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(A short story of 4960 words)



by Kathy Flann

My father, appliance repairman Ed Hart, had been dating a reporter from the local news for over three months, ever since he and my mother separated. They met when Channel Four’s "Eye on You" News interviewed me at the Northern Virginia Sixth Grade Science Fair about my winning project, The Worm Farm – a kitchen composter made from a recycling bin filled with dirt, biodegradable household trash, and a hundred worms. She said she liked the way Dad sat off to the side of me holding his toolbox ("Just in case Old Bessie throws a rod – or a worm, as the case may be.") It showed, she'd said later, after the cameras were off, her hand on my shoulder, that he didn't mind letting someone else be in the spotlight. "You seem so comfortable with yourself. Most guys don't like being behind the scenes," she'd said. "What's your secret?" And then she gave him her phone number.

But now it was April and there was no time to lose. I wanted my dad to propose before summer, before too much time passed.

"Dad?" I was lying on the floor watching TV at his apartment in the new Willow Landing housing development, where I was visiting for the weekend. Over on the couch, he looked up from his sewing; he was mending a tablecloth my mother had let him take after that day in February when she told him he was too selfish to live with other people. She said he was an immature boy who got married before he knew his ass from a hole in the ground and that he'd probably be happy to have one empty affair after another for the rest of his life...

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