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Continuous Registration

by: Evalyn Cole

Continuous Registration CR CONRG

Evalyn Cole
GPA 3.56


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This 31 page Class Notes was uploaded by Evalyn Cole on Tuesday September 22, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to CR CONRG at Colorado State University taught by Staff in Fall. Since its upload, it has received 33 views. For similar materials see /class/210311/cr-conrg-colorado-state-university in Continuous Registration at Colorado State University.

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Date Created: 09/22/15
4 BRAD BABIN SOUTH OF LITTLE ROCK t was hot The sun had stopped in its tracks hanging just overhead to hammer at Clayton and Lee as they plodded sweating and silent through the humid air Thelight seemed to take on mass and weight through the course of the day pressing down on them as they trudged along the shoulder headed south Clayton carried a small rucksack of army green canvas Lee a yellow gym bag In the last two days they d had only a couple of rides both less than ten miles Clayton set the pace and at times his overweight friend dropped back the slap and peel of Lee s sneakers on the hot asphalt growing quieter and quieter until Clayton could no longer hear his steps at all Like now Clayton stopped and looked back at Lee Lee had come along because he d never been to New Orleans and wanted to see it for himself for him the whole thing was an adventure a lark but for Clayton it was serious business He imagined the courtroom in New Orleans Monday morning the judge calling Clayton s name answered only by silence Uncle Dolf who had paid his bail would be there looking around for him shaking his head They would put out a warrant on Clayton and that would be that off to Parish Prison he would go I kind of need to make some time here he hollered back to Lee If I m not in court Monday morning I m dead The highway stretched empty and straight behind Lee into the distance where it disintegrated in the heat stirred air Lee shrugged and jogged a few half hearted steps before settling back into his slow steady walk Oh fuck it said Clayton He jumped the ditch and after kicking the weeds for snakes sat down on the opposite bank to wait He rolled a cigarette and smoked If only he hadn t sold the car Uncle Dolf and Aunt Mar guerite had given him when he graduated high school he and Lee could have been in New Orleans today walking around the French Quarter with cold beers Though they B ORSUMOES ction p65 3 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW both had a little money from the last house they d painted it would have taken every penny and then some to buy bus tickets so they had decided to hitchhike and save the money for when they arrived in the city Uncle Dolf had offered to buy Clayton a bus ticket but Clayton had refused saying that Dolf was doing enough for him already He d wanted to prove himself Now he wasn t sure what it was he thought he would prove by hitching and he wished he d taken his uncle up on his offer The possibility that he might have to go to jail had become real to Clayton The charges against him were criminal trespass public intoxication and damage to property Uncle Dolf had flown him down to New Orleans from Little Rock for Christmas and Clayton had gone to a bar in the French Quarter one afternoon where he d met a girl named Nikki with one side of her head shaved They went together to another bar then another and another An elderly couple had come out of their house early the neXt morning just two days before Christ mas to find Clayton and Nikki asleep in their car in the driveway with the back passenger side window broken out and Clayton s knuckles crusted with blood He remembered waking up with his face pressed against the window to see a uniformed cop looking in at him His hand throbbed pain fully Behind the policeman the car s owners clung together looking frightened in matching sweat suits the woman hold ing a big scruffy calico stroking it again and again Now the whole thing seemed absurd It was all a big mis understanding He took a deep breath Held it Let it out slowly The loud buzz of insects seemed to be everywhere The air smelled faintly of gasoline and below that an even fainter whiff of something dead some rotting animal nearby Buzzards circled above in the hot blue white sky He watched Lee approach irritation crackling under his skin Lee had insisted they take this road And Clayton had to admit that on the map it looked as good as any a straight shot south The problem was that no one used it no one but farmers and locals from the few tiny towns they d come through little collections of rotting buildings huddled under shade trees Every now and then an eighteen wheeler roared past without slowing mostly tankers and last night in the dark they d had to hit the ditch a couple times to get out of the B ORSUMOES ction p65 4 612006 4 20 PM 4 IEIIL 4 Babin way of shoulder hugging truckers the big at fronted rigs pushing through the air and dragging violent wakes of gust ing wind that threw dust in their eyes and whipped their clothing against their fatigued bodies Now sweat slid down over Clayton s ribs His T shirt grubby from sweat and dust lay plastered to his back His legs throbbed the broken blisters on his heels stung and they were still a long way from New Orleans 1 should have stayed my ass at home said Lee when he walked up You d probably get a ride easy by yourself He crossed the ditch and sat down on the bank by Clayton Nobody wants to stop for two axe murderers Clayton just shrugged I don t know about that he said Even alone I d be walking there hasn t been a single car all morning Lee seemed to follow his train of thought We on the wrong damn road he said Story of my life He laughed and wiped the sweat from his face smoothed his mustache Clayton was glad to hear him acknowledge his mistake but immediately felt like a jerk It s like an episode of The Twilight Zone he said trying to joke it off The Highway to Nowhere Smell that Something dead Lee wrinkled his nose They sniffed the air looking around them After a while they got up and started walking again An old dusty and dented pickup rolled by slowly moving all the way over into the other lane to go around them the old man inside staring straight ahead at the road A quarter mile up the truck turned onto a side road raising a plume of pinkish dust behind it The rotten smell got stronger as they walked a dead dog bloated in the ditch The loud electric hum of swarming ies Clayton glanced down at it saw the white busyness of mag gots and looked away Damn said Lee That smell fuckin wigs me out man I can t stand it It s bad Clayton kept walking Seems like we should have hit the state line by now Lee said We got to be close No way We re not even close Even after crossing into Louisiana they d still have a long way to go to reach New Orleans Clayton s shoulders sagged with sudden hopeless B ORSUMOES ction p65 5 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW ness His arms and legs grew heavy and lifeless as mud The fields lay attened under the tremendous weight of the air and light After graduation Clayton had drifted without purpose ending up in Little Rock only because that was where he d run out of money He d been there a month living off the money he d made by selling the car when he met Lee at The Corner Pocket a bar with fifty cent draft and free pool on Tuesdays Lee and his older brother Tater both worked paint ing houses with their father who was looking to hire an other painter Clayton went to work for him and when it became obvious that Clayton didn t have a regular place to stay the McCombers had taken him in though they were already crowded in their small house That way I can keep an eye on you Mr McComber had said Don t have to worry about you showin up for work you ll already be there Clayton had been living with them for over a year now sleeping on the oor between Lee and Tater who slept on the two sprung and sagging couches that took up most of the living room Except for Mrs McComber everybody in the family was big but Clayton was wiry and compact and so at work he became the ladder man leaning out over the ground two oors up