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The river will continue to flow. A single cup of water means nothing to a rain squall. It means even less to a waterfall.

Somewhere in the sky a cloud passes over the sun, and the radiant heat on my body dissipates. Behind me, I listen as Stephanie speaks to my brain-dead father. And then the girls come in, Allyson and Britney. And they are a little older now. A little different. Oddly, Britney now seems the more mature of the two. It's almost as if Allyson's skipped backward two or three years, playing catch-up on the missed summers of her childhood, while Britney has skipped ahead.

They are turning into outstanding young women.

Staring out the window, I feel each of my daughters step close in turn and kiss my cheek.

"Daddy?" It was Allyson. Close now, her breath on the back of my neck.

From the other side of the room, Britney calls out, "Don't bother him. He's resting!"


"Don't bother him. You know he needs his rest."

Slowly, so very slowly, I turn my head from the window. "Daddy? Can we have a picnic at Unemployment Beach with you and Stephanie? The weatherman says it's going to be the last nice weekend of September. Over eighty. Can we?"

I glance across the room to where Stephanie sits with my father. I put my arm around Allyson, slowly pulling my oldest into my lap. "A picnic? What would we eat?"

"Potato chips, Cheetos, corn chips. Chocolate pop."

"Chocolate pop?"

"Andrea Yates says it's god-awful delicious."

"And bean dip?"

"You know that gives you gas."

Britney rushes over and clings to my arm. "I think it's funny when Daddy gets gas. Can we go, Daddy?"

"Funny you should ask. I was planning a little trip out there myself. But now that I know you want to go, too . . . hmmmm, maybe I'll take you along."

"Silly," Britney says. "We always want to go with you."

"I know you do."

Life couldn't get any better, I think as Stephanie smiles at me from across the room. A few minutes later, we all get up and head for the store to stock up for the picnic. We have a lot to prepare for.

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