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And the Young Devour Themselves






Be sure to bookmark where you pause reading, so you will find your place easily

CHAPTER 2
A Spider's Parlor

Dan slowly followed the Camaro over the dirt road, his innate impatience preventing him from lagging at a distance that would keep his car out of the dust Mr. Amesley couldn’t help raising no matter how slowly he drove. In frustration, Dan pounded the steering wheel.

“If that were my car,” said Linc, “I’d push it a lot harder.”

Dan said, “Oh, I think there’s about enough dust blowing through here as it is, Linc. Roll up your damn window!”

“Hey, that Jamie’s horny looking, don’t you think?”

“At the very least. I think I’m gonna let her gnaw on my leg the way she did his arm.”

“You think he shares?” asked Linc.

“He might just. He seems pretty loose. Did you see those marks she left on him? Man, she really sunk ‘em in deep.”

“Yeah, he might need a tetanus shot.”

On the way to the house, Jamie pointed out her window to an armadillo that had been, seconds before, sniffing at the garbage in plastic sacks inside two tumbled trash cans on the side of the road, but was now making a mad, scurrying dash through the sparsely treed land surrounding the lake. Jamie turned in her seat to see if the boys had seen it, and they nodded to her that they had, bobbing their heads with enthusiasm, the kind city kids always feel when they spy wild animals in nature.

The boys pulled in beneath a porte-cochere. There was a rooster weather vane on the shingled roof, fixed in position, showing from which direction the last whisper of wind insistent enough to budge it had come: from the south, from the hot south; and God only knew when that had been. The boys got out of the car and walked over to their hosts.

Jamie said, “You guys like to shoot pool?”

“I’m the world’s worst,” said Dan. “But now Linc here, well, let’s just say I wouldn’t shoot pool with him if I were you.”

“That so?” she said, measuring Linc for size.

“God’s truth,” said Dan. “Legend has it he was born with a cue stick in his hands. It was all a bit unpleasant for his poor mother, of course, but quite an occurrence nonetheless.” (The truth was Linc had only shot pool once or twice in his whole life.)

“Hmm,” she said. “We’ll have to see about that.”

The four of them walked inside the house. The boys were struck by the immensity of the place. Jamie led the boys through a maze of corridors while Pete went alone to another part of the house.

She opened the two wide doors to the large, skylight-lit game room. The pool table dominated the center of the room, and there were two orange and green saloon lamps suspended from the high ceiling above it. There was a ping-pong table and a card table at one end, separated from the pool table by a generously cushioned conversation pit. At the opposite end of the room, all along the wall, was a row of vintage pinball machines, the lights of which flashed wildly. Someplace on that wall was a hidden speaker, every few minutes from which would issue a disembodied voice urging all comers to “Step right up and try your luck.” At other times was heard eerie midway laughter which, after a few quick chuckles, stopped as abruptly as it had begun. But those canned noises didn’t put a damper on the atmosphere of the room; no, they lent a sense of fun and mystery to it. The carpet was thin in the areas around the gaming tables, proof that they were used often.

Jamie took a cue stick from the shelf on the wall and rolled it along the green felt of the table; satisfied with the trueness of her stick, she dragged the chalk over the tip once with a quick flick of the wrist. Cocking her head over to one shoulder, looking so fetching, she said, “So, what do you say?”

“I break,” said Linc, though he would much rather try out those pinball machines.

“Go ahead,” she said, indicating that the first shot was his.

Linc selected a cue. He made some show of peering down the shaft to see if it suited him, causing Dan to chuckle. Then he broke the balls cleanly; unfortunately, nothing fell.

“Well, that’s a first!” cried Dan. “Ol’ Linc usually sinks about five balls on the break!”

Linc only glared at him; he was glad he hadn’t embarrassed himself by knocking the cue ball off the table; Jamie had him that flustered. She took a quick look at the table and proceeded to make every ball; Linc never even picked up his cue a second time.

