The Ankle Breaker (from Origins)

For Soon Wiley

 

You know, I once read an interesting book which said that, uh, most people lost in the wilds, they, they die of shame.  Yeah, see, they die of shame.  ‘What did I do wrong?  How could I have gotten myself into this?’  And so they sit there and they … die.  Because they didn’t do the one thing that would save their lives.

 David Mamet, The Edge, 1997

 

 

I told him after a dinner party for the cast of my latest show.  What in my head I always thought of as “The Ankle-Breaker,” because that title at once cloaks the painful truth and somehow says it all.  I told him in the new Aston Martin, the Rapide I lavished on him after we saw it at the car show at the Javits Center where we took Killer for his 14th birthday.  The party – I’m back to the party – was on a rooftop overlooking the Village.  They’d strung those old 70s-style tiki lights, yellow, green, and orange.  The Palisades was empty on the way home.  He was stunned, I could tell.  I shivered from the shoulders as I confessed—why hadn’t I ever told him before?  He pulled off at Anthony Wayne, and we parked in the giant parking lot under Bear Mountain so I could finish.  I didn’t cry.  At one point I had to stifle an obscene, funereal grin.  Shame fogged the windshield.

***

Killer came to us via the horse barn up the road from our new house.  The realtor called it a “castle.”  Sure enough, it has a medieval flair, all stone bridges, gothic windows, and trusses made of oak.  “I’ll bring my own incubus,” I said, and this joke fell flat.  The realtor never told us that the horse barn rehabilitated troubled teens from the City; we heard it from neighbors who brought over a half-raw crumb cake, and whispered that they locked their doors and windows after dark.

In the months that followed, we discovered the kids learn discipline at “Equu-Liberty.”  Stern guardians assign each child a particular horse for the duration of their stay, and each takes responsibility for every aspect of the animal’s care.  They have to wake up early; I see them at work when I walk the dogs right after dawn.  They learn how to groom the horses and feed them, and how to clean their hooves.  They learn how to tack them up and ride them, too, and what to do when they get sick, injured, or pregnant.  Killer isn’t really a killer, of course, or we never would have fostered him.  Benjamin just calls him “Killer” because they both like the idea of the kid being some kind of badass, even though we all know he’s got a heart of honey.  Before we knew him, he ran his horse, Newton, every morning, and when I saw him shirtless and straining in the sun like that, I thought of me and Zack on the Ankle-Breaker 25-odd years ago, and it nearly broke my heart.

In five months, Killer became officially ours, strewing his jeans and his Permanent Puppy concert tees on the wide-plank floor of the choir loft with the loggia that faces the pool.  We bought Newton, too, from Equu-Liberty, for $11,175, which seems such a random number, yet a small price to pay.

***

Back in the day, Zack and I didn’t fall into any particular clique, delinquent or otherwise.  He might have been a jock but he couldn’t stand their posturing.  He ran at first to impress his father, the Colonel, and then because he fell in love with it.  He ran cross-country because he was so goddamn good.  He ran alone, mostly, but once a week, on Sundays, super-early, he allowed me to run down the Ankle-Breaker with him, and he slowed down for me.  I couldn’t possibly have loved another human any more than I loved Zackary Riley.  I’ve never loved like that again, though, in a strange way, Killer’s coming close.

Benjamin always knew there was something about that boy from my past.  I used to blow it off, or minimize:  “Oh, it was only kid stuff,” I told him.  Nothing could be further.  He pined for details, and suffered, and wondered how I could be so coy, or so cruel.  We had never established an explicit “no secrets” rule, but after 17 years, it goes without saying you don’t stable your self away from your spouse.

I never intended to take anyone else down the Ankle-Breaker—especially someone else I loved.  It was my path alone to ramble in dishonor.  But the magazine story I recently read about Zack Riley, the world-class weapons engineer, and “the talk” we recently delivered to Killer re:  girls (or a certain girl), both stirred up all the stones there under the mud of that disused trail.  Dirt of indignity.

 

***

When I met Benjamin, he was an actor, and I directed plays.  He was an excellent actor, and I, a mediocre, albeit award-winning, director.  We were both 31½.  He made almost no money, and I’d already amassed a fortune from several accidental hits in which adorable actors showed their bums and their soft sides.  Now Benjamin’s an ex-actor, a happy house-husband, with a major in landscape design, and I still direct, with a minor in morbid depression.  Directing doesn’t satisfy, except in the accounting realm.  Now I direct adorable puppets (who show their bums) and win the occasional Tony for getting Hollywood hunks to reveal their vulnerability.

