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Ninety Days Inside The Empire: A Novel by William Appleman Williams

Monday Morning With The Admiral

Page 59

Griff's piano, along with some singing by Lette and Caroline (who did some naughty down-Florida country), relaxed the kitchen crew and there was no attempt to revive the intensities of the day. The only one still awake at midnight had been Marsh. His legs propped up on a chair, a towel holding a hot water bottle on his knees, and an unopened bottle of whiskey on his desk, he filled many pages of legal-size foolscap with names, ideas and legal precedents until he fell asleep at four.

Mitch and Cat were awakened within minutes of each other just before six by the Officer of The Day advising them that they would see the Admiral at 10 and 10:30 instead of earlier as scheduled. Warned by Mitch not to appear until he was inside with the Admiral, Cat reset the alarm and went back to bed and spooned up to Susan. They later went back to sleep.

Mitch was up making coffee and toast and had the eggs and peppers out of the fridge warming for an omelet. The women were monopolizing the bathroom. He was a day person and an enthusiastic if careless cook, and Caroline had learned early to try and rescue breakfast everyday but Sunday. This morning Nancy provided the distraction that saved the meal.

Mitch heard her playing a number game on the stairs and began to count. Five down, three back up, one down, four up, hop two down . . . he lost track and then she skipped into the kitchen and into his arms.

"Hi, Daddy! You flappin' feathers today?"

"Nope, Sweetheart. Talkin' to the Big Bird. What was the magic number?"

"Don't you ever get it right?"

"Two out of four last week. Not bad for a father."

She hugged him around his middle.

"You could get them all if you paid more attention."

"Maybe, so what's the magic number?"

"I used twos today and started with five so it was sixteen."

He calculated. There were eight steps counting the floor and the hall upstairs. Right. "So what did you read last night?"

She had free access to the family library, but these days math was her big excitement.

"Mostly about Egypt and the Pyramids. What's that place like them in England? I couldn't remember and so couldn't look it up."

"It's called Stonehenge, but it's not a pyramid. Maybe more of a mystery, though. You read about it tonight, Nancy, and then I'll show you a map and some photos of how it looks at sunrise and sunset on special days of the year. Did you have a good time with Sandra?"

She twirled around, her pleated skirt and short hair making inverted swizzle sticks. Mitch watched her, thinking it was getting time to warn all boys. She had the magic.

"It was ok. She wanted to play with dolls and I wanted to practice double rope skipping and we had an argument about church."

"How'd you get on church?"

"She wanted to take the dolls to church and asked me where you went and I told her and she said she'd never go down there with all those dirty people and I told her they weren't dirty and that I liked the times I went with you and that you liked the Reverend. Her father was sitting in the room and he started talking about something else. They took me with them to their church but I couldn't understand anything the preacher said. Was that all right, Daddy?"

"Were there any Negroes there?"

"A few, but they sat together way off to the side."

Caroline had been listening from the kitchen door.

"Where did you go after church, Nancy?"

She ran to her mother to collect that hug. As with most children, Nancy loved both her parents, but some days she loved one or the other just a little bit more. Today it was really Daddy.