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Even though he had not slept with her for years, my father asked my mother if she would have another child with him.
"I want to bring the child up right this time," he said.
When she refused, he started to drink. During his binge, he explained how he had raised his existing children wrong. "My daughter," he said, "is a nymphomaniac, my older son is a sissy, and my younger son is an idiot."
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He began to spend time with a boy who lived nearby. He delivered newspapers with the boy in the mornings and helped him with his schoolwork at night. He made sure the boy always got A's.
He set up a cot so the boy could sleep over on weekends. After a while, he bought a backpack and a tent and took the boy camping.
The boy got very good at identifying birds and trees. He would get excited whenever he found a whole crow's wing or an intact fantail in a grove of rare wood.
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My father decided to keep the boy. The boy's parents objected, but the boy declared in court that he wanted a new guardian. His father, he said, lived too far away, and his mother spent too much time entertaining truck drivers for money.
When the boy moved in, my father bought him a motorcycle. On nice days, he would wrap his arms around the boy's waist and clamp his knees to the banana seat as the boy negotiated back roads.
At night, my father would drink. When the boy asked what he was doing, he would say, "I'm talking to god" or "I'm talking to the devil."
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When my mother lost patience with this arrangement, she moved to a bedbug-infested room in the town where she worked. No one believed she had bedbugs until she trapped a tiny, red specimen in a plastic bag and showed it to her landlord.
Each time she called, my father asked her to come home to make food for him and the boy. She refused, but she continued to pay their bills.
My brother and sister and I, meanwhile, had moved to distant cities. There, we polished our skills in promiscuity, delicacy and idiocy.
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