The Tortilla Curtain

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle Read Free Book Online

Book: The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle Read Free Book Online
Authors: T.C. Boyle
with kiwi: “Papaya Coconut.”
    “You got the last one yesterday.”
    No response.
    “So what’ll it be?”
    Kyra insisted on the full nutritional slate for her son every morning—fresh fruit, granola with skim milk and brewer’s yeast, hi-fiber bar. The child needed roughage. Vitamins. Whole grains. And breakfast, for a growing child at least, was the most important meal of the day, the foundation of all that was to come. That was how she felt. And while Delaney recognized a touch of the autocratic and perhaps even fanatic in the regimen, he by and large subscribed to it. He and Kyra had a lot in common, not only temperamentally, but in terms of their beliefs and ideals too—that was what had attracted them to each other in the first place. They were both perfectionists, for one thing. They abhorred clutter. They were joggers, nonsmokers, social drinkers, and if not full-blown vegetarians, people who were conscious of their intake of animal fats. Their memberships included the Sierra Club, Save the Children, the National Wildlife Federation and the Democratic Party. They preferred the contemporary look to Early American or kitsch. In religious matters, they were agnostic.
    Delaney’s question remained unanswered, but he was used to cajoling Jordan over his breakfast. He tiptoed across the room to hover behind the boy, who was playing with his spoon and chanting something under his breath. “Rookie card, rookie card,” Jordan was saying, dipping into his granola without enthusiasm. “No looking now,” Delaney warned, seductively tapping a foil-wrapped bar on either side of the boy’s thin wilted neck, “—right hand or left?”
    Jordan reached up with his left hand, as Delaney knew he would, fastening on the Boysenberry Supreme bar just as Kyra, hunched over the weight of two boxes of hand-addressed envelopes—Excelsior, 500 Count—clattered into the kitchen in her heels. She made separate kissing motions in the direction of her husband and son, then slid into her chair, poured herself half a cup of coffee lightened with skim milk—for the calcium—and began sifting purposively through the envelopes.
    “Why can’t I have Sugar Pops or Honey Nut Cheerios like other kids? Or bacon and eggs?” Jordan pinched his voice. “Mom? Why can’t I?”
    Kyra gave the stock response—“You’re not other kids, that’s why”—and Delaney was taken back to his own childhood, a rainy night in the middle of an interminable winter, a plate of liver, onions and boiled potatoes before him.
    “I hate granola,” Jordan countered, and it was like a Noh play, timeless ritual.
    “It’s good for you.”
    “Yeah, sure.” Jordan made an exaggerated slurping sound, sucking the milk through his teeth.
    “Think of all the little children who have nothing to eat,” Kyra said without looking up, and Jordan, sticking to the script, came right back at her: “Let’s send them this.”
    Now she looked up. “Eat,” she said, and the drama was over.
    “Busy day?” Delaney murmured, setting Kyra’s orange juice down beside the newspaper and unscrewing the childproof caps of the sturdy plastic containers that held her twelve separate vitamin and mineral supplements. He did the little things for her—out of love and consideration, sure, but also in acknowledgment of the fact that she was the chief breadwinner here, the one who went off to the office while he stayed home. Which was all right by him. He had none of those juvenile macho hang-ups about role reversal and who wore the pants and all of that—real estate was her life, and he was more than happy to help her with it, so long as he got his four hours a day at the keyboard.
    Kyra lifted her eyebrows, but didn’t look up. She was tucking what looked to be a small white packet into each of the envelopes in succession. “Busy?” she echoed. “Busy isn’t the word for it. I’m presenting two offers this morning, both of them real low-ball, I’ve got a buyer with

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