Our “medieval manse,” as Benjamin calls it, cost $4.8 million if you include (which I do) the stacked-stone fireplaces, and this was not a stretch.  Benjamin gets to manage a foundation of $500,000, which allows him access to about 50 grand a year.  Most of it he funnels to liberal causes; think orphaned elephants and homeless HIV-addled waifs.  I’m “talking in telephone numbers,” I know.  These are not the numbers that matter a whit.  I like the number 3, for the three in my new family.  One is a good number, too, we tell Killer.  One is the number of testicles he possesses, the One having lost its mate to the vagaries of the universe – well, one specific emissary – when he was a few years younger.  This is not a talk – the balls, their number – most foster dads relish undertaking with their foster sons.  But ours has built a shrine to Permanent Puppy, his favorite band, and professed undying devotion to its lead singer, a wraithlike brunette named Grandiloquent Gabby, who tattooed diamonds over her nipples; he proclaimed of late he would make her his wife, if only he could overcome what seems to him an insurmountable deficiency behind the zipper of his 501 Blues.

But I have found The One, I tell him.  And I am thinking:  Even Zack, for the Love of God, Zack Riley, broken into shards, has a wife who put him back together.

I often wonder what Zack would make of me now.  He predicted I would find Benjamin.  And in the meantime, I compensated for the loss of Zack by getting filthy rich.  On the base, nobody’s father made more than $40 thou, I don’t think.  Nobody would have considered my kind of “theater” a worthy place to occupy a profession:  Bums are for blowing up on foreign strands, and not for showing on stage.  Zack had wanted to be a pilot, at first, but by 14, after his father had arranged for a harrowing, upchucking fly-along, he decided that he should become an Army surgeon instead.  The Colonel was proud.  But he would spend the bulk of his days thereafter pounding Captain Morgan to swamp his shame – this had to be true – that he’d slapped the shit out of his son that morning before his last run.

There was a trail behind our houses, two and half miles long.  At some point, the Army had intended to build more family housing on it, but gave up when the base barely survived the budget cuts of the ’80s.  The trail twisted downhill through mostly pine woods, and in the rain it became a little river.  For years, the water had rutted the trail, and dug up stones, large and small.  Zack dubbed it, “The Ankle-Breaker.”  It was stupid to run on it, really.  He’d already hurt himself there once, jabbing a tooth right through his lip, and snapping his ankle.  If that wasn’t enough—dozens of black bears resided there, too, some 500 pounds, and riled by the nearby ordnance.

***

I don’t know whether the judge deliberately sent Killer to Equu-Liberty, considering the nature of his “crime,” or if it was just an odd correspondence.  He had run away from home in Canton, Ohio, when he was remarkably young.  Imagine the circumstances that would drive a boy thus.  He hoofed it to Red Hook, Brooklyn, with a very rough-and-tumble kid he’d met on the road—Red Hook before it was gentrified.  They squatted in an old loft office in a coffin warehouse, long-condemned.  Rough-and-Tumble crossed the river nightly to make them hot dog and Kool-Aid money the old-fashioned way.  Then one night he never came home, the casualty, perhaps, of too rough a tumble.

Killer did not care for the warehouse once he was alone.  He could swear he heard growling, and he often felt a “presence” there in the dark.  After a week or so frozen, he mustered the courage to conduct some dawn recon.  It should be noted that at this point, our boy’s scrotum still hosted a twosome.  From a shared, rusty balcony / fire escape, Killer finally met and befriended a hermit who lived down the hall behind a door that was barred from the outside.  The hermit paid him to buy meat at the butcher, and deliver it weekly to the window, raw.  He soon learned the hermit kept a Bengal tiger in that squat.  Some 400 pounds, she was magnificent like a dragon.  Her eye was the size of an eight ball.  Her purring vibrated the Plexiglas window.  Slowly and carefully, the hermit introduced the boy and the big cat.  The recluse suffered numerous infirmities of the skin, joints, and eyes.  When one morning the hermit fell into a stuporous fit, Killer crawled in through the window and watched the tiger, unblinking, for an hour as she licked her paws and whiskers, before moving toward the man.  He stayed to take care of him and of Sheba.  He stayed several months, feeding liquor and limes to the hermit, and hamburger meat and chops (all pilfered) to his companion.

