing
those tasks. Every new apartment changed them slightly. My
pregnancy and the arrival of The Kitten threw them overboard. We
still have those assignments, but it's much more seeing the next
job that's sitting there. 'Turn over the patties, the timer just

"We added full time child-care and subtracted a full time
secretarial job to our joint assignments when The Kitten was
born. Instead of my doing all the child-care, or a total
juggling of assignments, we've fallen into the pattern of Bob
having all his old housework assignments, but I do them if I get
a spare moment. That way, The Kitten is always my first task."

"And," Bob broke in, "taking care of yourself is your second
task. Mother, this woman would need a nap in the daytime. She
wouldn't wake up at night and read (though she would wake up at
night and nurse), she would actually need that sleep. But she
would feel guilty about it. What would The Kitten do if her
Maman got sick?"

"Okay," I agreed. I was trying to deal with his parents
just then, not him. "My second duty is to keep myself healthy.
Still, there are plenty of days when I have time to spare. Maybe
I do the dishes, maybe I sort socks. And maybe I take a nap or
read a murder mystery. The point is that I feel much better than
I would if I were neglecting one of my assignments."

"And," Bob said, "I would rather have the dishes be my
responsibility and sometimes be relieved of it, than have the
dishes be her responsibility and sometimes have it shoved off on

"So," I continued, "We are just bringing our home pattern
here. You give all the assignments to Bob, and I pick up the
holes if nothing else is pressing. I will, however, help in the
preparation of Friday's dinner." This was a tradition. Bob and
I took Christmas dinner with my parents, and dinner the day after
with his parents. Kathleen and I assisted Katherine in the

"I think," said Katherine, "that you will find your
availability will be limited this year."

"Her availability?" said Kathleen. "How about mine? I was
supposed to have The Kitten all day today and hardly held her."

"You yielded her up as soon as you had her," her father
pointed out. "You can hardly expect her grandparents to put that
time in a bank for you."

"This isn't The Kitten's best time of day," I said. "You
can all hold her tomorrow morning. Kathleen can hold her as long
as The Kitten permits, or until church, after dinner." The
Kitten isn't a toy to be shared. On the other hand, she seemed
to be glorying in it.

"I brought her downstairs," Bob said. "She can make her
needs known, but we don't like to leave her on the other level."

"Do you have one of those baby monitors?" Kathleen asked.
"It lets you have some privacy without allowing her any."
Brennan bluntness strikes again.

"We've looked at them," Bob said, "but we won't really need
them until we get a two-bedroom apartment." Also, as Bob pointed
out to me, a set just might appear under the Christmas tree.

"Except that you could use it right now," Kathleen pointed

"I don't think it is that critical, dear," Katherine said.

"But it is," Bob said. "She's right. I bet the mall is
still open. Is there a Radio Shack or something in the mall
these days?"

"I really couldn't help you, dear," Katherine said. Bob and
Kathleen looked at each other. One gift identified.

"Tell me Kathleen," I said. "I'm fascinated by parts of
your work...."

"You wouldn't be," she said. "I mostly fetch and carry."

"It's more your studies, the diagnostic end. What is the
current label for adult siblings who regress to babyish behavior
every time that they get together?"

"Do you mean 'Brennan'? That is not currently a diagnostic
category, but we are working on it." Bob and Kathleen were
supposed to be in a state of declared war; maybe they were.
Package rattling was accepted behavior around the Brennan
Christmas tree, not just your own packages. It was, however,
considered mean to tell someone what their gift from someone else
was. Unless you were lying, which made it completely all right.

"I warn you all," said Kathleen. "My alarm clock is
regularly set at six a.m." The Brennan rule is that the kids
can't come down on Christmas before their regular waking time.
Kathleen and Bob could have it changed today, but they wouldn't
dream of it. It is part of the Christmas tradition. So is
arguing about it.

"But," Bob said, "that's Central Time. That is seven
Eastern Time. Anyway we have an alarm clock which rings hours
earlier than that."

"Well," Kathleen, "I'm going to check it's settings." And,
at that, we started wandering away from the table. I went back
to my encyclopedia articles until even Kathleen could see that
The Kitten wanted Maman. And soon we left for church.

The Snuggli can be configured in all sorts of ways, Bob had
it arranged so that The Kitten faced the same direction that he
did. Then he sat facing backward in the van. The Kitten was
perfectly happy on the ride there, I didn't know how she would
take the ride back.

