His desk was at the far end of the basement. He worked with clients over the Internet, mostly other Curves owners. We were on the East Coast, in the Hudson Valley above New York City. A lot of his clients were out West, in Vancouver or San Diego or Billings or Calgary or Winnipeg. He had a client in Canada where the famous dogsled race ends, the one we saw in the movie Iron Will, that goes for days and ends there.

His software ran on their computers and collected all the money and member records for them, so he couldn’t upgrade their software until they closed for the night. If they closed at nine or ten that was midnight or one in the morning for us. He had dozens and dozens of them, so most nights someone needed him. In between he wrote software for a client in Hong Kong. She was waking up for breakfast while we were making our dinner and doing my homework. At bedtime for me it was 9:30 in the morning for her. We had three hours of homework a lot of those nights. He would read to me in bed, Junie B or Shel Silverstein, and then go to his computer across the room and work with her in Hong Kong.

He was awake for hours there, almost till morning. If I woke up and heard him talking on the phone I knew I could go back to sleep, it was still too early.

My mother was gone those nights, or gone until midnight. I would be afraid in my room upstairs. My tent near him was more fun anyhow.

He had his old running shoes lined up under his bookshelves, nine pairs. I said tennis shoes once and he said no, you mean running shoes, don’t you? He would only wear them for running. He wouldn’t wear them shopping or even for coaching my soccer team. I never saw him wear them. He stopped running when he had radiation before I was born, when the radiation shrunk his big lungs. When I walked past those shoes in the dark the reflectors winked, one after another. I pretended they were our sled dogs sleeping in the snow, opening an eye to see who was passing, hoping to race again.

When did my father sleep? While I was at school, I guess. He worked at night so he could take me places in the daytime. If I went to the nurse he came for me in five minutes. He had a watch just for school days. He didn’t wear a watch for anything else. The alarm went off when the bell at my school rang. He would go down to the bottom of the driveway and wait for my bus, or if I had girl scouts or electives or tutoring he came for me in the car. He would never use that alarm for anything else, never change it, never turn it off. We even heard that watch on Sunday afternoons in the summer, in a drawer somewhere, singing for September. I can hear it now, from some drawer in my mind.