Excerpt from Porcupine

It’s time for Dad to go. Came so fast. It’s funny. We knew it was going to happen. I mean, we’ve had a couple weeks to prepare. Seemed like so much time to get the heart ready. But, all of a sudden it’s time for him to leave. No more putting it off. Big Mike’s car has just pulled into the driveway.

“I’ve got to go,” Dad says, getting to his feet, glancing at his watch.

“Bob,” Mom says. She doesn’t move, just sits still on the sofa like a statue, her hands limp in her lap. But my dad, he’s a man of action. “Come on, Fran, up you get,” and so she does. We all do.

Dad grabs his duffel bag leaning against the door and then we traipse out to the front porch. Dad’s acting all lighthearted, has a big no-problem-here smile on his face. Hugs and kisses all around. Mom’s first. Long and sweet. Full of I love you’s. When he lets go and pushes back her hair, I can see Mom’s trying not to cry.

“Don’t worry,” Dad says, but there’s a sadness in his face too, just for a second. Then he turns to us kids and it’s gone. He scoops Tessa up like she’s lighter than a feather, that’s how strong he is.

Gives her a kiss and a hug. Calls her Princess, his pet name for her. “Be a comfort to your mother,” he says.

“I will,” Tessa promises, with this really sappy look on her face, like nothing but honey ever comes out of her mouth, when we all know that’s just not true.

“Good girl,” he says, putting her down.

It’s Simon’s turn now. Dad pretends to throw a few punches at him. A one-two combination, like that, a little fancy footwork. Simon smiles shyly at him, doesn’t pretend to box back, though. Don’t know why he’s so bashful around Dad. Dad wouldn’t hurt a flea. “Take care, son,” he says, kneeling down, ruffling Simon’s hair, pulling him in for a one-armed hug, squashing Simon’s face against his chest.

It’s my turn now, and I think my heart is going to break, but I’ve got a no-problem-here smile on my face too. Just like Dad. And while Dad’s looking at me, his expression gets serious. I see deep into him, and tears come even