Where You Go
Copyright© 2011 by Robert McKay
Normally we go to church on Wednesday nights, but I had a different idea after supper. I had Darlia put on warm clothes, and I put my jacket and hat back on, and we went out for a walk. It couldn't be a long one, not in December just a week or so away from the shortest day of the year, but it had been a while since I'd had a chance to talk to her and I wanted to take this one. We usually turn right when we walk, going north on Wisconsin, but this time I took us south, to Morrow, where we turned right, walking into the sunset.
"Daddy," she said as we made the turn, "I'm glad you're going for a walk with me."
"Why's that, 'Lia?"
"'Cause I love you."
I grinned down at her. "I love you too, Weightlifter."
She looked seriously down the street. "Did you know that Gazelle is sick today?"
"No, I didn't. Will she be okay?"
"Yeah. She said that she prolly ate too much ice cream last night at Jessie's birthday party."
"Is Jessie one of Gacela's friends?" Cecelia and I always use the Spanish form of "gazelle" in referring to Darlia's best friend.
"Yes. She turned 10 yesterday. Daddy, I'll be 10 next year, won't I?"
"Sure will, 'Lia. And I'll be 10 too."
"You will?" Her voice was excited.
"Sure. I'm nine now, just like you."
"You are not!"
"Then how," I asked, "can I be 10 next year?"
She thought about it for a moment. "Well, I guess you can't. So maybe you're joking with me."
Now she grinned up at me. "Daddy, you're joking!"
"Yep, sure am. And without Mommy here I actually have a chance to win."
"But I'll tell Mommy when we get home, and she'll get you." The rasp in her voice was stronger with anticipation.
"Maybe I'll tell Mommy that you're joking."
Darlia shook her head decisively. "It won't work, Daddy. She's on my side 'cause we're both girls."
"Yeah, but boys are better."
"Says me, and says Mommy ... and says you too, Daddy!"
I had to agree. "Yep – I've told you umpteen times that people are people, haven't I?"
"Yes, and you said that ever'body deserves ... re-spect." Even smart girls have to learn to properly pronounce new words.
"Exactly." We'd now come to Hoffman Drive, and we made a right turn, heading north. "Boys and girls are different, and men and women are different, and grownups are different from kids, but we're all people. And different doesn't mean bad, does it?"
"Nope. Gazelle is different from me, 'cause she's a Chicana, but she's still a really nice girl an' I love her."
"We love her too, 'Lia – not like our daughter, 'cause you're our daughter and she's Rudy and Sara's daughter. But I'm white, and Mommy's black, and Gacela is Chicana, and you're ... well, you're Darlia."
"An' Darlia is a good girl!"
"Exactly. We're all different, but none of us are better. The only place that different is better or worse is what you are inside, and how you act. If you're nasty inside, you're gonna act nasty – and that's bad."
"You catch nasty bad people, don't you, Daddy?"
"That's about the best description anyone's ever given for my job, Darlia." And it was – at its best, law enforcement is precisely about catching "nasty bad people."
"Do you like catching 'em?"
"I like it and I don't." I knew I'd have to explain; to her either a thing is one way or it's not. She hadn't grown up yet into the knowledge that sometimes – not always, but sometimes – black and white don't fit. "I like making sure that they don't hurt anyone, though the judges have something to say about that. But I don't like having to deal with nasty bad stuff."
"Is it like if you like horses but don't like cleaning the stable?"