The Sweat of the Brow (xxiv)

I tell my story, Sam and mine. She tells her own. The sun goes down.

She’s been married twice. Two bio kids with the first, two adopted with the second. The kids are all well, high degrees and happy work. The first husband did one-and-ten in a Silent Zone, the second one’s a prof at Chicago. She’s friendly with both of them. She’s had a nice life.

I remember the two of them together. My two career girls. Katie and Sam. Then Katie married house-husbands so she could stay late at the office. And Sam married me, so when she came back from the office she’d know there’d be her best friend warm and waiting.

“My two career girls,” I say.

It’s a sad smile she gives me, but it’s a smile.

“So what did you do?” I ask her.

She cocks her head at me, but her eyes stay wide.

“For work,” I say. “All those years… all those bantamweights-”

“You’re one to talk.”

“I am,” I say. “So what was it?”

She shifts in her chair.

“Sam never told you?”

I shake my head.

“You never… she never told you why we stopped-”

“Nope,” I said. “But I don’t care.”

She looks very uneasy. It makes me uncomfortable, and sobers me right up.

“It… you should care,” she says.

“No. Not at all.” I say it stronger than I mean to, and I wonder why. “It’s in the past. Not my past, either.”

“It’s important,” Katie says.

“No, it’s not.”

“It is-”

“It’s important that I don’t hear it,” I say.

“This isn’t therapy,” she says. “I’m not here for absolution. I came two thousand miles to tell you this.”

“Couldn’t just tap me? Pick up the phone, call-”

“No.”

“Couldn’t-”

But I stop, and look at her.

“Why not?” I ask.

“Because I can’t.”

I stare at her for a while. She doesn’t move.

“Katie-” I say

“Martin,” she says, “shut up.”

I nod

“Just shut the hell up.”

I do.

“Sam and I stop talking,” she says, “because she didn’t like the work I do.”

I wait for her to continue. She doesn’t.

“Katie,” I say, slowly, “I’m very sorry.”

“Me too,” she says, her voice bitter.

I try to think about the implications of what she’s just said. Suddenly I feel like I’m seeing more, like my eyes just opened wider. Maybe they did. But I doubt it.

I realize I’m staring at the table.

I look up at her. “Why are you telling me this?”

“In person?”

“At all.”

She swallows, then reaches for her glass and swallows a mouthful of rum.

She coughs, twice, and wipes her mouth with her sleeve.

“Because,” she says, “I want to offer you a job.”

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~ by davekov on 29 November 2011.

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