Cuppo squinted under his permanent-markered eyebrows, nodding at the girl who was feeding coins into the ice cream machine. "That's the one." Her cottony sweater hung like a robe from her narrow shoulders, and draped down her back until it hit the substantial shelf of her rear. She turned around and unwrapped her fudgesicle.
"Look at that," said Bobby Sausage. The entire brown top disappeared in her mouth. "Those are some skills."
"Practically bovine," added Cuppo, then turned to me and raised his eyebrows.
"You gonna hit it?"
"I don't even know her," I said. She wore layered yellow tank tops and had a pageboy haircut that flipped out under her ears. Backlit by the glow of the Good Humor machine, she looked for a moment like a squash someone had fashioned with a cape.
"What do you need to know?" Bobby said. "She craves your dong." Word had come down from Cuppo's sister, who sat next to her in chorus, that she was interested.
"She's from Oregon," Cuppo said, as we watched her cross the cafeteria to a lone table by the window. He nodded slowly. "West coast."
"What does that even mean?"
He rolled his eyes. "West coast women are the easiest in the country. It's proven. I can give you a study on it. They're downright filthy." Sausage stifled a laugh with his palm. He hadn't grown anything but body hair since the sixth grade and the back of his little hand was covered in it.
"You guys are assholes."
"Hit it and quit it, Myles," said Sausage. "No shame in that."
Look at us, Dad. Can you see us lounging on the benches at the far end of the cafeteria, our hair shaggy and terrible, in tattered sweatshirts and markered Airwalks and worn T-shirts from Phish tours we were too young to have ever attended? Can you see the way we look over our shoulders and divert our eyes and bury our hands in our hoodie pockets? Can you tell we secretly loved fantasy books and video games and that this was the first girl to pierce our male adolescent force fields? Why? Because she noticed us.
Why else? Because we were remarkably late to this game, because it had been played around us since the fifth grade and we'd watched it like foreigners staring through the chain-link at a green and distant land. Without even knowing it, she'd opened the border.
"Go say something," said Cuppo, pushing the back of my shoulder. "Ask her if you can have a lick." With that Sausage finally burst, roaring and slapping his leg and making a scene, and I could see her look up from her table by the windows, alone, and notice us. It seemed mean, and it was, so I walked over to her, hearing Sausage's laughter dissolve behind me, and sat down.
"Can you do me a favor?" I said. She had a cold chunk in her mouth and it took a moment for it to melt.
"I want you to talk to me for a minute, just like this, like we're having a good time and then I want you to slap me in the face."
She waited for the joke. "What?"
"I want you to smack me hard on the cheek and then walk away. It'd be a big help."
She scanned my face, then looked over to the gawking boys in the corner. "No."
She crossed her arms and leaned back, looking out the window at the blazing midday parking lot. Her fudgesicle sat warming on its wrapper. There was no right answer, I realized, for her in this.
"I'm sorry," I said, reaching a hand across the table. "I'm Myles."
"Agatha," she said and shook it. The guys hooted and whistled behind me.
"Don't listen to them," I said and she smacked me hard across the face. It was loud and painful, and she walked away as I sat there alone in a plastic cafeteria chair.
Cuppo and Sausage were silent. From across the room I saw her leaning against the wall, beaming back at me. Her teeth were so finely orthodontiaed that they looked, top and bottom, like single strips of ivory.
This was before you were gone, believe it or not, nearly a year before, and I'm starting here so that you get a clear idea of where I was all that time. I wonder if the lives of teenagers are ever as inscrutable to their parents as we assume they are. There's a chance that you knew all of this, that you watched it carefully from afar, as unfazed by it as by those years of diaper changing that you apparently endured without complaint. But you couldn't have known everything, since the facts only show the very tip of things, and, like learning later the make and model of the convertible that ran you over, or the woman's name who was driving — or even that she has dyed red hair and wears sunglasses in the vegetable aisle at Grand Union and lives alone on Salt Pond Road in a house that should sleep 30 — there's so much more, always, left to understand.
I looked for her later that week in school and when I finally found her it was in the parking lot after the buses had left with the mobs, and the only people there were the sporty kids, counting off their stretches like sad little militias on the green patchwork of lawns. Her bags, three of them, were full of SAT prep books, about as heavy and interesting as the yellow pages, so I offered to help her carry them to her car.