stretching to reach as far as possible on both sides twisting himself up into third oor eaves with fancy beam work that had to be brushed out Often the McCombers stopped and stood holding their rollers and brushes looking up at him with happy smiles They hated ladder work I miss Mama said Lee laughing at himself for saying it She s really taken a liking to you I like her too said Clayton He loved listening to Mrs McComber play the guitar and sing old folk songs in her high clear voice tinged with sadness Your whole family s been good to me For some reason Uncle Dolf s face kept appearing in his thoughts I hope you re comfortable at Dolf and Marguerite s place Why wouldn t I be Oh I don t know Just the way they are Lee didn t an swer but Clayton could feel him thinking There was no traffic so they could have walked side by side or even in the middle of the highway if they d wanted but because of Lee s slower walk Clayton gradually drifted 3 6 B ORSUMOES ction p65 6 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 Babin to the front each time He couldn t seem to adjust to his friend s pace He tried But it seemed silly to walk so slow If you re going to walla then walla was how he saw it At a bridge over a small creek they left the road and the heat of the afternoon sun for the shade underneath Lee stretched out on the cool packed clay A minute later a car passed overhead and they laughed There goes my ride said Clayton He sat on his bag and rolled a cigarette He lit it After a minute Lee asked for one Clayton rolled him one We re going to have to ration ourselves he said tossing the cigarette over to Lee Lee sat up but did not light the cigarette He looked down at it in his hand He got up and went over to the water and looked down into it a small stream flowing over a sandy bed I m dry as a old bone he said I wonder if this water s okay to drink I wouldn t You don t think It s clear No way man Lee stood looking at the water He bent and splashed water on his face his neck He lifted water to his mouth in his hand and swished it around before spitting it out There you go said Clayton and moved to do the same He took off his shirt knelt and lowered his head He used his hands to wet his hair then washed his face and his neck and rinsed his mouth He flipped his hair back and combed it with his fingers the wet ends hanging to his shoulders That feels great He rinsed out his shirt and went to hang it in the sun on the fence at the edge of the field that ran along the creek 1 still have a joint he called to Lee But maybe we should save it Yeah it s too damn hot We could smoke it We could The weed made Clayton paranoid and later as they walked along the road again he became convinced the wa ter had been toxic The inside of his mouth seemed to tingle He spit How s your mouth he asked Lee Dr You don t have a funny taste from that water He spit again I didn t swallow any B ORSUMOES ction p65 7 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW Me neither but I have a funny tingle in my mouth He worked his jaw and lips tasting his mouth Like it might be burning Well is it burning or ain t it Lee wore an amused grin I don t know It feels like it might start You re fucking stoned Lee was right Clayton worried too much was always overthinking things taking life too seriously taking him self too seriously But Lee could almost always make Clayton laugh at himself make him see himself more clearly It was one of the things he liked about Lee one of the ways their friendship exerted a positive in uence on Clayton s life Clayton promised himself to be more patient with his friend why did he always have to be such a jerk During a drunken argument after Clayton had returned from his Christmas visit in New Orleans Lee had accused Clayton of thinking he was better than other people It s written all over your face he d said Lee s words had struck home and Clayton had been bothered by it ever since He wasn t a snob and felt he had to prove it somehow but didn t know how and anyway trying to prove he wasn t one would only make him look more like one He was doing it again Was it possible to hate yourself and still think you re better than everybody else He didn t know but he felt he had something to make up for and as the day wore on it began to seem right to Clayton that they had chosen this lost road It was only right that he should have to walk I m walking the whole way he shouted back to Lee I don t want a damn ride I m walking all the way to New Orleans A tingle of adrenaline crawled over his body and he picked up his pace A pilgrimage toward a new life His heart was pounding and he put his hand to his chest He would change after this Show some responsibility Some consideration for others He began to run He ran down the shoulder of the road in the waning day and the heat headed south He ran until the sweat poured from his body and he got a side ache and then he sat down on the bank of the ditch He didn t know why he was running but all of a sud den he knew he wasn t done and he got up and ran some more Just running As he ran the up and down movement of his body made it seem the land the world was bouncing B ORSUMOES Mellon p65 8 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 Babin up and down That s what it looked like The whole thing bouncing up and down It made him feel like he could fall off like it could really happen and he stopped and lay face down on the shoulder of the road hanging on to the earth which suddenly seemed no larger than a beach ball just hang ing there surrounded by nothing Better on the ball than in the nothing He held on His eyes were squeezed shut against it Breathe he remembered When his heart slowed its hammering he rolled over and sat up He sat there until Lee walked up then stood and fell in beside him You all right Lee said Yeah I m fine Guess I needed to run You sure ran Lee made a loud click out of the side of his mouth The sun finally moved again as the world rolled over to ward evening Morning was years ago a time of innocence before the long hot emptiness of the day Though they had walked for most of the night before and he knew he d been tired now his morning self seemed pathetically optimistic a child He remembered fondly the water they d drunk in the gray dawn from a spigot in a tiny park in a tiny dusty town The water had been cool Clear Without the fumey taste of chlorine Deep well water maybe Sweet and pure Water It had gushed out over his hands spilling on the ground enough for everybody Remember the park The water Oh man Lee gave a sad laugh Don t talk about it It was all over the ground everywhere No I know Clayton needed to call Uncle Dolf He d be expecting Clayton any time now But there had been no sign of civili zation since the morning He had a vision of the cool quiet gentility of his aunt and uncle s house the dim lights the graceful old furniture and walls and walls of books Dolf and Marguerite themselves carried an aura of unconscious and threadbare elegance it was in the way they moved and sat in the soft refined accents of their speech Though Clayton had spent much of his childhood in Dolf and Marguerite s house deposited there by his mother who couldn t seem to settle down anywhere long enough to keep him in school after graduation he d wanted nothing but to B ORSUMOES ction p65 9 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW get away from them He d packed some clothes a few books and his guitar into the car they d given him and left without saying goodbye the day before the graduation ceremony that Dolf and Marguerite had so looked forward to But when he called them days later from Atlanta the first of many places he would stay brie y before arriving in Little Rock his aunt and uncle had forgiven him and said it was okay they un derstood He knew what they were thinking that he was wild like his mother and headed for trouble But now the idea of family of tradition and blood pulled at him an umbilical spooling out into the swampy past Connec tion he needed that didn t he Didn t everybody The dark history of the South repelled him but also seemed to contain the possibility of understanding When he d gone back to visit at Christmas it was as if some ghost of himself haunted the place He d been surprised to discover in himself an