Anson Hempkin believed in Jesus Christ, and every night, while Faye put the kids to bed, he got down on his knees and prayed to the plastic statue on top of his television set. He prayed his roofing company would prosper, the weather would be good, and Enrique and Pablo would show up for work. He prayed the city council would grant a variance for the megahouse on the bluff, the roof for which he had a contingent contract.
Almost a hundred years after the demise of the Jönköping, I sit on the paint-peeling porch of the Montclair Assisted Living Estate, in the decrepit plastic hammock of my wheelchair, and look out, through the topiaried hedges, past the dogwood trees, across the upper-middleclass wasteland of Upper Montclair, to the northeast, toward Sweden, and slowly and methodically eviscerate Jean in two-person hearts . . .
Tired and near dead, George Mueller’s head was caught in dreams as if he were still dreaming them. Other things he would not have considered real stood just before him too, but they all existed somehow clearer than his hunger or his exhaustion and not for any reason he could have made plain.
Ben first met Charlie Cahill on the train to New York. Charlie was reading a collection of Hemingway stories; he wore a wrinkled suit that showed too much sock, and he gorged himself on a hot dog, oblivious to the ketchup that dripped down his tie. Behind Charlie sat a young mother with her crying child. After ten minutes of wails and screeches, Charlie turned around, dangled his keys, and grinned.
He was standing in the aisle practicing Willie Horton’s batting stance, working on his glare out to the imaginary mound . . . . He was picturing the ball floating toward the plate, the invisible pitcher—Catfish Hunter, maybe—holding his breath. Then the bus jerked to a stop, the floor rolled beneath his feet, and Augie spilled forward onto his face.
I catch my husband using one of my eyeliners to color in the spot where part of his eyebrow is missing, a scar from the accident three months ago. Mark snatches his hand away from his face. “Don’t you knock!” he says, his words clipped and his voice dipping low. I would have knocked, if the door hadn’t been open a crack.
I’ve given the slip to those creeps in the geezer asylum across the road and tip-toed out the emergency exit when they thought I was taking a nap. It’s Friday evening in Squires Grove, and Burkhum’s Tap is crowding. I’ve staked myself out early at the bar and had a few Leinenkugels.
Two college seniors sit in a café in a Midwestern college town. Crowds of people pour in to escape the snow. The boy and girl know each other well, and they don’t. They have been together for seven weeks. Their understanding of each other centers on past love lives, confusion about the future, and a vast exploration of each other’s bodies. They need something to move the relationship forward, or it will die.