There we talked about the pros and cons of early decision, about how Cuppo's father, the one-time head of an international corporation, had left his family and moved to Vermont for a man, but if she told anyone I swore I'd kill her. We talked until our cars were the only two left in the parking lot, until my feet hurt from standing, until my left shoulder ached from my backpack, then my right, until the sky overhead turned an autumn gold, then red, then navy.
In that parking lot, under a sky like black ice, with my hands shoved stiffly in my sweatshirt pockets, I could see Agatha was waiting for it. My last and only kiss had been in the seventh grade, when I had ghostly wisps in my pits and a chest as pink as the day I was born. She came toward me with her eyelids down, smiling. She didn't open her mouth when she touched it to mine, all electric and buzzing. I could feel the blood throbbing in my throat. My balls were heavy as lead.
• • • • •
When I was young, no more than seven, you took me out to run errands for Mom. Do you remember this? It was the first time I could remember being alone with you outside of the house. We were doing what Mom and I would normally do, but it was with you and therefore it was different. We went through the grocery aisles backwards, we bought lunch instead of making it, we made a stop at a hardware store that smelled sharply of sawdust. You bought caulk and I loved its dispenser because it was shaped like a gun.
Because I was good, we went to the beach and you took me out on the sailboat. Do you remember this? It must've been October, the sky was opaque and gray, the water like cement churning, but we sailed anyway. First you caulked the hull, then, because I was good, we sailed through the thickening gray into evening.
• • • • •
Here's the truth: after Agatha Berger and I kissed I lied about it to Cuppo, and to Sausage, and to anyone else who may've asked. Something changed. I noticed her pear shape, the smooth excess skin that gathered beneath her chin like a gel cushion when she laughed. I was embarrassed. I don't know why. The day after we kissed she came up behind me while I was eating with Sausage and put her hands over my eyes.
"Who is it?" I said.
There was nothing. I could tell by Sausage's silence that he wasn't amused.
She pulled her hands away and leaned over me, grinning. Her cheeks were flushed as she pulled up a chair.
"So," she said, looking in my eyes. "What's for lunch?"
I showed her the gooey edge of my sandwich. "Egg and cheese."
"Can I have a bite?" I held it out for her and she took one. Sausage disappeared into his bologna on rye.
"Delicious," she said. "I'll be right back." She ran her hand playfully along my shoulders.
Sausage squinted at me. "What was that?"
"Can I have a bite?"
"I don't–" I shook my head. "Nothing. Generosity."
He cocked his head, and pointed his thumb toward Agatha. "Is she your girlfriend?"
"No," I said, shaking my head, as if I'd never thought of it.
"She ate from your sandwich."
"I guess," I said, swiping the bitten edge through a blob of ketchup. "I mean she's in some of my classes. She's nice."
Sausage shook his head. "That girl wants your junk."
"I don't know. I don't see it."
He looked over at her, waiting in line at the grill. "It's a little weird," he said.
"Weird?" I looked up at him.
"Yeah," he said. "Like pathetic."
And so it continued. Every time Agatha approached there were looks, and when she left there were denials, and soon Cuppo and Sausage had created a series of Agatha jokes. "How many Agathas does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Cuppo would say. "A hundred. One to deal with the bulb and 99 others to stare at Myles's dinger while her back is turned."
"And to diddle her vajiddle," Sausage would add. "What? We're talking about Berger, not about you."
Here's also the truth: I was Agatha's only friend. And after school, what Cuppo and Sausage didn't know — or chose not to know — was that I spent hours with her. Her family had a pool house that was built for guests, fully furnished with a bedroom loft and a kitchen and a television with premium cable. Her father, like you and so many other men in this town, did something inscrutable with stocks and her mother was at work somewhere and so for hours we would roll around half-clothed on that bed, dry-humping and sucking face and rubbing our paws over each other's zippered crotches, until one day she opened my fly and pulled out my dick and squeezed it in her fist as if trying to strangle a goose. I wasn't sure she knew what to do with it, so I helped her and she helped me with the labyrinth of buttons on her baggy pantaloons and then the sliding off of her polka dot panties and then we were fumbling on each other, naked, writhing around, embarrassed and happy, as though we'd freed each other from the unfathomable burden of adolescent secrets. Here, we said, Look, this just happened beneath my clothes, I couldn't share it with anyone. Here, we said. See? See me? This is what I've become.
"My friends in Oregon want to meet you," she said one evening in the empty silence as we lay atop the sheets, recovering.