Then the hermit died.  He had to stuff the scabrous loner into one of the old coffins that had been leaning against a wall in the office, presumably some sample, push it down the stairs, and drag it in the dark on a metal skate he found in the warehouse, seemingly designed for that purpose, to an abandoned cannery nearby.  This feat devoured four hours and three of his toenails.  He pushed the coffin down an elevator shaft to the basement, where it splintered into bits.  He offered a three-second prayer.  Sheba licked his bloody foot, and he nursed it next to a newspaper fire.  He couldn’t leave her.  For a year, he and the tiger slept entwined in their lair, sometimes stalking through the former suite of offices in the casket sales department, sometimes venturing down the metal stairs.  The caskets had been stored in rows and rows of wooden shelves, six high, and she liked to leap up and crawl through an empty hole, hanging her paws out the other side, and sleeping.  Or prowling down the aisles for reckless rats.  Killer seldom left the warehouse.  They chuffed to each other to fall asleep.  They loved each other deeply.  When he needed money to feed her and himself, he washed in the river, and ferried to the City to do what he had to do.

***

On the Ankle-Breaker one Sunday, I told Zack that I loved him.  We were 15, and I had loved him for five long, throbbing, agonizing years.  I said, “You know how you talk about Allison Binger?  The way you feel about her when you think of her, you know …” and he said, “Yeah …?”

And I said, looking at my sneakers, “Well, that’s how I feel about you.”

He kept running, about a quarter of a mile, carefully picking around the larger stones, and not once looking over.  Then he stopped, his hands on his hips, and locked eyes with me.  One of us was out of breath.  We could hear them testing artillery on the range, and I could hear wax crackling in my left ear.  He sat on a boulder that a bulldozer had shoved to the side when they made the road.  I said, “Fuck—I’m sorry.”

He said, “Why sorry?”

“I fucked everything up.”

He stood up and came toward me.  I backed away.  He said, “Hey,” so I stood still.  He hugged me.  I’d never been hugged before.  Not like that.  His hands were on the small of my back, and he pulled us together.  I bit my lip so hard it nearly bled.  We were breathing together.  I felt everything.  Sweat.  The bulk behind his shorts.  Then he put his hands on my shoulders.  I tried to catch my breath.  He said, “Peter—I’m sorry.”  I started to cry.  He said, “I’m not … But you know.  I love you.”

We parted, just a foot.  My lungs were full of mud.  “Not that way, though,” I said.  He smiled at me.  I could see my breath, faint, but I couldn’t see his.  I said, “You see that rock over there?  The gray, jagged one?  Could you pick it up—”

“Dude—”

“—and bash my skull until you kill me?”

He smiled wider.  I couldn’t.  He said, “Now we gotta make up this coupla‘ minutes you cost us.  Come on … queer!”  And he started to run.

So I ran.

***

Benjamin cut the key to me.  I had long before vowed that when I found a man who “got” me – the so-called real me – yet still found grounds to love me, I would never leave him.  And I stuck to that.  Before him, there were some truly shitty years, though—some really bad men.  One bad man for every other letter of the alphabet, and two for “Q.”  Now every day together with Benjamin – with several spectacular exceptions – gets incrementally better for us, and when I find myself alone, or with the dogs or horses, or by the pool while he’s playing poker with his buddies, I thank God for my lot.  I take tremendous care of Newton.  Epic care.  I spend hours in his paddock, in his stall.  I take the kind of care one takes when one takes little care of self and other in childhood.  A while back, Newton began to feel like my daemon, until I could sense him beside me when I was in the City, and when I was dreaming.  And this daemon was only half Newton.  The other half was Killer, or a kind of half-Killer, half-Zack combo-pack.

***

I grew up through shards of glass.  Zack and Ally got serious.  Her father was a quartermaster who worked for the Colonel.  One morning, she cornered me in Home Economics.  She held a wooden spoon of mushroom gravy in front of her sweater.  She said, “We’re going to the game on Friday, and since you’re not playing and since you’re not going with Zack, you’re not going.  Get it?”

I started to like another guy, a kid in my band class (second sousaphone).  This was a great relief to the three of us, but it turned my insides into that mushroom gravy with the onion lumps.  The kid and I joked around a bit, and threw a Frisbee during lunch.  I summoned the balls (two) to invite him over that Friday night to play Atari.  He brought 11 new cartridges.  It ended very badly, like it did for the dinosaurs.

