Frannie in Pieces

Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron Read Free Book Online

Book: Frannie in Pieces by Delia Ephron Read Free Book Online
Authors: Delia Ephron
unglued. I look closely to make sure she isn’t pocketing something of Dad’s that she doesn’t want me to have. “I’m packing,” she adds.
    Only of course she isn’t.
    Mom hits the button, silencing the birdsong. “So?”
    She grabs the tape dispenser, karate chops a collapsed box to open it up, seals the seams in two shakes, and begins packing up Dad’s clothes.

    Having that secret present makes it much easier to leave Dad’s. I try not to pay too much attention to the ransacked quality of the house. Nor do I want to consider the irony: Some leftovers might end up in the dump, right where they came from.
    â€œYou can come back again,” Mom tells me.
    â€œI know. I’ll come whenever I want.”
    â€œUntil it’s sold.”
    Thank you for the reminder.
    â€œWe should store everything in the garage,” shesays as we pull into the driveway. “There are at least twelve boxes.”
    â€œNo, in my room. I want them with me.” I fake a little catch in my throat, although here’s a warning: Working up to a crying fit, even as a big fat act, is like being in a rowboat on top of Niagara Falls. Pretty hard to change direction.
    â€œAll right, fine,” my mom says, as I blow my nose on a tissue she provides. “Whatever you want.”
    Wow. Me have power. I think she might be scared of upsetting me.
    Cardboard could not possibly absorb oxygen (or emit carbon monoxide). Impossible, right? But no question my room smells stale now that it’s a storage facility. Breathing ceases to be a pleasant activity. I move four cartons down to the garage. Strategically, I believe it makes my mom less likely to hound me. Practically, I believe it ups my odds of survival.
    I have to wait until ten at night to look inside my beautiful carved box. Ten is when Mom and Melturn into pumpkins. Most likely it’s a jewelry box. Little compartments. An upper shelf that lifts out. But what about that 1000?
    What does it mean? Obviously not my age. Could it be a year? Doubtful. A lucky number? Dad never mentioned a lucky number. How about a mystery number—something he expects me to spend the rest of my life puzzling over? My dad was a bit twisted—imagine liking crazy bird music—but he wasn’t that twisted. Could it be something inside the box? Maybe a check for a thousand dollars that my mom will force me to put away for college. No way. Dad never gave money for presents. One thousand…let’s see. One thousand balloons that I have to blow up myself? That’s more likely. One thousand pearls. Get real, Frannie. One thousand wild-flower seeds. A bit tedious to count them, don’t youthink, although Dad and I do love wildflowers.
    As soon as the light blinks out under Mom and Mel’s door, I dig the box out of its camouflage. I carry it to the windowseat, my favorite place to cuddle up, and ease off the top. At first look the contents seriously underwhelm. Flat pieces of wood. Not to get too negative, but the box is jam-packed, every inch, with bits I might sweep off his studio floor.
    My dad wouldn’t spend months carving something gorgeous, then use it for a wastebasket. That makes no sense.
    Just when I’m beginning to get grumpy, the box catches a beam of moonlight and shines in its very own pool of white light, illuminating dots and splashes of color. I grasp a handful of wooden bits. Each, about the size of a postage stamp, is painted and its edges have tiny knobs and notches—little fingers poking in and out. I feel ridges along the cut edges, the roughness of the paint. A handmade jigsaw puzzle. Dad painted and cut every piece.
    There have to be hundreds of pieces here.
    My heart is racing. I feel jittery, as if I might topple over.
    I’ve done puzzles. At Jenna’s. Her family does a giant puzzle every Christmas. The hardest one they ever did was called

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