"Are they coming here?"
"No, probably not." She sat up, her breasts wobbling like goat skin canteens. "But we could go there."
"Drive. You and me, this summer."
"That's a long trip," I said, rolling onto my side.
"Or fly. We could fly."
I climbed out of bed and slipped my boxers on, then searched for my t-shirt in the heap of clothes. I liked to dress immediately after. It felt cleaner. I would pretend to pee so I could scrub my hands, and I would flush the condom so there'd be no trace.
"You don't have to meet them if you don't want," she said, when I came out of the bathroom. She had the sheet up to her shoulders like a dress. "It was just an idea."
"No, I'd love to meet them someday. I really would," I said, looking for my balled socks in the leg of my corduroys.
"Your friends aren't very nice to me," she said.
"What? Where did that come from?"
"I'm pretty sure they think I'm a skank. I think they think I'm stupid."
"Ridiculous," I said. I kissed her dry lips, then pulled my corduroys on.
"Do they even know about us?" she said, but I could tell she intuitively knew the answer.
"It's none of their business."
She began to cry. It was an awful sight, Dad. She was trying to cover her paleness with a thin musty sheet.
"Of course they know," I said, lifting her quaking chin, and staring as earnestly as I could into her unprotected face. "Of course they know. Listen, I love you."
• • • • •
I hid from her in the halls. I took the long way to class to avoid her. I memorized her schedule and spent my day flanked by others — even people I didn't know well — so that if I did run into her, intimacy of any kind wasn't an option. I ate lunch at the French table, I ate lunch in the faculty section, I skipped lunch altogether. I came late to Physics and sat by the door, I came early to AP Mod and sat with the laptop dorks at the front table.
And then at 3:30 I drove straight to her pool house and let myself in and slid off my shoes and waited for her on the sofa while watching People's Court.
All of which meant I was never home, and when I was it was after you and Mom had gone to bed, and I would find a dinner plate Saran-wrapped on the kitchen counter and eat alone with a single light, the broccoli cold, the couscous lumpy. Soon even Cuppo had stopped calling. He and Sausage had jokes I didn't understand.
"Here," he said, handing me the Phish tapes he'd borrowed. We were in the parking lot, outside his rusty Grand Caravan, whose upholstery still carried the distinct smell of children and car seat. It had been his mother's van when Cuppo had been a figure skater as a child, where she'd fed him countless McDonald's dinners as she drove him around the tri-state area to compete. It was a life he didn't much mention anymore.
"Any of the old sparkly costumes in there?" I said, peering over his shoulder.
He made an obnoxious laugh.
"How about tights?"
"Take your fucking tapes."
When Cuppo had shown up in the sixth grade, he was six inches shorter and delicate, exempt from gym because of "outside physical demands." Everyone knew him then as Pierre, but he hung up the skates when he thickened with puberty. His hair curled into a wiry nest. His dad was gone. But his lunch, which was still packed by his mother, always contained the trademark "Cup O' Vanilla" pudding. The change of name seemed only appropriate.
Cuppo fiddled with his new cell phone, a hand-me-down from his mom. He liked to pull it out whenever he could, just to look important, while the rest of us bummed quarters for the payphone.
"What're you, a fucking banker?"
"Just seeing if anyone called."
"Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom," I mimed.
"So when are you getting married?" he said.
"That's not really funny."
"Your mom says you're never home. Where are you all the time?"
"Different places. Nowhere special."
"Your mom says you missed most of Christmas. "
"Why don't you and my mom get married?"
"When she's single, call me."
Cuppo teased me about being a father, about getting married at 18 like Macaulay Culkin and being just as screwed up.
"I hope it's worth it," he said.
"How's your father doing?"
He shook his head, squinting at the long lot of hand-me-down cars. "She's weird, dude," he said and lifted his hood around his giant triangle of hair. "Forget her. And call me back sometime," he said and turned back to school, stepping on his ratty cuffs with the cork heels of his Birkenstocks.
• • • • •
I know you were up alone in the mornings while we slept, unwrapping your laundered shirts and cinching your neck with a Windsor knot, and in the evenings, after the train dumped you back on our granite doorstep, you had all of an hour in you to chat over marinated chicken breasts and sautéed spinach, before you would sink into the sofa, your eyelids heavy, and be gone.