That Sunday morning, at the end of our run – uphill was so much harder – Zack took my hands and told me I would someday find a boy who could see me.  “I promise you’ll get a guy so much better than that douche noodle, so much better than me.”

“I doubt it.”

“Peter.  I fucking promise.”

Enter Ally.  She came to surprise her man with some kind of breakfast picnic thing.  She was really just trying to horn in on our Sunday runs.  She saw us like that, our hands, and turned, and floated away.  I let go of him before he let go of me, and he said, “Sorry,” and moved after her.  He didn’t run, but walked with a sense of urgency, the way his father was famous for moving his troops in training.  Allison Fucking Binger.

***

Killer says all the guys are shaving their balls now.  “It’s because of Xtube” (whatever that means) “so it’s easy to see his ‘situation.’  It’s, like … you know … a half-empty package of Hostess cupcakes.”

“Or half-full, if you’re an optimist,” says Benjamin.

“Look, the right girl’s not gonna care, Killer.  She’s gonna love you for—”

“That’s bullshit and you fuckin‘ know it.  It might be true about the scar.  Chicks dig scars.  I get that.  But a missing ball?  That’s a deal breaker, Dudes.”

***

My house is the first house off-base, and Zack’s is the first one on base.  Technically, we’re neighbors, but there’s a stone wall topped with barbed wire between the two houses.  We started talking to each other over that wall when he called to me once when we were 10.  He had broken his ankle on the trail, and his mother helped him into his backyard, propped him on a lounge chair to do his homework.  I was playing with my dog, and he heard the barking.  He shouted over the wall, “Sounds like an assassin.  Titanium teeth.”

I said, “Buboe?  Nah.  A hundred pounds of wuv.”

Now five years later, for a few weeks after the Ally surprise, he makes no appearance on my side of the wall.  But I hear them talking.

Even though our houses are a mere 100 yards apart, it takes 10 minutes to go up the street, through the gate, and back down the base road to get to Zack’s front door.  But the day I hear over the wall his father berate him for showing me mercy, I make it there in six.

The Colonel is AWOL.  He hit Zack in the mouth, and then both of them bolted, in opposite directions—the Colonel to the parade grounds, and Zack to the Ankle-Breaker.  His mother tells me it’s best to leave them both alone.  I say, “Mrs. Riley …” and she says, “Peter.  Is this what you want for rest of your life?  Destroying other boys’ lives?”

Mushroom soup.

***

Benjamin unhooks his seatbelt.  He says, “Is it OK to hug you?”  I say it is.  I can feel on my neck that he’s crying, but he’s not making any sound.  I push him gently on the chest, and he settles back in his seat.  He loves the sound of the leather seats creaking.  He says, “Why didn’t you ever tell me this shit?”

I say, “Yech.”

He says, “Articulation extraordinaire.  Did you think I wouldn’t …?”

“I don’t know.  There’s all kinds of shit I haven’t told you.”

“I don’t like the sound of that.”

“Let’s go home.”

He buckles back up, and starts the car.  He could cum to the sound of that 5.9-liter V12.  We drive silently out of the park.  Half an hour later, the windshield bumps the tennis ball hanging from the ceiling of our six-car garage.  We haven’t spoken in all that time.

“And this Zack is still among us?” he says, as we enter the mud room.

“That’s the fucked-up part.  I just saw his picture in a magazine.  He’s got all his hair, and all those fake teeth they gave him—they were all bashed in.  Or maybe it’s another set, once he grew out of the first ones; I don’t know.”  My throat needs clearing.

“So they didn’t kill him that day?”

“That’s not what I said.”

In the kitchen, we quiet the dogs.  We pay the sitter, Tait, and walk her out to her car.

Killer should not be awake this late, but he is, playing some insanely savage game on his cell phone.  He says he wants to go swimming.  We tell him it’s 1 in the morning.  He says, “Man, you’re all worse than prison,” and Benjamin laughs.

“C’mon, what do you say?”

“OK, why the fuck not?”

“Cool,” says Killer.  “And let’s have s’mores!  Taint didn’t even know what they were.”

“It’s Tait.  She’s from Scandinavia.  S’moreless territory.”

“Warden Pete can arrange the snacks.  We’ll see you outside in a mo.”

