Patricide by Joyce Carol Oates Read Free Book Online

Book: Patricide by Joyce Carol Oates Read Free Book Online
Authors: Joyce Carol Oates
    â€œ. . . . we could sue, possibly. You
girls should be wearing mouth-guards—masks—like ice-hockey
goalees . . . Jesus, the puck could have gone in your eye .”
    â€œIt wasn’t the puck, Dad. It was a stick.”
    â€œPuck, stick—fucking monosyllable. Comes to the
same thing, in a ‘negligence’ suit.”
    â€œPlease tell me you’re not serious about suing my
school, Dad.” Everyone would hate me, then. Now, they mostly just pitied me, or
felt sorry for me, or half-admired me, or tolerated me. I had more than a year
and a half to endure at the Rye Academy, before I graduated, if I graduated. Just let me get through, Dad. Then—I’m on my own.
    So I wanted to think. My sister and two brothers
had fled Roland Marks’s gravitational pull. He liked to say, dryly— The older kids are on their own. If that’s how they want it—fine.
    â€œWe’ll get the tooth replaced, Lou-Lou—I promise.
We’ll fix you up fine. Better than new.”
    For years I’d had to suffer orthodontic braces. Now
that my teeth were reasonably straight, I’d lost a crucial front tooth. Dad
didn’t appreciate the irony. Or, Dad had other, more pressing things to think
    I couldn’t know, or wouldn’t have wished to know,
how what was preoccupying my father was nowhere near: not even in Manhattan.
    An individual whose name I didn’t (yet) know, who
would become Roland Marks’s next wife; at the present time living in Berkeley;
the object of his current concern, or obsession. Yet it had seemed slightly odd
to me, a quizzical matter, how Dad chattered about West Coast residents: “They
seem younger somehow, more naïve and innocent, on the West Coast. Here it’s six P.M .—they’re still at three P.M. We’re the future they’re headed for.”
    In my codeine daze I tried to object: “Dad, if the
world ended, it would end for them at exactly the same time it ends for us . Don’t be silly.”
    â€œ ‘Silly’! I guess I am, sweetie.”
    And Dad gazed at me, or rather toward me,
not-seeing me, with a fond, faint smile of such heartbreak, I knew that I would
love him, and forgive him, forever.
    W EEKS
LATER —(you will not believe this!)—over Christmas break in Manhattan,
at Dad’s apartment on West Seventy-eighth Street, I would overhear a call
between my father and—could it be Tina Rodriguez?
    For it seemed, they’d already met at least once in
the “city”—that is, New York City. Evidently they’d had drinks together. They’d
talked over an “issue”—exactly what, wasn’t clear.
    T.R.! And Roland Marks!
    I don’t think that anything much came of it. I’m
sure that nothing came of it. Roland Marks was always “having drinks” with
women—friends, editors, agents, journalists, admirers. To his credit, not all
were glamorous young women; some were his age at least. You might hear that he
was seeing X, but you might not ever hear of X again. Instead you’d be hearing
of Y, and of Z.
    I was shocked, and felt betrayed. Not by my father
but by Tina Rodriguez.
    Why would she want to see my much-older father in
the city? What had she thought that a meeting with Roland Marks might lead
    I hoped T.R. wasn’t disappointed. As I was
disappointed in her.
    We’d wanted to think that our wiry-limbed phys. ed.
instructor with the snapping-dark eyes was a lesbian, at least. Not susceptible
to men.
    I would never tell my teammates. I would never play
field hockey again.
    â€œHello, Miss Marks! So good to see you
    â€œHello . . .”
    In my discomfort I couldn’t recall her name—the
skinny blond ponytail girl of the previous week with the insipid ingratiating
    Except today she wasn’t wearing her hair in a
ponytail jutting out of the

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