Every night, after the kids have gone to bed, he searches for their shoes. They might be anywhere: under the couch, in the middle of the kitchen floor, on the basement landing, or if it’s warm enough, out on the lawn, damp with dew. This is one of his contributions to the efficient running of the household, maybe his most important contribution, though not the most visible. If anyone has noticed, none has said a word. He performs the task quietly, without announcing himself, and takes private pleasure in knowing how useful he has been.
He does, of course, have selfish reasons for doing it. To keep the morning from starting with kids shouting up the stairs and Cynthia shouting down, with Joy begging him to drive her to school because she’s missed the bus and doesn’t want to walk, with Kyle saying he hates school anyway and why doesn’t he just drop out and start his own business like his father did. “Your father dropped out of college, not grade school,” Paul told him. “And the only way he started a business was by borrowing money from all his friends and never paying them back.”
But even more important, he likes the feeling of quiet accomplishment. Neither child has to ask, where are my Keds or my Reeboks or my ballet slippers? After breakfast they just walk into the laundry room and find them lined up beneath their coats, a generous assortment, left foot and right arranged in proper position. The only mornings they miss the bus now are those when Joy spends forty-five minutes in the shower, undeterred by the water going lukewarm and then frigid; or when Kyle, having forgotten to study for a geography test, hides in his closet, or in the basement, or in the shrubs by the back fence, until Cynthia, exasperated, finally cries, “Fine! Stay home and watch the soaps. What do I care?”