Lost in the rhythm of slow hoe strokes and Hail Marys, the boy works and prays in the barren apple field alone at dusk. He’s humming the chaplet, sacred as a church hymn, even a motet. It’s cooling some, a welcome change after feeling he’d die from the throbbing mountain heat. And other maladies suffered in a motel and other places. Still, blunt wind sways adust pines on the horizon veiling the last light.Read more.
I wake for work at three, dizzy drunk sidestep in the dark to the kitchen. Thank God for stippled walls, good as cool soothing braille. My head spins, trying to recall what led to this state of affairs. Nothing yet ghosts my foggy mind. And nothing makes a sound or moves in the usually creaky Victorian apartment. Not a window rattle or even a mousy stir.Read more.
The phone calls come three nights in a row, 2:30’sh, from different people, waking, scaring us to death. The black, landline rotary dial hammers its bells like a fire alarm.Read more.
All the cars are gone except for two. Fearing he’s been left behind or got the day wrong, the leggy Catholic-school boy with blue eyes and string-cheese hair limps up to the dirt lot in tattered Chuck Taylors and a sweaty panic. It’s Wednesday, August 13, 1975, and a hundred degrees.Read more.
Jimmy is proud to have lettered in basketball. But he has come to think of his Saint Ambrose high-school varsity jacket as a private and public symbol of his life. It is a sort of Scarlet Letter of taint and shame for being sexually abused as a child and a bold blue A rating from the Health Department like at the zoo food stand where he works for appearing safe and clean.Read more.
I walk the orchard in my Sunday suit, black Oxfords dusted with gypsum and dirt. Ten thousand apple trees bower sans scabbed bark or a plague of beetle borers. Hard to believe the ginger dwarfs grew at all. They bulge trunks and muscle boughs heaped with green leaves and red apples. Rows even hummock deer shit without fences to keep out the wildlife that feast on the fallen fruit. It’s sweltering out.Read more.
They work past midnight. They work past the time scarab June bugs and even Jesus should be asleep, walking behind a rusted, yellow tanker holding modified fire hoses. Instead of pressurized nozzles, they dip mud-flapped deflectors into banked furrows the shape and color of baked pie crusts, watering a thousand dry apple saplings. Their boots and denim bell-bottoms get soaked.Read more.
The Examen – a preparation for Confession. To the boy with the pellucid blue eyes and the Lysol-sprayed cowlick, it almost sounds like an exam for men. He does not think he’ll pass. After final reflections, as though time is up and he must put down his yellow #2 pencil, he solemnly exits the pew.Read more.