The church uses a ritual that is called "Passing the Peace."
You take the hand of the person next to you and say "The peace of
God is yours this night." ("... this day," for morning
worship.) Then that person passes it on to the person next to
them. You can use a hug, rather than a handshake, if you want.
Our pew went: the usher took Katherine's hand, she hugged her
husband, he took Bob's hand, he hugged me with us both bent to
avoid The Kitten who was still in the Snuggli, I hugged Kathleen,
then I took The Kitten's hand. (I wasn't being formal with The
Kitten. It's just that holding her is too common for a ritual.)

This service was "Hymns and Lections." About the second
hymn, The Kitten decided that it was time to eat. Our whole
schedule had been upset. "Trade with her," Bob's father said to
him. I sat between two big men each with his hand on the pew
ahead of ours; it was almost a private booth. A boy who couldn't
have been more than ten had looked back towards us several times
up to then. He looked back once more during the next reading.
Bob's father snapped his fingers -- the sound must have carried
to the reader -- pointed his finger at the boy, and made a
circling motion. The boy faced front through the rest of the
service. He managed to leave at the end without looking in our
direction. He couldn't have seen anything; I was in a nursing
bra and The Kitten was in the way. I didn't stand when the
others did, and I sang from memory.

The Kitten was not happy to be deprived of my breast when
the service ended, but she hadn't been drinking much for some
time. We stuck a pacifier in her and ducked the line. "Sorry,"
said Bob's father in a voice that filled the space, "we have to
get the baby home. No rides this year, ask someone else." He
had already told that to several regulars.

"Hi Vi," someone called.

"Merry Christmas," she responded, but none of us was

"All in?" asked Bob's father. "All buckled?" Once we were
moving, The Kitten settled down. Bob was still carrying The
Kitten and led the way into the house and up the stairs. With a
hand hauling him up the railing, he can take two steps at a time.
As soon as I could drop my coat and give her access, The Kitten
clamped on to my breast and took two deep sucks. Then she
discovered that her tummy was nearly full after all and went back
to playing.

"The crisis is over," I said. Ten minutes later, she
agreed. Bob got more of burp than usual, she must have swallowed
air when she was on the pacifier. I took my time in the
bathroom, cleaning my breasts as well as my face. I wasn't
relishing this night.

Bob visited more than the bathroom on his trip. He took my
coat downstairs and came back with the encyclopedia volumes which
I hadn't put back. Now I was a real Brennan, with a stack of
books beside my bed which I might read sometime. The door was
locked, the Kitten was going to sleep, there weren't any more

"I'm sorry, Bob, but the two of you bristle when together
and praise each other when apart. I couldn't help thinking about
what would happen if something like the last argument were the
last words you had with him." (That's one reason that you say "I
love you," when you walk out the door. What happens if the last
thing you said to your spouse was a dig?)

"Look, I'm your husband. Okay? That's your child. Okay?
Learn the difference.

"If that was the only thing you'd done, I would be through
the roof. I dunno, girl. First you and Vi decide that you know
better than two adult men what they need, then you two plan to
manipulate us with that fool stunt, and then you betray me. One
of those conversations was from our marriage bed! That is
disgusting. The ones from our table were bad enough. I don't
quote you; you don't quote me. That's been our rule. Then you
*tape* me. And you tape me in bed."

"I cut out the bed part of it."

"Great! You had our intercourse on tape, but it's all right
because you erased it. But the part that you played for the
whole damn family was from our bed! It was part of my making
love to you! Do you remember your second 'game'? Back then you
said that you wanted me to talk to you. Give me the tape and the

I handed them to him. He erased the tape. Neither of us
spoke while it went through both sides. He removed the cassette
and stamped on it. Dissatisfied with the crack, he jumped up and
came down on it with all his weight. It shattered, and he almost
fell. He dumped the bits except the tape into the wastebasket.

"I'll burn this," he said, knotting the tape up. "There has
to be more." I nodded. He went through the ritual with two more

"I must admit that I enjoyed that," he said after the last
shards had stopped flying.

"The rest is at home," I said.

"We'll burn it all there. That's one part. I want you to
swear that you'll never tape me in secret again."

"I swear it. On my wedding ring." He looked surprised but
accepted it.

"I wish that you would treat me like an adult, but I'll
never ask you to swear that. You wouldn't keep that oath. But
you know what else you did?"

"No." This was getting awful.

"You looked for a credible threat to keep me there, in that
seat. And you couldn't find one. However idiotic and vile your
plan was, you couldn't make the threat that you would ban me from
your arms."

"How did you know that was what I was thinking?"