Nevertheless, being a mere spectator had its advantages. The boys admired Jamie as she commanded the table. Still clad only in her shorts and bikini top, she was as graceful as a cat when she lined up her shots. She was obviously well practiced. She struck the cue ball with authority, or, if the shot called for it, the gentlest touch--her target balls always responding by disappearing into the most logical pocket.

“Game,” she said, leaning over her final shot, drawing back her stick--not out of arrogance, but out of confidence in her expertise. As she predicted, the ball fell. Game.

When she had finished she quietly replaced her stick on the rack. The game over, she turned around to face the boys. “Thanks for the game,” she said sincerely.

“Some game,” said Linc, not as much embarrassed as he was intrigued by the girl.

“At least you made a real fancy break, Linc,” said Dan. Dan could be relentless when it came to taunting his friend. Linc couldn’t help laughing, neither could Jamie.

Jamie went over and took the cue ball from the tabletop. She walked over to Dan and stood before him. She coolly looked Dan in the eyes, her own brown ones liquid and laughing. Her looks would appeal to any young man the way a box of rock candy appeals to a child. “Do you like to play?” she asked. Dan told her he wasn’t very good. “I’m not talking about pool,” she said.

She walked back to the table, put the ball in one of the pockets, turned to face Dan, and said, “Have you ever done it on a pool table?”

Dan stared dumbly, his mouth open as if he would form words if he were able.

Linc said, “Why, it’s been said that old Dan has done it on just about every horizontal surface known to man. I’ll bet he even insists on being on bottom just to spare you from felt burn.” Though he was only teasing at Dan’s expense, Linc was rather surprised Jamie had chosen Dan over him; because when it came to getting girls, Linc usually got whichever ones he wanted.

Dan finally recovered enough to say, “But what would old Pete say if I was to lie with his lay?”

And Jamie said, “You don’t see him around, do you?” She crossed her arms over her chest and began to tap her bare foot.

“No, I don’t. By the way, where is old Pete? Not taking inventory of his gun collection, I hope.” (Dan was trying to mask his nervousness brought on by this forward girl.)

“Listen, we talked about it down at the lake. Trust me, Pete doesn’t mind. Besides, he feels it’s part of my duties as hostess.”

Dan turned to Linc. “Think you can make yourself scarce for a half-hour or so, Lincoln?”

“Sure, Dan,” said Linc. And then, turning to Jamie: “Any more beer?”

“In the kitchen,” she said distractedly.

“Where’s the kitch--”

Linc was interrupted by Dan’s shooing him out of the room: “Yes . . . Christ, Linc . . . it’s in the kitchen!” Dan turned back to the girl.

“Half an hour; that’s a laugh,” said Jamie, unbuttoning her shorts. Dan turned his back to her and hurried out of his pants. He then climbed up on the pool table where Jamie was waiting for him.

After meandering for a while through the house, in search of the kitchen, Linc finally happened upon it. Pete was sitting there nursing a beer, his feet propped up on a serving island.

“Will you have anything else, Linc?” he asked.

“Another beer is all. How about it?”

“In the fridge.”

“Thanks, Mr. Amesley.”

Linc went to the refrigerator and took out a beer; he then sat down on the island next to Pete’s feet. “Mind if I ask you something, sir?”

“Not at all; please do.”

“So, why do you do it--I mean, if you’re Peter Amesley and all that?”

“And by that, I suppose you’re asking me why I work?”

“Yeah,” said Linc. He took a long swig of beer.

“You know, it’s kind of funny, but I’ve been sitting here dreading your asking me that--and I knew you would, too.”

“Why would you dread it? Just a simple question, sir.”

“I suppose I’m not used to having to explain myself to kids. Take Jamie, for instance; if I tell her to do something, she does it--and there’s never any explaining on my part.”

“Forget it, Pete--sir--”

“No, Pete’s fine; I prefer it.”

“I don’t want you to feel like you have to explain yourself to me. It was just a simple question. You don’t have--”

“No, Linc. I have an answer for you. I do it because a man has to fill up his day. You see, I’m not clever enough to fill up my days by writing beautiful music or doing great oil paintings or anything like that; no, people like me are cursed to do only what we can.”