It couldn't have been much past six when you opened my door, the blue morning light outside like a fluorescent bulb just beginning to fade on. You were just a shadow in your spring trench, your briefcase like a plumb weight on the end of your slack arm. I couldn't remember the last time you had even entered my room. The mattress gave at my feet with your weight. Your hand smelled soapy and clean as you put it to my hot cheek.
"I have something for you," you said and clicked open the tabs on your briefcase as if starting a meeting. The box was shiny and medicinal as you placed it on the covered lump of my chest. The condoms sat there, perched, like a toy locomotive at the crest of a hill.
"Use them," was your advice.
"I don't need them."
You sighed and looked down at me. The softened flesh of your throat, where it had just been shaved and soothed with lotion, gathered above your stiff collar. "It's OK," you said and patted my leg. "Just let me know when you need more."
I understand now, nearly three years later, that it was a fatherly duty, like ball throwing and knot tying and stick-shift driving, and perhaps the last on the paternal checklist. And the funny thing is that, try as I might, when I think back on it these days, driving through town in the winter with the windows open and the stereo beating and my elbow becoming pink and raw in the vacant window frame, it is our last private interaction I can remember. I know there were more — a dinner or two, a bear hug after graduation, others — but I remember little outside the thickening fog of my own self-interest, and those condoms, in their glossy and embarrassing package, like a Unicef collection box, rising and falling with each breath.
Do-overs don't really exist so I try not to dwell on these things, but I do get a lot of thinking done these days driving around town late into the night with the music crawling from my open windows. I've been delivering booze for Downtown Spirits, cases of wine, mostly to your friends, and since everyone's long gone — Agatha to Bryn Mawr, Sausage to Skidmore, Cuppo to Puget Sound — the whole town sometimes feels like it's mine.
But did I tell you that Mom and I ran into the lady with the convertible? We were in the produce aisle and that Raggedy Ann hair, a ridiculous red, stopped us both. She was squeezing an onion. She held it in front of her face like a softball pitcher starting her wind-up, looking so closely it was nearly touching her sunglasses. Sunglasses! In the white light of the supermarket! Maybe she was hung over. Maybe she'd come from a funeral. I'd wanted to watch some more, to see what else we'd find, but that's all I got before Mom was gone. She was already out the automatic door, and then I was going after her, and when I looked back from the parking lot, all I could see was our cart, abandoned with our food still in it.
• • • • •
By April I was ready to be done with it all, and so was Agatha, I learned one teary night when she ambushed me in her car about why I hadn't asked her to prom.
"You're just mean to me," she said, wiping her eyes with her palms. "You don't acknowledge me. It's like you're two different people completely. Why? I don't get it."
When I shrugged, she kicked me out of her car, which I assumed I was supposed to resist, but instead I walked home in the warm spring air, kicking a pebble in front of me, and feeling, somewhat pleasantly, off the hook. I spent prom night taking bong rips in my rented tuxedo before passing out in Sausage's basement. I saw her occasionally from a distance in the hallways, and in the sea of cheap nylon robes at graduation, but she never seemed to notice me.
I could tell you about how it all felt right, that I felt like a kid again, spending all my time with my dufus buddies and our arsenal of inside jokes, enjoying plastic pouches of fruit snacks and unafraid to recite aloud with the video our favorite scenes from Total Recall. I could tell you about the adamant decisions that passed unanimously in the House and Senate of my mind. I could tell you that although she had done nothing wrong, Agatha Berger had begun to represent everything I hated about myself. I could tell you these things but they wouldn't make sense with the rest of the story.
It was in the invincible joy of early July, at a pool party, no less, that I saw her again. She looked happy, splashing around in the deep end with a quartet of guys I didn't know — buzzed, I assumed, on something. It was dark and the only light in the yard was from the pool, which cast its wavy radioactive glow on the heavy maple limbs above. She wore a plaid bikini that tied around her neck like the waitress at a lewd Dutch Pantry. She had lost weight and yet her breasts looked bigger somehow. When she pushed herself out of the water I could see she was wearing some other guy's lacrosse shorts.
"Look who's here," said Cuppo, reaching for my nipple with his vicious pinchers.
We found each other by the creaky lawn furniture on the shadowy edge of the yard, where I'd been trying unsuccessfully to light a corncob pipe (it was a phase). She'd pulled a loose tank top over her bikini and was, it seemed, looking for a place to pee. The party was late, anonymous, strewn with cups and bottles, as if the very act of littering was part of the thrill of cutting loose.
