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The houses in rossford, part one of chapter eight

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Old 11-15-2016, 01:46 PM
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Default The houses in rossford, part one of chapter eight


CHAPTER
EIGHT

MAINLY ABOUT SEX


“And then he showed up. Well, not showed up so much as broke into Adele’s house and nearly gave her the shock of her life.”
“Who broke into Adele’s house?” Tom cried, walking into the lounge.
“See,” said Tara, turning away from the old Formica table in the lounge. “That’s what happens when you jump in on grown folks business.”
Tom frowned and Fenn said, “Lee came back yesterday.”
“Your cousin, Lee?”
“You don’t have to sound so horny,” Tara said.
Again the frown. Again Tara’s shrug.
“You do sound a little bit like a panting dog,” Fenn admitted.
“I just… I… well, we only talked once. And then he went back.”
“What about Brian?” Tara said.
“What about him?” Tom’s nostrils flared. “And… why don’t you try minding your own business?”
Tara rolled her eyes, humphed and went back to her coffee.
“Well, he’s going to come around here, right? I mean, he’s a playwright and, well, this is a playhouse. By the way, we’re having try outs for As You Like It. I sent the casting call out as far as South Bend.”
“Are people from The Bend really going to come to our playhouse?” Tara said.
“Well, not if we don’t ask, Tara. And by the way, South Bend may be a little bigger—”
“Try about three times.”
“Yeah, maybe. But they don’t have any more culture than we do.”
Fenn nodded, “Good call, Tom. And the only thing South Bend has on us is an abortion clinic.”
“We don’t have an abortion clinic in Rossford?”
“No, Tara. Did you need one?”
“No, smart ass. I just thought a swinging town like Rossy had to have a Planned Parenthood and a baby snuffer joint.”
Tom eyed her and sniffed. “Do you really call them baby snuffer joints?”
“Not to Gloria Steinem’s face.”
“Yes...” Fenn drew the word out, eyeing his old friend. “Well back to... what were we talking about it?”
Tara said “Casting calls,” at the same time Tom said, “Lee.”
“Brian will be so sad,” Tara commented, “when he finds out that Tom can’t stay away from chocolate bars.”
“What are you—?” he began, then frowned. “You are so crude, you know that?”
“He’s cute when he’s all white and snippity,” Tara commented. “Isn’t he?”
“Is it true?” Fenn said in mock solicitude, stroking Tom’s shoulder. “You know, once you’ve had Black...”
“And he never really did turn back did he?” Tara said, clinically.
“I got an idea, how bout the both of you have a nice cup of—”
“Is he about to say ‘cup of shut the fuck up?’” Tara said.
“Oh, I don’t think he is,” Fenn murmured as Tom rolled his eyes and crossed his arms over his chest. “I don’t think he has that in him.”
Tom opened his mouth, but Fenn said, “You know what? I have an idea. How about the both of you come to dinner tonight?”
“In your kitchen?” said Tom.
“Nope, ass. At Layla’s. I’ll sit you right next to Lee.”
“Fenn, you are not a fair man,” Tara said. “You need to get some dyke cousins so I can have some fun too.”
“Tara Veems, you do too well on your own as it is.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
Tom smiled, and walking out the room he sang: “It means you’re a slut.”