“But what I want to know is why do you have to be doing anything?”

Pete let out a hearty laugh. He placed his drink between his legs and cupped his hands behind his head, leaning back, staring directly at the inquisitive boy. Finally he let out a breath and said, “Because of my father. You, I’m sure, have heard of my father, Peter Amesley junior?”

“Yes, and that he left you a tidy little sum--over a hundred million dollars, I believe.”

“That’s right; well, actually nearer two hundred million. Anyway, the man worked, Linc. He got right down in the dust along with the roughnecks. The man worked hard every day of his life.”

“But two hundred million dollars’ worth? Come on, Pete.”

“To say no would be to insult my late father, but to say yes would make me a liar.”

“So?” Linc prodded, feeling as if he were pulling teeth.

“So I’m a fraud, I suppose. Yes, I guess, over the years, I’ve managed to convince myself my father earned or deserved all the things he had. Unfortunately, now that--” Pete was about to say that, now that it was him working--working every bit as hard as his father had, because mental labor was every bit as taxing as physical labor--he had come to the conclusion that no, neither he nor his father had earned or deserved as much as they had; for no one could, not in a dozen lifetimes.

Adding to Pete’s discomfort and feeling of ridiculousness about his easily gotten riches was the fact of ditch diggers. He knew that as long as there was a creature digging ditches for a living, anyone doing any task less difficult than digging a ditch couldn’t really say he was working at all. How could such a person come home from the office or plant and even dream of saying that he was tired? Why, that would be nonsense; after all, at least that person hadn’t been digging ditches. Pete felt better once it recurred to him that Linc wasn’t a ditch digger. He felt on an even footing with the boy--one of being something less than a ditch digger.

“This is the damnedest kitchen I’ve ever seen, Pete; the damnedest house, too,” said Linc, afraid he was embarrassing Pete, hoping to make him feel more at ease.

And it was a magnificent kitchen: huge, with greenery dangling from plant shelves all around it. The many appliances were of highly polished metal and could serve the feeding needs of a small army. Pots and pans hung on hooks dangling on wires from the ceiling, utensils that would be out of reach of the cook were it not for the two footstools there to aid her. Linc looked up, admiring all he saw. In a lazy stretch, he cracked his knuckles high above his head.

“All a gift from dear old Dad,” said Pete, following the boy’s gaze. Pete, too, used to admire that room, but now it was taken for granted and considered as only so much tinsel, ostentatious garnishing for a bankrupt existence.

“That was a funny bit, earlier, about how you’re able to afford a new car every couple of years--just hilarious.”

“I suppose I’m just a little embarrassed by my riches, as they say. Really, though, I was only trying to make a point: I only wanted to help persuade you to go on to college. Also, I knew Jamie would see the humor in it. I’m afraid she’s becoming harder and harder to keep amused.”

Linc said, “I do want to hear about Jamie, but first back up and tell me what you meant about your embarrassment of riches.”

“All right. What about it?”

“It must be a burden to you.”

“You don’t know the half of it.”

“I want to know. Tell me, how do you justify anyone’s having two hundred million dollars, Pete? Your a nice-enough guy and all that, but--”

“I’ve given a good deal of it to charity, Linc.”

“How much of it?”

“It’s none of your business, but millions.”

“Tens of millions?”

“You ever try to give away two hundred million dollars, Linc? Well, let me tell you, you can’t! It’s not just a matter of writing a check; no, if that were all there was to it, it would be easy.”

Pete wasn’t angry. He was frustrated by trying to make someone understand what a full time job it was just managing large sums of money. And by the looks of Linc--his old clothes and unpretentious manner--Pete’s point would be twice as difficult to make.

“You see,” Pete continued, “the stuff just keeps generating more of itself. You couldn’t get rid of all of it if . . . if you used a shovel.”

