It's Take Your Daughter to Work Day and Lyle has forgotten his daughter. He has left her at home. Alone. To do god knows what with god knows who. Yesterday, Lyle found out that his daughter, Izz, was starting to have sex. She was sexually active. She engaged in sexual activity. She was a bit of a slut, he had heard from a family friend.
"Slut," he had said to the family friend. "Did you just say slut?" The friend owned a restaurant. He said that was the term the boys who worked for him had used.
Lyle sits in his colleague's office, next to his colleague's daughter. He's waiting for Jeff to finish whatever he's working on and to fill him in on what happened in the meeting. He has never really liked Jeff (he's the kind of man who calls Thanksgiving "T-Day") and he has never really liked Jeff's daughter, Candace. She's hyperactive. She's always running amok around the offices after school. If Lyle were her age he'd call her a spaz. He'd say, "chill out, spaz," or something like that.
"It's my first time," she says.
"What?" Lyle says.
"My first time. At Take Your Daughter."
"Welcome," Lyle says.
She has a yellow ledger on her lap and she's taking notes and chewing gum with vigor. It looks like she's munching on cartilage.
"Are you almost done?" he asks Jeff. "What happened already? I need to get back..." Lyle lets his sentence go unfinished, because they both know he has nothing to get back to.
"Where's your daughter?" Candace asks. "Don't you have one?"
Her round face looks up at him. She has short brown hair and a straight, faint line of freckles running down her nose. None of her features really go together. It's as though she has been designed by committee.
"She's sick," he says. "She's home sick." She's a slut, he thinks to himself, and I've left her at home.
"Too bad," she sings. "Sick, sick, sick, sick."
"Can," Jeff says. "Have you found my policy number yet? I don't think so. You want to know what the real world's about? It's about finding policy numbers."
Candace lifts her hand, makes it into a claw, and hisses at her father, then goes back to her yellow ledger, making her mysterious notes.
Lyle looks at Jeff, then at Jeff's daughter. They have the same mean chin and large sad eyes that give them both a look of incompetence and confidence, a dangerous combination. He thinks of his daughter, of what she has in common with him. He's been told the smile and the mouth. Same smile, same mouth.
He should have talked to her last night. After learning what was going on with the boys at the restaurant he stood at the top of her stairwell thinking of ways to begin a conversation, but he kept seeing images of her that made his face hot.
He had memories of her as a baby — changing her diapers and cleaning in between her folds of doughy skin. He remembers her little legs spread open, the white cream he'd press against her rashes. Now she's sixteen and there's another man, other men, tending to her body and these images of her as a baby and a woman made Lyle leave the staircase and run straight to his room where his wife just happened to be changing into a pair of flesh-toned panties, and he thought to himself, oh god, I'm one of them. I'm a boy.
He almost told his wife about their daughter's new pastime, but thought it would sound better if he came to her after having talked to Izz and solving the slut crisis. It was the same thing he did when his children were babies. He'd take care of a situation — diapers, baths, meals, tears, not so much to help the child, but to be able to tell Sarah that he helped the child.
"How old are you now?" he asks Candace.
"Thirteen. That's why I'm allowed at Take Your Daughter to Work for Half a Day."
"My daughter's sixteen," he says.