Tonight, while putting my daughter to bed, I think I summarized fiction very well.
"You're a farmer," she insisted while wriggling out from beneath Snow White blankets.
"No baby, Daddy's not a farmer," I answered, trying desperately to keep my cigarette smoke from drifting over her. I had thought of putting it out, but only briefly because a draft was winking at me from my laptop and only the constant, cutting criticism of my wife had dragged me from a cocoon of Alice Cooper and Bing Crosby and into harsh lighting. Daddy would have to go back to his writing once a story was read and a song sang, and so Daddy's cancer stick stayed clenched firmly between yellowing molars.
"You're a farmer, Daddy," she insisted again, wrapping tiny arms around my neck.
"No, Daddy's a writer," I explained, reeling for a simpler way of explaining why we didn't live on her grandparents' farm in Pennsylvania, "Writers like Daddy don't make any money, so Daddy has to have another job, and there aren't any jobs like that where Grandma and Pap live. So we live in Kentucky."
"Oh," she answered in sweet little tones, deceptively sweet, "I understand."
"So why can't we live in Pennsylvania?" my wife asked from the doorway.
Sophie screwed her face up and sighed. Her smile was dazzling, cuteness and insolence in a wrapper of innocence.
"Because Daddy's a bad writer," she answered as I choked on cigarette smoke and tried to get my wife to stop laughing.