“Like you said, it’s none of my business, Pete.” Linc extended his hand. “I like you, Pete.” They shook hands. “Now,” said Linc, “what’s the story with Jamie?”

“Isn’t she something?”

“At least.”

“Have you ever seen a body like that?”

“Man, I’ve never even dreamed a body like that. How long have you two been together?”

“Couple years.”

“How old are you, Pete?”

“Thirty-four.”

“How about her?”

“Eighteen,” said Pete. He looked up like the cat that ate the canary.

“Well, Pete, I don’t know whether to shake your hand again or to call the cops.”

With a wistful expression, Pete said, “You know, I first laid eyes on her at the same place we met you today. Sixteen, and with a body like that--and she was still growing, too, bless her heart.” He then cleared his throat as if in conspiracy with Linc. “Yeah, only sixteen, and with more life in her than I ever had--wild, too.

“She was down there skinny-dipping--one of those hotter-than-hell days. Well, Linc, when she saw me, she got out of the water and walked right up to me, water falling off that ripe body of hers. Well, as you might imagine, one thing led to another--naughty child. We’ve been together ever since. Guess you could say I adopted her.”

“But what about her folks?”

“You tell me. She’s a runaway.” (Pete wasn’t being exactly open and honest with his new friend; no, he wasn’t interested just then in sharing with Linc the details of how he had lured the girl away from her unfulfilling familial existence, offering her the sort of enticing, gilded life all girls her age think they desire: a wealthy Prince Charming to welcome them as mistress into his castle. No, Pete had neither the inclination nor the energy to go into all of that with Linc just then; for Pete was tired, tired of everything.)

Linc said, “You realize, don’t you, that she and Dan are on top of your pool table right this minute.”

“She’s very fond of pool--a real shark--I taught her myself. Seriously, though, that was all arranged beforehand, right down to the tracks she left on my arm. Anyhow, I’m afraid she’s about tired of old Pete.” He let his feet slide down off the island. He shook the fuzz of the beer out of his head.

“Does it bother you much?”

“That she’s regaling your friend?”

Linc nodded even though he was really asking if Pete was bothered by Jamie’s waning interest in him.

“No. I realize she’s young and horny. I’m happy to indulge her. Besides, I’m rather tired of me, too.”

The last thing Linc wanted was for Pete to grow gloomy on him. He felt lousy enough for both of them. He finished off his beer. He searched his thoughts for a new topic that would change the subject. He lit on travel:

“Traveled a lot, have you, Pete?” he asked.

“That I have. I can truthfully say I’ve been everywhere I wanted to go.”

“What did you get from it? What’s out there, man?”

“Do you have the wanderlust, Linc?”

“Something awful--especially lately.”

“Then I hate to be the one to tell you this, Linc, but one place is pretty much like any other. Where would you like to go?” He crushed his empty beer can against his knobby knee.

“I don’t know. Maybe London.”

“Don’t bother.”

“Why not?” asked Linc, wishing he had named a more exotic destination, perhaps Timbuktu or Algiers, some faraway place like that; or, even better, some place right along the equator, a place where the sun shines brightly and consistently enough to peel the hide from a bare back.

Pete said, “First, tell me, are you . . . disenchanted with Fort Worth? I mean, I believe your friend said you drove out here from Fort Worth.”

“Yeah, we did. And yes, sometimes I am.”

“Then I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.”

Linc perked up.

“All you’ll find in London is a Londoner’s Fort Worth.”

“I wish you wouldn’t say that, Pete.”

“I’m afraid it’s true. I think your problem may be that, instead of trying to get out of Fort Worth, you’re really trying to get out of your own head. And you know what? You can’t. You couldn’t get out of your own head even if you went by rocketship. The trick is to be content where you are, no matter where you find yourself due to circumstances outside of your control.”

“But what if where you are isn’t so great?”

“Isn’t it, Linc?”

“I’m not so sure.”