"Beloved, it was your only weapon. And you decided that it
would be too much."

"That. And I wouldn't go through with it. And you know
that I wouldn't go through with it. I love you Bob."

"And I love you. And you appealed to that love, knowing
that it was enough. For that knowledge, I would forgive you

"But not yet!" He looked confused. "I want your
forgiveness, need it. But I want to ask it in a special place.
Sit in the rocker."

"You don't have to do this to get me to forgive you." Bob
has a horror of marital sex in-exchange-for.

"I know that. It's just that I need to be there to

He stripped and sat down. Bob has never turned down a
sexual invitation from me since the days when he told his
pubescent girlfriend that she didn't know what she was
suggesting. Of course, I could break that pattern simply by
asking him right after a climax, or -- possibly -- when he is in
the depths of one of his colds.

I thought that I might have accidentally found a third way
to break it. He wasn't even slightly erect. I turned off the
overhead light and straddled him in the rocker. "I love you," I
said, "and I'm sorry that I taped you without your permission."
I kissed him on the forehead, which I can't often reach, and then
on the lips. I caressed him all over his torso, courting him as
he had so often courted me. "And I could never refuse you.

He laughed at that. I had refused him often enough in our
dating days. "Even in the early days, I didn't really *refuse*,"
I said. "It was a matter of telling you that I wasn't ready.
You didn't demand, so I didn't refuse. But I meant something
different. I could have refused you then. I could have refused
you in our first year, even. But then you showed me what it was
I would be refusing. I would miss my passion, but I would be
able to bear it; I couldn't bear losing your passion. Oh Bob,
want me, make me want you even more."

Because I did want him, wanted him desperately, was torn
apart that he wasn't in me; but that was entirely emotional. My
body would have accepted his then, but it didn't crave his body
the way my mind craved it. He figured out what I meant by what I
said. He pulled me down to his mouth for a long kiss. His hands
roved my skin while his tongue roved my mouth. When he spread
his legs and -- consequently -- mine, I had to grab the back of
the rocker to keep my balance. I shifted my grip onto his

He used the nails of both hands on me, between a tickle and
a scratch. One hand was on the bottom of my right breast, the
other on the even-more-sensitive skin where my thighs meet my
hips. That hand soon moved the half-inch to my nether lips. He
played with them, rolled one against the other, stroked so
lightly that he was only tickling the hairs, pressed one and then
the other, before finally parting them. Then he played similarly
with the inner lips. Before he parted these, I was ready for
him. The desires of my body had nearly caught up with the
desires of my heart. I could feel his grin at the moisture he
found, but his mouth didn't leave mine for the longest time.

He stroked that liquid up towards the top of my valley, went
back to get more, stroked that a tiny bit higher, went back to
get more.... I went from desire to agony. I was determined not
to ask for him that night, determined that he would set the pace.
He, however, seemed uninterested in going further. When I
couldn't stand it a moment longer, I broke our kiss. "Don't you
want to be inside me?" I asked.

"Do you want it."

"Horribly, for ever so long," I said. "Couldn't you tell?"

He grinned in the dimness of the night-light. "Raise up."
I did, and he moved forward in the rocker. He was holding me
spread, and I touched him with my fingertips. I shuffled forward
and settled myself down.

When we made contact, I moved him to the precise spot. Then
I eased myself down. I had to move again to make it all work
right, but I slowly impaled myself on my love. The entry felt
wonderful, the heat felt better, and the fullness felt best of
all. The look on Bob's face suggested that he felt wonderful
too. "Should I begin rocking?" he whispered.

"Oh yes, love," I said. "And forgive me then."

He got the rocker moving, which got him moving within me and
all our critical parts moving against each other. "I do forgive
you," he said. "I do." And we rocked harder, and he moved
further in and further out, and he rubbed all my critical parts
faster, and he said "I do," much louder.

I pulled his mouth against my breast. "It doesn't hurt," I
lied. And he sucked on me and rocked us harder still. It did
hurt, but it also thrilled me. Like that, he wasn't going in as
deep, but he was rubbing up and down my valley with every stroke.
He got milk that The Kitten had left, and he throbbed within me
when it left me. "Oh, forgive me," I sobbed. My body stiffened
away from his mouth.

"I do," he shouted, and then he did. He fell back and
thrust upward. I flamed in his arms and around his phallus. And
he did and did and did, thrusting up against me, pulsing deep
within me, filling me with all the little Bobs.

