His face was scarred, the flesh of his forehead, cheeks and chin ravaged with the lesions of time and self-indulgence. His torso was round and, from where I watched, shrunken, as though it had compressed in upon itself.
He might have been slim once, youthful and full of honest conviction, and that would have given him the stature of a giant on the stages on which he’d acted. But he’d grown rotund, and he held his oversized head atop his soft body with the care of someone aware of his infirmities, a giant reduced to the proportions of an ordinary man.
A kid from the projects named Mike Scully sparked Art Foster’s interest in Anna. Mike idolized Art and started the ball rolling when he whispered that she was the most beautiful girl in Rhode Island and maybe the world. He was a jumpy kid, always pacing, rocking or twitching, constantly talking about a lightweight fighter named Jackie Weber. Scully’s family lived in the apartment where Jackie had grown up. Scully wanted to be a Marine. A homemade tattoo of a snake on his arm looked like a worm. The dagger it wrapped around was a sad likeness. The “N” in HONOR was backwards. Whenever Art pitched Pony League ball, Mike was in the stands cheering as if he were his brother. Art thought he might be gay until he revealed his love for Anna.
Hi, mom. I’m home. These words echoed throughout an empty house three weeks ago. After that, it was like I never left. Part of me screamed to go, but it finally died down. Then, days just rolled on by, and time was spent under a sunny porch. The only strange thing in such a quiet, beautiful neighborhood was the man living across the street.
He was like clockwork. At eight a.m., he left to do his morning jog. He returned an hour later with a newspaper tucked under one arm. He went inside and would emerge forty-five minutes later.
The train was late again. Commuters muttered with disgust, and time flashed across small, thin screens. An announcement overhead informed those freezing in the winter cold air that the train would be arriving at the station ten minutes later than expected, and the waiting room downstairs was well-heated for those suffering from deep freeze. But by the time the passengers make their way down the escalators to that room, the train would have come and gone, and the next one would not be until another hour or so.
Shoving his hands into his pockets, William stomped his feet against the concrete platform. His toes tingled from the cold, and his hands were becoming numb. White clouds of air escaped his lips, and his ears waited anxiously to hear the train.
It’s amazing how much you hate the ordinary life. You hate the mindless routine that meets you every morning and leaves you every night. Every day is the same damn day, but you take it for granted. It’s your life, but you hate it. But when it’s gone… All you want is to go back to the way life used to be. Such a thing is no longer possible. Not for me.
They broke my door down late into the night. I had no chance to react. My hands were bound behind my back, and I was forced to my feet. Lucky for me, I decided to go to sleep in boxers and a t-shirt that night, but my bare feet stumbled across the smooth, wooden floors and out onto the cold streets.
It’s spooky. Getting in the car in the dark before sunrise to drive to the riverside to sit. Right here. Spooky cause well, being the end of July so far down south, and after yesterday being hot as hell, then last night so windy and pouring down rain, and now the sunrise is hidden behind dark clouds with fog and the air too thick. I can’t help but break a sweat.
Yet, it’s cool.
July, July, July. I can’t say enough good about it. Mainly, as I’ve learned, it’s my strongest month- in mind, body and spirit. Which means my only plan is to ENJOY it. Now. And it’s out here, I’ve learned, I wear it well.
“Are you swearing off men completely?”
Barton’s pulse quickened with relief. Vince had unwittingly offered Barton a way to refuse him without resorting to ridicule. “None of us should be hooking up right now.”
“We’d relapse together.”
Our last encounter was at Mike’s funeral.
“I hope you’ll agree to meet with me Joe,” she wrote, as the letter wound down. “Much time has passed and you need to know the truth.”
It would be an unhappy, but necessary reunion. I wanted her explanation of what happened, as well as the chance to express my feelings.
If God gave people the ability to build a best buddy, Mike Arnold would have been my creation.
Four months, no shame in that. Barton hadn’t intended to fall once more into its vicious and familiar embrace. When he clutched the tiny bag, however, no sacrifice seemed too great and no punishment too severe. He was on the tricky side of forty, his liver near collapse, his mother and teenage son distant as a star. Every line of crushed crystals barreling through the clipped straw brought him closer to the life otherwise only possible after death. Four months—no shame, no shame at all. Goof and Sister Pussy, eyes sparkling like coins at the bottom of a well, sat across the coffee table from Barton. Goof’s fingers massaged the shaved wonder between her thighs.
After three years of caddying, I’d received the promotion every summertime employee at the Kitzbuhel Country Club in the Austrian village of that name dreamed of. I was now a lifeguard. I envisioned a long summer of watching beautiful, rich, bikini-clad, Alpine women morph from fair-skinned to bronzed and, of course, earning a bigger paycheck to help finance a down payment on that new, red Volkswagen Tiquan I just had to be behind the wheel of. What I didn’t expect was an unfortunate lesson in history learned on my very first day of work.
I sat at a plain, white table near the indoor entrance to the Olympic size pool a number of our nation’s swimmers used to train for international competitions.