“Listen, Linc, today you’ve pitched rocks in the lake; you’ve had all the cold beer you wanted; you’ve got to see this swank house of mine; you’ve shot the shit with me; and, if I know Jamie, you’re next. Now, tell me, doesn’t that amount to a pretty nice day? Doesn’t that strike you as a not-so-ridiculous way to pass the time?”

Peter Amesley had, from time to time, been successful in convincing himself that such mundane things, when taken as a whole, amounted to a life, would register on a scale, if there were such a weighing device for measuring the quantity of a person’s lifetime. More often than not, however, Peter Amesley concluded that life was something sad, something regrettable, like some angel whose halo had gone missing; and that same halo had once glistened with newness, but it had become, with time, first tarnished, and then taken so much for granted that it was lost entirely, never to be had back but in memory, memory that, too, wasn’t what it had once been.

His own gloomy convictions notwithstanding, Pete wanted to convince Linc that those day-to-day experiences were what really mattered in a person’s life. He felt Linc showed promise of being one of those fortunate few who are able to keep for a lifetime the goodness of youth, the sweetness of uncritical and undemanding experience.

Pete said, “Linc . . . I asked you if that sounded like a not-so-ridiculous way to spend your time . . .”

Linc laughed because Pete was making good sense. He said, “I guess that’s up to Jamie.”

“Now don’t you go getting all horned-up on me,” Pete warned, “because she didn’t say anything about you. I just have a feeling, that’s all.”

“But I thought you said all that was arranged beforehand.”

“Only certain things. But sometimes Jamie comes up with ideas of her own.”

“And you’re sure it would be all right with you?”

“Completely all right,” said Pete. He stood up, raised one eyebrow, and said, “Let’s go see what those other two are up to, shall we?”

Pete led him to a small study immediately off the game room. He lifted a wall map of Texas from its place, revealing a tiny peephole. “Have a look,” he urged.

Linc peered through the hole . . . just in time to see Dan get his face slapped by Jamie. Laughing, Linc said, “She just cuffed him!”

“Ouch,” said Pete. “She has a terrific right. Did she hit him with her right?”

“Yeah, it was her right . . . Dan’s just standing there laughing . . . Damn--now she’s laughing, too. Old Dan has the gab, I’ll give him that.”

Though it used to be exciting for Pete to enjoy Jamie, it wasn’t any longer. So he encouraged her to seduce certain of their guests, an activity from which he derived a modicum of pleasure witnessing, for a time. But now even that had worn thin; now he wasn’t even interested in peering at Dan and Jamie through the peephole. He asked Linc if they were dressed.

“Hold on a sec . . . She’s putting on her top . . . Dan is only in his socks; it’s not a pretty sight . . . Okay, Jamie’s all dressed--Hey, she just looked right at me!” Linc quickly jerked up his head and moved his body clear of the peephole. “Does she know this thing is here?” he demanded.

Pete only smiled at Linc’s question. Linc took that as a yes.

“You’re one strange fellow, Pete.”

“People have different ways of amusing themselves, Linc. One of mine happens to be watching Jamie entertain our guests.”

Pete moved to the wall and peered into the next room; not to amuse himself, but to prevent himself and Linc from embarrassing Dan by walking in on him and Jamie while they were still undressed. Eventually he said, “The coast is clear: everyone’s decently covered.”

Before he and Linc joined Dan and Jamie in the next room, Pete told Linc he would appreciate it if he kept the observation hole their own little secret.

“How was she?” Pete asked Dan.

“A regular she-cat. A clawing, scratching, swiping she-cat.”

“Listen, you--” said Jamie, raising her hand as if to strike Dan, “you forgot to mention slapping.”

Dan took a step away from her. He said, “Yes, yes, yes. She left my ears ringing--the beast.”

Everyone stood around awkwardly except for Jamie. She was distinctly aware of her body and that the two boys were admiring it with their quick, furtive glances.

Finally Dan said it was time for him and Linc to be going. Pete looked at Linc as if to say: Sorry, it doesn’t look as if you’re to have a turn with Jamie after all. Linc shrugged in comprehension.

