Subscribe to The Atlantic and get 2 free issues

Knight of the Swan

The writer discovers a family secret:

"The first time I heard about my father’s godfather was at a family dinner. We were in my grandmother’s dining room celebrating my father’s birthday. It was the usual ritual of slicing the cake with the silver triangle onto the square, flowered plates, passing each one to my grandmother to slowly scoop ice cream upon, like a queen giving her blessing. Along with that were the usual jokes about my father’s birth and therefore his peculiar place in the family–how he was ten years younger than his siblings, and really, if we are being honest, an accident.

"'A damn good accident!' my grandmother would say from the end of the table, the light from the chandelier gauzy on her cheekbones. And we would laugh. When I was eleven, I saw my aunt, my father’s sister, lean over to my mother and mutter, 'And of course we all know about Bobby Putnam.'"
SOURCE:The Toast
PUBLISHED: Aug. 16, 2013
LENGTH: 13 minutes (3307 words)