Here's another short story I wrote soon after my divorce from my first-wife. In it, "Justin" is my real brother (my sexual abuser), and Carole was his real mistress. Andy is me (not my real name).

In The Evening

A gray-spotted boxer trotted down the street, its cheeks bouncing up and down, up and down. The yellow lawn mower sat cooling off in the front yard, ticking every now and then, and the evening sun made long shadows through the pine trees. Queen Anne's Lace and tall, dead grass that looked like wheat grew in the ditch where the mower couldn't reach, the banks too steep. Andy sat in the white beach chair out on the lawn, both his hands wiping the sweat from his face with a yellow-striped dish towel. He ran the towel up his face and through his hair, rubbing it well there, then dropped it onto the arm of the chair. His white shorts blended with the peeling flat white of the chair; his feet were dirtied green and brown, except for where his sandals had been, and there was dirt between his toes.

His pale legs never tanned, and he had freckles that ran across his back and down each thin arm. He used to think that he would be tanned by his mid-twenties and that his body would bloom into something better, more presentable.

He saw a familiar silver Toyota come around the curve of the street and enter his gravel driveway. Carole got out with a brown beer bottle in one hand, cigarette case in the other and walked across the yard to him.

She was short and small and though she was in her early thirties, gray showed in her rust-colored hair. Her glasses looked too big for her face and she wore a green and black print safari-looking shirt, leaves running all over it.

He was embarrassed of his body and wrapped the small dish towel around his neck so that it lay covering part of his chest.

"Hi," she said.

"Hi."

She sat in the chair next to him.

"Been mowing the yard?"

"Yeah."

"It looks good. I love the grassy smell." She took a drink, then settled back into the chair beside him and lighted a cigarette. Brown sparrows hopped across the grass, digging for food. The boxer came trotting back up the street.

"Want some lemonade?" Andy asked, holding up his half-empty glass to her and not knowing what else to say.

"No. You want a beer? I got a couple more in the . . ."

"No."

After a moment, she asked "Have you seen Justin today?"

He told her that he hadn't seen his brother for the last several days, but he'd probably come by today since it was Saturday.

She nodded and they sat silent a moment before she began again.

"Do you think he'll ever leave Rachel?"

"Probably someday," Andy lied.

"He keeps saying that he has to wait for just the right time," she said. "He says I just don't understand and he can't just up and leave the kids there and all. Well, I'm tired. I'm tired, I'm tired, I'm tired."

Andy lifted his glass off the arm of the chair and drummed his fingertips in the ring of water left there.

"You're lucky," he said without looking at her.

"Me lucky? How am I lucky?"

"You got a husband and Justin. Most of us would settle for just one person. I know I would."

She lit another cigarette and smiled. "You'll find a girl, someday."

He smirked and thought about when he was young, when his grandmother was always saying that about his uncle, Jesse. "He'll find a nice girl, someday," she would say. "My cousin Herbert didn't get married until he was forty-eight. And he had three children after that. Jesse'll find a nice girl some day. There are a lot of nice girls that would like Jesse."

But Jesse still works at Mount Harmony Cemetery, tending plots, clipping weeds, and scrubbing moss off monuments that stand crooked under cedars, and he still buys eggs by the dozen and never uses them all. And in the evening, he still looks out the window at every car that passes his house, thinking that it's someone who'll stop. And they don't stop. And he's through looking for nice girls.

It was getting dark now but it was still very warm and Andy reached down and slapped at a mosquito trying to land on his shin.

"I don't see why it's so hard for you to find a girl anyway," she said. "You're good enough looking. I got a sister, Tonya, but she lives down in Texas. She's too old for you anyway. She's older than me; thirty-six. It's just as well. Believe me, you're the luck one."

He laughed. "And people say `Well, Andy's so lucky. He just gets up and goes when he wants.' But then when it's time to send the Christmas cards they say `Don't send Andy one; you know, him being alone and all, it might make him feel bad.'"

It got dark in the next fifteen minutes that they sat there looking through the pine trees across the yard and not saying anything.

"I just wish Justin would do something," she said finally. "I'm, so tired of waiting. Waiting's no good. Not for me. I've got to get something going right." She looked at the stars coming out of the clouds that had passed over.

"Burning martyrs inhaled the flames to shorten their agony," he said. "They knew how to end it quickly."

She looked at him with her eyebrows raised, but didn't say anything, and saw him looking across the yard and away from her.

"Are you sure you don't want some lemonade?" he asked after a moment.

"No, I still got a lot left here." She raised her bottle.

The light of the living room shone through the windows and illuminated the marigolds and petunias in the porch planter. The marigolds were wilted but the petunias grew well there; healthy reds, pinks, and pale purples. Andy looked at them and wondered why the marigolds grew so well in the yard but not up there. He asked her if she knew why.

"Justin sent me some flowers a couple of months ago," she answered. "Do you think Justin's at home?"

"I don't know. I'd call and see for you but their phone was disconnected a few weeks ago. Justin said Rachel didn't pay the bills."

"I think I'll drive by their house and see if he's at home. If I drive by and honk he comes down to Lyle Park."

She flicked the cigarette butt out into the yard and rambled a good-bye to Andy.

He watched her taillights disappear around the curve in the street and then went over and stepped on the glowing cigarette butt and picked her bottle up off the chair arm. After he put the lawn mower in the garage, he went in to take a shower.

He set the nozzle to flow evenly and stepped forward into the spray, the water pulling his hair down into his eyes and running off his slight overbite. He stood still with both hands flattened against the gray and white tile squares, eyes closed, water covering him; a tingling moved from his head downward. And he felt a loneliness opening up inside himself, blooming wide across his chest, and growing and seeming to push outward. He remembered walking in the rain, rain that felt good on his face, drops that no one else had felt; and the tile walls amplified the noise of the rain, and he stood there for quite a long time.

_________________________
Eddie