“Wrong" by Todd Grimson, page 6

        It was sort of awkward, saying goodbye when her plane was called. We really didn't know each other, we didn't even know if we liked each other. So we hugged, and perfunctorily kissed, but it didn't feel right. I didn't know what to say. The last look between us was like we had just met.
        Two days later, my father wanted his car back. He was going to sell it. He'd met some guy in a tavern who was going to come over and check it out.
        I could remember, back when my father and my mother were still married, one time he'd bought an outboard motor when he didn't own a boat. Out in the garage, in a big oil drum filled with water, he'd pull the cord and start that motor, and marvel at it, and my sister and I would marvel too. But there was no place for that outboard motor to go.
        Predictably, you might say, on the third morning after Crystal left I woke up with a terrible burning when I peed. I knew what it was, and I just thought it was funny, in some stupid way – and I didn't mind. It seemed right. I went to the County Health and had the diagnosis confirmed. They gave me a shot of penicillin.
        My younger sister took me, and afterwards we visited some fucked-up friends of hers out on Southeast 74th, near Powell. It was a white clapboard house, where everyone seemed to come and go, and my sister got so drunk on Almaden wine that she passed out. I stayed up talking and smoking cigarettes, all night, with this girl named Mary Sue. Before it was light we went for a long walk and ended up at a diner, where we had pancakes and coffee with a lot of truck drivers who seemed to be on speed.
        Back at that house, I fell asleep on the couch in the living room, and my sister woke me up at noon or so to tell me that she'd just talked to our mom, something had happened to our dad.
At the hospital, when we were allowed in to see him, my father looked horrible. He'd been beaten up very badly, he had a concussion and both legs were broke. They'd cut off his left ear.
        He had been uncooperative with the police.
        My father's wife was in there, and she glared at me. She was a barmaid, the second barmaid he had wed. She had never liked me, I don't know why. I had hardly seen my father these last few years. His hair had gone gray, and his brown face was sunken in around his false teeth. Alcohol had really taken its toll.
        Only when I heard him no say that "niggers" had done it, and the Chrysler had been set on fire, did I begin to realize that his misfortune had any connection to me. I wasn't exactly sorry, or repentent, I was just listening to what was going on around me… as his wife was muttering something ridiculous about how her son (who worked in a gas station out in Estacada) and his friends would wreak revenge.
        I was tired, and I yawned, without trying to cover my mouth, and just then, as I was yawning, my father opened his eyes and saw me there. He looked awful, his face swollen purple and red, white bandages around the crown of his head, some black stitches showing.
        He finally said, "I told them it was you. I told them it was you in that damn car. You see what they did to me? How do you like it? I gave them your address." The memory of this seemed to give him some vicious pleasure, and he smiled.
        He was no one I'd ever known in my life.
        My sister drove me sixty miles south down to Salem, though she was still shaky and sick from being so drunk the night before, and I took the Greyhound bus from there to Sacramento, then Reno, on to Denver and beyond.
        I tried to think really hard about what I should do with myself. I didn't want to be the same person as before.
        But even when I made it to St Louis, there was really no escape. There was failure everywhere.
        I learned to pretend I didn't care. Like an actor, putting on an act, even when I was all alone. Or when I was with some other Crystal, helping her not look at herself in a mirror.
        I lived in a house and had a lawn-mower after a while.
        My life in Broward County Florida.
        "You just about done?" Crystal said.
        "Sure, babe."
        The sunshine was like a slow-motion black and white atomic bomb, destroying the houses, X-raying our bones, frying off our flesh. But we hardly knew. We didn't want to think about what might have gone wrong with our lives.
        There was a huge noise but we were all deaf. Soon we would be blind.


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