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The Underside of Joy

The Underside of Joy

Titel: The Underside of Joy
Autoren: Sere Prince Halverson
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Chapter One
    I recently read a study that claimed happy people aren’t made. They’re born. Happiness, the report pointed out, is all about genetics – a cheerful gene passed merrily, merrily down from one smiling generation to the next. I know enough about life to understand the old adage that one person can’t make you happy, or that money can’t buy happiness. But I’m not buying this theory that your bliss can be only as deep as your gene pool.
    For three years, I did backflips in the deep end of happiness.
    The joy was palpable and often loud. Other times it softened – Zach’s milky breath on my neck, or Annie’s hair entwined in my fingers as I braided it, or Joe humming some old Crowded House song in the shower while I brushed my teeth. The steam on the mirror blurred my vision, misted my reflection, like a soft-focus photograph smoothing out my wrinkles, but even those didn’t bother me. You can’t have crow’s-feet if you don’t smile, and I smiled a lot.
    I also know now, years later, something else: The most genuine happiness cannot be so pure, so deep, or so blind.
    On that first dawn of the summer of ’99, Joe pulled the comforter down and kissed my forehead. I opened one eye. He wore his grey sweatshirt, his camera bag slung over his shoulder, his toothpaste and coffee breath whispering something about heading out to Bodega before he opened the store. He traced the freckles on my arm where he always said they spelled his name. He’d say I had so many freckles that he could see the letters not just for Joe, but for Joseph Anthony Capozzi, Jr – all on my arm. That morning he added, ‘Wow, junior ’s even spelled out. ’ He tucked the blanket back over me. ‘You’re amazing.’
    ‘You’re a smart-ass,’ I said, already falling back to sleep. But I was smiling. We’d had a good night. He whispered that he’d left me a note, and I heard him walk out the door, down the porch steps, the truck door yawning open, the engine crowing louder and louder, then fading, until he was gone.
    Later that morning, the kids climbed into bed with me, giggling. Zach lifted the sun-dappled sheet and held it over his head for a sail. Annie, as always, elected herself captain. Even before breakfast, we set out across an uncharted expanse, a smooth surface hiding the tangled, slippery underneath of things, destination unknown.
    We clung to each other on the old rumpled Sealy Posturepedic, but we hadn’t yet heard the news that would change everything. We were playing Ship.
    By their pronouncements, we faced a hairy morning at sea, and I needed coffee. Badly. I sat up and peeked over the sail at them, both their spun-gold heads still matted from sleep. ‘I’m rowing out to Kitchen Island for supplies.’
    ‘Not when such danger lurks,’ Annie said. Lurks? I thought. When I was six, had I even heard of that word? She bolted up, hands on hips while she balanced on the shifting mattress. ‘We might lose you.’
    I stood, glad that I’d thought to slip my underwear and Joe’s T-shirt back on before I’d fallen asleep the night before. ‘But how, dear one, will we fight off the pirates without cookies?’
    They looked at each other. Their eyes asked without words: Before breakfast ? Has she lost her mind ?
    Cookies before breakfast . . . Oh, why the hell not? I felt a bit celebratory. It was the first fogless morning in weeks. The whole house glowed with the return of the prodigal sun, and the worry that had been pressing itself down on me had lifted. I picked up my water glass and the note Joe had left underneath it, the words blurred slightly by the water ring: Ella Bella, Gone to capture it all out at the coast before I open. Loved last night. Kisses to A&Z. Come by later if . . . but his last words were puddled ink streaks.
    I’d loved the previous night too. After we’d tucked the kids in, we talked in the kitchen until dark, leaning back against the counters, him with his hands deep in his pockets, the way he always stood. We stuck to safe topics: Annie and Zach, a picnic we’d planned for Sunday, crazy town gossip he’d heard at the store – anything but the store itself. He threw his head back, laughing at something I said. What was it? I couldn’t remember.
    We had fought the day before. After fifty-nine years in business, Capozzi’s Market was struggling. I wanted Joe to tell his dad. Joe wanted to keep pretending business was fine. Joe could barely tell himself the truth,
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