Which promptly ran out again as soon as he had left me. But
I stayed in his lap, leaning against his body. The rocker was
shoved back but it was safe. We gasped there forever. Then we
cleaned ourselves and the rocker seat up and crawled into bed.
"You didn't have to do that," Bob said. "You know that. I
already forgave you."

"*You* didn't have to do it. *I* did. I really wanted to
feel forgiven, and I felt more forgiven like that. I really
won't record you again."

"Against my will," he said.

"Neither against your will, nor without telling you first."

"I love you," he said. "Even though I think you have
absolution confused with baptism."

"If you really forgive me," I said, "hug me tight."

"I can't hug you as tight as I love you. It would crush
you." But he hugged me tight all the same. And I hugged his

Part Nine:

Despite their ages and educational attainment, Bob and
Kathleen insist on being little children on Christmas morning.
Their parents, who wouldn't have it any other way, fix stockings
for them (and for me) late on Christmas Eve. Sometime before I
entered the family, Vi took on the task of preparing a stocking
for each of her parents. Bob's contribution to this is sporadic,
but it included photos this year. There were two stockings for
The Kitten, since we had brought one from home. I was really
surprised that there weren't three. There were a few sprigs of
mistletoe around, one of them over the couch. This is the
assigned place for Bob and me on Christmas day.

(I don't think it is really fair to carry a baby under a
sprig of mistletoe and kiss her there, but I kept that opinion
all to myself.)

The stockings and one gift are opened in sleepwear, and then
everyone scatters to dress for the fancy breakfast. After that,
the rest of the gifts are opened and recorded. When we were
dirt-poor students, our gifts were from Bob-and-Jeanette. Now we
each give a gift to each of the other members of the family.

(When she was a dirt-poor student, not that interns do so
much better, Kathleen often gave gifts to Mom-and-Dad or to
Bob-and-Jeanette. Once she gave the two of us a used murder
mystery. I devour them, Bob seldom reads them. Bob, who will
ride Kathleen about anything, expressed real gratitude. He told
me, "All you got was a used book; I got a happy wife.")

Kathleen was more-or-less lying in ambush when I stumbled
out of our room that morning. "Is The Kitten ready?" she asked.
Since I was heading for the bathroom having left a naked husband
in the room behind me, I was rather abrupt with her. "Tell me
when she is," was all Kathleen said. I had already fed The Kitten
and Bob had been changing her. When I got back to the room, I got
her into a dress (sleepwear rule be hanged) and handed her to her
aunt. "Oh Kitten, you look darling," Kathleen said. I knew that
was the last I would see of my daughter until she got hungry

This year the first gifts for Bob and me were the matching
sender and receiver of the baby monitor. Our stockings, as well
as The Kitten's were full of small-but-too-big-to-swallow toys.
The Kitten's first gift was *Now We Are Six* (with the original
Shepherd drawings) from her Aunt Kathleen. She had warned the
whole extended family that she was giving the series, which
precluded duplicates but destroyed its surprise value. Her gift
next Christmas will be *House at Pooh Corner*, for example.

Kathleen's first gift was a photo album. The first page was
an enlargement of the picture of The Kitten that the Senior
Brennans had used on their Christmas card. The rest was blank, as
she carefully showed Bob and me. "Look, Catherine Angelique," she
said. "That's you."

The stocking ritual took quite some time, since Kathleen was
holding The Kitten with at least one hand, and had to show her
each of the gifts in each of her stockings. The Kitten has a
short attention span for toys, but not *that* short. She got a
rattle fairly soon and held on to it through the rest of the
first stocking and part of the second. The wrapping paper from
her gift, however, captured her attention.

"I explained to Bob, when he was about that age," Bob's
father said grabbing the paper which had wrapped her book, "the
difference between soap and food. Soap, I explained is rubbed on
the outside of your face; and food goes in your mouth."

"It wasn't that age, dear," Katherine said. "He was nearly
two years older."

"Anyway," Bob's father continued. "Bob explained to me the
difference between food and paper. Food, he explained, is rubbed
on the outside of your face; and paper goes in your mouth.
However," at this word he put the paper way out of her reach. "I
think we'll try to keep the paper out of his daughter's mouth
today. All gone, darling." She was not pleased with this.

"You know, dear," Katherine said towards the end of this
exercise, "it's always a temptation to tell a child 'But it's for
your own good.' Because, of course, you are continually making
decisions for the child's good. That never works. No-one
appreciates having things done *to* them. And they appreciate it
even less when they are asked to be grateful. Remember that, will you,
when The Kitten has a better grasp of verbal communication. You should
remember that, as well, dear."

