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Author Biography: Eloise Greenfield is a poet and the author of over thirty books for children, including Africa Dream, a winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, and Honey, I Love. She lives in Washington, D.C.
Genny is eager for her eldest brother's return from military service, convinced that he can fix everything--even the growing rift between their parents.
Genny rode her bike down the sidewalk of Fletcher Street. When she passed underneath the big elm tree, a crisp brown leaf fell right on her shoulder and sat there for just a second before it blew away.
It had to mean good luck.
Nobody had ever told her that, being picked for a leaf to rest on was good luck. She just knew it. It was the right day for it. Friday was finally here and Larry was coming home. He was coming home for good.
Everything would be better now, would be the way it used to be. She and Kim and Mac had talked about it last night before they'd gone to bed. Their big brother would make everything all right again.
Genny turned into the alley beside the one-story house on the corner of Sixteenth and Fletcher and got off her bike at the backyard gate. She went inside, pushing her bike along the narrow concrete walk. The yard looked pretty all the time now, just the way it had before Mrs. Parker died. Genny touched a blossom as she passed the yellow mums.
She parked her bike at the bottom of the porch steps. "Mr. Parker," she called, peering through the door of the glassed-in porch. She knew she'd find him there at his table full of tools, working on a lamp. He was there every afternoon.
"Come on in, Genetta," Mr. Parker said. He glanced up at her and went right back to the little lamp he was working on. "Didn't think I'd see you today. I ran into your mother on her way to work this morning when I was taking my walk, and you know how slow she always talks -- well, this morning she was talking a mile a minute. Allabout Larry."
"That's what she's home doing now," Genny said. "She said she talked so much at the five-and-ten, she could hardly wait on people." Genny laughed, thinking about her mother's excitement and her own. I know we're going to jump all over him."
"Probably knock the poor guy down," Mr. Parker said. "How long has it been now, since he was home?"
"Thirteen months and nine days!" Genny said. "The army didn't even let him come home last Christmas, he was so far away. "
"That's a heck of a long time," Mr. Parker said, picking up a small pair of pliers from the table.
Genny watched as he pulled a wire through the base of the lamp. He always looked funny when he worked on a little one. He was so big, and the little lamps made him look even bigger. Just the way he looked when his daughter brought his grandbaby over and Mr. Parker bearhugged him in his great big arms.
"Something's hanging in the air," Mr. Parker said suddenly.
Genny looked up. "What?" she said. "I don't see anything."
"You can't see a question," Mr. Parker said. "You just feel it." He stopped working and looked at her. "What did you want to ask me?"
"Uh, well..." Genny started slowly, wishing he would stop looking at her. "Well ... can me and Mac and Kim have a party for Larry tomorrow in your yard? We wouldn't mess it up."
"Sounds like fun to me," Mr. Parker said.
"We can?" Genny asked. "You don't mind? Mama said I'm always worrying you about something."
"You tell Edie James I said not a bit," Mr. Parker said. "You don't worry me onebit. We're buddies. Anyway, there's nobody here but me and that room full of lamps back there, and I get tired of talking to other people's broken lamps. Besides, that yard is just as much yours as it is mine."
Genny smiled inside herself because she knew what he was going to say, and she liked to hear him say it.
"I sat around here for months, feeling sorry for myself," he said, starting to work again, "shaming Minnie, letting the weeds grow up and bully her flowers. Then that day you stood right there looking out the door, and you said, 'Mr. Parker, I'll help you do the yard.' That's the way you said it -- I'll help you do the yard.' And we did it up, too, didn't we, Genetta? It's a good place to have a party."
On the way home, Genny rode back past the elm tree and remembered the leaf that had fallen on her shoulder Everything was going right. Talk about a good day, this was it.
This evening,her father would come home from whatever building or road he was helping to build, and they would all know not to talk to him too much at first. But halfway through his shower, they would hear him start to sing. Loud. Too loud. And I she and Kim would giggle.
Then, after dinner, Kim would tell them some new jokes she had made up. And her father would keep looking at the clock. And her mother would try to keep her mind on the crossword puzzle. And Mac would just hang around trying not to act excited.
And then, after a while, it would be time for Larry.
Genny made her bike zigzag down the street -- not for any reason, just because she was so happy she felt like doing something. She hoped she wasn't running over any ants. She wanted everything and everybody to have a good day.
But the minute she walked into her house, she forgot all about the good luck. Her father was home early, which meant that his job had ended. Early Monday morning, almost before it got light, he would have to go downtown and stand outdoors with all the other men who hoped to get picked for a job...Talk About a Family. Copyright © by Eloise Greenfield. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted July 30, 2002