apprecia tion for material wealth for the finer things The bed in the guest room where he d slept during his visit was high with head and foot boards of dark hardwood a soft cloud on which he oated into his dreams The old house had tall French windows and those in Clayton s room opened out onto a brick walled garden jasmine covering the ground under crepe myrtles with their slim smooth light skinned trunks ivy crawling over the old bricks He d relished the quiet pri vacy a welcome change from the McCombers living room oor where he d already been sleeping for several months by then Moving through the cool quiet house he d felt the warm sense of well being that came from financial security and his own life suddenly seemed harsh and shabby And ever since he d returned to Little Rock after Christmas af ter the arrest and after promising Uncle Dolf he would re turn for the appointed day in court he d been irritable smoth ered by the close noisy life at the McCombers They were always right on top of each other piled into small rooms with their big bodies elbow to elbow at the kitchen table submerged in the thick smell of gravy and fried food I m not walking all night tonight he said over his shoul der We need to find a place where we can get some sleep Lee was keeping up now or maybe Clayton was just walk ing slower He couldn t tell B ORSUMOES ction p65 10 612006 4 20 PM 4 IEIIL 4 Babin I m with you cuz What s them trees up there A small grove of tall trees stood next to the road a half mile up al most black against the coloring sky Might be our spot said Clayton When they got close there was a gravel turn in under the trees grass steel picnic tables an outhouse They got water said Lee He hurried over to the old fashioned long handled pump The handle squeaked and the pump hissed and gurgled hissed and gurgled then rusty water gushed out and they moaned in disappointment but the water cleared up after a few seconds It just ain t been used in a while Lee bent over and stuck his head under the water They drank their bellies tight and washed themselves as well as they could and sprawled out on one of the picnic tables They smoked the rest of the joint and sat and rested as the sun crept lower They rolled cigarettes and smoked The air cooled They got up once in a while to drink more water Man my legs are gettin stiff already said Lee getting to his feet his usual easy grin gone for a moment But then he began tottering around groaning comically and exagger ating the stiffness of his body rocking side to side with each step I m the Tin Man he said In the coolness the air smelled of dust They were almost out of tobacco so they didn t smoke again saVing it for the morning They each took a picnic table and lay on their backs watching the light and color go out of the sky Later Clayton awoke to the mad yapping and yowling of coyotes from the blackness on the other side of the trees surrounding the pic nic area You hear that said Lee They sound crazy I don t know said Clayton They sound lost They won t bother us No Later he woke up again and was cold He sat up and hugged himself and looked around His whole body throbbed painfully He thought about a fire He pulled his jean jacket from the pack he d been using for a pillow He buttoned it up and lay back down When he woke up neXt the sky was gray and he was too cold to go back to sleep He d been dreaming he and Lee were at Dolf and Mar B ORSUMOES ction p65 11 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW guerite s drunk pulling everything out of the kitchen cabi nets and smashing it on the floor in the sink against the wall His body hurt a deep solid ache in his legs and back He got up and runiniaged around for sticks moving with board legs and plank back under the trees where it was still dark and made a small fire He hunkered over it wishing for coffee Cigarettes Breakfast Whiskey Behind he heard Lee s soft curse Fire here Clayton said Lee grunted You re my hero he said Then rolling over and trying to rise he groaned and opped back down I can t get up I m broke After a while he crawled toward the warmth Overhead the sky lightened and around them the trees came out of the shadows the teXture of individual leaves emerging from at blackness They huddled over the fire for a while then stood trying to work the stiffness out of their legs and backs moving around the tables in short stiff little steps They rolled the last of the tobacco and smoked it while they watched the fire die out They picked up their bags walked out to the highway and headed south down the shoul der of the road They tottered along through the cold dawn swinging their arms for warmth But once the sun cleared the horizon the day turned sultry Clayton couldn t quit thinking about the dream We have to be cool at my aunt and uncle s house he said He could only imagine what Dolf would make of Lee Dolf who knew a lot of people had said that he could help Clayton with this trouble if Clayton held up his end of things which didn t include missing the very first court appearance Suddenly he dreaded arriving on their doorstep with Lee in tow I don t know what you think I m gonna do said Lee Eat their cat maybe The thing is it s pretty quiet at their house They re not Clayton felt Lee s eyes on him They re quiet people he said Old quiet people The words felt wrong in his mouth hollow stiff as new shoes I prornise I won t eat the cat Clayton walked along looking at the ground Or rape the dog Lee laughed Clayton tried to laugh but it sounded phony He had no reason to believe that Uncle Dolf and Aunt Marguerite would B ORSUMOES ction p65 12 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 Babin treat Lee with anything other than the respectful consider ation they showed everyone else That s how they were Clayton took a deep breath and let it out slowly He couldn t lie to himself It wasn t Lee s feelings he was worried about The truth was he didn t want to bring Lee to Dolf and Marguerite s house because he was ashamed for them to see who his friends were It made Clayton squirm to admit this to himself so he pushed the thoughts away told himself he was thinking too much Again Since when did he care about such things Money Social status He and Lee were friends and you stuck by your friends that was all By eight o clock they reached a little place called Tarboil a few tired old buildings and some houses surrounded by crop land They saw the planes before they saw the town Little yellow crop dusting planes that dove and climbed and turned banking steeply and dove again A long store of boards sagged on crumbling brick pylons two feet over its own black shadow As they approached a skinny cat streaked out from under neath the store with another chasing it They ran in a wide circle around Clayton and Lee and shot off toward an old El Camino with the windows broken out sitting on blocks in the lot neXt to the store It was full of cats playing and owing in quick rushes over and around each other in the bed and on the roof on the dash the hood the back of the seat Orange and black and white and calico all owing together all over each other like a ball of colored snakes It was a strange thing to see before coffee and they stopped and stared for a minute before they went on They went into the store the screen door whacking against the frame and found the coffee machine They got coffee and cinnamon rolls and went to the counter A woman came out through a door at the back of the store and went behind the counter She was small and tired looking and her hair was the color of lead Not the gray of aging Clayton no ticed but one solid dark color They got tobacco and paid for their things and went back outside The screen door whacked again They sat on the edge of the low porch by the pay phone and ate their rolls and drank the coffee In a field across the highway stood a long low hangar with a single short blacktop runway where the yellow cropdusters took off and landed for fuel and for spray Slay King Dusters B ORSUMOES ction p65 13 612006 4 20 PM 4 IEIIL 4 COLORADO REVIEW read a hand painted sign on the hangar Lee rolled cigarettes for both of them Clayton lit his and went to the phone Aunt Marguerite accepted the charges then Dolf s deep voice spoke into his ear Clayton Hey Uncle Dolf How are you Clayton