In the morning, Paul expected to find Liza gone and little sustenance in her refrigerator. After a long piss, he found he was annoyed and correct. The fridge held at least a dozen styrofoam and plastic take-home cartons from as many restaurants dated and possibly categorized. Not much else resembling food, not even butter. He took the last egg out of a carton, sprinkled the dust from the bottom of a package of shredded cheddar on it as it firmed yellow in the pan, then folded a slice of wheat bread around it. He stood and ate over the sink, staring out the window and itching to read the box scores. He left all the dishes out, kicked at the cat, locked up, and stepped down the stairs. Continue reading ‘Chapter 7: Enter Remo’
Tag Archive for 'fiction'
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Robert Hinckley’s face spread wider than his younger brother Paul’s and was poked through with a denser, stubborn stubble, but they shared the same shape and color of eyes. Their lips fitted in identical ways around words, and their noses were each similarly round-tipped and speckled. But Robert’s face was the original and Paul always got the hand-me-down collection of laugh lines, crow’s feet, and lost follicles five years later. Now, though, as Paul looked up from his horizontal position on the sofa at the deeper crags he would inherit lit by the single yellow lamp in the corner, the face seemed farther off than ever before, as if an extra distance of age and wisdom had been inserted between the two of them.
Paul licked his lips while Robert pursed his.
“You look stern.”
“Paul, what are you doing?”
“I was watching some Carson.” Continue reading ‘Chapter 6: Houses, continued’
Liza sipped a glass of chilled chardonnay. She purred slightly as the wine trickled cold over her esophagus, temporarily negating the horrific heartburn from a spicy bowl of shrimp and grits she’d had at brunch.
“I’m afraid to touch any of these,” she said. “I’ll leave sweat stripes on them.”
Before her on a wide tabletop a buffet of swatch books lay at odd angles, stacked upon each other, open centerfold style to reveal the brushed allure of silk and linen samples. Each book had a dozen or so pink post-its marking pages already passed and put in the running by Liza. Gillian, who was a trim, bold brunette the same age as Liza and ran the interior decorating firm Nouvelle in which they sat, spread her manicured fingers over yet another page of patterned lace while six silver bracelets separated, slid down her wrist, and collected again. “No, no, don’t worry. See here, these could go over the valences you already picked out as a contrasting, nice accent. Or we could even make it up as a drape for a side table.”
“What happened to this one?” Liza tapped a square outline of glue where a swatch had been.
Gillian leaned in and whispered, “Ostensibly it’s supposed to be ‘out of stock’, but really Stella Babineaux asked me if I would pull it out so that no one else would have the same drapes that she has in her master bedroom.”
“And you did that?”
“For a fee.”
Liza’s face brightened. “How much?”
“It cost what it costs.”
“Oh, shit, Gillian, don’t you remember when you—”
“Stop right there. You only say, ‘Don’t you remember when’ as a prelude to some sweet little sentiment of blackmail.” Continue reading ‘Chapter 6: Houses’
Downtown, in the supposedly straight-laced Central Business District, the tall office buildings and more conservative hotels looked across Canal Street into the French Quarter like a funhouse mirror: the streets that overlapped had two different names and the grand facades shrank down brick-bound balconies, but the traffic was stop and go in both zones and streetwalkers on both sides had a nose for easy money. Around lunchtime, from the top floors of a stack of offices, one could watch people in miniature rushing to switch sides. The marketing agents, executive overseers of oil surveys, and associate partners strode in packs towards the entryways of Galatoire’s, Brennan’s, Antoine’s, their throats dry and their business cards crisp. The Quarter, to offset the load, gave up delivery boys, returned flier-posting squads with empty satchels, and turned away the graveyard shift bartenders who had been spending their tip money into the morning. The border was free, unmonitored, and straight. Paul looked down at it through the giant window in the solvent-scented reception area of Hart, Hinckley, & Lebreton. After a few moments he uncrossed his arms and turned perpendicular to the window, widened his stance, drew back his arms, hands around an invisible three wood. He followed through at full speed, twisted his torso and held the position, while an imaginary ball landed two-hundred and seventy yards away, bounced off the roof of the Hurwitz-Mintz building and dropped down to the pavement.
“Yeah,” he said. “That’s the pace.”
Paul pulled up to the curb of Nashville Avenue and walked up the brick walkway to his little brother Joseph’s front door. The giant two story house, from its storybook patterned shingles all the way down to the wraparound porch sanded so smooth you could slide on it in socks, was all Joe’s handiwork. He’d long ago stopped building with a crew and moved into his overseer’s office, and his home was his only jobsite now, already planned, plotted, and paid for. The four spare bedrooms Joe had built remained sparsely decorated and neutral until his wife had had time to fill them all with occupants, until the house was complete inside and out. Paul joked for a long time that the family would have to adopt another kid when their oldest left for school, but that riff joined a select few others in retirement the day Joe disassembled the furniture, knocked down a wall, and expanded his study. Paul now stood with Kendra in front of Joseph’s desk where a bed used to be.
“You guys want coffee? You look like Humbert Humbert and Lolita at the end of a long night’s drive.” Continue reading ‘Chapter 4: Exclusion on Nashville’
It would have been more appropriate, Paul thought, to emerge into the late, hot dawn stricken with the remnants of a supernatural vision of his father in some setting heavy with gilded history. To listen to advice and wisdom from a spirit undeterred by the laws of physics or the guidelines of the afterlife. It didn’t matter to him whether those words and those images came from his subconscious or the literal beyond. They would have been much more of a comfort than the hard-on in his lap and the mental vertigo produced by a dream of being sexually enjoined in some preposterous position with a yelping caricature of Maureen Dowd.
My libido is developing a left-wing bias, he thought. He struggled to stand up straight and pull off the trousers he had been wearing last night around his perseverant protuberance. He was about to step into the shower and make amends when the doorbell rang.
Paul pressed the buzzing doorbell and licked the inside of his mouth. The bartender inside hit his own switch inside and the door unlocked. Paul loosened his tie and took the last available stool at the cramped bar.
While most of the neighborhood locals that occupied the Mayfair Lounge were affable and the bartenders just as sweet with an unfamiliar face as they were a longtime customer, the small bar itself was oppressive in its festive intensity. Groups rotated like ungraceful dancers around different vertices on the two pool tables, providing a gauntlet of limbs and cues to anyone struggling towards the bathroom. The cigarette machine popped and clanked frequently but not enough to outrival a jukebox the size of a Volkswagen Beetle that vibrated with hi-hat and cowbell-timed pop. Rusty bed frames were hung from the already low ceiling and wound through with garland, purple, green, and gold rope lights, and shredded feather boas that seemed to have caught decades worth of Christmas ornaments and Mardi Gras toys in their sticky glam like flies. The view out the front windows was blocked by a redoubt of professional grade, casino-sized poker machines To compensate and make room for the gangly, swing-prone arms of the customers, the glassware and ice cubes were small. The place was friendly but reckless; loud but not chatty. A hard-cash-only enterprise operating with its own brand of pinball free-play mercy.
Paul Peter Hinckley watched his father fall clumsily onto the seventh green of the Audubon golf course, his fingers fanned over the tight grass inches from the hole. He knew—in a way he would describe as “uncannilly familial” every time he recounted the story for years and years to come–that his father was dead. In the hole was Paul’s father’s dimpled ball, resting patiently between its past on the seventh tee and its future home enclosed in glass and mounted in the clubhouse.
“A hole in one, Pop,” Paul had just said.