Changing into our bathing suits, Benjamin says, “If that never happened, then I never would have met you, would I?”  Probably not.  “So, then, I have to be glad it happened.”  He sits on the bed and watches me.  “What’s the last thing you said to Zack?”

I look in the mirror.  I’m getting the first discernible paunch of my life.  I sit on the floor.  Killer and the dogs are already out by the pool; I can hear them.  He commands them.  They love it.  “I was … screaming.”

“Oh, Peter.”

“No.  That’s the thing.  I was screaming in my head.  He was just … there.  He wasn’t yelling at all.  I couldn’t understand that.  He was … looking at me, though.  So I was screaming in my head for both us.  ‘Make him stop!  Don’t let him do that!’  Like that.  But it doesn’t count as the last thing I said to him, because I didn’t say shit.”  Benjamin grinds his teeth.  “It’s OK.  I’m OK.  It was a long-ass time ago.”

He gets up, slowly, walks over to the mirror looking like his father in Phoenix.  He takes out his contact lenses, deftly.  “You know there was nothing you could do, right?  You were just a kid.  Him, too.  You must have thought he was strong, but—”

“All right.  Downstairs before everyone drowns.”

“So, we will we never speak of this again?”

“We will never speak of this again.”

The pool reflects off the limestone in the back arbor, and we can hear the horses down the road.  Benjamin and Killer sing some ridiculously raunchy song by Permanent Puppy.  It’s awesome that Benjamin knows all the words.  Clunge?  Rebar?  They are laughing like little children.  Yes, that gnarly scar on Killer’s abdomen that passes down below his waistband ought to be a badge of honor, and surely not an emblem of any shame.  If he feels there’s a piece of him missing, though, shouldn’t we as his fathers help him find it?

***

From time to time, a few other rent boys, crack kids, and assorted urchins squatted at the casket warehouse:  Killer mainly kept to himself with Sheba.  One day, an unfortunately eager young woman from DCFS knocked on some doors there, a catcher in the Red Hook rye.  Killer, of course, didn’t answer the door, but a trail of fresh (cow’s) blood leading up the stairs into their quarters raised alarms, and she radioed the authorities.  They came later that day, stealthily, and dashed the door in with a battering ram.  He was asleep in his boxers with Sheba, who was upside-down, paws in the air.  Who expects a Bengal tiger in Brooklyn?  Righting herself and swiping toward the nearest SWAT goon, she inadvertently tore across the kid’s belly and groin with four-inch claws.  The commanding officer ordered them to hold their fire—the boy held the tiger around her neck with one arm, and with the other tried to hold in the blood.  They backed out and beckoned animal control.  Half an hour later, they knocked out the remaining glass of the fire escape window with boot soles, and shot Sheba with several darts.  Five minutes later, paramedics and a veterinarian tended to the killers in that building, then the police tore those lovers apart.

***

I see the tan Humvee way down the Ankle-Breaker, and it makes me stop.  I’ve only once before seen a vehicle on the trail, when some little girl got lost, and they deployed the whole base to find her, with the Colonel in the fire tower growling orders.  My feet move, and I run past the truck.  The driver’s side wheels are jammed in a rut, and the right front wheel is up off the dirt a few inches, slowly spinning.  One door is open.  No one’s inside.

I hear their voices before I see them.  On edge.

I see a soldier down the hill.  He’s in camo pants, no shirt.  He’s facing away from me, rocking.  I like the shape of the hair that’s shaved at the back of his neck.  Eagle tat on his back.  Then I come around a boulder at a little bend.

I’ve seen Zack naked before, a few times.  But not like this.

I’ve never seen a man.

The naked man – his pants are bunched down by his boots – is stretched on top of Zack, and he says, dragging all his vowels, to the one who’s standing, “Why don’t you find us a niiice … biiigstiiick?”

***

For Killer’s 15th birthday, we manage to track down Sheba.  Thanks to the strenuous advocacy of the social worker, they sent her to an exotic animal farm in Pennsylvania, and didn’t put her down, despite that she’d maimed Killer, unintentionally or not.  We don’t tell the boy where we’re going.  Just that it’s a surprise.  Twice on the drive, he asks whether we’re planning to dump him somewhere in the Allegheny Forest.

He’s never cried in front of us before, but, holding the bars, he weeps, and doesn’t wipe his cheeks.  He wants to go in.  We won’t let him, of course, and neither will the keeper.  Sheba knows it’s him.  She rubs her fur against the bars, and chuffs and moans.  He wants so bad to touch her.  He pulls his hands up into his sleeves.  She sniffs his sneakers.