In the busy hallway of Saint Barbara’s, Kenny McGrath shouted Dena’s name before she could reply to Milo’s question.
“Hey, Kenny, what’s up?”
Milo nodded in greeting, and Kenny nodded back.
“You seen your not so better half?”
“No,” Dena said. “Brendan is tutoring some kid in math, I think. He usually doesn’t come with us to lunch on Tuesdays.”
“Well, all right. Thanks. I guess I’ll see him at work. They’re moving me up to cashier.”
“Congratulations.”
“Well, I guess,” Kenny said. “The pay is better.”
“Yeah. Brendan says he likes it.”
“Brendan has a knack for it. He can talk to people and remember all the codes.”
“Codes?” Milo raised an eyebrow.
“Every fruit and vegetable has a four digit code you have to type in as you scan it.”
“Fuck!”
“You can say that again. I tried to be a cashier once,” Dena confessed. “ I didn’t make it,”
“I hope I make it.”
“Relax, Kenny, I’m sure you will. You were meant for Martins and Martins was meant for you..”
“You’re being facetious, right?”
“You were meant for Martins and it was meant for you until you graduate, and then you have to move the fuck on. How’s that?”
“Much better. I’ll see you guys, later.”
“Yeah,” Then: “And Kenny?”
“Yup?”
Dena closed her locker and came to him; Milo remained behind.
“Brendan’s always had… you know, buddies. But, until you he never really had friends. I mean, you and Will.”
“Yeah, Will’s great.”
“Yeah. Well, I just wanted to say… I like it. You know. Brendan having someone he can… I know this sounds really grown up and pretentious, but…. You should just hear the way he talks about you. He’s so glad to have you and…”
“What’s going on guys?” Dena heard from down the hall, and Brendan was coming toward both of them.
“I thought you were tutoring that kid?”
“I was,” Brendan said. “Between you me and the Dean’s List, I think he’ll fail.”
Dena was just telling me how glad you were to have me,” Kenny batted his eyelashes.
“You glad to have me, Miller?”
Brendan went pink and scowled at Kenny.
“Not, right now, McGrath.”

“So you would be Jack’s boy,” Lee said to Milo over dinner that night.
“Right,” Milo said. “I can’t believe you know my dad.”
“Well, it’s not so much your dad. It’s your grandparents.”
“Do you remember,” Adele pointed across the table at Nell, “when that one woman pissed Barb off because she kept running after Bob? This was when we were real little, and Barb told my mother about it, and she said don’t take it seriously—”
“But she did take it seriously,” Nell said. “As I remember, that woman owned a hat shop.”
“Right. It’s where that Sonic burger place is now.”
“You know your grandmother took her Cadillac and drove right through the window!” Adele said to Milo.
Layla burst out laughing, and Milo and Dena looked at each other.
“My grandma?”
“She’s a wild one,” Fenn said. “I mean, even now she’s a wild one.”
“That priest down in Florida—” Paul began.
“You were in Florida?” said Milo.
Fenn looked at Paul.
“Yes,” Paul amended. “Checking out a few things. Went with Father Dan.”
“I didn’t even knew you knew Dan,” Adele said.
“Yeah,” Paul told her, waving his fork nonchalant while Tom exchanged glances with Fenn and Lee.
“Anyway,” Paul said, “this old abbot knew Barb and said that there wasn’t a thing the thought of her couldn’t make him do. I’ve seen her now. I can’t imagine what she was like fifty years ago.”
“I guess my grandparents are alright,” Milo said.
“Your grandparents,” Paul told him, “are far more than all right.”
“Did you guys know,” Todd said, “that Paul has convinced Fenn to go down to East Carmel with him on the weekend?”
“What the fuck for!” Adele and Lee said together, and then looked at each other.
“My family lives down there.”
“Really?” Lee said. The news that Paul was a former pornstar was nothing, compared to this.
“What’s wrong with East Carmel?” said Milo.
“What’s wrong with a Klan rally?” Lee said. “Tom, pass me a roll.”
Tom did while Dena said, “East Carmel is just… sort of the place Black people don’t go.”
“East Carmel is the place Black people, brown people, gay people, purple people and, last time I checked, anyone whose last name ends in ski doesn’t go,” Lee added.
“It’s not that bad,” Paul said, a little defensive. “At least… I don’t remember it being that bad.”
“Well, in all honesty,” Tara said, “you wouldn’t really know.” She bit into a roll. “You know?”
Tom looked at Lee and said, “Is he gonna be safe down there?”
“I’m sure it’s not that bad,” Lee admitted. “Provided he doesn’t just go wandering all around by himself. I mean, I was just in Texas, and it’s full of places like that.”
“I thought you were in Kansas.”
“I was, but after Kansas I went to Texas. Incidentally, Kansas has the same shit too. Lot’s of white folks would just love to string them a nigger.” Lee said, affecting an accent.
Tom grinned out of the side of his mouth.
“So, why’d you go to Texas?” he whispered to Lee.
“Because they say everything’s bigger there.”
Tom thought for a minute, and then choked on his food.
“And I wanted to find out if it was.”
Tom took a sip of water, and then said, face expressionless, “And was it?”
Lee murmured, behind his hand: “For the most part, yes.”
Across the table Tara asked Layla, “What’s Tom laughing at?”
“I can’t guess. But knowing Lee, it’s probably inappropriate.”
“So,” Lee, was saying to Tom, “there’s this new play called The Uppity Knight, by this man with an unpronounceable name—”
“Ripley Bogart! Yeah, I know. Terrible name. Great play. I’m reading it right now. Someone sent it to me. I’d love to get the rights to do it. Do you know him?”
“I’ve met him,” Lee said. “Perhaps after dinner we could go out somewhere and talk about an arrangement.
“Oh, don’t look at me all shocked like that, Tom. I’m not stupid.”
“No,” Tom said, turning back to his food. “Far from it, I’d say.”
“I’d say,” Lee murmured with a wry smile.
“It’s a shame Brendan couldn’t be here,” Will said.
“He’s always working.” Dena said.
Lee, who heard, said, “Dena, you ought to tell your man all work and no play—”
“Makes a dull boy, Lee?”
“No, Tara. Makes a single boy.”

