The Spearby Adam Poor
They finished the interstate and bought up all the leftover farm country so that after years of only subdivisions and cheap gas we now had a Super Target and a Home Depot and a Bank of America with four lanes of drive-thru ATMs. No longer was there any need of the city at all. Keith and I, wasted, trespassed the construction site of what would become a Walgreens. He found a hammer and I sat and drank and watched him strike down pieces of framing lumber. And as we left I took up a three-foot length of steel conduit and carried it down the street feeling like the rock the river of the world must flow around. His mother's neighborhood was quiet, and when we reached her house it was dark upstairs and lit down. On his dare I hefted the steel. I was above and outside all things. I took three steps and said, Yes, yes, and launched it at her bedroom window. There was a hushed pop as the pipe met glass and entered as smoothly as a needle into cloth. Everything held. Then the pane began to crack. And the cracks spread and the window wilted into itself and then burst against the sill, shards becoming shards. Keith said, Oh shit, and took off. He laughed as he ran. Oh shit, I heard him say again. I tucked a bottle of port we'd stolen and went after him, my sneakers slapping the pavement. All the houses were black in the shadows between the streetlights and an orange sky. I was fast. I ran ahead of Keith and as I did I heard him laughing. Shit, shit, he said behind me. I turned the earth with my running. I was so high my eyes felt woolen and I let them close and as I did, I became terrified of meeting some violent obstruction so I opened them. There was nothing before me but open road so I forced myself to run blind. My throat burned and the wind poured over my face like water. My foot struck something and then there is a gap and then I was sitting on a sidewalk and bleeding from my hands and elbows. Keith was slow. He ran up panting. Idiot, he said, still laughing. I opened my palms. They were scribbled all over black and red. There was no pain. The bottle of port lay shattered and bleeding into someone's lawn. That was amazing, Keith said, I can't believe you actually fucking did it. But I did. I actually fucking did it. Police sirens sounded in the distance. I got to my feet and we ran. At the corner he went one way and I went another and crawled behind a hedgerow and pressed myself against a wall, pulling my knees to my chest. I was breathing hard. I could feel my heart. The blood in my ears hushed me. Shh, shh, shh, it said. Through the leaves I could see the street. The sirens were distant but closing. There was a rise in the pitch of their howling. Soon, I knew, the cruiser would come and find Keith walking down the street with his hands in his pockets. I knew Keith Cottler. He would have no trouble pointing my direction and saying, That way—I saw him run that way. The siren stopped and I waited. The sky was turning purple. There was silence. My breathing slowed. Whatever was coming would come, I thought, so I eased out from behind the hedges and knelt there, watching, and then I rose. They had not found me and would not and so again I felt lawless and free. I had regained a certain peace I called my poet's mode, a private holiness. Keith came from the darkness between two houses and joined me. Your pants, he said. I looked down and saw bloody hand prints smeared on the knees of my jeans. I showed my palms. There was dirt in the wounds.