Now I was probably the first "dear," but I couldn't guess to
whom the last sentence was addressed. Kathleen, however, knew.
She held up her bare left hand. "'There's just one thing,'" she
sang. "'You ought to give at least an engagement ring.' mother I
may *never* have any children."

"That's all well and good, dear. It's your decision after
all." (Have I mentioned that the Brennans' idea of the relation
between parents and adult children differ's from my parents'
idea?) "However, that decision doesn't provide you with a license
to parent those who aren't your children. Now does it?"

"No ma'am.... C'mon Kitten, we're going up to watch Aunt
Kathleen dress. I've showered so somebody else can use the
bathroom." She was on the stairs before I realized that she had
been spanked; and she was in her room before I figured out that I
had been, too.

Kathleen was still carrying The Kitten when we were all
gathered for the fancy breakfast. "Isn't she the cutest baby in
the whole world?" Bob asked his sister.

"I think so, but I may be prejudiced."

"I'm not prejudiced," he said. (I'm reporting on his words,
not testifying to their truth.) "She's the cutest baby in the
whole world, and I'll speak for the record."

"You may well be speaking for the record with these two,"
said his father in a bitter tone.

"Jeanette's not recording this," Bob said, "although I
reserve the right to search her for a wire." He wasn't doubting
my word, he was being risque.

"But still...." his father said.

"Sir," Bob said in a voice that cut through his father's.
"As the senior partner informed you, this firm is available for
all manner of subcontracting, but *not*!" That word cracked
through the room, and he let a two-beat pause follow it. "for
micro-management. Whether Jeanette is taping me now or will tape
me in the future is a question between Jeanette and myself.
Period. Whether it's been settled or will be settled or will
never be settled is an internal family matter."

Bob's father looked apoplectic during the first half of the
speech, but he had some other expression by the end. "I haven't
done much right by you," he said to Katherine. "But, by God, I
sired a *man* on you."

"I think that you contributed a bit more to his being a man
than the Y chromosome, dear," she answered, "and you did a lot
right by me. Do you mind if I say the grace?"

"Go ahead." She said a fairly elaborate grace, thanking God
for the food, the company, and the festive season. Then she
thanked him for the Prince of Peace and asked the blessing of
peace on the family. The amens were hesitant, but all around the

"Since the topic has been raised...." I began.

"Never going to make her a real Brennan, are you?" Kathleen
said to Bob. Her mother saw my hurt. Kathleen had been the first
person to call me a Brennan, when I wasn't.

"Topic doesn't matter, dear," Katherine explained to me.
"Raise your own."

Bob cut through the last sentence with, "And, as the
original speaker, you have the right of way and may plow through
her speech, and mother's, and mine, ignoring us."

"First," I said to Bob's father, taking this advice. "Of
course you have provided a lot towards Bob's personality. The
stories he remembers show that; and on that topic, I think I know
what you do at Brewster. I couldn't understand what you did

"Do you really want to hear?" he asked.

"Wow," said Kathleen, "that was quick restoration to grace.
He never asked *us* if we wanted to hear."

"I really want to know," I said.

"I already knew whether you wanted to hear, Kathleen Violet.
Anyway, it all starts with Ward Technology, a conglomerate, and
Madison, then a small-time management consultant. A growth
conglomerate works like this (but the numbers are out of date; I
worked them out long ago).

"Tortoise manufacturing is a corporation earning a hundred
million dollars a year. That is net profit after taxes. The
market values Tortoise at nine times earnings. Hare conglomerate
is a company also earning a hundred million dollars in the last
year, but it has been growing at thirty percent a year in
earnings per share. So the market values it at twenty times
earnings. Hare buys Tortoise for a round billion in new Hare
stock. Then the merged company makes one hundred ninety-five
million dollars in the next year. For Hare, that is ninety-five
percent more earnings on fifty percent more shares. That makes a
thirty percent increase in per-share earnings. The market is
proven right about Hare, it continues to value it at twenty times
earnings. Hare's shares are worth thirty percent more than they
were last year. The old owners of Tortoise are happy, since they
have shares of stock worth over forty percent more than the
Tortoise shares that they held last year.

"What no-one seems to notice is that the market now values
at three-point-nine billion a mix of plant and equipment that it
valued at two-point-nine billion last year when it earned five
millions more profit.

"Of course, when a growth conglomerate slips, it is all over
but the crying. Well, Ward Tech had almost slipped. Justice had
nixed its largest acquisition of the year before, and its growth
was much lower than expected.