“You know, this is one of my favorite places,” Tom said.
“This lake?”
“Um hum. See, right across it you can see the college chapel. And that’s the old dorm where Fenn lived.”
“Did you ever hang out there?”
“Hang out there? I practically lived there. We were the same age, more or less. But I had just graduated from Notre Dame and, you know, Fenn had taken the year off so he was still a student while I was working my first little job. I felt so independent. I wasn’t. My uncle got me the job. But I felt independent.”
Lee smiled.
“Everyone knows how things ended with you and Fenn,” he said. “But what I want to know is how they began? That’s what I would like to know.”
“They began…” Tom did something between a smile and a frown, squinting.
“The first time I met Fenn, well, that was after Mass, on a Sunday night. Evening, at the beginning of the school year. I was feeling very sedate and grown up and not paying attention, and all of a sudden this very expensive twenty-one speed bicycle nearly hit me. It just squealed, and I blinked and shouted and there was Fenn looking down at me and grinning.
“You know, I don’t think he apologized or anything.”
“You should have been paying attention.”
Tom laughed out loud and said, “That’s exactly what he said… Later, you know, when I told him about that.
“But I’d seen him before. It was his… smile, I guess. I always wondered about him. And then came the day he almost ran me over. It seems like we just kept running into each other all the time after that. And then one day he says, rubbing his chin like this, you know the way he does, ‘So, are we gonna be friends or what?’ And that’s how it started.
“I love thinking about that, remembering all of that. How it started. But sometimes it hurts.”
“Because remembering how it started reminds you how it ended?”
Tom nodded.
“But it didn’t end,” Lee said. “It changed. But it didn’t end.”

“Dena, are you going to be free tomorrow?”
“I’m free everyday,” Dena pointed out over the phone that night. “It’s you that’s always busy.”
“With—”
“I know, Brendan. With work. I was just saying.”
“I can’t very well tell them, sorry, now that you’re giving me the hours I asked for I have to cut back because I want to hang out with my girlfriend.”
“Especially if you don’t.”
“What? Look,” Brendan said, “I do wanna spend time with you.”
“I was just joking, Bren. You’re very tightly wound, you know that?”
“I’m stressed is all.”
“Well… come on over tomorrow. We’ll hang out just the two of us. Tomorrow afternoon, like you said. And you can get unstressed.”
There was a pause, and Dena could feel him unstressing on the other side of the phone, she fancied.
“That sounds real good.”
“We can watch a movie or something. I Got 27 Dresses.”
“Really?”
“I was really joking. We’ll watch something gory with too much sex. Just our taste.”
“That’ll be great,” Brendan told her.
“How’s Kenny?”
“Whaddo you mean?”
“I mean,” Dena said, “how’s Kenny? I mean, isn’t he a cashier now?”
“Oh… Oh, yeah. Yeah, Kenny’s great. Well, you know. He’s Kenny.
“Ey, Deen, I’m sorry I haven’t been around much. I mean, not since your birthday and all. And I should have been.”
“It’s all right,” Dena told him. “It’s like you said. You do have work. And I’ve got the gang. And Milo is great.”
“I don’t even know him. Not really.”
Dena wondered if she’d mentioned Milo to make Brendan jealous. She wondered why he wasn’t.
“Well, like you said, you’ve been busy. Oh, one last thing, Bren.”
“Uh huh.”
“It’s Will. Layla thinks he’s feeling a little left out. Since you started hanging with Kenny.”
“Oh,” Brendan said. “Oh, shit. I’ll make it up to him. It’s just we work together and… you know. Everything.”
“I know. Just make sure Will knows. He’s a good guy.”
“I know he is. He’s my friend.”
“And, besides, if you don’t talk to him, Layla’s gonna have your ass.”

