At the stop sign before the library, Emma saw Gallo painting his yellow line as he had painted it for thirty years. The line highlighted a ten-foot-long crack in the road, a rogue speed bump that, unpainted, might do some damage to your car or your neck or your teeth or your coffee. The crack had been there as long as Emma could remember. Gallo had too. Emma had watched Gallo from a young man to an old man painting his yellow line. She had watched him reletter his sign when it became tattered: DONATE TO UPKEEP THIS OUR ROAD. Gallo had a son Emma’s age, and Emma had watched Gallo teach him to paint the yellow line, to fly the sign, to approach each car’s window with his cashbox. But Gallo’s son was grown and gone. Emma hadn’t seen him since her own sons were small. Now only Teddy, her youngest, still lived at home. Emma drove him to the library Saturday afternoons because he had been caught skipping high school and shoplifting again. At the library, Teddy helped unwilling children learn to read. If he helped enough of them, he might still be allowed to graduate. 

Emma rolled down her window and handed Gallo her ones. Gallo had a boyish face gone liver spotted. A banana is too green to eat, until one day it’s overripe. Traditionally, Emma and Gallo exchanged grave nods as neighbors watching each other age but this time she said, “Where’s your son these days?” 

Gallo opened the cashbox and slipped Emma’s bills inside. He locked the box with his tiny brass key. He leaned against the car window. “My son,” Gallo said, shaking his head. “Where is anyone’s son? Where is your son?”

“Here,” she said. “Right here. This is Teddy.” Gallo shaded his eyes. Teddy was slumped in the back seat.

“Hello, Teddy,” Gallo said.

“Teddy,” Emma said. “Say hello.” Teddy mumbled something and didn’t sit up.

“Teenagers,” Emma said. Gallo waved and Emma pulled the car forward.

“Pathetic,” Teddy said, a word he used for everything lately, especially himself. “If he actually wanted to fix the crack in the road, he would do it.” 

“He’s not trying to fix the crack in the road,” Emma said. “He’s trying to warn people about the crack in the road.”

“Then why doesn’t he use better paint, and only paint it once? Or once every few years?” Teddy didn’t ask why Gallo didn’t call the city. There was no city. 

“That’s not his goal,” Emma said. “His goal is to make a living.”

“So it’s a scam,” Teddy said.

“Have you ever considered how you might make a living?” Emma said.

“No one makes a living,” Teddy said. “Uber, envelope stuffing, pyramid scheme.” 

“No one makes a living?” Emma said. “What about me and Grandma?” 

“Grandma can’t even afford to live in her own house,” Teddy said. “That’s why she lives with us.” He pressed his inflamed cheek against the lock button to make it click back and forth. Teddy had the unreasonable teenage belief that he should not be interpellated, which Emma had to google to learn that he felt he should not be collected into a humanlike image by the rods and cones of others. Emma worked in produce, always had. Teddy’s skin was like the skin of an avocado or a Seville orange. 

Emma’s mother worked part-time at the library. When they arrived, she was distributing reluctant kindergartners to delinquent teens. Candace (fistfights), Bryson (selling cigarettes to middle schoolers), DeAndre (running a plagiarism business in the locker room). Emma watched Teddy turn on his music so he wouldn’t have to talk to anyone. “Teddy. Headphones. Now,” his grandma said. He took them off. There was no city, but there was just enough of it left to punish people. “Reading is not punishment,” Teddy’s grandma said. The kindergartners and the teens let her say it. 

While she waited, Emma helped her mother clear the overfull bulletin board. Only one flyer had nothing to sell: 

Wanted: Grandparents. I am a woman in my mid-thirties. I am estranged from my parents and have no close family. I am seeking a man or a woman (couple is fine too) to *adopt* me as their grandchild. This would include giving me advice, celebrating *some* holidays, passing down traditional family recipes, possible movie watching, slow walks, etc. Call Jessica.

Jessica’s phone number fringed the bottom. Emma’s mother reached past Emma and tore one off.

“You already live with one of your grandchildren,” Emma said. “And you barely spend time with him.”

“To be honest,” her mother said, “he’s annoying. Just a little bit.”