14dddcomChapter Six.Is there no one to write a sonnet to these?—and yet a whole poem was written about Peter Bell the wagoner, a character by no means so poetic.her chicken wing and nibbled gristle off the bone, while my father filled up airspace talking about office politics and the need for a shakedown in upper management. No one was listening to him ?a no one ever does when he gets on one of his if-I-ran-the- circus jags ?a but for once Mom wasn't even pretending. Andfor once she wasn't trying to convince Lynetta that dinner was delicious either.She just kept eyeing me and Granddad, trying to pick up on why we were miffed ateach other. Not that he had anything to be miffed at me about. What had I done to him, anyway? Nothing. Nada. But he was, I could tell. And I completely avoided looking at him until about halfway through dinner, when I sneaked a peek. He was studying me, all right. And even though it wasn't a mean stare, or a hard stare, it was, you know, firm. Steady. And it weirded me out. What was his deal? I didn't look at him again. Or at my mother. I just went back to eating and pretended to listen to my dad. And the first chance I got, I excused myself and holed up in my room. I was planning to call my friend Garrett like I usually do when I'm bent about something. I even punched in his number, but I don't know. I just hung up.And later when my mom came in, I faked like I was sleeping. I haven't done that in years. The whole night was weird like that. I just wanted to be left alone. Juli wasn't at the bus stop the next morning. Or Friday morning. She was at school, but you'd never know it if you didn't actually look. She didn't whip ----------------------- Page 15-----------------------her hand through the air trying to get the teacher to call on her or charge through the halls getting to class. She didn't make unsolicited comments for theteacher's edification or challenge the kids who took cuts in the milk line. She just sat. Quiet. I told myself I should be glad about it ?a it was like she wasn't even there, and isn't that what I'd always wanted? But still, I felt bad.About her tree, about how she hurried off to eat by herself in the library at lunch, about how her eyes were red around the edges. I wanted to tell her, Man, I'm sorry about your sycamore tree, but the words never seemed to come out. By the middle of the next week, they'd finished taking down the tree. They cleared the lot and even tried to pull up the stump, but that sucker would not budge, sothey wound up grinding it down into the dirt. Juli still didn't show at the bus stop, and by the end of the week I learned from Garrett that she was riding a bike. He said he'd seen her on the side of the road twice that week, putting thechain back on the derailleur of a rusty old ten- speed. I figured she'd be back.It was a long ride out to Mayfield Junior High, and once she got over the tree, she'd start riding the bus again. I even caught myself looking for her. Not on the lookout, just looking. Then one day it rained and I thought for sure she'd be up at the bus stop, but no. Garrett said he saw her trucking along on her bike in a bright yellow poncho, and in math I noticed that her pants were still soaked from the knees down. When math let out, I started to chase after her to tell her that she ought to try riding the bus again, but I stopped myself in thenick of time. What was I thinking? That Juli wouldn't take a little friendly concern and completely misinterpret it? Whoa now, buddy, beware! Better to just leave well enough alone. After all, the last thing I needed was for Juli Baker to think I missed her. The Sycamore Tree I love to watch my father paint. Or really, I love to hear him talk while he paints. The words always come out soft and somehow heavy when he's brushing on the layers of a landscape. Not sad. Weary, maybe, but peaceful. My father doesn't have a studio or anything, and since the garage is stuffed with things that everyone thinks they need but no one ever uses, he paints outside. Outside is where the best landscapes are, onlythey're nowhere near our house. So what he does is keep a camera in his truck. His job as a mason takes him to lots of different locations, and he's always on the lookout for a great sunrise or sunset, or even just a nice field with sheep or cows. Then he picks out one of the snapshots, clips it to his easel, and paints. The paintings come out fine, but I've always felt a little sorry for him, having to paint beautiful scenes in our backyard, which is not exactly picturesque. It never was much of a yard, but after I started raising chickens, things didn't exactly improve. Dad doesn't seem to see the backyard or the chickens when he's painting, though. It's not just the snapshot or the canvas hesees either. It's something much bigger. He gets this look in his eye like he's transcended the yard, the neighborhood, the world. And as his big, callused hands sweep a tiny brush against the canvas, it's almost like his body has beenThis is a stage in Wordsworth’s career on which his biographer is tempted unduly to linger. For we have reached the Indian summer of his genius; it can still shine at moments bright as ever, and with even a new majesty and calm; but we feel, nevertheless, that the melody is dying from his song; that he is hardening in14dddcom
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