“Brendan, long time no see.”
“I’ve been working a lot, Mrs. Reardon.”
“I guess,” Nell said. “Come here.” She looked him up and down. “Have yo gotten taller?”
Brendan blushed and shrugged. “Maybe a little.”
“See what happens when you don’t come around?” Nell shuddered when she touched his hand, and then grabbed his fingers.
“That’s a cold grocery store. Sit down, Brendan.”
Nell went to the bottom of the kitchen stairs and shouted up, “Dena! Brendan’s here.”
“All she’s been talking about is how you’re never here,” Nell resumed in a more confidential voice. “And when you do show up, she just… does whatever she’s doing upstairs.”
“I like what you’ve done to the house, Mrs. Reardon,” Brendan's wide, light blue eyes surveyed the ceiling and wallpaper.
“All I’ve done is clean it, Bren,” she said as Dena came down the stairs in a baggy tee shirt and jeans, her long dark hair in a ponytail.
“Okay, so do we watch Rose McGowan's horror movie debut, or do we watch Return of the Homicidal Van?”
“Homicidal Van?” Nell said.
“Yes,” Dena explained. “It’s this old VW peace van that a bunch of protesters were murdered in back in the Sixties. It comes back to avenge them. Sort of like a cross between Christine and Herby the Love Bug.”
“Oh,” Nell said, making a face.
“You know,” Brendan cocked his head, “as bad as Rose McGowan is, that sounds infinitely worse. Let’s watch it.”
They caught hands and ran out of the kitchen and down the hall while Nell shook her head looking after them.


“I’ll make popcorn,” Dena said.
“Well, I’m not just going to sit here and watch the movie while you slave over popcorn.”
“It’s not exactly slaving,” Dena said as she got up. But Brendan hit stop, and followed her out anyway.
By the time he was in the kitchen, she’d already stuck a bag of microwave popcorn in and was watching it, convinced that even after twenty seconds, if ever unattended it could burn.
“What happened to Mom?” Dena wondered.
Brendan shrugged and took down the salt.
“Extra butter?”
“Yes,” she said. “You know, you never gain any weight. It’s not fair.”
Brendan crossed his feet and, leaning against the counter, shrugged.
When the popcorn was done and Brendan had taken out sodas, Dena set to shaking salt and pouring popcorn. And then they went back to the den.
“You know,” she said, setting the bowl down, “I missed you, but I have a feeling I lost a lot of weight when you weren’t around.”
Brendan cackled and tossed kernels into his mouth. They never hit the floor when he did it.
Halfway through the movie, when the Van had come up out of the swamp, covered in shit colored algae, round lights blinking menacingly, and it was about to chase a sheriff down the road, Dena felt Brendan take her hand in his long, cool one.
She placed her head on his shoulder. He was tall, but thin, and he’d always been all angles. Sometimes she wondered, would a strong wind—a considerably strong wind—blow him away.
“You’re my best friend, Dena.”
That caught her off guard.
“What?” He turned to her with those sad, vaguely tilted eyes. He was so pretty to her.
“That’s pretty… strong.”
“I guess,” Brendan shrugged.
“Bigger than some corny I love you.”
“Well, I do love you. But, you are my best friend. You mean so much to me.”
“Thanks, Bren. You mean so much to me too.”
“How long have we been together?”
“About two years.”
“Yeah,” Brendan said, slowly, frowning wisely.
A scream of horror and the rev of the killer van roared from the television.
“Dena?”
“Yeah?”
“I think it’s time we had sex.”