where are you I m on my way I m in Tarboil Arkansas You re still in Arkansas There was silence on the line then a long sigh Clayton looked at Lee the back of his head and the side of his face Don t worry I ll be there Lee and Dolf could not eXist in the same space occupy the same room one of them would simply shrink down to nothing and disappear It s Friday Clayton If you aren t there Monday morn ing you are going to be in a lot of trouble Again Dolf paused You know that don t you Clayton Yes I know I ll be there I promise The screen door banged again and Clayton looked up A thing stood there on the porch Some sort of child in a child s summer dress Jesus breathed Clayton Don t promise just get your butt down here Call me when you get close and I ll come get you There was a pause Clayton Are you there The child made a noise Her dress had puffy shoulders and a tiny lace edged apron in front but she wore no shoes and her dirty tough looking feet scuffed the porch boards with restless energy Her elongated head was cocked back the skin wine purple and shiny her eyes small bulbous beads of black glass under a short sloping brow Her mouth pushed out in front of the rest of the face with large wet lips and no chin underneath the nose two horizontal slits in a bump of esh Clayton tore his eyes away and turned his back Yes he said into the receiver I m still here I promise I ll be there Uncle Dolf Iwon t let you down Behind him Lee spoke to the girl in a soft voice Clayton concentrated on the tele phone Uncle Dolf on the line I should probably tell you said Clayton What Tell me what Nothing to worry about said Clayton It s just that there is someone with me A friend B ORSUMOES ction p65 14 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 Babin What You have a friend with you Clayton turned to see Lee and the girl facing him Lee s big hand clasped in both of her smaller ones Clayton cut his eyes away when he saw her staring back at him He assumed the girl belonged to the woman in the store and he wished she d come out and take the girl inside She shouldn t be allowed to wander around bothering people That s fine Clayton Dolf continued Your friend is welcome here I don t care about that Just get down here okay I can t help you with this if you don t show up for court No I know Clayton rolled his eyes for Lee conscious of the girl s steady gaze Dolf said he d see Clayton when he got there and hung up but Clayton did not hang up Some instinct he hadn t even known he possessed took over He held the phone to his ear tightly so that Lee would not hear the buzz of the dial tone He hadn t planned this I know Uncle Dolf he said I m sorry you re right I should have asked Again he pulled a face for Lee and shook his head as if in exasperation I know you guys like to keep things quiet at your place No Clayton hung his head looked at the boards under his feet No he said We ll be No Uncle Dolf I understand Yes Uncle Dolf Goodbye He gave a deep sigh and hung up the phone Oh man what a drag he said Uncle Dolf s not too happy about me bringing somebody with me He let the words hang in the air The girl held Lee s hand her eyes fixed on Clayton s face and a cold certainty grew in him that she knew he was lying He saw judgment in those un blinking eyes I guess I should have asked first he said lamely looking away across the fields The day was al ready hot and the ground breathed steam into the heavy air A plane droned in the silence Finally Lee spoke Well hell Maybe I ought to just turn around and go home He hesitated but Clayton did not reply Sweat rolled down Clayton s temples and he wiped it away with his hand He did not look at the girl or at Lee He looked instead at the gray boards of the porch s oor There was a shuffling movement and Clayton looked up to see the girl pulling Lee by the arm around the corner of the building B ORSUMOES Mellon p65 15 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW Where we going sweetheart Lee asked her She re plied by taking a tighter grip on his hand and leaning against Lee s weight at the end of his arm like a tugboat towing a tanker out of port Clayton moved to the corner watching the girl lead Lee down the steps and toward the road We need to get go ing he said to Lee but Lee didn t answer only shrugged and gave a helpless grin He and the girl moved along the shoulder of the road What are you doing Clayton hollered at Lee His heart thumped quickening Ask her called Lee laughing The girl stopped and Lee stopped with her Clayton moved a few steps in their direction We really need to get going he said again Come on He d changed his mind He didn t want Lee to turn back He wanted his friend with him the comfort of his easy humor his grin and friendly paunch Clayton s heart was pounding a dull roar in his ears and he wanted to run again He tried to sound casual Let s go to New Orleans 1 been thinking about that said Lee You d be better off without me here Maybe you d even get a ride He paused shrugged I guess Ibetter get on home The girl pushed at Lee gently with both hands and he took a step backward What about New Orleans shouted Clayton his voice cracking jumping an octave Getting drunk in the French Quarter What about that He couldn t stop What about all those beautiful women The food the music the bars All those bars what about them Lee and the girl stood quietly watching him Forget about Uncle Dolf and Aunt Marguerite he called much louder than he d meant to They said it was fine Re ally They re nice people They ll love you I know it He held his hands out Come on man Don t leave There was a wheedling sound in his own voice that sickened Clayton But Lee was already moving away Sorry cuz I hope everything works out for you but I m goin home Drop by the house if you get back up to Little Rock Walking slowly backward he raised his hand in a wave to Clayton and then to the girl before turning around and picking up his pace headed north back the way they d come The girl turned and walked back toward the store She went wide around B ORSUMOES Mellon p65 16 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 Babin Clayton when she got to him and after watching Lee s shrink ing figure for a minute he turned and followed her back to the store The cats were gone from the El Camino There was a droning buzz in the sky or maybe it was in his head He didn t know how he d come here to this strange place in his life Nothing ahead Nothing behind The girl went back inside through the banging screen door and Clayton stood with his nose pressed to the rusty mesh and watched her go to the back of the store to the door the woman had come out of When she opened the door to go inside he heard the tinny banging of a teleVision gunfight She shut the door and a split second later it opened again and the tired woman came out and went to the counter Clayton went in and headed to one of the standing cool ers full of beer He picked three forty ounce bottles of malt liquor on sale for ninety nine cents each He put a dollar bill and some quarters and dimes and nickels and pennies on the counter trying not to let the coins jingle and clatter too much in the quiet The woman rang him up and he put the bottles in his pack They clinked as he swung it to one shoulder He walked out of town headed south on the side of the road After a mile or so he crossed the ditch and a barbwire fence and tramped off through a field At the top of a low rise he crossed another fence into a field of grass and weeds hidden from the highway In the distance a few horses grazed He sat down cross legged and took one of the bottles from his pack and opened it the twist top releasing a sharp hiss of carbonation His mouth went dry and he felt the heaViness of fear in his bowels He drank He drank steadily and tried not to think about who he was or where he was going or what might be waiting for him there Over the fields both nearby and in the hazy distance small yellow planes circled and looped in the hot blue sky diVing low to fly just over the ground in tandem with their shad ows then pulling up into steep climbing turns engines roar ing then diVing again their smooth deliberate movements like writing in the sky the lines of a message being written out just for him clear and precise and full of secret knowl edge Clayton