“Don’t rush off,” said Jamie.

“We have graduation rehearsal tonight,” said Dan.

“Oh, how nice,” she said with sarcasm. “Kid stuff.”

“Now, now, Jamie,” said Pete. “If they need to be on their way, let them.” He then turned to the boys and invited them for a cookout the next day.

“Sounds good to me,” said Dan, eager for another session with Jamie.

Jamie stayed in the game room while Pete showed the boys the way outside to their car. None of them spoke as they passed through the house. Though the car was left in the shade of the porte-cochere, and the boys had made sure to roll down the windows before leaving it, it was like a blast furnace inside. Linc had just begun to get in the car when he stepped back away from it. He said, “Damn, Dan! You drive this thing around a little bit and get it cooled off; then you can come back here and get me.”

“And what are you gonna be doing while I’m wasting away in this oven?” asked Dan.

Linc looked all around. “I’m gonna be sitting in that chair,” he said, pointing to a chaise lounge sitting in the long shadows of the house.

“Tell you what, Linc, I’ll just drive around the lake, oh, four or five times, and then, when I’m done, I’ll circle around up here and let you stick one of your delicate fingers inside the window so you’ll know if the temperature is to your liking. How does that sound to you?”

“Sounds fine to me. That’s real decent of you, Daniel.”

“Get in,” said Dan.

Linc got in and they started away.

Pete had listened with amusement to their exchange, and he was reluctant about waving goodbye to them as they pulled out onto the winding lake road, their car raising a wave of floating dust. Pete went down toward the road and picked up the afternoon newspaper and went back into the sad house. Linc had got him to thinking; that felt good; it had been a long time.

After settling back comfortably in his seat, Linc asked what Dan had meant when he said they had to go to graduation rehearsal that night.

“Aren’t you going?” said Dan.

“No.”

“How come?”

“Because I’m not even going to the real ceremony.”

“Why not?”

“Don’t want to.”

“Your mom’s gonna love that.”

“She’ll understand,” said Linc, knowing full well his mother never would.

Then Dan said that he thought he would probably skip rehearsal, too. “You might as well,” said Linc. “Only one person needs to bother with showing up for that, and then he can fill everybody else in tomorrow night. No sense everybody getting stuck going to that.”

“That’s right,” agreed Dan. “And I’m sure not gonna be the one who gets stuck. A rehearsal is just the kinda thing they can make last for hours. I’d rather have somebody tell me about it in a few seconds tomorrow night. No, you sure wouldn’t catch me at any ol’ graduation rehearsal. You don’t think they’ll have anything to eat there, do ya?”

“Naw, Dan. Why would they wanta spend any money on us right when they’re getting rid of us? If you hear that they had anything to eat there, I’ll eat your socks.”

“Hey, do you want me to drop you at Clare’s?”

“Naw, Dan. I’m gonna wash up a little before I go over there. Hey, listen, did you know that that Jamie is only eighteen?”

“You’re kiddin’ me.”

“And old Pete’s been nailin’ her since she was sixteen--he told me so himself.”

“Hmm . . . Crafty old devil. What’s her story?”

“Some kind of runaway, I guess. Pete said he met her while she was skinny-dipping, and she practically raped him.”

“The nerve of her! Did he press charges?”

“Don’t think so.”

“That kinda makes my nuts ache, Linc; I like a girl who’s horny.”

“Who doesn’t?”

“Remind me to get some protection when we go back out there tomorrow, Linc.”

“What do you mean, Danny? a bodyguard?”

“Hilarious,” said Dan.

“Did you have any protection a while ago?”

“No, but if I did, I wouldn’t have had a chance to use it anyhow. She’s pretty fast.”

“Then pick some up for me, too, Dan; I always hate going through that little ordeal. Remember last time?”

“Yeah. Pretty damn funny.”

“It’s always some girl sells it to you.”

“Yeah, or some old crone who keeps raising her eyebrows at you and gives ‘em to you with two fingers like she’s handling catshit.”