“And then you told him No.”
When Dena said nothing for a prolonged amount of time, Layla repeated
“And then you told him no.”
“Well, not exactly.”
“Not exactly? What the hell do you mean, not exactly? The man says, Dena, let’s watch a gay porn. Dena, I am going to work all the time and never be around. Then he pops out of the blue with, Dena, let’s start having sex? What’s there to think about? Not really anything.”
“Well, when you say it… that way... it makes so much sense. You’re so sensible.”
“And usually you are too. Put his shit out of your mind.
“And what about Milo?”
“What about…?” Dena looked at her. “What about Milo?”
“Well, all this time that Brendan’s been in hiding—”
“He was at work, Layla.”
“Wherever he was, all this time Milo’s been right at your side.”
“But we are friends. Just friends.”
“But he is fine,” Layla observed. “I mean, for a white dude he is definitely fine.”
“Did you just say for a white dude? What is Will?”
“You are completely missing my point.”
“No, I’m not. Your point is ‘What about Milo?' and my point is, ‘There is no Milo.’”
“Does Milo know that?”
“What?”
“Don’t… don’t WHAT me, Dena. Does Milo know that? Ever since he came to town, Brendan has been a no show and you all have been thick as thieves—”
“He knows about Brendan.”
“Maybe he just puts up with you talking about Brendan. Don’t do this, Dena.”
“I haven’t done anything yet.”
“I mean, seriously.”
“Layla!”
Layla put up a hand. “All right already. Oh. By the way,” Layla added, “Did you talk to him about Will.”
“I told him you’d beat the hell out of him if he didn’t make things right with Will.
Layla frowned and said, “I don’t think I ever said that, Dena. But… shit…”she shrugged, “whatever it takes.”


“It’s all right,” Will was saying. “Besides, it’s not like I’m bored. Layla’s a handful.”
“Is it true?” Tom Merrit said. “What they say about Black girls?”
“What do they say about Black girls?” Kenny turned on him with a frown.
“Just… you know…”
On either side of Will, Brendan and Kenny folded their arms across their chests, and Brendan said, “I think you came to the wrong part of the school for a joke like that, Merrit.”
“Uncool,” Kenny pronounced.
Tom Merrit put a hand up in the air and murmured, “Fine…Chill out.” He walked off.
Will turned around and shut his locker while Kenny and Brendan stared stonily after Tom, and then turned around.
“So,” Kenny said with a twinkle in his eyes, “is it true?”
“Kenny—!” Brendan began when he heard Layla Lawden shout his name.
“Layla!”
“Hey, Lay—” Will began, but Layla pulled Brendan by his arm and dragged him to the end of the lockers.
“A word with you. Now.”
“All…..riggght?” he said, looking suspiciously at her.
“Did you just tell Dena you thought the two of you should start screwing?”
“I don’t believe I said that. In fact, I’m sure—”
“Brendan. Don’t bullshit me.”
“And don’t do your,” Brendan snapped his finger and made a small circle, “sistuh’ routine. I’m not afraid of you, Layla.”
“Yes you motherfucking are. And yes you motherfucking should be. Dena is confused and fucked up. She just found out her dad raped her uncle. The shit’s not cool. What you need to do is tell her you were wrong. You were hasty. You need to rethink this shit.”
“Layla,” Brendan straightened up and, face stony, looked down at her. “What happens between me and Dena is me and Dena’s business. And no amount of threatening can change that. Alright? It’s our business. Let us take care of our business.”
“Fine,” Layla said. “Fine, Brendan.. I’ll try begging tactics. I’ll try nice tactics. Howabout, please, don’t do something stupid? That’s all I can say.”
“Layla, how long have you known me?”
“Since we both had snotty noses. and you smelled like graham crackers and spit.”
“I never smelled like spit!”
“You, did. Brendan,” Layla sighed and took a breath. “Fine, Bren. I’m trusting you. All right?”
“I know, Layla. Just… trust me to do the right thing. And quit being such a bully.”
Brendan shrugged, turned up the collar of his blazer and walked back to Kenny and Will while Layla repressed the urge to ask him why he had to do that and tell him to take his collar back down.
“You know what?” Brendan said, as Layla joined them, “They are like that.”
“They?” Layla began, and Kenny burst out laughing while Will made a nervous smile.
“Who the hell is they? They are like that?”
“Don’t worry about it, Lay,” Brendan said.
Layla frowned and shook her head. “I’m going to find out,” she told them. “And when I do, you’ll all be sorry.”
“No, doubt,” Brendan chuckled, putting his hand over his mouth. “No doubt.”

