and dinners and free Sunday-morning babysitting. My mother neverbought into the passion of it, never prayed with much faith or fervencyuntil she met Cal. Then she was a woman swept up in the romance of everything. I came back from my second year of college, and she’d elopedto Hawaii. Once she had Cal, she didn’t much need me, a leftover fromthat old, unredeemed life.
After cleaning up, I stepped outside to call Matthew, who had kepthis job as band director back in Madison. We’d become friends overlunchtime smoke breaks and started dating mostly out of boredom. Therelationship was never more than lukewarm, but it was also comfortableand convenient. I had one last Lucky Strike from the pack he’d gifted methe day I left, and I was used to the background noise of his sighs andgrievances while I smoked.
“Wouldn’t you want to travel or do something?” I asked him. “Should
I take her on a vacation?”
“Hard enough to travel when you’re healthy, let alone when you’re
sick. I had food poisoning once, on my way back from Bulgaria. Disas-
Matthew had achieved a spot of fame (his words) when he was
younger. He’d traveled across the world playing with bands and sym-
phonies. This helped with job security now but decreased the possibility
of job satisfaction. “Another school year,” he said. “Every day I think a
little longer about shoving a drumstick down my throat.”
He had the usual gamut of complaints. Incompetent administrator,
spoiled teenagers, overwrought parents. Now that I’d been expunged
from that world, I craved its familiar miseries.
“You’re lucky, you know,” he said. “You got out. You can make a fresh
start of it. Sometimes I wonder if what I need is a good kick to the curb.”
“You can always quit.”
Another sigh. “Don’t have it in me. My ashtray attests.”
We said good night and made no effort to schedule another call. Be-
fore I could get back inside, my phone buzzed again. I put it to my ear
without checking the screen. “Forgot something?”
“I saw you. What are you trying to pull?”
His voice made me freeze. “Pete? Is something wrong?”
An angry pause. “You tell me.”
“How did you get my number?” But then I remembered writing it out
on a scrap of yellow paper for Rosalind. I pictured her sticking it on the
fridge or setting it on their granite counters.