Benjamin and I walk away with the keeper under the pretense of visiting a three-legged cheetah.  We can hear Killer talking to Sheba, but we can’t hear what he says.  Something about the tone and the diction, though—he’s talking to her as though she were human.

On the way home, we stop at a nowhere diner with jukeboxes in every booth, and Killer insists we play “Eye of the Tiger,” which he’s never heard.  Halfway through, he says, “Lame.”  He orders a grilled cheese with tomatoes, extra crispy fries.  We’ve trained him to eat more slowly.  He says, “One time, I was asleep, and I woke up, and she was licking me, on my stomach.”  He pulls up his shirt.  “Right here, where the scar is now.  I could feel her teeth.  And her tongue was so fucking heavy, like, I don’t know, a steak or something.  And she would lay down with her head there and I could hardly breathe.  And I scratched her ears.  I forgive her.  It’s just a fucking ball, Man.”

He picks up his sandwich and holds it, doesn’t bite.

Benjamin rubs the back of Killer’s neck.  He smiles at me across the booth.  Our son.

I say to Killer, “So you’re really OK with this whole … arrangement?  Us?  You’ve never asked us any questions.”

“Like Sex Ed kinda stuff?  Ins and outs, you mean?  I know the drill.  Been there, done that.  Manhattan Central.”

Yeah, we know.  “No, I mean, like, relationship questions.  Commitment stuff.  For the future missus, Grandiloquent Gabby.”

He takes several bites.  Gulps a good deal of his iced tea.  Wipes his mouth.  Good boy.  He looks at each of us in turn.  “Are you gonna eat them pickles?”

***

Zack Riley married an exchange student he met at college.  He didn’t marry Ally.  Ally got pregnant by a soldier while she was still in high school.  The soldier got deployed somewhere, and she stayed in town, took a job at the Laundromat, and gained about 12 pounds a year before plateauing past 300.  Zack’s wife is from Namibia; a pediatrician, thin and reedy.  They have five children; they had six, but one of them got hit by a postal truck and died when he was nine.  Zack invented a gun you could shoot around corners.  The company he founded made a lot of money with government and police contracts, but the Rileys donated most of it to rehabilitate child soldiers in West Africa.  It’s a paradox.  Like the way he held me, sweaty and perfect that morning on the Ankle-Breaker, and how I could feel all of him, and it was crushingly beautiful.  And like those soldiers broke him there, so close to that same spot so soon after.

***

In August, together, after much palpation and juggling, we choose a saline testicle over silicone for Killer’s new “boy.”  All three of us, symmetrical and replete now, huddle together in Killer’s recovery room and watch ridiculous car-chase movies chockablock with big-titted chicks for three days straight while he eats chicken noodle soup and ice cream.  In September, together we see a Permanent Puppy show, and thanks to a generous donation I make to one of the band’s favorite charities – something or other to do with Chernobyl moose – I purchase for Killer a primo ticket to a dinner afterward, at which he gets to schmooze with Grandiloquent Gabby herself, and she gives him a kiss and her e-mail address.  He returns home in a limo, apple-cheeked and giddy.

In November, Benjamin leads us on a hike near West Point, and when three handsome cadets in fleece overtake us on a run, I am transported, and plop on a stone for many minutes; Killer touches my shoulder, and Benjamin kneels in front of me, his breath blooming.  For years after the Ankle-Breaker, I endured, along with migraines, stints of what I’ve since come to learn that clinicians call “sleep paralysis.”  But I was awake; I could read the spines on the books on my night table, see the lamp on the dresser, the curtains billowing in the breeze from the direction of the base where Zack’s teeth lay scattered in the loam.  And I could feel on my lips the breath of a warm and hairy fiend the size of a woodland ape, squatting on my chest, dull-eyed and weighty, making it impossible for me to move or catch the breath to scream for my father.  Is he back?

That Sunday after West Point, Killer takes Newton up to Equu-Liberty to run him and hang with old buds, and Benjamin goes over the state line to price bluestone for our new guest quarters.  In the little pool house where our kid gets up to no good with his two boys and his spank bank of Gabby and gals, I take the magazine profile of Zack, and study the photo again.  Those teeth!  And curled up in Killer’s Papasan chair, I bite down hard on my lower lip, and tilt my head back until the blood drips steadily down my throat.