“No cozy family dinner this Sunday,” Fenn said. “Cause I’m going down to East Carmel with Paul.”
“I would love to see you in East Carmel,” Tom sniggered over his coffee.
“Well, you can’t because you’ll be here. Todd will be over at Nell’s so he won’t be lonely. I figured that maybe this will be a time when you and Lee can get together again. Talk.”
“Fenn, what the hell are you doing?”
“Fixing you up with my cousin.”
“Now look here—”
“Now, you look here,” Fenn said. “It’s not like you don’t want me too. Right?”
Tom looked at him.
“Right?” Fenn repeated. “So, stop pretending this embarrasses you. It delights you. I know it. I’ll set the whole thing up. You all can spend the evening together. I know you can’t get enough of him.”
“Well, as you might remember, I’m with Brian.”
“You’re not with Brian. You’re occasionally humping Brian, which is not the same thing. The way you look at Lee… Well, I haven’t know you to be seriously wild about someone in… Well, never, actually. I mean, I imagine it’s hard for anyone to live up to me. It only makes sense that it would take a Houghton to fill a Houghton’s shoes.”
“I think you’re a little nuts.”
“I may be, but I’m a lot right. That I know.”
“Do you know… How he feels about me?”
“Hum?”
“You’re right,” Tom said. “At least a little. Far more than being in love, Lee… holds my interest. I mean, I like being around him. But… it really doesn’t matter if he doesn’t fill the same way about me, does it?”
“Why wouldn’t he?”
“Lee’s sort of, you know, loud and flashy.”
“He’s obnoxious.”
“He’s like you. And your whole family for that matter. He’s… fun. And I’m… I’m just me.”
“Thomas,” Fenn knocked him on the back of a head. “The first time I saw just you, all brooding and brown eyed with that dark hair falling in your eyes and you were so... serious, I knew I’d have to get you attention somehow. It was all I could think of for the better part of a week. You would just be so… quiet, and cool. And then sometimes you would smile and that smile… God! So I did the only thing I could, I skidded into you with my bicycle, and the rest was history.
“Loud, obnoxious men love brooding….quiet… slightly too serious—”
“Thanks Fenn,” Thom smiled out of the corner of his mouth.
“—And mildly anal men such as yourself.”


