Home > Domestic Violets(7)

Domestic Violets(7)
Matthew Norman

“So, where in the hell is Curtis anyway?” she asks. “CBS called this morning. Letterman’s people want him for a Top Ten List. Top Ten Perks to Winning the Pulitzer. Sounds kind of funny, right? It could be, anyway.”

I tell her that my dad stayed with us last night and update her on his most recent marital troubles. I relish this, knowing, if just for a moment, something about the state of Curtis Violet that Sonya doesn’t. Sadly, it’s a fleeting moment.

“Well I know that, Tommy, of course. That whole arrangement was a ticking time bomb. I just figured he’d have checked into the Fairmount by now. He practically lived there during his last divorce.”

“Is he doing OK? He looked a little . . . I don’t know, rough last night. Granted, he was pretty drunk, but—”

“I wouldn’t know,” she says. “He was up here staying at the loft for a while, then I think he was back there in D.C. And, not for nothing, but he has every right to be pretty drunk, Tommy. Pulitzers don’t come along every day. I got a little tipsy myself when I heard.”

“Yeah, I suppose. So, who do you think the new girl is?”

“What?”

“The new one. His latest train wreck. God, I hope it’s not Veronica Stewart again. I don’t think I could handle a Thanksgiving with that woman. Ashley has been bad enough.”

“Oh don’t be an idiot. Your dad’s smarter than that, whether you believe it or not.”

Veronica Stewart has been my dad’s on-again-off-again girlfriend/mistress since the early nineties, which would be otherwise uninteresting if she didn’t happen to be married to Alistair Stewart, the fiction editor at the New Yorker. My father has never been one for making things easy on himself.

“Well, I’m sure it’s someone lovely,” I say. “I hear Madonna’s single again?”

“I just handle the book business, Thomas. Now I’ve gotta run. The Today show’s on the other line. Don’t work too hard over there.”

I try to assure her that I won’t, but it’s too late. Like a typical New Yorker, Sonya’s hung up without saying good-bye.

For a while I stare at my computer screen and complete an online survey about whether or not I have erectile dysfunction.

How Often Do You Have Trouble Achieving an Erection?

Infrequently? Occasionally? Often? All of the Time?

The first three seem vague, and I find the word “achieving” very distracting, like a boner is on par with landing a big promotion or running a 10K for juvenile diabetes.

Just then, my office door swings open and I close my browser as fast as I can as a girl flops down in the chair across from my desk. I say “girl” not because I’m some horrible, ass-grabbing male chauvinist, but because that’s what she is, a girl. Katie is our twenty-three-year-old assistant copywriter and probably the most beautiful person in this office. Most mornings when I see her, I find that I go a minute or so without properly breathing.

“Hey, boss. What’s shaking?” she asks.

I look at my screen, ensuring that my browser is gone. Now it’s just my wallpaper, a picture of Allie chasing Hank in Rock Creek Park. “Nothing,” I say, but I say it too quickly because I’m an idiot.

She narrows her eyes. “What were you just looking at?”

“What? Nothing. The Internet.”

“You closed that browser pretty fast. This isn’t my first rodeo. I know what guys do with their computers.”

“Due to my prestigious position here at MSW, I’m privy to highly classified information. I’m a very important person, Katie. You know that.”

“So, porn then, right? What is it with guys and porn? It’s all so objectifying and poorly lit.”

I lean back in my chair, which squeaks. “I find it relaxing. I come in, have my coffee, check my e-mails, and then I look at porn until lunch.”

As usual, Katie is dressed like a college kid at a job fair—like a girl pretending she’s ready to take all this bullshit seriously.

“Did you know that dolphins are the only animals other than humans that masturbate for pleasure?” she says.

“Well, this seems like an appropriate conversation for the office.”

“You’re such a square. It’s just science.” Katie grabs a random something off my desk. It’s a trade show giveaway, a squeeze ball shaped like a heart with our company’s logo on it. She’s a perpetual-motion machine, this girl, tossing the heart back and forth from hand to hand. It’s a combination of youth and a raging ten-Diet Dr Pepper-a-day drinking problem.

“You see CNN.com today?” she asks.

“Haven’t made it to the news sites yet. Just the porn so far. Are there still lots of pictures of stockbrokers frowning at computers?”

“Well, yeah. But there’s another story up you might find interesting. Apparently your dad won some minor literary award.”

I reopen my browser and head to CNN.com. Sure enough, poised between news of global financial despair and an outed televangelist, there’s a story about my dad. I click and there’s his picture. It’s the jacket photo from one of his earlier novels.

“So that’s all of them then, right?” she says. “The National Book Award. The PEN/Faulkner. The National Book Critics. And now the Pulitzer.”

“I see you’ve been hitting Wikipedia again.”

“I was an English major, too, jerk. I know what’s up.” She’s standing now, leaning across my desk to look at the screen. Her dark brown hair, still a little damp from the shower, clings to her cheek for an instant and then falls across her collarbone. She smells like rain and cinnamon and Diet Dr Pepper and whatever that glossy stuff is on her lips. The crush I have on this girl compares only to the one I had on Leslie Davidson in fifth grade. That particular affair ended with me throwing up one day at recess after she dared me to eat a worm.

“Wasn’t he one of People’s Fifty Most Beautiful People? Like back in the nineties or something?”

“ ’Ninety-seven, I believe. His picture was between Julia Roberts and Gloria Steinem. It was his proudest moment.”

“It’s scary how much you look like him,” she says. “You’re better though. You’ve got the cool-nerd thing going on. Girls like that. Your dad knows he’s hot, which negates the hotness a little. It’s a very complex formula.”

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