"Latrine's over there," I said, pointing at the house.
She looked up at me and squinted. "Is that a pipe?"
"Maybe," I said, cupping the flame against the wind again and nearly burning a lighter smiley into my thumb.
"Let me see it." She snatched it from my hands, clenched it in her teeth and with a single flick had it lit. She placed it back in my mouth as if feeding me a carrot. "My Dad smokes one."
"I'm still trying it out," I said, surprised by the ashy taste filling my mouth. It always smelled so sweet clamped in the jaws of old men, filling an entire block with its aroma. I'd assumed it'd taste something like a Werther's Original.
"Your hair's gotten longer," she said, pulling on the straggly bits behind my ear.
"So has yours." She now had a full ponytail, which she tied high on her head with an elastic, and, in the shadow, it looked like a big stringy squid had made its home there. Her hand combed through my dangling hair, then around to the back of my skull.
"I've missed you," she said.
I nodded and she led me by the hand into the soft, twiggy woods, where we stumbled together in our sandals until there was no light from the party at all and we could feel more than we could see, and there I pulled down those damp lacrosse shorts and yanked free her swaying tits and we pushed each other onto the prickly ground. She tasted of the stale chlorinated air at the Y. We screwed until my aching knees had sunk into the earth with last year's leaves.
The whole thing took all of three panting minutes. "That was nice," she said when it was over, pulling up her shorts, readjusting her top. There were twigs pressed into both of her knees and as I heard her brush them off, then retie her hair, I felt, suddenly, like sobbing. "What?" she said. I was still sitting on the ground, cross-legged, my boxers around my ankles.
"Are you going back to the party?"
"Why?" she said. "You wanna cuddle in the dirt?" She pulled the tank top back over her head. As my eyes adjusted, I saw her sniff casually at her pits.
"I just thought, I don't know— What the hell did we just do?"
"We fucked, Myles. We had a quickie."
"I know that, I just—" I didn't actually want to talk, Dad, what I really wanted was her to touch my forehead, or say something nice, like she used to, about my scrawny ribs. "Look at those birdcage ribs. That's a home for a cockatiel, that's a home for a whole canary family." She would tickle me and I would leap from the mattress in a wiggling naked squirm.
"Fine then, I'm pregnant," she said. She crossed her arms and looked down on me with the glassy eyes of a teddy bear.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean I have a baby inside me, or a zygote, or something. I'm fertilized."
"What?" I said, rising and pulling up my shorts, messing with the tinkling belt.
"Why does everyone have that reaction? It's not that big of a deal."
"Of course— Of course it is."
"Don't worry about it. It's not your problem." She pulled the elastic from her hair and let it fall again in damp clumps around her shoulders.
"Wait a second. There's a possibility it is, isn't it? I mean we did a lot of stuff. I mean how do you know for sure?"
She shrugged. "Laws of probability."
It would be a lie to say I didn't hold then a private vigil of relief. It would also be a lie to say my throat wasn't knotted tightly in disappointment. All I could do was try to remember the right chapter from the good-guy handbook, its many onionskin pages, its footnoted, endless code of conduct. Chapter ten: pregnancy — support, support, support. "Congratulations," I said.
She glared at me. "Don't be an asshole."
I pulled her wet head firmly against my shoulder, felt a cold spot seep through my t-shirt. She left it there and I could feel her shoulders relax for a moment, before she gave me a little shove and walked back through the woods to the party. I looked up at the clouds cruising through the night sky, just above the bushy tops of the trees, and sat back down for a moment to catch my breath. The party was tinny and distant, as if dubbed too many times on an old tape, and as I listened to its sad babble, I looked down at my splayed legs, which were finally covered in ugly, dark hair.
I looked for Cuppo in the keg line, and up on the deck, but he wasn't anywhere, so I went back out to the pool, which was full of people in their clothes, floating in the water with their shirts billowing around them like jellyfish. He wasn't there either, but Agatha was, bent over a foam noodle with a beer in her hand. "Ready — one, two three," I heard someone bark poolside, and before I could see who it was, she flipped on her back and began to chug.
