‘Recalculating’ by Deborah Eisenberg


From The New York Review of Books:

“Who is that?” Adam asked, pointing at a boy on a swing set. Adam was helping, pasting photographs into an album at the kitchen table. His mother, rolling out a piecrust at the counter, paused to look.

“That’s Uncle Tommy,” she said. “Don’t you get flour on that.”

Next there were some grown-ups sitting on Gramma and Grampa’s couch. Next a lot of people in front of extra-tall corn, kids in front. “Is this Aunt Rosalie?”

“That’s Rosalie all right—look at the hair.”

“Are you there?”

His mother peered over at the snapshot he was studying. “That’s me. The smallest one, over on the end there, with the smocked dress and the pigtails.”

Adam considered the sad-looking little girl. He would have liked to pat the girl’s head, but now she was just a bitsy kernel inside his mother. “Smocked dress. Smocked dress,” he said, stacking the sounds up like the wooden blocks he used to play with. The tallest of the children was blurry. He must have moved. “Who is that boy, at the other end?”

“Let me—oh. That’s Phillip.”


“The oldest. Your Uncle Phillip.”

“Oh…” Adam studied the picture and reviewed the jungle of legs he’d clambered about in at the last family occasion, belonging to cousins and aunts and uncles and second cousins and great-aunts and great-uncles. “He was at Gramma and Grampa’s house on Easter?”

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