EXCERPT: 'On The Line'

Daddy was so proud when the story came out that he wanted to grab as many copies of the paper as he could for souvenirs. His idea was to drive around to all the houses in our community on the morning the papers were delivered and swipe them from people's yards. Not the most neighborly solution, to be sure. Not the most practical, either. I mean, here he was, excited that we were finally getting this positive publicity for our tennis, and at the same time negating all that publicity by taking away all those newspapers so folks couldn't read about us. He could have just called the Compton Gazette office and asked for some copies, or gone to the local drugstore and bought as many as he needed for about twenty cents apiece, but these options never occurred to him.

So off we went, on our family paper-grab. It wasn't the most logical operation. Daddy would drive the van up and down the street, and whenever he spotted one of those rolled-up newspapers on some driveway or front walk, he'd pull over, get out of the car, and scamper over and swipe the paper. Then he'd race back to the car and drive off. It was such an absurd scene, and we girls were sitting in the back of the van, giggling about it, until finally Isha suggested that they could hit a lot more houses if she was the one doing the driving. The rest of us weren't too happy with this idea, because it meant we'd collect all the papers we needed that much sooner, and after that we might have to go and practice. As it was, we were missing practice for this, and whenever we missed practice, for the weather or for any other reason, it was something to celebrate.

My father thought about this awhile and agreed this might be a better approach. At the very least, he might get us back on the practice court that much sooner. Only trouble was, Isha was just thirteen and couldn't drive. She said, "How hard can it be, Daddy?"

Daddy said, "Are you sure?"

Isha said, "Yes, Daddy. I can do it. I can do it."

That's how it was with us girls. Nothing was out of reach.

So that was the plan. Wasn't a very good plan, but it was a plan. Isha got behind the wheel. I climbed into the backseat with Venus and Lyn. Daddy walked alongside the van, and off we went. Only we didn't get very far. Isha had some idea what she was doing, but not a lot. She didn't have a great concept of space or depth or any of those things you figure out when you're an experienced driver.

She didn't understand how close she was to the cars parked on the side of the street, and she proceeded to run right into one of them. And then another. Took off a couple side mirrors along the way. It was crazy!

Daddy had managed to collect a couple papers before Isha started to lose control of the van, but now he was running alongside and yelling for Isha to step on the brakes. He was yelling, but mostly to be heard. Underneath the loud voice, he was surprisingly calm. He said, "Hit the brake, Isha." And then, when she did, he came up to her window and said, "Are you okay?" His tone was soft; he wasn't mad. Anyway, he didn't sound mad, and that was always one of the nicest, most reassuring things about my dad. We were just kids, so I'm sure we set him off from time to time, but he would just take a deep breath and let his frustration pass and then deal with whatever it was in a calm, patient manner.

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