Page 24 - WTP Vol. XI #3
P. 24

Every Faith (continued from preceding page)
that was everywhere, that man he barely knew.
“My dad,” Spencer said, “cheated on my mom. This was, oh, five years ago—I was still in college. I haven’t seen him since he did it. I’ve only talked to him, like, twice.”
“Oh,” Mark said. He was bracing for a Bible verse.
“You stop missing the bastard eventually. Or at least you think you do. Which is really, if I’m honest, about the same thing.”
He ground a sandaled heel into the concrete under- foot.
“Anyway,” he said, “if you ever want to talk, just let me know.”
“Thanks,” Mark said. “I will.”
He was grateful to be spared a gassy rant about be- trayal. Grateful to be there, a kind of peer, at Spencer’s side.
“But really,” Spencer said, “on a lighter note. You’re saying you and Amber aren’t a thing?”
“No. Not really. Just friends from way back.”
“Smart guy like you?” Spencer said. His voice snapped like a towel. “Thought by now you’d’ve staked your claim.”
Ahead of them, across the lot, some birds were dart- ing to and from their nests among the oaks. A man would know the right response. But Mark could manage nothing but a laugh, a timid snort. The birds continued darting, their chirps the only sound among the broader human silence.
“By the way,” Spencer said, “that’s a really cool shirt.”
“Thanks,” he began, though an answer was denied him by the rasp of ancient brakes: the beaten black husk of the Camry turning in, traversing the bump from Grove Park to the lot.
“There she is,” said Spencer.
Mark could see, beyond the windshield, the hive of piled-up hair, the double-glint of glasses hiding
red and restless eyes. The car came wheezing over, stopped abruptly, sat and hissed. She leaned across the console to unroll, with slavish heaves, the shotgun window.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m sorry. Let’s go.” 17
Her eyes shot from Mark to the man at his left. No sign of recognition, just the harried paranoia of a mother overwhelmed.
“Coming,” he said. “I’m coming.”
He hurried to the car and got inside. The window, still unrolled, permitted him a view of Spencer leaned against the wall, smiling beatifically at Mark, his mother’s car.
“Hello and goodbye,” Spencer said. “Enjoy this incred- ible Sunday, Ms. Unger.”
His mother only waved, already inching forward.
“I’m sorry,” she repeated. “The traffic out on Poplar was atrocious. There’s a wreck.”
He looked down at the cupholder, which held not a Starbucks, but a pack of Camel Lights, opened to reveal the tidy pawns of her addiction, the paper torn and folded back like giftwrap at the rim.
In earnest now, the car pulled off.
“Mark,” he could hear Spencer shout, from his wall, “Good talk, man. Good talk.”
Amber’s mom had kept the house on Arawata Street, tucked into the folds, the plushly green maze of Chickasaw Gardens. Her husband, Amber’s father, had died three years before, and the downstairs bore the markings of an undercover shrine: the black-and- white portrait, framed and hung inside the foyer; the big bar off the living room, a sashed and bemedaled platoon of dark bottles, untouched since her hus- band’s demise; the his-and-hers sinks in the long master bedroom, a sanctum Mark had entered only once, when Mrs. Whitsitt was at work, and Amber had opted to show him her pills—to finger and pick through her mother’s prescriptions, offer up a chuck- le, then a shrug.
The upstairs, however, was all windows and light. If below there persisted a delicate silence (a silence which seemed, like its grief-stricken mistress, poised at all times to explode into tears), then above there flowed a stream of steady fun, of gadgets and movies and picturesque views—a stream so rich and golden and voluminous that no kid in its current could sub- mit to meager grief. It beat, in any case, Mark’s mom’s place off Perkins, with its backyard noosed-in by a steep City ditch, affording them a view of bleak and

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