• • • • •
On the ocean like churning cement we sailed without care or worry. I held the jib sheet and kept it taut — taut! — and you sat back with the rudder, unaffected entirely by the early winter breeze. On the shore, the sand on the beaches was darker, the snack bar abandoned and boarded up. We cruised along at a slight angle, the hull slicing the water, which made a quiet hissing sound like a newly opened can of Coke. You wore a baseball cap only on the boat and you had it pulled down so your eyeballs disappeared under the bill. You seemed to steer us effortlessly. You seemed to steer us even though you were blind.
• • • • •
Cuppo has a weakness for crazy ideas. He not only comes up with them but he can actually follow through. He's my go-to guy. That's how we ended up running naked down Main Street in March and replacing all the chairs in the faculty lounge with toilets (did you know that was me?) And that's how I ended up skipping out of summer school — that bullshit gym credit they were making me repeat — and filling the back of Cuppo's caravan with all of the essentials: 53 boxes of Kraft EZ-Mac, a dozen cartons of Cap'n Crunch Crunch Berries, a garbage bag of t-shirts and boxers, and Sausage's life-size cardboard cutout of George Burns, which we all agreed would look splendid in the passenger seat.
"You sure you don't want to make any calls?" Cuppo's Groucho Marx eyebrows were obscuring his eyes.
"Yeah, let's go."
"Not even a message for the folks?"
"Or the missus?" said Sausage, looking around for a laugh. I flipped him the bird and pushed it all the way against his flat ugly nose.
"I left the Phish newsletter on my bedside table. It has all the dates. Just drive."
"You hear that, George?" said Cuppo, looking at his passenger. "He left clues."
The tour started in Kansas and ended in Indiana, via Atlanta and New Jersey. We would go to 23 shows total, through 13 states and two countries, sleep in the car, eat only what we brought, and return a month and a half later with exactly one week to spare before shipping off to college. We had no tickets yet, but we had 500 dollars in cash between us, Mom's Mobile card, Sausage's Foreman grill, and Cuppo's dad's Diner's Club card. I-95, shimmering and distorted, gave way to I-80, which was pristine and hummed a low little theme song: ba-bum ba-bum, ba-bum ba-bum. In the front seat, George, cigar in hand, was waving.
We left without warning. Otherwise, it wouldn't have worked. I left you and Mom and Agatha without an explanation or a hint.
• • • • •
There are some things I've been meaning to ask you. We spoke deeply about so few things that now I find myself only wanting to ask you questions. Like, have I asked you why you were on a benefit ride for MS, of all things? Did you actually know someone who had it or was it just a random act of generosity? Or have I asked you why you were riding a bike when I've never seen you ride one in my life? Have I asked you these things? Have I asked you why a car was on the road when it was supposed to be closed? Have I asked you if she was speeding? Or why you were riding so close to the yellow line or why if you were in a pack of riders only you fell and why no one stopped to help you? Have I told you I was in Indiana? That Cuppo told me he had his cell-phone just in case something went wrong but when we got to Pittsburgh and we were going to call you, he smiled a stupid smile and laughed in a loud, uncomfortable burst and said he must left the charger on his bed at home? Have I told you I left Mom that cell-phone number on my bed? Have I told you Cuppo's a goddamn idiot? Have I told you I heard all of Mom's messages on Cuppo's phone, about the bike, about the funeral, about how it was a beautiful service, a real tribute, about who showed up and what they brought, about how she told them I was on the Appalachian Trail and that's why I was unreachable and absent, the fucking Appalachian Trail? Have I told you she spoke to his voicemail as if it was me? That she called it a few times a day? That she thought maybe I was ignoring them? Have I told you that I still have no idea what I'm doing? That at times I wish I had that baby here, that it may have been pear-shaped and ugly, but payback nonetheless, payback? Can you see that I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry, I am sorry? Can you see that? Have I told you that babies are the currency of the universe, the severance package of the grieving? Can you see that I've paid my dues, that I was offered redemption and I turned it down, that there is a balance to things that is only apparent in hindsight? Have I told you that I would've traded all that time with Agatha Berger to have been with you, all of that lost time? Have I told you that I would've actually spoken to you, would've asked you how to navigate the awful fact of growing up, would have asked you to do the impossible and stop it, to pause it all right there, and allow fathers to be just fathers and children to be just children, so that for once we could all stay together, so that for once no one would die?
Ted Thompson is from Connecticut. He has received a Truman Capote Fellowship from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a Work/Study scholarship from Bread Loaf. His stories have been published in Tin House and Best New American Voices 2010. He currently lives in Iowa City where he is finishing a novel.