tipped back the cool brown bottle and drank B ORSUMOES ction p65 17 612006 4 20 PM 4 IL 4 PAUL MANDELBAUM ADRIANE AND THE FIBROID TUMOR Plump and pink three inches in diameter and oating in a mason jar filled with preservative Adriane s newly harvested fibroid Her first day back at City Hall she displayed it on her desk This was going to cause trouble she could have guessed as much and before long her boss Garrett called her into his office Why would you even want to keep that he asked It s like shrapnel argued Adriane who wanted credit for her suffering these past two weeks She and her boss ob served one another in silence Shaking his head he said at last I m sorry I couldn t stop by It would have caused an argument At home He sat behind his desk and Adriane noticed his computer had one of those new stickers that read YZK COMPLIANT They were sprouting all across City Hall as tech people made their rounds Someone had also stuck one to her boss s desk though why a plain piece of furniture required millennial certifica tion was something only a government task force would con sider She glanced at the framed picture of her boss s wife and young daughter then turned her gaze to the view from his window and the recently opened babyGap below Adriane had thought she was long over him over their awkward ing from more than one two She began to count on her fingers and realized siX years had passed But her surgery had brought up old feelings It had been major surgery the equivalent of a C section So much could have gone wrong mistakes made corners cut care withheld Hem orrhage infection coma stroke some of those things could yet happen This had not been a lucky year and a half for her healthwise When May Annlouise had fibroids Garrett was say ing she got that new treatment where they just cut off the blood supply and B ORSUMOS ction p65 3 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW You told me Adriane interrupted I wanted it out Out out out Yes well you re young he said blushing And that myo whatever s supposed to be more thorough You made the right choice if you want children someday Myomectomy she said To the degree she d thought about children Adriane had decided she didn t want any Children her mother had always taught her were whom you blamed for your own unhappiness It could be said that Adriane s lack of regard for kids in having her own someday or in caring about other people s overall had once helped make the idea of an affair with a family man well thinkable Since then she had grown up a lot and developed better impulse control but just now was experiencing a moment of self doubt What if maturity were merely the thinnest veneer of socialization She looked at her boss his face aglow in the slatted sunshine from his office window and felt an itch across her abdominal stubble She was going through a second puberty down there I m just glad the thing is out of me she insisted Please don t leave it on your desk It s my desk He sighed Why must you always be so difficult He cast the mildly paternal scowl he would give her when ever she was acting out a furrow in his brow that she found perversely attractive and which she usually arranged to see at least once a day Even when she was being scolded her con versations with Garrett alone in his office with the door closed marked the highlight of Adriane s workday She felt safe in his orbit grateful to spend forty hours a week to gether which was probably more than his family got to see him He seemed to need Adriane as well enjoyed the unspo ken doggedness of her attention Maybe theirs wasn t the healthiest emotional bond between two people but it con tained a kind of deformed beauty The neXt day her phone rang and it was Dru Pringle in Pub lic Relations with an absurd request His assistant was out sick and some fourth grade class needed a tour of City Hall Fiona s sick Adriane asked Fiona was about the only coworker besides her boss with whom she d formed any kind of camaraderie B ORSUMOS ction p65 4 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 Mandelbaum She ll be fine said Pringle disniissively I need you to show these kids around tell them about the inner workings here Isn t fourth grade a little young for inner workings Well they re gifted from the Brandon Academy I already cleared it with Garrett He said I could have you That had an unpleasant ring to it a hint of pinipery and also the nasty insinuation Garrett s done wita you She watched her tunior floating in its jar and thought out loud as it so happened Why don t you do it yourself I m too important said Dru Pringle with no trace of irony They re in the lobby now You d better hurry and rneet them Yes uh okay Adriane said and hung up Putting on her blazer she felt a tug across her stitches one of her many layers of stitches She had stitches along the inside of her uterus stitches along the outside of her uterus stitches in between those stitches and stitches across her abdonien For the next month at least she was under orders to avoid heavy lifting and to check frequently for unusual bleeding and she wondered now if she should take a quick peek Though the bathroom was located just across from her desk she decided not to spend the time Dru Pringle had sounded inipatient She grinily began her rnarch down the winding rnarble stair case toward the lobby What did Adriane know about chil dren their world their language their custonis Hers was the esoteric soniewhat lofty realm of municipal public af fairs She had no idea what to tell kids She saw standing off to the side of the lobby one two three four ten of them chaperoned by a young teacher younger than Adriane but married and by the bulbous look of her knocked up The woman wore a fashionable niater nity dress with a cashniere sweater and pearl stud earrings sensible but supple loafers and carried a conspicuously large handbag She seemed to glance disparagingly at Adriane s blue jeans before introducing herself as Mrs Coynes Adriane swallowed dryly Welcome to City Hall the seat of city government she said hoping not to sound like a filnistrip In the pause that followed Adriane could hear whispers and footsteps from across the rotunda B ORSUMOS ction p65 5 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL J q IL COLORADO REVIEW Mrs Coynes cleared her throat and said We re far along into our civics and government unit Who can tell Miss Gelki what we ve been studying We re learning about the three branches of government volunteered one myopic little girl in a plaid sniock Even though she was standing at the back of the group the ro tunda donie shuttled her small voice into Adriane s ear with startling insistence Executive judicial legislative We learned about the Constitutional Convention said a slender doe eyed boy A taller wavy haired lad with a 3 5 millinieter caniera hang ing over his cardigan announced We watched The Ameri can President Adriane asked of no one in particular Is that the movie where Michael Douglas keeps trying to order roses for Annette Benin Yes the children said in unison their voices reverberating If only life here at City Hall were so roniantic she re plied wistfully You re going to have to set aside your pre conceptions She then asked the teacher How long a tour did they promise you About an hour More or less Both wonien studied each other nervously before Adriane glanced at her watch which seemed to be standing still She spanked the side of her wrist until she saw the second hand move but then it stopped again She eXhaled in frustration The children she noticed were staring at her A few of them held notepads and pencils as though ready to ticket her AnXious to move the group out from the rotunda s echo chaniber she said I guess you all would like to see where the mayor works Everyone said yes their voices caroniing inside Adriane s head She led them along the curving niarble staircase to the sec ond oor of the north wing and soon they entered the ante rooni to the mayor s office They gathered before his closed door the city seal niounted upon it This is it said Adriane The boy who carried the 3 5 millinieter caniera took a pic ture of the closed door The niayor s secretary had managed to step out somewhere B ORSUMOS ction p65 6 5252005 3 19 PM 4 B ORSUMOS ction p65 Mandelbaum so Adriane