Thats True Of Everybody

Overview

The proprietor of a bowling alley whose artist daughter paints only phalluses. A ninth-grade girl who marries in haste only to be faced with her husband's impotence. A libidinous poet who learns the meaning of harassment. The life and loves of a professional lawn-mower. These are just a few of the distinctive stories that make up Mark Winegardner's remarkable debut short-story collection.
Winegardner, whose rich and epic novel Crooked River Burning gave the much-maligned city of...

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Overview

The proprietor of a bowling alley whose artist daughter paints only phalluses. A ninth-grade girl who marries in haste only to be faced with her husband's impotence. A libidinous poet who learns the meaning of harassment. The life and loves of a professional lawn-mower. These are just a few of the distinctive stories that make up Mark Winegardner's remarkable debut short-story collection.
Winegardner, whose rich and epic novel Crooked River Burning gave the much-maligned city of Cleveland a fresh and vibrant aspect, now returns to the Midwest that he knows so intimately and casts a piercingly compassionate eye on its denizens. The result is a kaleidoscopic picture of a people who are arrogant and humble, faithful and disloyal, driven and floundering-a people who are finally, America itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
PRAISE FOR THAT'S TRUE OF EVERYBODY
"Manages to find humor and moments of hope amid the chaos."
-The Washington Post Book World
"These stories have a ring of truth, as if Winegardner were not inventing their dramas but dredging them up from someplace deep inside him."-Chicago Tribune
"The stories might be grand in scope, but it is attention to nuances of settings, plot and character that ultimately makes the difference in Winegardner's fiction."-The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
Publishers Weekly
Laced with acid wit and withering realism, the 13 stories collected here describe lives of aimlessness and muted disaster in the Midwest. In a section called "Tales of Academic Lunacy: 1991-2001," Winegardner (Crooked River Burning; The Veracruz Blues) satirizes bureaucratic hijinks at a small college with great humor but only middling originality. In "Keegan's Load," a poet who has self-published all his poems receives an endowed chair and a cushy course load; in "The Visiting Poet," a teacher who seduces bohemian female students is exposed but ultimately given tenure and a significant pay raise. Elsewhere, individuals wander from psychological trough to trough without ever collapsing completely, sometimes even achieving triumphs. The burned-out radio sportscaster who narrates "Halftime" leads a life so unsatisfactory that he can't even keep himself awake at the wheel of his car although his drowsiness is partially a medical condition, its metaphorical aspect looms over the story like a hungry python. In "Rain Itself," a gigantic young teenager working as a landscaper bests a bullying co-worker in a perverse game of "chicken" played out on a bridge over a railroad track a small victory in a simple life. In "Travelers Advisory," a maladjusted young woman goes to a job interview in a blizzard instead of attending her father's memorial service, atoning by leaving messages on her father's answering machine. The homey, relaxed voice telling the stories is one you've probably heard before while it is readable, it becomes rather monotonous. These lyrical, down-to-earth tales of loss and emptiness in the heartland could probably have reached farther but then again, so could their characters. (July) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Winegardner follows up his successful Crooked River Burning with a collection of stories set mostly in the Midwest and featuring working-class men and women, with a few college professors thrown in for good measure. Thus, we meet folks like Harry Kreevich, who owns a bowling alley and has been abandoned by both his wife and his new lane girl even as his artist daughter paints phalluses because she considers her former work too austere. Another tale features a nameless ninth grader who gets married only to discover that her newly minted husband is impotent. There is a trio of stories about some academics, including a randy poet whose lover teaches him some lessons about harassment. An account of the Valentine Theatre, the most successful drive-in in the state of Ohio, is a look at our not-so-recent past and the innocent pleasures therein. Often written in the first person, which adds to their intimacy, these stories are touching vignettes of everyday people trying to live their lives while coping with divorce, heartache, and depression the usual detritus of life that gets in the way of true happiness. Here, Winegardner ably captures America through tales of its ordinary citizens. Recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/02.] Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
From novelist Winegardner (Crooked River Burning, 2001, etc.), a debut collection of 13 stories, mostly set in Cleveland or the rural Midwest. There's a gritty realism to Winegardner's tales that never lets them sink into the airy pointlessness of so much contemporary academic fiction, partly because his characters tend to be blue-collar midwesterners rather than eastern intellectuals. Harry Kreevich, in "Thirty-Year-Old Women Do Not Always Come Home," is a Croatian-American from Cleveland who runs a bowling alley and becomes concerned when one of his lane girls disappears mysteriously. The nameless heroine of "Song for a Certain Girl," on the other hand, is a country-bumpkin Baptist from backwoods Ohio who is so innocent that she doesn't know how to consummate her marriage. There are some smarty-pants types too, of course, but Winegardner doesn't let us take them too seriously. Murtaugh, the philandering professor in "The Visiting Poet," is an oaf, pure and simple-a has-been writer whose life revolves around seducing his students-until a jilted colleague blows the whistle on him to the sexual-harassment board. In "The Untenured Lecturer," we meet Phil Workman, another campus hack, who is more of a sad sack than a buffoon ("There was once an earnest man who, in his late thirties, had a heart attack, remarried, bought a high-end personal computer, left his job as a statehouse reporter, and, despite a lack of talent, was admitted to a creative-writing program at a big concrete university in one of the rectangular states, where he wrote the longest master's thesis in school history"). The real virtue here is that Winegardner is able to portray an ordinary but intriguing world that's rarelythe subject of literary fiction-as in "Last Love Song at the Valentine," which sketches an entire generation in the life of a small town by following the history of its one drive-in theater. A short string of gems in a beautifully constructed and well-ordered collection.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780156027366
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 1/5/2004
  • Edition description: First Harvest Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.58 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Winegardner