"Now the other half of this is Madison...."

He said a lot more before Katherine said, "Her eyes have
glazed over dear."

"I'm sorry," he said, "I thought that you wanted to hear."

"I wanted to *learn*," I said. "It's just that there is more
to learn than I can handle at once."

"What you really ought to do, dad," Bob said, "is to write it
down. I know some of it, but it's like the game 'Rumor.' You
tell me; I tell Jeanette; Jeanette tells The Kitten; and suddenly
Madison is the fourth president, and Brewster Furniture makes
office equipment.... Yeah, I know, in all your spare time."
Meaning that he hadn't any.

"One possibility," I put in, "if this isn't a sore point
right now, is to put it on tape. Don't worry about filling
cassettes, one story per tape. Put a little card with each tape
telling what the subject is and the date of recording and the
date covered by the narrative." Guess who made a few extra bucks
transcribing for an oral-history project. "If worst comes to
worst, The Kitten would have a record of your voice. At best, I
might be able to type them up sometime. Right now, I'm booked.
But my part of the books dribbles off long before Bob's part."

"I, at least, am serious," Bob said. "You don't know how
important the memoirs and diaries of the less-than-famous are to
historians. Not meaning to denigrate you, but you aren't a
politician or a general. We have their memoirs; we'll have the
biographies of the entertainers of this time. But most of the
stories don't say how the rest of the world operated. Anyway,
Kathleen might not have listened, but she'll read it if it's in
print." That is an article of faith in the family. She read
Britannica from A to Z, though she admits skipping parts of the
duller articles.

"Think about it," Kathleen said. "And, although I'm much
more selective these days, I would read that."

Later, when Bob's father looked like he had finished eating,
I asked him if that were true. When he nodded, I told Kathleen
to give The Kitten to him. Having wrestled with her all through
the meal, she was reluctant to give her up. "But this was only
niece time," she said. "I haven't had any goddaughter time at
all." That lost. Kathleen and I cleared the table and hurried
in to share in the experience of the tree.

The Kitten, as I expected, made out like a bandit. Instead
of being grateful for all the toys and books she received, she
resented all the wrapping paper that she was being denied. We
left the party suddenly for some cereal and fruit. There were
piles of presents for us when we got back.

Bob and I got matching shirts with large pockets like his
father was wearing. I'm not sure that I want my daughter to get
more experience picking pockets than she has already, but she
certainly enjoys it. I also got a necklace of beads like
Katherine's but even more splendiferous in color. It has larger
and, therefore, even less dangerous beads.

The Kitten, on top of everything else, got a child's picture
book *in French* from Bob's father. I gave him a big hug in
gratitude, forgetting that it wasn't -- technically -- a gift to me.

Kathleen put off Bob's gifts to her until the end. Then she
unwrapped a box, searched the wrapping paper, opened it to find
another box, unwrapped it and searched the wrapping paper.... The
picture set was taped to the bottom of the fourth box in.
However, she opened that box and unwrapped, opened, and searched
the fifth box before looking at the pictures. There is no telling
with a Bob box. Bob and I got a hug in thanks. She expressed more
enjoyment over the pictures than over the very nice blouse that I
had given her. On the other hand, the pictures would have been
rather dull without The Kitten; and I made her myself.

The other picture set was wrapped somewhat less complexly.
The family talked about extreme Bob packages from the past. He
used to do this to his parents as well, and to me; but he has
slacked off in recent years. Ours are generally less elaborate
than Kathleen's.

Sooner or later, every Christmas includes the story of the
year Bob gave his sister a series of *seven* boxes, each of them
padded from the larger one by crushed newspaper, and all of them
otherwise empty. After she had thrashed around in the discarded
wrappings for a length of time which increases with every
retelling, he got the book from his room and tried to slip it
into the wrapping paper under the excuse of helping her look.

This story seems to require four Brennans to tell it
properly, leaving me the only audience. In a few years, The
Kitten will join me. This Christmas, looking at four adults
laughing uproariously, she decided that it must have been
something that she had done; she waved her hands to keep us
laughing. I'd planned to feed her just before leaving for my
family's celebration. She'd awakened hungry earlier than usual,
however, and we hadn't managed to stretch the times much.

