I met Libby through an online dating site after I graduated college. Our “In Tune” rating was exceptionally high. I tended to get nervous and tongue-tied around women, but it was different with Libby. We had so much in common we finished each other’s sentences half the time. I was so taken with Libby, I found myself growing more and more concerned about her spending time with anyone else.
Peter crouched in front of the attic window and gazed down on old man Mueller’s cornfield. The plow, unhitched beyond the stalks, turned north like he meant to continue but got interrupted. Peter looked toward the barn, no sign of Mueller’s horse and buggy. The Amish and Mennonite neighbors, with their peculiar ways kept to themselves. Mueller only talked to his pa when he accused Rufus of killing his chickens, or a year ago, the day his brother’s mind broke when Gabe went screaming from the veranda twisting his ears as he ran into Muller’s cornfield. That day Mueller shot out of the house, the top of his unsnapped overalls flapping as he sprinted after Gabe, Mueller’s wife and five children dashed onto the porch, the boys still in their pajamas.
Her father was already waiting at the table when Veronica got there. The juvenile, kitschy decor of the restaurant made it look like he was sitting on doll furniture, his lanky legs barely fitting under the pastel table. The dichotomy would have been charming if not for the look on his face —awkward, hesitant, nose scrunched up and mouth twisted, perpetually unshaven and hungover. John gave her a crooked smile as the hostess led her to the table. She realized immediately that she was overdressed. She didn’t have time to change after work and figured that rushing back to her apartment to change before last minute dinner plans wasn’t worth it. Now her heels clicked too loudly against the tiled ground, her skirt suddenly too constricting, her dark blazer feeling inappropriately formal. As if Veronica was begging him to notice her newfound maturity and growth, lipstick streaked across her mouth in an obnoxious declaration. Veronica sat down across from him, looking under the table for a place to tuck her umbrella. There was none—his legs took up the entire space. Resigned and irritated, she hung it on the back of the chair. Before she had the chance to open her mouth, a waitress rolled over to them, wobbling in her flowered roller skates. Butterfly-shaped menu delivered, she rattled through a list of specials before zooming off to serve a posse of prepubescent girls and their exhausted parents. He had already ordered her a frosty mason jar of root beer, her beverage of choice when she was six. “How long has it been since we were here?” he asked, overly satisfied with himself for somehow remembering her favorite childhood restaurant. As if it were an impressive feat for him to recall this very familiar tableau of the two of them sitting there with their drinks, making small talk as they tapped their feet to saccharine Top 40 pop. “I don’t know, it seems like forever,” Veronica said, forcing an obligatory smile. He shoved the sleeve of his jacket up before jerking his stubbly chin at the scar on his forearm. “I could never forget, you know, what happened.” A little dent in pale, dark haired flesh, looking like barely even a paper cut. He had slipped on a puddle of lemonade in the restaurant and slammed his forearm on the sharp bar counter. The days after the incident occurred she used to mock him for his clumsiness, pelting him with balled up straw wrappers, hurling insults in her squeaky, childish timbre. “Me neither.” Veronica kept her gaze on the menu, scanning the lists of sugary confections and meals attempting to replicate the familiar taste of Mom’s cooking, fried monstrosities that could easily feed a whole family for a month.
“Mum, mum, I’m just going to come right out with it…I’m straight.”
Janice crossed herself and burst into tears.
“I have a headache,” I told Clark, and came upstairs.
It was nine o clock and the kids were asleep, and I didn’t have a headache. But I didn’t want to sit downstairs and watch Clark get drunk on screwdrivers while watching old Seinfeld episodes, and then have to come upstairs and try to have sex while his penis stands at half mast no matter what I do.
It isn’t me. I have no doubts about that. It’s the booze. We aren’t as young as we used to be and after the kids are out, Clark can’t put the glass in his hand down. I guess I don’t care much anyway, anymore. I just don’t want to spend twenty minutes flogging and sucking a soft penis then trying to stuff it in while it wilts and bends. Then the excuses and the pity party. Having to make him feel good about himself while my vagina crawls up into my uterus. Might as well skip the whole shebang, and head upstairs with a book, and escape.
On the horizon, out of the dust of the Harvest Road, comes a small trotting tribe of misfits.
It did not come with electricity or a smash of static on the air, but it was there. Braelin Cordelis, five minutes into the darkness of a new day, a streetlight’s glow falling through his window like a subtle visitor, was caught on the edge of his chair. Knowledge flowed to him, information of a most sublime order, privacy, intimacy, all in one slow sweep of the air; his grandson was just now, just this minute, into this world, his only grandson. He could feel him, that child coming, making way his debut into the universe, and his name would be Shag. And for this life he and Shag would be in a mysterious and incomprehensible state of connection. This, in the streetlight’s glow, in the start of a new day though dawn not yet afoot, he was told.