The Unseen World - Liz Moore Page 0,1

putting in the same hours he and his colleagues did. At night he rounded out parts of her education that he felt he hadn’t adequately addressed: he taught her French, and gave her literature to read, and narrated the historical movements he deemed most significant, using Hegelian dialectic as a theoretical framework. She had no tests, only spontaneous oral quizzes, the kind he was giving her now while he stirred and stirred the roux.

“Where did we leave off,” he asked Ada, “with Feynman diagrams?” And when she told him he asked her to please illustrate what she had said on the chalkboard hanging on the kitchen wall, with a piece of chalk so new that it stuttered painfully over the slate.

He looked at her work over his shoulder. “Correct,” he said, and that was all he usually said, except when he said, Wrong.

All afternoon he had been chattering to her about his latest crop of grad students. These ones were named Edith, Joonseong, and Giordi; and Ada—who had not yet met them—pictured them respectively as prim, Southern, and slightly inept, because she had misheard Joonseong as Junesong and Giordi as Jordy, a nickname for a pop star, not a scientist.

“They were very good in their interviews,” said her father. “Joonseong will probably be strongest,” he said.

That night Ada was in charge of the cocktails, and she had been instructed on how to make them with chemist-like precision. First, she lined up eight ice-filled highball glasses and six limes on a tray with a lobster pattern on it, which her father had bought for these occasions, to match the lobster he would be serving for the meal. Into the frosted highball glasses she poured sixty milliliters of gin. She cut the six limes in half and flicked out their exposed seeds with the point of the knife and then squeezed each lime completely into each glass. She placed two tablespoons of granulated sugar into the bottom of each and stirred. And then she filled each glass up with club soda, and added a sprig of mint. And she put a straw in each, too, circling the glass twice with it, giving the liquid a final twirl.

It was 6:59 when she finished and their guests were due at 7:00.

The lobsters were cooked and camping under two large overturned mixing bowls on the counter, so they would stay just slightly warmer than the room—the temperature at which David preferred to serve them. Her father had made his cream sauce and was assembling the salad he had dreamed up of endive and grapefruit and avocado. He was moving frantically now and she knew that talking to him would be a mistake. His hands were trembling slightly as he worked. He wanted it all to be simultaneously precise and beautiful. He wanted it all to work.

“What am I forgetting,” he said to Ada tensely.

Lately she had noticed a change in her father’s disposition, from blithe and curious to concerned and withdrawn. For most of her life, Ada’s father had been better at talking than at listening, but not when it came to her lessons. When it came to her lessons, to the responses she gave, he was rapt. When it came to some other, lesser topic of conversation, he drifted from time to time, looking out the window, or at what he was working on, giving birth to moments of silence that lasted longer than she thought possible and ending only when she said, “David?”

Where he had formerly sat and chatted with her or furthered her lessons until it was time for bed, now he