“Every damn time,” agreed Linc, laughing to himself about that one of the many rites of passage he had gone through with Dan.

They pulled up in front of Linc’s house and Linc got out of the car.

“Luck,” said Dan.

“Uh-huh.”

The evening newspaper was there at the curb, so Linc picked it up. He walked up to the porch and sat down in one of the chairs, just as he did when he passed many comfortable evenings with his parents and little brother. He could hear the vacuum cleaner just behind him, inside the house, being run up against the wall before which he sat. He thought he would sit there until the vacuum cleaner was switched off, for he hated the racket of the thing and the way his parents shouted over it to one another; never anything that couldn’t wait to be said until after the vacuuming was done, just the small talk of a happy couple married for years. Soon silence reigned once more inside the house, so Linc went indoors.

He sneaked past his parents without their seeing him and went into his bedroom. He decided to take a brief nap. He slept for two and a half hours. Feeling drugged when he awoke from his sleep, he staggered to the bathroom. The shower water helped revive him. He soaked his head for a good five minutes. It went a long way toward relieving that miserable feeling one often has after an afternoon nap.

As he dried his thin hair, he thought: What to wear for the confrontation with Clare’s father? Ah, yes, Mr. Robbins: writer, philosopher, windbag, buffoon--a real pain in Linc’s neck. The night before, Linc, while looking through his closet, decided on wearing a sports jacket and some slacks; but now that the time had come to get dressed, he decided on some jeans and a crummy tee shirt. He should love this, he thought, as he pulled on his boots. He checked the mirror. “Not bad. Not bad at all.”

He then went over to his dresser and took from the top of it a pocket notebook in which he kept a record of the batting statistics of his favorite ballplayer, Bob Watson, of the lowly Houston Astros. He had been keeping those records for three years, ever since Mr. Watson had been kind enough to sign his and Dan’s program before a game they saw down in Houston, the only one of the several players they asked who responded. Linc could never forget something like that; he would follow Bob Watson’s career for as long as it lasted. One hit in four at bats, he wrote, with no runs scored or runs knocked in. No errors, though. He then fanned through the many pages of other such notes on Bob Watson that he had made, never doubting for a moment that they were somehow an important archive of one of the game’s greats. He carefully replaced it on the dresser.

Entering the living room, he said, “Damn! Forgot my car.”

His mother looked up from a gardening magazine: “Try to watch your language, Linc,” she said. “Your little brother is beginning to sound just like you, and I don’t know which of you is worse. When did you slip into the house? I heard your shower running, but I didn’t hear you come in.”

“A little while ago,” said Linc. He turned to his father, who was emptying the vacuum cleaner bag. “Pop, can I borrow your car? Dan forgot to drop me for mine.”

Through the cloud of dust he was raising with the unwieldy bag, Mr. Lebeau said, “What’s that, son?” Mr. Lebeau hadn’t been vacuuming all that time that Linc was asleep; he had just that minute taken it back out of the closet in order to replace the bag so he wouldn’t have to bother with doing that before the next time he used it.

“Aren’t you hungry, Linc?” asked Mrs. Lebeau.

Linc rolled his eyes. Though he’d had nothing to eat at Pete’s house, he said he wasn’t hungry.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

“How about the car, Pop? Dan forgot to drop me to get mine.”

“Sure, son. The keys are on the television. You’ve really got to quit leaving your car all over town, Linc. Was it locked? Anybody could just wire it and be gone. Then where would you be?”

“I always lock it,” he lied, plucking the keys from atop the television set. “Thanks for the car. I’ll see y’all later.”

“Not so fast, Linc,” said Mrs. Lebeau. “How did things go at school today? Are you going to graduate?” She feared his response. She knew his algebra grade could go either way.

“Sure, Mom. All squared away.”

“That’s our boy!” boomed the proud father. “That’s good, Linc. You always land on your feet. Good job.”

Linc hated having a fuss made over him or being the center of attention; he said only, “Listen, I need to go. Tell Royce I said hi.” Continue . . .


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