described the woman s workspace As you can see it s YzK compliant she said pointing to the stickers on the computer the desk and also the back of the chair Even though the millennium is still months away we re making sure everything is ready so there are no rude surprises here at City Hall Referring to the triptych picture frame neXt to the pencil cup Adriane said These must be her grandchildren Oh here she comes now As the silver haired woman returned she smiled at all the kids a little less so at Adriane Is Hizzoner in Patsy Adriane asked His secretary explained that the mayor was in the middle of a meeting with representatives of the Baltimore Archdiocese What s he like a large toothed girl in a snowflake sweatshirt asked Adriane The mayor He s okay I guess He s a very nice man interjected the secretary And a wonderful mayor I m sure he is said Mrs Coynes adopting Patsy s spir ited in ection The class regarded the city seal awhile longer before Adriane said All right then Maybe we can try again later In the meantime let s make our way over to the Mayor s Office of Neighborhood Enhancement where I work She led the troop up another flight of stairs to the third oor which had lower ceilings than the second or first floor and which did not even eXist she explained until the build ing s renovation in the mid 1970s Did you have to move your desk asked one of the kids behind her I wasn t working here yet she said adding I was younger than you are now Christ how old did they think she was All right she said standing before her cubicle I give you the Mayor s Office of Neighborhood Enhancement We help neighborhoods put together special projects like con cert series or maybe you remember the Painted Screen Door Slam from a couple winters ago As a walking tour it would have worked better in the summer when more people have their screens up we might try it again though On North Avenue which used to be a happening corridor for nightlife 7 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW we hung streetlanip banners of Eubie Blake who was a pio neering jazz musician born right here in Baltimore Uni let s see The Korean American Bulgogi Nights festival we were very involved with that The kids stared at her blankly and Adriane checked her watch still frozen then pointed to Garrett s door That s my boss in there the Director of the Mayor s Office of Neigh borhood Enhancenient Garrett Hughes Let s see what he s up to shall we She tapped on the door and when that didn t get an an swer she rapped with the ham of her fist Yes grunibled Garrett Adriane ushered the ten tourists and their teacher into the room Garrett put his hand over the mouthpiece of his phone Can I help you Yes you can This is Mrs Coynes and her fourth grade class They re studying the Constitutional Convention and the three branches of government and have watched The Ameri can President Could you tell them a little bit about like when you re not sending me roses what you do here at City Hall Maybe you could stop by on your way back when I m not on the phone Please she whispered He conferred on her that niildly paternal scowl she craved then told the person on the other end of the line he d call back It was probably just his wife anyway Fourth grade he said with sudden circus like gusto and began to coaX information from the kids including their names and ambitions Beyond the usual choices like veteri narian these included diploniat or maybe spy and sitconi writer Maryjane the large toothed girl in the snow ake sweatshirt wanted to be a physicist The Asian kid had set his sights on architecture The boy with the camera planned to be a thoracic surgeon like his father There was a future investment banker in the bunch soniewhere And the doe eyed boy named Jereniy adniitted while fiddling with the zip per of his parka that he wanted someday to be niayor Adriane had never heard so much raw aspiration revealed at one time and she felt a little embarrassed by it Great Garrett told the mayoral hopeful We need new blood Otherwise you see government can fall into a rut B ORSUMOS ction p65 8 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 Mandelbaum and become just about perpetuating itself We need to con tinually remind ourselves of our larger mission as stewards helping people and leading society toward a better future So welcome aboard Jeremy you ve come to the right place Her boss would make a good father Was already a good father no doubt As he chatted up the students from Brandon Academy the room s mood climbing steadily like a funicu lar Adriane let herself drift into a nostalgic reverie about their brief affair He d been recovering from an injury his leg bound in a cast his face bruised the color of Tropical Swirl sherbet but hardest hit his confidence and self worth And in her small ways she had nursed him back to wellness At a time when his wife remained distant and angry Adriane had offered herself to this man she admired and even truth be told adored She remembered the tapas restaurant where they d retired for happy hour his crutches leaning against the bar as he waited for her to return with a small plate of food She bought him a martini and later helped him into her car He seemed at least for a little while deeply appreciative of her It was intoxicating this per sonal appreciation and with his melodious baritone now waft ing in the background she managed to conjure up the faintest trace of it a dangerous fantasy She d been good for so long what a shame to lean off the wagon now though she couldn t help herself In the hospital drifting under the anesthesia she d supposedly called out his name Her eyes still closed now she felt his fingers splay across the wing of her shoulder and was startled to notice him gen tly ushering her out of his office Have a wonderful visit he was telling the group You re in great hands with Ms Gelki here She heard his door click and the mood not just hers but the group s seemed to lurch downward Adriane tried to prop it up by evoking her boss s name It was Garrett s idea to create the North Avenue banners she said dabbing the moist corner of her lips with a tissue They were made from a lightweight nylon and there was plenty of back and forth with the printer over the four color registration let me tell you This is where I sit she said pointing a trembly finger toward her desk What s that asked Jeremy the aspirant mayor in the down parka as he held up her mason jar Oh that said Adriane That doesn t really have any 9 B ORSUMOS ction p65 9 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IEIIL 4 COLORADO REVIEW thing to do with municipal government per se It s more of a paperweight But what is it asked the myopic girl peering up close against the jar Just a tumor Adriane said with finality knowing her boss would not approve of this conversation Like cancer called out a child from the back Kind of but this type isn t cancerous It s called a fibroid and it s really just a blob of cells deciding to do their own thing which regrettably serves no biologically useful purpose Did it come out of you Yes it was surgically removed From my stomach Which cost a lot of money because I went out of network Do you mean your uterus Yes People said Mrs Coynes our biology unit isn t until neXt month My mom has fibroids offered one kid Most women who get these Adriane couldn t help point ing out are older than me How old are you Alan cautioned Mrs Coynes I m thirty said Adriane swallowing dryly I just turned thirty This one looks like an alien said the myopic girl and immediately a couple other children agreed It does look like an alien doesn t it said Adriane perk ing up suddenly She was glad someone else thought so That small appy part resembles a mouth I think Let me see demanded the boy who wanted to be an architect Is it alive I think it needs a blood source to stay alive Adriane said But hey you never know with aliens Their faces brightened as each kid got a chance to hold the mason jar A couple of them tapped on the glass and talked to it All right Maryjane let s put down the paperweight said Mrs Coynes trying delicately to wrest Adriane s tumor from the large toothed girl Miss Gelki s been very generous with her time We don t want to keep her from her work Miss Adriane caught that This Coynes ingenue