Mark Winegardner is the author of the novel The Veracruz Blues and three books of nonfiction. A regular contributor to GQ, he has also published work in the New York Times Magazine, Playboy, Esquire, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, Doubletake, and other magazines. He is a professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida State University in Tallahassee, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

Biography

Mark Winegardner was born and raised in Bryan, Ohio, near Exit 2, a town of 8,000 which supplies the world with its Dum-Dum suckers and Etch-a-Sketches. His parents owned an RV dealership there, and every summer he traveled with his family across the USA in various travel trailers and motorhomes. By the time he was 15, he had been in all 48 contiguous states. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Miami University and went on to receive a master of fine arts degree in fiction writing from George Mason University. He published his first book at age 26, while still in graduate school. He has taught at Miami, George Mason, George Washington, and John Carroll Universities, and is now a professor in the creative writing program at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. For several years he served as the director of the creative writing program as well. Winegardner has won grants, fellowships and residencies from the Ohio Arts Council, the Lilly Endowment, the Ragdale Foundation, the Sewanee Writers Conference and the Corporation of Yaddo. His books have been chosen as among the best of the year by the New York Times Book Review, Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, the New York Public Library, and USA Today. His work has appeared in GQ, Playboy, Ploughshares, TriQuarterly, DoubleTake, Family Circle, The Sporting News, Witness, Story Quarterly, American Short Fiction, Ladies Home Journal, Parents and The New York Times Magazine. Several of his stories have been chosen as Distinguished Stories of the Year in The Best American Short Stories.

Good To Know

The Story Behind the Sequel

by Jonathan Karp

Throughout the decade I was Mario Puzo's editor, I would periodically beg him to write a sequel to The Godfather. "Bring back the Corleones!" I would plead. "Whatever happened to Johnny Fontane? Can't you do something with Tom Hagen? Don't you think Michael has some unfinished business?"

Mario was always polite in the face of my wheedling and his response was always the same: No.

I understood why Mario never wanted to continue the story. He was a gambler at heart, and resurrecting The Godfather would have been a bad percentage move for him. It was bound to pale in comparison to the original. How do you improve on a legend?

But one day on the phone, Mario did give me his blessing to revisit the Corleones. He told me his family could do whatever they wanted with the rights to The Godfather after he died. (His exact phrase was "after I croak," which I remember precisely because it was the first time an author had ever discussed his posthumous career with me in such direct terms.)

Mario left behind two novels, Omerta and his partially completed tale of the Borgias, The Family, so it was awhile before I approached his estate about the prospect of reviving The Godfather. After conversations with Mario's eldest son, Anthony Puzo, and his literary agent, Neil Olson, we agreed on a strategy:

We would discreetly search for a writer at roughly the same stage of his or her career as Mario was when he wrote The Godfather -- mid-forties, with two acclaimed literary novels to his credit, and a yearning to write a larger, more ambitious novel for a broader readership than his previous books had reached. We didn't want a by-the-numbers hired gun. We wanted an original voice, someone who would bring artistry and vision to the Corleone saga, just as director Francis Ford Coppola had so done brilliantly in his film adaptations.

