ISBN 13: 9780676973860
Publisher: Knopf Canada
Publication Date: 2002
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Dad just spoke. "What?" I say. "Sorry, what?" "We are not going to any other shops. Just the chemist. I'll stay in the car. You have ten minutes." I start singing in my head, the tune from the Sturges film Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. O-KAAAY...co RAAL! O-KAAAY...co RAAAAL! I almost sing it aloud. I want to, because it might make my Dad laugh but I worry that for once it won't; that he won't join in and I'll feel bad, worse than I do already. The song rises, then dies in my chest and I miss my chance and that's the hell of this thing, this sissy, crackpot, sneaky disease which is not ok, like consumption with its angry show-off blood on wads of linen. "Jem?" "Yes?" "Did you hear what I said?" I can see Dad's eyes looking at me in the rearview mirror. He has wild brows and his eyes are narrowed, weather-beaten lines running from the corners toward his temples. He is a handsome man, in an unruly way, and he has a gunslinger's gaze. This comes from years of squinting into a high sun and into duststorms and sharp night winds. It comes from a perpetual state of wariness and the need to see around things and be ready at all times. Anything can happen but you must stay cool. You have to master the distant look and know how to forage the horizon for looming dangers such as wild beasts, Apaches, and other gunslingers with sharp, squinty vision who might be on your trail. When my Dad talks to me, the little muscles around his eyes bunch up, giving him that gunslinger look. I have the distinct sensation he is not having a good time having to make words, having to speak at all. It's the way he is and you have to get used to it. His vision is acute; he is the only one in the family who doesn't need glasses. "We are not going to any other shops just the chemist." "Right." My Dad looks at the road now. I practice a gunslinger squint. I can see my reflection in the window, which I keep closed due to air conditioning, and my face is dappled with tree leaves and other passing things, but I can see my eyes. I look silly, because a gunfighter cannot wear glasses and look cool. A good cowboy does not wear specs.
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