I fed her much earlier than I had planned, and downstairs.
The latter was a mistake, because the bustle disturbed The Kitten,
and it distracted me from my speech when she paused. Midway
through the feeding, Bob's father asked if he could read "King
John's Christmas" from The Kitten's new book. I asked her, and
reported her permission. I felt like a servant of the Pythoness.
When she was in the play-with-the-nipple stage, she cut it short
to admire all the talk going around. That didn't cut her ration
by much, and I let it go. With any luck, my parents would be
through their meal by the time she got hungry again, and it would
be a good excuse for short goodbyes. I left The Kitten with
Katherine, and went upstairs to express some milk from my other
breast. I don't mind nursing The Kitten before the family, but
nursing a damn machine should only be done in private. They held
the poem until I got back down. The king got his India-rubber
ball just before it was time to leave for my parents' house.

Since the car seat was in the van, we drove that to my
parents' house. "Every time I drive this route with you," Bob
said, "I expect to be told that I'm not old enough to drive you
home." Daddy had objected to Bob's driving me on a date when Bob
was newly licensed. Daddy then drove us to the movie, however,
showing that it was a real concern for my safety, not just
another power play. Since Bob never had a moving violation and
my father had frequent ones, that concern might have been

"You aren't going to act the bear like that with The
Kitten's dates are you?" I asked him.

"Probably not. Since I won't let her date until she is
twenty-one, I figure that all of her potential dates will have
established a driving record. If it is without blemish, I'll let
her ride with them." Bob and I have to discuss the dating rules
sometime in the next thirteen years.

mommy gets to have her celebration on Christmas. That means
that the Brennan feast is delayed a day. The Brennans almost
never have guests to what is, to them, a major family feast.
Mommy, on the other hand, always wants guests. She doesn't have
much of a selection on Christmas day, but the dual inconvenience
shows her power over those who come and over us.

The Brennans have turned the oddity into an advantage. They
have a Christmas celebration one day and a Christmas feast the
next. Meal preparation takes most of the day, and makes the
feast much more special.

My mother's guests this year included a widower, three
widows, a single woman of my mother's age, my brother, Dave, and
us. Dave is older than me and younger than Greg. (Which makes him
both my older brother and my younger brother; think about it.) He
is also bad news. Bob had told Dave very quietly on a previous
such occasion that touching me would be an occasion for seriously
mixing it up with Bob. "And which of us would win that one?" Dave
had asked. Bob is bigger, but Dave fights dirtier and much more

"And which of us would be violating parole on that one?" Bob
had replied. He'd made his point. If the police have to be
called, and I am under oath to call them if any such fight
occurs, they know Dave. Bob, on the other hand, has no arrest
record; he's a college professor and the son of the president of
the town's largest private-sector employer. This year, Dave
seemed to be on is best behavior. He said nice things about The
Kitten, but didn't try to touch her. It may have been Bob
hulking over us, it may have been a lack of interest in babies.
Dave was even drinking tomato juice, but his presence raised the
tension level.

The Kitten was a hit with the older guests. Her grandmother
was the only one who didn't coo over her.

Dinner was much later than the year before. I feared that
The Kitten wouldn't last through it; but the recent changes had
blown the schedule to smithereens, so I couldn't be sure. We had
some of my milk in a bottle. I didn't feel that walking away from
the table to go breast-feed would be a big hit. I would feel less
comfortable feeding The Kitten in front of my family, let alone
their guests, than I did in Bob's old church which I attended
once or twice a year. Bob's only worry, and a serious one, is
that he would have to leave me to care for The Kitten.

"And what do you do, Mr. Brennan?" one of the widows asked.

"Call me Bob."

"Mr. Brennan teaches school up in the North," my mother put

Bob has the least pride of status of anyone I know; Mommy's
statement is technically correct; Bob's mother teaches school,
and he reveres her. Even so, saying an Assistant Professor
"teaches school" minimizes his standing. And Bob is "Dr.
Brennan" or "Professor Brennan" rather than "Mr." I never
understand what advantage mommy sees in this, her daughter's
social standing must reflect on hers to some degree. And mommy
cares about social standing.

"Oh, what is the name of the school?"

"Grand Valley State University," Bob said. "It's in

"They call a school a university?" The woman wasn't nasty,
but neither was she bright.

"No," I said, "Mother calls a university a school. And, to
some extent, it is."

"We," Dave put in, "are eating with an actual university
professor. Aren't you impressed." Dave, having spent five years
in high school, regards himself as an expert on education.

"Were I a professor at thirty-two, you would have reason to
be impressed," Bob said. "Unfortunately, I'm a mere assistant
professor. That's a much commoner breed."

