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“She wasn’t even that old.” Lucy’s mother, tall and straight-backed at the kitchen island, slapped a flank steak onto the cutting board.
“She was ancient,” Lucy said, skulking in the serving pantry between the kitchen and the dining room. Her father had parked himself on a stool at the island, Gus next to him. The two of them created a handy buffer zone between Lucy and her mom. She’d already gotten in trouble for not calling either of her parents or Grandpa Beck - or even Martin, their housekeeper, who’d been off - until the paramedics left. Her defence, which her mother did not appreciate, was, “It’s not like any of you could have brought her back to life.”
Now her father said, “Lucy’s right. She was at that age when you can go any time.” “She had a dinosaur neck,” Gus added.
“Gus,” Lucy said. “A little respect?”
Lucy’s dad took a swallow of his Old Fashioned while her mother whacked the steak with a mallet and Lucy felt the in-and-out of her own breath. Since Temnikova’s exit, she’d become weirdly aware of her lungs, her heart, everything in her body that worked to keep her alive.
“Well, it’s terrible timing,” her mother said. She put a grill pan down on the stove top. While it heated she strode towards Lucy, who took a nervous step back, until she realized the actual object of her mother’s displeasure was the calendar that hung just inside the pantry. “Seven weeks.” She gave Lucy a hard look, pointing at the calendar. “Not even seven. Closer to six and a half.”
The winter showcase at the symphony hall.
CPR isn’t as easy as it looks on TV, Mom. “Gus’ll be ready. He’s ready now.”
“Of course he’s ready now.” Her mother went back to the island and put the steak into the pan. Sizzle and smoke. “But he won’t be ready in six weeks without anyone on him. How am I going to find someone at this time of year? With the holidays coming up.”
“It’s okay, Mom,” Gus said. “I’ll practise the same amount.”
“It’s a showcase, Kat.” Lucy’s dad turned his glass in his hand. “Not a competition. He’ll do fine.”
     He must have forgotten that fine wasn’t in their family’s vocabulary. If you were a Beck-Moreau, and you got up on stage for any reason - showcase, competition, recital, or just to roll a piano stool into place - you’d better surpass fine by about a million miles.
Granted, that was more a Beck issue than a Moreau one.
“The Swanner isn’t long after, and that is a competition. I’ll send out e-mails tonight,” her mother
said. “After Grandpa gets home and I have a chance to talk to him about it. We’ll find out who’s

available on such short notice. No one good, I’m sure.”
Lucy ventured two steps into the kitchen, placing her body in front of the calendar. “Maybe Gus
could take a little break. Some people do, you know. Some people believe it actually helps. And then
he could—”
Her mother cut her off. “Lucy, I’m sorry, but you’re not exactly the first person I’m going to turn to for advice about this.”
“Kat…” Lucy waited for her dad to say more than that. Perhaps even mount a minor defence on Lucy’s behalf. But no. Of course not.
“Do you want me to set the table, Mom?” Gus asked.
“I’ll help,” Lucy said, and followed him into their large formal dining room. It took immense self-
control to not ruffle his hair. She loved his curls; he didn’t like anyone touching them.
     “Set for four,” their mother called after them. “Grandpa’s meeting friends tonight.”
     Given how Grandma’s death had gone down, it was no big surprise that Grandpa Beck hadn’t cancelled his pln aelled hans and come running home upon hearing the news about Temnikova. No surprise, but still cold.
They laid out clean place mats and napkins, dinner plates, salad plates, dinner forks, salad forks,
knives, spoons. No dessert stuff on weekdays. Wine glasses for their parents. Water goblets for
everyone. Even without Grandpa Beck, even under the circumstances, they would conform to
tradition. Generally, Lucy didn’t mind. It would be nice, though, once in a while, to be the kind of
family that on a crap day like this would order a pizza and eat it in the kitchen. Maybe even talk about
the fact that it was kinda sad and awful that someone who mattered to them had died in their house
that afternoon.
“Nice work, Gustav,” Lucy said, double-checking the table. She rubbed a butter knife clean of water spots. Martin would never let an unclean knife leave the kitchen.
Gus rested his hands on the back of one of the dining chairs and nodded. Lucy went to stand beside
him. She wasn’t much of a crier, but, God. What a day. Temnikova was gone. Just…gone. Like
Grandma. Except Grandma was Grandma. So it was different. But Lucy hadn’t been here for that, and
now that she’d seen this death up close, she couldn’t help but think about the one she’d missed.
She put her arm around Gus and leaned way down to rest her head on his shoulder. “Someday you’ll be taller, and this won’t be so awkward.”
“Oh, is that why it’s awkward?”
“Funny.” She straightened up, the urge to cry gone. “I’m sorry I couldn’t save her.” “You said that already. It’s okay.”
“Aren’t you a little bit sad?” she asked. “I don’t know,” Gus said. “Are you?” “It makes me think of Grandma.”
Gus nodded, and Lucy set her hand on his head for a few seconds until he squirmed out from under
it and took his seat. He put his napkin on his lap, so mannered and adult. He’d never had a messy
phase. He’d never been sent away from the table. He never got crazy. Their parents took it as
something to be proud of. Lucy thought maybe it wasn’t how a ten-year-old boy’s life should look,
and she wished he would get crazy once in a while. A sugar bender. A tantrum. Inappropriate jokes.
But in their house, childhood, like grief, was an episode merely tolerated. An inconvenience and
an obstacle to the real work of life: proving to the world and to yourself that you weren’t just taking

up space.
No pressure.
She sat across from Gus and flapped her napkin out dramatically, to make him smile.
Maybe it was good he was such a perfect kid. It left her free to screw up for both of them.

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