I guess I’ll be leaving in a few days,” Lee said.
“Where are you going now?”
Lee shrugged and sighed, “I don’t exactly know. I’ll find somewhere.”
“Well,” Tom said, “if you don’t know where you’re going, I mean, if you don’t really have any place to go, then why go? You’ve got a place here. Why can’t you hang around here for a while?”
“I have hung around here for awhile,” Lee said.
“A week.”
“Is there anything else I’ll see in Rossford if I stay longer that I haven’t seen in this week?”
Tom sighed and snapped a breadstick.
“You know what? Back in college I never traveled a long way from home. I always felt bad that I never did the year abroad thing. People talked about how culturally fulfilling it was. All of that. How good travel was for you. I never disagreed. I just didn’t do it.
“But now, Lee, I think there’s such a thing as too much travel. I think there’s something to be said for sitting down and staying in one place. For a little while. I think…” and then Tom stopped himself and bit into his breadstick.
“No,” said Lee. “Go on. You’ve got yourself on a roll. Might as well continue.”
Tom swallowed and pounded his chest.
“Fine. I think too much traveling is just running.”
“That’s a brilliant psycho analysis. You should have become a shrink instead of an organist.”
“You can be cute about it if you want to. I’m just saying.”
Lee Philips believed that most of the things people said, and most of the issues they brought up, were bullshit. But he also had a deep sense of obligation when it came to responding to points that actually contained some truth and were sincerely stated.
So he said: “When you were in school being what you wanted to be, Tom, and probably no one was giving you grief about it, I wanted to be a playwright. I wanted to do that and no matter what I did my parents never believed in any of it. I had to shut their voices out of my head to get anything done. I had to go away to get things done. A lot. And every time I stopped, now and again I met someone I thought understood me. Saw what I saw. But they didn’t. It was just more voices to shut out.
“So, I am not terribly close to very many people, and after awhile most people are sort of… tiresome. The best way to get rid of all the stupid voices and hear my own is to shake them all off.”
“By going away.”
“Yes.”
“But, but that was then, Lee. I’ve seen some of your plays. I’ve read some that I haven’t seen.”
“You just finished reading one right now.”
“Whaddo you mean?”
“The Uppity Knight by Ripley Bogart?”
“What? That’s you? That’s—” Tom burst into a smile. “Of course it’s you!
“Well, see, that’s my point! If that is you, then what’s the problem? You’re great. You’re a powerhouse.”
“I’m me,” Lee said. “I keep my vision clear and wait for the story, and when I do something else, when I start listening to the compliments, well that’s just as bad as all the you can’t do it’s, you’ll never do it, find something practical that I heard when I was… much younger.
“If you want to create, you have to stand on the edge of creation, away from everything else. It’s like… waiting on the edge of the sea, and waiting for the wave to come in.”
Lee observed a feverish look in Tom’s eyes.
“If you could stay awhile, maybe you could get that same feeling here.”
“Maybe,” Lee said, doubtfully.
“Besides,” Tom said, because he sensed he had to, no mincing words would do, “the difference between all those other places and here is me. I’m here. How will you ever know me if you’re not here too?”

“He’s right, Lee,” Fenn said that night as Todd hit him over the head with a pillow and, pulling the blanket off of the couch said, “I’m going upstairs.”
“All right,” Fenn told him. “I’ll be up soon.”
“If he had said some bullshit about how you needed to stop moving around because you weren’t thirty anymore or… how you could write just as well settling here as you could traveling, then I couldn’t side with Tom. But he told you straight up, the one thing you can’t have if you keep rolling around is him. Or anyone else for that matter. And, I think Tom could make you very happy.”
“I haven’t met a lot of men—or a lot of anything—that I felt that way about,” Lee said. “Most people are pretty…”
“Not worth settling down for. Or worth getting to know. I know,” Fenn said. “You’re too like me. You’re too wild, and… alive. And most people…” Fenn shook his head.
“And Tom has the appearance of someone who might be a very dull, ordinary creature.”
“No, he doesn’t,” Lee said quickly.
Fenn looked at him with a raised eyebrow.
“That’s not what I see,” Lee said.
“Really?”
“Really.”
“Well, it’s not what I see either. But, it’s what a lot of people saw. Why they didn’t understand it. Us, I mean. When we were together.”
“Fenn?”
“Yes?”
“Do you want me to be with Tom, or do you just want me to stay here? Or…?”
“Or what?”
“Or do you just want to mess up what he has with Brian?”
“He doesn’t have shit with Brian. Tom wants to know you. To try something with you.”
“He’s only met me twice. Three times at the most.”
“I could be mean and say that’s probably why he likes you so much, or I could be honest and say that people just know what they want. Or what they need.”
Lee sighed, and sat low on the sofa.
“You’re talking him up like he’s so good. But… You left him. He cheated on you. He and that Brian were screwing around behind your back. Hell, they’re screwing around now.”
Fenn shook his head, like he was trying to call himself back from a bit of intoxication. He nodded.
“Tom Mesda gave me ten years of his life. We gave each other that. And we were happy. He and Todd are the people not my blood who know me… better than blood. I’ve known him for almost twenty years, and he is good. I will always love Tom; you have to understand that, and I will always want what’s best for him. And what’s best for you too. And I think you all are best for each other. It’s just how I feel. Nothing can change my mind about that.”

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