We walked to the playground and I sat at the top of the slide and lit a crooked joint. The sky was black but only just and had grown angry with heat lightning. Keith lay on his fat belly on one of the swings. He announced his opinions about David Lynch and went back and forth, his knees and his hands brushing the ground with each pass. Then he rolled over and let his hair sweep the worn place where kids dragged their feet. He laughed at me because I hadn't read Ezra Pound. He sang Smiths songs in a Morrissey voice. He sang, I was looking for a job and then I found a job and heaven knows I'm miserable now. He sang and then he stood and stumbled over to the jungle gym and, steadying himself on the fireman's pole, vomited into the woodchips. Hey man, I said but he ignored me, retching. I said louder, Hey, go into the grass. Kids play here. He arched like a cat. A grinding sound came from deep inside him. I blew on the cherry and took a hit. Keith spat. A string of something hung from his mouth. Fuck 'em, he said and spat again. At least cover it up, I said without exhaling and then blew smoke. He turned and looked at me as if I'd asked him to sit down with the family at dinner and say grace. With the side of his foot he scraped woodchips over his vomit. There, dipshit. Happy? he said. He held out his hand. He said, Give me that. He slid sideways across my vision. It's kids, asshole, I said. What was left of the joint I passed him and he hit it, exhaled, hit it, and then hit it again-three times quick. He held it out but I waved it away. Already I could feel too great a distance rising within me. What do you think your mom's going to say? I said. He said, Jesus, don't you get bored with yourself, always worrying? But I liked Keith's mom. She kept Sprite in the fridge because I liked it. Sometimes she tied her hair up with a shoestring. I lay down on the platform at the top of the slide and felt the joint take me completely. I began to fall, sinking into the wood, into the horror of inhabiting a body. There was a sound then like static or a single compression of the heart stretched in time. Shhhh, it said with stopping, shhhhhh. I sat up and blinked hard, trying to shake it. I looked down. Keith stood in front of me, straddling the base of the slide with his pants open and his dick in his hand, pissing onto the slide. He grinned. Thirsty? he said. His piss ran down the metal chute and out between his legs. Go for a slide, he said, Have some fun. I said, Fuck off, and he began to turn, pissed a circle around himself. Then he stood there, grinning, and shook the last drops from his dick into the woodchips and then pulled back into his pants and zipped up. You're a fucking asshole, I said. Goddamn it, he said, you are so fucking boring. I always forget how humorless and fucking boring you are. And then I stood. Everything within me turned to fire. I made fists. I jumped from the platform and fell when I landed but caught myself. Keith backed away. He could see what was in me. There was a limb on the ground and I bent for it. He stumbled, tripped over the swing, and became twisted in the chains. I swelled. I became a giant, a god over him as I lifted the branch and beneath me, in the dust, he trembled.
It was some relief when I heard that after summer he left for Vanderbilt. But he was soon caught plagiarizing a paper and in the review they found a spreadsheet on his laptop cataloging a minor cocaine trade he'd been running in the Rec. His father had him withdrawn and enrolled at the University of Florida and, later, Georgetown Law. These days he splits his time between D.C. and Costa Rica, where he keeps a place on the beach. I stayed in town and got a degree. Afterwards I tended bar, then found a better job and met the girl I ended up marrying. She is a wonderful woman. If you were turned out of your house she would take you in. We bought a little two-bedroom with a porch and a yard, got a little dog, had a kid. Our boy just turned fifteen. He's on the track team. You should see him run. Some nights, after dinner, I drink beer on our porch and, other nights, bourbon. My wife believes night depresses me. Once, early in our marriage, she came out crying. It was near midnight and the boy was in bed and I was still standing there alone, watching stars. She asked me horrible questions. She worried that I secretly hated her, hated our life together. She thought I spent my nights dreaming of other lives, of freedoms I believed I'd been denied. Nowhere in her talk was there thought of leaving me. That is what her kindness means. I took her by the waist and kissed her forehead. It's nothing like that, I said, I just like the quiet. Probably by then I'd had eight or nine already. I can't recall what she said but I know she smiled. Her hands trailed down my sleeve to my fingers and she made as if to pull me with her as she drifted back into the house. And after she'd gone, I had one more.
Last night, my boy came home drunk. I met him in the living room at three in the morning. I spoke to him about responsibility. I said I had a right to his respect. He wouldn't look at me and then he laughed. So I began to yell. Look at me, I said. Look me in the face. And he did. He faced me squarely and when he did I saw that he had grown. He stood loose in his body, easy. He seemed to radiate and it caused something dead in me to stir. I went towards him and took him hard by the wrists. My wife by then had stepped into the doorway. The boy struggled to wrench loose but I held him. His face drained of force, becoming horrible and sweet. My wife took my arm and pulled but I could feel my own strength pressing against the smallness of her fingers. There was power in my shoulders, in my fists. Rising in me was a joyous liberty. She screamed. Stop, she said. Stop, you're hurting him. But some things, some things, you just cannot leave unpunished.