“Consider, if you will, the ancient Egyptians,” Stan Duval said, just as we were sitting down to dinner. “They had the correct attitude, in my humble estimation.”

I usually acted as though I hadn’t heard him. He made me nervous; I couldn’t get used to him being around. My mother had married him in Yuma, Arizona, a year ago. I couldn’t figure out why. He was twenty years older than she was and he always wore his green pin-striped suit at the dinner table even if he’d been walking around the house in stained underwear a half hour earlier.