"I," said the widower suddenly, "am more impressed by
thirty-two than by an assistant professor. Oh to be young again!"
That brought laughs and agreement from the table. Soon, the
conversation got around to the ills that flesh is heir to. The
details were excruciating.

Half way through the meal, however, The Kitten demanded
food. Bob pushed his chair back and I passed him the bottle.
"Sorry," he said, "our child needs feeding." mommy expostulated,
but he ignored her. He knew that The Kitten's cries would start
my breasts working whether he had a bottle with him or not.

"He shouldn't be feeding the child now," mommy told me.
"And how do you know he can do it right?"

"Mother, only he has ever bottle fed The Kitten. If I'm in
the same room, my breasts leak." Now that is sober fact. I
expected some complaint that I would feel comfortable breast
feeding my child in front of my in-laws but not in the same house
as my own family.

Instead, she said, "Leaking breasts! Ladies don't mention
leaking breasts. Janice has your daughter ever talked about
leaking breasts at the dinner table?" Janice didn't think so.
"George?" The widower had no daughter. "Well, if you had, you
wouldn't want her talking about leaking breasts."

Now, two cases of incontinence had already been mentioned. I
don't think that leaking breasts are that much worse than leaking
bladders. Also, of the five mentions of leaking breasts, mommy
had managed four. And these were, as the tv censors say,

"This criticism of formula is simply a modern fad anyway.
Isn't that right, Father?" mommy calls Daddy "Father" when any of
her children are in the room. Why is a mystery, but then most
things about mommy are mysteries.

"Mommy," I said, "I respect Daddy's skill and knowledge as
a pharmacist." And I do. He isn't that effective a businessman
and had been a lousy parent, but he knows drugs and their

"And well you might," mommy said. "He built The Pharmacy up
from next to nothing." Which he didn't, in the first place; and
which would imply business skill rather than professional
knowledge, in the second.

"But I don't think he would feel comfortable criticizing the
position taken by the AMA with regard to substances which are
not, after all, prescription substances in the USA."

"What has that to do with your father's putting years into
building up a business that you ignored and abandoned?" I had
"abandoned" the pharmacy by marrying a man who wasn't going to
carry it on. My marrying one who was going to carry it on had
been Daddy's dream, but certainly not Mommy's.

"Nothing, I was just pointing out that the American Medical
Association endorses breast-feeding for at least one year. Your
opinion to the contrary notwithstanding."

"It's not polite to always change the subject, Jeanette.
That's the trouble with these bossy modern women. They turn their
men into wimps doing women's work, ..." (Now Bob complains that
his strength has declined from the summers when he did highway-
construction labor. But "wimp" isn't the first term which comes
to mind when you see him.) "and then they try to change the
subject to their private concerns." (All my comments had been in
response to hers.)

Mercifully, mention of modern times led to a general chorus
of complaints. The sin of women working competed with the
difficulty of hiring housemaids and cleaning women on affordable
terms. I don't want to suggest that anyone raised a possible
conflict between these two evils. It's just that both topics were
broached and people had to choose which one to address at any
particular moment.

Daddy did contribute to this conversation. The economic
problems of this country were entirely due to three causes: the
minimum wage, affirmative action, and "paying people to not work
and worse, paying them to have babies." Oh to be back in the
glorious, untrammeled, economy of 1931! But I didn't say so, I'd
used up my parent-contradiction quota for this year. As I said,
he is careful about your prescription. If you have prescriptions
from two doctors, or from one careless doctor, take his advice.
But not his advice on politics or economics.

Bob brought The Kitten back in. I took her, and Bob dug in
to what was left on his plate. It was the best appetite that I've
seen him exhibit in that house. We had brought presents to mommy
and Daddy from each of us and photos from The Kitten. These would
be opened later. We were given our presents in public, one for
each of us. Bob got a tie; The Kitten got a stuffed animal (an
elephant, I thought it was cute); I got a blouse which was too
small and too young for me. We thanked them effusively.

The Kitten was getting crankier and crankier, an excuse for
us to leave. "You didn't even give me a chance to hold my
grandchild," mommy said.

"You didn't ask when she was in a good mood," I replied,
silently thanking God. We drove off with The Kitten complaining
about the car seat even after the van got moving.

Continued in Part Ten.
Uther Pendragon
This is the third segment of the last story (so far) in a series
of stories about the Brennans.

The first segment of this story is:
Parts 1-3

The fourth and last segment is:
Parts 10-12

The first story in the series is:
The list of the entire series is:
Brennan stories Directory

The list of *all* my stories can be found at:
Index to Uther Pendragon's Website

End of File


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