Adriane could see was suddenly in over her head Suburban princess 3 B ORSUMOS ction p65 10 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 Mandelbaum she probably wanted to hightail it out of there get back to Towsontown Center where she could concentrate on picking out the right Laura Ashley wallpaper for the twins room She didn t know from fibroids not to mention hemorrhage infection coma stroke And if she ever did have to wake up from a major surgery there was that husband in the picture some Johns Hopkins University professor or titan of indus try looking out for her Keep me from my work Adriane locked eyes with the young teacher Are you kidding This is a bloated civil bu reaucracy I ve got all the time in the world Ididn t know these kids could handle the real tour instead of the fairy tale tour Well began Coynes there might be a limit to All right then who wants to know about city government The political machine The pageantry and atrocity of democ racy in action Already she was feeling better energized I want to see the machine said a tiny voice You can t actually see it said Adriane and it s nowhere near as big as it used to be but it s there in the background Let s go look at the City Council Chambers she said lead ing them toward the south wing Does anybody know what H L Mencken the irascible sage of Baltimore had to say about democracy No one raised a hand He called it the art of running the circus from the monkey cage A couple of students laughed and Adriane congratulated herself for the well chosen quote She called over her shoul der Where s the kid who wants to be mayor The doe eyed boy in the parka raised his hand What s your name slim Jeremy Pierce Okay Jeremy What stepping stone did you have in mind Are you going to be a state s attorney first Or a City Council member Let s get you elected to the Council You re a Demo crat aren t you Jeremy I don t know My parents are You bet you re a Democrat because this is Baltimore She began walking backward now as she spoke it was easier than craning her neck And she had to project rather loudly to be heard over the clomping of so many feet You need to run as a Democrat so you need the party s support to launch B ORSUMOS ction p65 11 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW a successful campaign Not only that but one of the power ful incumbents in your district Councilmember R wants you on his slate Fortunately R has an opening and he likes you Jer the two of you see eye to eye on many issues of the day and he wants you to be elected What about voting Relax Jeremy This one s pretty well sewn up That is un less there are two powerful incumbents in the district and they ve grown to hate each other s guts and have decided to each run his own slate Then things will get really interesting Fund raising through the roof Sack loads of direct mail to every voter in the district A barrage of radio ads maybe some cable like during a Baltimore Blast game Do you watch indoor soc cer Jeremy What do you think your message might be They passed Dru Pringle going the opposite way and he gave Adriane a narrow look over his shoulder She smiled and waved as though she were on a parade oat before refo cusing her attention on Jeremy who seemed at a loss She looked into his doe eyes and offered helpfully Crime What s your position on crime Jeremy Against You re hard on crime but not too hard you know what I m saying You probably supported amending Maryland s three strikes law to a four strikes law which shows you re tough but merciful never mind that the City Council doesn t make state law You might consider developing a position on TASER guns and rubber bullets that ll make sense to the pub lic without pissing off the Fraternal Order of Police How about the schools Voters are always complaining about the city school system You have no idea right People raise your hand if you ve ever gone to public school A girl with braided pigtails one of which was stuck in her mouth raised a hand Yes blue cord dress Adriane called out What s your name Chloe Chloe what was your public school like Not so nice she seemed to say Okay Jer what are you going to promise to do about the public schools Pay teachers more money he said smiling toward Mrs Coynes B ORSUMOS ction p65 12 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 Mandelbaum Good answer you ve just gotten siX thousand votes from the Baltimore Teachers Union But where s this money going to come from The city s property taX rate is already twice the county s Most of the rich people are worried about crime and ed to the suburbs years ago Something to ask your parents about Adriane wasn t trying to sound cynical she just felt these kids should get the unvarnished look at city government that they couldn t get at school Plus she didn t want her tour to pale in comparison to the tumor Jeremy furrowed his brow That s a tough one Adriane consoled him We ll come back to it What if you re in a really tight race against She pointed to the one girl in jeans a peace sign patched over each knee the kid who wanted to be a sitcom writer Tara Nichols What if Tara s breathing down your neck She s got a perky wholesome image that won t quit and she knows ev ery Catholic in the district It s going to be a squeaker How are you going to help your slate Jer Maybe she isn t as goody goody as everybody says Adriane s face lit up I like where you re going with this Jer and if you ve got something juicy on her you might use it But here s an easy way to shave two or three percentage points off her vote a little something we in Baltimore politics call the Name Game That may be too advanced for them said Mrs Coynes You just get yourself a phone book okay Adriane went on And find someone in the district named say Tama Nichols And you pay to have her file her candidacy plus give her a little something eXtra for her troubles and voila Tama Nichols s name appears right above Tara Nichols on the ballot Ready to siphon off Tara votes just like a para site Hey said Tara Nichols Unfair Well Tara you could have found someone named Jerry Pierce or Jerzy Price to nominate too bad the filing dead line has passed By the way that was smart Jeremy waiting till the last moment to register Tama Maybe Tara will see the light now and drop out of the race Especially if you can think of some sort of contract job or patronage position to dangle in front of her B ORSUMOS ction p65 13 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW What s a patronage position asked the myopic girl in the plaid smock The Asian architect raised his hand Is it like when you pick your friend for the kickball team Adriane paused That s not bad She led the group now into the empty council chambers Okay here we are she announced The Sausage Fac tory Coynes cleared her throat Who can tell Miss Gelki the rules of parliamentary procedure for a roll call vote Why sausage It s an old saying about making laws She proceeded to describe at length the recent passage of a zoning ordinance for a newly proposed cultural and shopping development then asked the class what that had to do if anything with the biohazard disposal plant that had managed to attach it self to the same piece of legislation No one had any answers I don t know said Chloe Exactly said Adriane She was getting a kick out of watching Coynes nervously click the clasp of her oversized handbag Let s just say someone s taking care of his favorite supporters The children looked at her puzzled Adriane turned to Coynes and asked Have you covered con icts of interest Cronyism Corruption That s wrong piped up doe eyed Jeremy before his teacher could answer Yes Jeremy said Adriane It is She told them about Zolly Chernofsky the once brilliant City Council president who went to jail for taking bribes from a sludge hauling company and who now had colon cancer which then led quite naturally into a sober discussion about irony which Coynes tried to interrupt several times but Adriane managed to keep on point The tour continued like this for another twenty minutes To Adriane s surprise the kids were an insatiable source of questions and they seemed to look up to her as a political insider like James Carville or Arianna Huffington One kid even asked if she ever appeared on CNN Finally the teacher proposed