Mike, thirteen, steals a can of Coke from the cooler in back of the old store. That night, he dreams he is caught, but the next morning he can’t remember his dreams. It’s summer. The can of Coke is at his friend’s house, on the ping pong table. He didn’t leave it there on purpose. He wasn’t thirsty when he stole it.
Mike turns fourteen. His friend is already fourteen, and there are other things to do. The can of Coke has been drunk a long time ago, by someone in the family of Mike’s friend. The can has been crushed and recycled. The old store still is there.
The old store is gone when Mike returns from college. A new store is there. The new store sells much the same merchandise as the old store, but with a little friendlier service.
Mike’s friend gets married. Mike died in a motorcycle accident two years before. The motorcycle accident was ridiculous in that it didn’t occur on a highway, or even on a road, but in the driveway of a house in a different state. When Mike’s friend heard about the accident, he’d asked how it had happened, and was told in a voice of quiet, self-indulgent incredulity. At the wedding, and then again at the reception, he remembers asking the question, and the way in which the question was answered.
*Reprinted from Volume 23, no. 2 (Fall, 2010)
Bob sat on the cold, metal bleachers watching his young son play baseball on a small outdoor diamond in Tennessee. He wore stonewashed jeans, his long, thin fingers were clasped loosely between his legs, and his elbows rested on his upper legs.
Near him but not with him were other men and women whose young sons were playing with or against each other.
It was fall.
Bob was thinking of his first wife though he was still married to his second wife.
Travers got down from the cab of his tractor-trailer and went into the all-night gas station.
“Your coffee machine’s not working,” he told the female clerk, after he’d tried to get it to dispense coffee into a small Styrofoam cup he’d held under it.
“You sure?” she said, and she came around the counter and checked it.
While she was checking it, he observed her figure without wondering whether he himself was being observed.