He reads in the ugly brown reclining chair with the quilt tucked in around his half-naked body. He reads a chapter book, a designation we use to refer to a book that doesn’t contain pictures and isn’t a movie or TV tie-in, a book with discrete chapters and a sustained narrative account. He reads for a half hour. I set the kitchen timer. We’re forcing him to read for this length of time, but it’s a different kind of forcing than when we force him to do his chores or when we force him to eat all the food on his plate—he enjoys being forced to read. The kitchen timer beeps. I walk down the hall to the study, tell him that although the half hour is up, he’s free to continue reading if he likes. He says he would prefer to stop. But he can’t find his bookmark, he says, the Post-it Note he affixes above the last sentence he’s read so he’ll know exactly where to pick up tomorrow night, so he won’t accidentally reread a sentence he’s already read. I tear a Post-it from the pad and hand it to him. He evaluates his progress: page 122, only 55 more to go. I ask him how it’s going. He says it’s going fine. Better than some, he says, not as good as others. He stands, asks me to please get out of the way because his TV show is starting and he needs to get across the house to the living room. I stand with my back pressed against the doorframe and watch as he canters down the hall.
Evan Lavender-Smith is the author of From Old Notebooks (Blaze Vox, 2010). His writing has recently been published in BOMB, Hobart, and Southern Review. He is the founding editor of Noemi Press and an assistant professor in the MFA program at Virginia Tech.