Life’s Equity

“But it’s not fair!” Myrna said.

Myrna’s father, Bob, rubbed his forehead. Each generation of teenagers had mastered the nasal twang and that drawn-out last syllable without ever hearing it from their ancestors. How did they do it? And what made it so annoying?

“Look,” Bob said. “Nobody ever said life was fair.”

“Games have rules. They’re fair.”

“I don’t think you need me to tell you life is not a game.”

Myrna folded her arms across her chest and stuck out her lower lip.

Was that a talent found only in girls? He’d never seen his son or any other boy pout.

“I want to go.”

“You can’t.”

“Why, ’cause you say so?”

“Yep. I say so because we can’t afford it.”

“Donna is going.”

“Hurray for Donna. She’s not my daughter. My daughter is not going to Spain.”

“I can work. I can save money.”

“You’re fourteen. You can’t work.”

“You kill everything! Why can’t you let me have just one thing!”

“OK. Sign up.”

“Really?”

“Sure. When they don’t get a check, that’s the end of it.”

“I hate you.”

Bob felt her disappoint in his bones, and knew she didn’t hate him. She hated not being rich.

“The best I can do for you,” he said, “is to give you more than I had.”

“Then…”

“You have a TV. You have three meals a day. You have your own room. You have a closet full of toys…”

“I’m too old for toys!”

“A closet full of things that are yours.”

“Everybody has those.”

“Everybody does not. I did not.”

“Wait, what?”

“I shared my room with my father and my sister shared with my mother. There were days when we only had one meal. It was a sorry excuse for a meal, and it was delicious.”

“Really?”

“Haven’t you learned about the Great Depression in school?”

“Yeah, but that’s when the stock markets crashed and people jumped off roofs.”

“Yep.”

“You were alive then? That was a long time ago.”

Bob laughed until his eyes watered. “Kids sure know how to make you feel your age.”

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Myrna said with wide eyes filled with water. “I just thought it was history. I didn’t know you lived it.”

“I know, sweetie,” Bob said, putting his arm around his daughter. “History is lived by real people.”

“And no one said life was fair.”

“Exactly. Maybe someday you’ll have the money to send your daughter to Spain.”

The water in Myrna’s eyes spilled over and ran down her cheeks. As she walked to her room to finish her cry, she said, “I’m going someday. Someday I’ll have a job and someday I will go.”

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