On his morning walk to the record store, Glen came across a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul sitting by itself in a box marked “free.” Glen wasn’t entirely certain what the book was about; he knew it was a self-help-type deal, don’t-forget-to-see-the-forest-for-the-trees and all that shit, probably; but he had either forgotten the details or never known them. His impression was that it was pretty obvious and pretty stupid.
I have often paid the price of sleeplessness for my father’s crimes, the crimes of all of Germany, though I had never set foot in that country when I again encountered the idea that became so compelling to me in the summer of my thirteenth year.
By this time next week—and possibly sooner—I’ll be just another man who abandoned June. I’ve outlasted most of the others and in some twisted way I’m proud of that fact. I never “gave my all” according to June’s impossible standards but at least I tried. The fact that I’ve come down here to Disney World with June and her daughter—having ignored the advice of practically everyone I know—is proof of something.
At sixty-two, I am already old. Brittle as the sticks we used to gather for kindling, voice careful now and full of draughts, skin like hide. There’s not much that I can keep down–a boiled potato mashed into milk, a slice of bread and butter, a mug of tea if it has been left to cool. A problem with my stomach.
Dr. Katya Vidović stands outside the hospital courtyard gate, watching the Reptile Man exercise his pets. He has come to entertain the girls—her patients—who are prone to unnatural behaviors when left unsupervised. They’ve been known to pull out their own hair by the fistful, to tattoo their inner arms and thighs with the needles of safety pins, to slip into the ward’s bathroom and quietly vomit the contents of their last meal.
The news would have been shocking anywhere but seemed especially so in a town like ours, or so we liked to believe: a young mother choosing to asphyxiate herself and infant son in the family Volvo while her husband was at work in the city and their daughter in preschool at the Episcopal Church.
The first time he shared a room at the Hotel Río Azul with a woman, he was young and the country was at war. The government celebrated the New Year by announcing that the war had ended in a victory for the Army. On New Year’s day the UNGR guerrillas struck back, blacking out the electricity in eleven cities. The war ground into its thirty-fifth year.
The call about Stone comes just as Kaat is removing her soufflé from the oven, the snug apartment amurmur with meandering piano music. The soufflé’s rise is perfect, its russet crown flawless; through a dozen attempts in as many weeks she’s nearly mastered the form. Even Stone’s noticed.
“Merde!” she says as the phone jangles, the heat of the porcelain dish seeping through her red oven mitts. “Godverdomme.”
The night before he left for basic training, Ebo had one last pigeon to kill—a cream barred homer from the old line of Stichelbaut. The bird was from a long strain of impressive racers, a gift from his mother when he was nine years old. Ebo had put off killing this bird, his favorite, by killing all the others first: one, sometimes two, a day. It had to be done. The birds would not stay away from their coop and his leaving home meant there would be no one to care for them.
The Twerp’s new record has been playing for hours, but it seems like days. It seems like it’s been playing his whole life. His ears have turned red from excitement. It has that sound, the one he has been describing his whole life.