with almost desperate ur gency Shall we swing by the mayor s office once more be fore we have to leave B ORSUMOS ction p65 14 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 Mandelbaum Sure Adriane allowed Couldn t hurt What s he really like asked Gray the future diplomat andor CIA agent He s complex Adriane answered this time as they trooped back to the north wing He can be charming but he s not without his moods He s I ll give you the scoop after you meet him I want you to form your own impres sions first Patsy the mayor s secretary saw them coming and picked up her telephone Mrs Coynes s fourth grade class from the Brandon Academy has dropped by again Do you have a moment She hung up and looked toward the group The mayor will be right out The tall door swung open and the mayor his most opti mistic grin scrunching his eyes tight strode briskly into the anteroom extended a shirt sleeved arm forward and took hold of Adriane s hand Mrs Coynes he said Thank you for coming When I was a freshman at the University of Maryland I thought about becoming a teacher but I decided the workload was just too darn hard My hat s off to anyone who takes it on Guiding young people And that eXtends to private schools not just the city system Noblest profession calling I can think of If only I d had more advance notice of your visit I d have cleared some time Throughout this little speech he was pumping Adriane s arm and alternately smiling at her the children and the wall clock whose frame she only half registered had been certi fied with a Y2K sticker She was in such shock such unnerved humiliated shock that she could only murmur Thank you No one stepped in to correct him Whatever brief window might have permitted that had passed Mrs Coynes the ar chitect the large toothed girl Jeremy all of them smiled stif y The boy with the camera seemed too stunned even to snap a photo The mayor s smile Adriane noticed now seemed a little crinkled as though he sensed maybe he d screwed up but if so that window for repair must have seemed closed to him now as well He asked the children Anybody here consider ing a career in government when they grow up Jeremy gingerly raised his hand Terrific said the mayor We need new blood He 15 B ORSUMOS ction p65 15 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW glanced one last time at Adriane and said I hope you ll come again soon Thank you said Adriane We will Our future is in your hands he said and let go of her hand He turned to his secretary and said Hold my calls Patsy then retired to his office the tall door closing softly behind him After a moment of embarrassed silence Mrs Coynes asked if anybody needed to use the bathroom and most of the kids waved The teacher looked eXpectantly toward Adriane who blinked before realizing she was being asked to lead them As they left the mayor s waiting area she thought she saw Patsy smirk No one spoke as they filed through the hallways and up the spiraling stairs to the third oor Adriane tripped against the top step but managed to catch herself She felt gawky laden with the shame of adolescence She might occupy an adult s body and move in an adult s world but she was largely unnoticed and now it would seem utterly without impor tance On the owchart of City Hall truth be told her job and the mayor s lay far far apart no huge surprise really that he wouldn t recognize her And what about the ow chart of her life she wondered Would she ever be important in this world To whom And for what Most of the assistants in her section had gone to lunch and the common area was deserted Their desks she noticed as she tromped past all seemed to have been plastered with YZK COMPLIANT stickers since she d last checked but her own workspace had yet to be certified Apparently her capacity to function in the approaching millennium was not a priority around here Adriane leaned a steadying hand against her desk and pointed to the bathroom doors a dozen yards away Coynes took charge Everyone meet back here in three minutes If you don t need to go stay with Miss Gelki She turned to Adriane and added Is that all right Sure sure murmured Adriane How quickly she d been demoted from pundit to babysitter Most of the girls followed Mrs Coynes into the women s room A few of the boys eXplored the men s room neXt door That left Adriane with Jeremy the mayoral hopeful and also B ORSUMOS Mellon p65 16 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 Mandelbaum the investment banker named Robert Toogood and Chloe who was sucking on her braid and who had not expressed any career ambitions earlier This job was supposed to be temporary Adriane told them I ve been here seven no almost eight years about as long as you people have been alive We re nine said Robert but Adriane barely heard be cause she was staring at her desk trying to figure out what looked wrong about it besides the lack OfYZK stickers speak ing of which truth be told she didn t even know if she d live to see the new millennium and Where s my paperweight she demanded Paper what Chloe mumbled over her braid My tumor said Adriane Who took it The three children looked at each other Maybe one of the bathroom kids did Jeremy suggested a little too helpfully Adriane swooped to a crouch in front of him and thrust her hands deep into his cargo pockets Wide eyed with ter ror he jerked away and knocked a heavy stack of file folders off her desk Adriane hands still in his pockets almost fell on him found herself pulling back to stay upright Felt her stitches twang her body a harp being plucked with a crow bar Inside a rupture that was to cost her another hospital visit two weeks of bed rest and as her surgeon would soon nag her the likely formation of scar tissue that could perma nently damage her uterus Meanwhile inside Jeremy s pock ets her hands grasped a bunched up ski cap and a few loose coins on the one side and an empty soda can and an embry onic blob of gum on the other There it is said Robert Toogood pointing to her desk From her new angle Adriane could see the jar behind her pencil mug She removed her fists from Jeremy s pockets pressed smooth the aps Sorry she groaned Sorry sorry sorry He looked at the oor and fiddled with his parka zipper Don t be scared of me she said gently trying to ignore the throb in her loins You re going to be mayor she re minded him And then if you re still mad at me you you can have me fired In her current frame of mind Adriane considered this sce B ORSUMOS ction p65 17 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL 4 COLORADO REVIEW nario plausible Likely even She hoped young Jeremy at least got some solace from it because it sure discomforted her And would he be a better mayor she wondered for having met her Or would there come a time when he d issue some shocking policy decision whose roots if one but knew how to trace them would lead back to this day She brushed the down of his cheek with her thumb drew a fingertip lightly across his lips a kind of this ll be our secret gesture To her astonishment he seemed to relaX under her touch He smiled with something like forgiveness then put his arms around her and squeezed Adriane found herself returning the embrace and squeezing back Over the boy s shoulder she saw her boss standing in his doorway looking down at them Adriane he asked Everything all right out here Fine she said holding on to the boy You sure you don t need me for anything Her boss was scowling in that paternal way she so often contrived to see but at the moment this eXpression or was it his tone of voice seemed patronizing to her The idea of retiring to his office and listening to his advice or criticism or even consolation just for the pleasure of his attention felt per verse bad perverse not to mention fruitless and possibly the very last thing she needed right now No thanks she told him Garrett raised an eyebrow then retreated into his office and closed the door She hugged the boy Jeremy to her tightly and then tighter still which put pressure on different parts of her gut as though she were sliding from one level of pain into another Children thought Adriane awakening to a desire already beyond her reach Maybe I should have some children B ORSUMOS Mellon p65 18 5252005 3 19 PM 4 IL


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