My step-daughter Sallie is studying the Middle Ages, and I’m explaining to her the concept of cause and effect. “Okay, it’s like this,” I say. “When you tell your mom that your dad and I drink too much, the effect is that she becomes hysterical, and the further effect of that is I question your maturity and stop letting you have sips of wine at dinner.”
“I get it,” says Sallie. “It’s like, you go to some microchip conference three years ago, and think my dad is cute, and the effect is he bails on us. And suddenly we’re broke because he’s busy buying you those million-dollar light fixtures, so no one can afford the one decent school where all my friends happen to go, so I’m stuck at a shitty school with paranoid nuns who sniff me all the time.”
“Sniff you? Why do they sniff you?” I say.
“We can’t figure out if it’s to check if we’re smoking pot or if we’re wearing perfume. Sister Agatha disapproves of perfume. Or has an allergy or something. As if any of them would know how pot smells.”
There are times when I want to leave Ross, who can be a selfish prick and who is, as my mother used to say, “set in his ways.” But my step-daughter, wiry and sharp-edged as a twisty tie, is my favorite person in the world.
First published in Wigleaf (March 13, 2019).