I outlined what we were looking for in a one-page query, which I sent confidentially via email to about a dozen respected literary agents. Within 24 hours of sending my confidential email, I received a phone call from New Yorker staff writer Nick Paumgarten. He'd heard all about our search and wanted to write about it. At first, I was reluctant to cooperate, due to my concern that every would-be goomba in the country would send me a manuscript. Upon further consideration, I realized that there probably weren't a lot of goombas reading The New Yorker, and that a story might be a good way to get out the word and attract a broader range of authors.

The day the story was published, The Godfather Returns became headline news. I was deluged with calls from almost every major media organization in the United States, as well as many abroad, from CNN to the BBC in New Zealand. The New York Times Magazine published a cautionary essay about the dangers of sequels. I appeared on a Detroit radio morning zoo show with a Vito Corleone impersonator who warned me that my career might come to an untimely end if I didn't hire him to write the book.

We had set a deadline for the delivery of outlines from potential writers. We stuck to our guidelines -- only published authors of acclaimed fiction would be considered. By the day of the deadline, we had been swamped with submissions from well-regarded authors (plus countless more from unpublished ones). As I sorted through the outlines, I was taped by a TV cameraman and interviewed by NBC News correspondent Jamie Gangel, who was covering our search, and who ultimately revealed the winner live on The Today Show.

I quickly narrowed down the field to about a dozen serious contenders. Some were dismissed on account of inadvisable plot lines. (Michael Corleone falls in love with a Native American activist. Or, the Corleone women take over the family business. Or, Sonny Corleone didn't really die.) Others were rejected because the writers didn't seem to have the right feel for the material. One literary critic described Mario Puzo's style as "somewhere between pulp and Proust." That's part of the reason for his success -- he was an original writer who loved to entertain his readers. He could turn a phrase, and there was a sly ironic undertone to almost everything he wrote, but Mario's greatest talent was for telling a story that stayed with you because the details were so captivating. Our ideal writer would have similar gifts.

From the dozen contenders, we arrived at four finalists. We would have been happy to publish any of them. After consultation with Tony Puzo and Neil Olson, we unanimously agreed that the best candidate was Mark Winegardner. Like Mario, he was an author of two acclaimed literary novels, The Veracruz Blues and Crooked River Burning, and to our delight, both of which had organized crime plot theads. I read Crooked River Burning and loved it, not only for its ambition (it's the story of the rise and fall of a great American city over a period of decades), but also because the author shows such compassion for his characters. Mario Puzo's greatest literary inspiration was Dostoevsky, who taught him to see the humanity within the villainous. Winegardner has an equally big heart when writing about his characters. That can be very interesting when you're going to have to kill a lot of them. He was our first choice to write The Godfather Returns and we were elated when he accepted. Our selection was international news. When Mark visited Sicily for some background research, it was a front page story there.

Neither Mark nor I have ever worked on a more highly-anticipated book. We know the risks of following in the tradition of a pop classic. I'm not worried. Having edited the novel, I'm certain of its quality and its power. The Corleones have become an American myth, and like all great myths, each retelling brings new meaning and new rewards.

Jonathan Karp is Vice President and Editorial Director of Random House.

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    1. Hometown:
      Tallahassee, Florida
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 24, 1961
    2. Place of Birth:
      Bryan, Ohio
    1. Education:
      B.A., Miami University, 1983; M.F.A., George Mason University, 1987
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Thirty-Year-Old Women
Do Not Always Come Home

Bowling wasn't what it used to be and neither was Harry Kreevich. Once, the pro bowling tour got good ratings, tape-delayed, Saturdays on network television; back then, Harry's place, Cuyahoga Lanes, hosted important events. The great Nelson Burton Jr. once bowled a 300 game there. Harry considered him a personal friend. But Burton retired. So did the great Earl Anthony. There were no more giants in the sport. Tour events moved to newer facilities. As bowling's TV ratings dwindled, so did Harry. His wife Anna, whom Harry had loved until the end but who had been, in Harry's opinion, frigid, bought a book about masturbation called Women: Selfloving, and left him. His older daughter Debra, the painter, moved to New York and married a creep. His younger daughter Jane spent ten years in college and finished with an unfinished Ph.D. in English and no discernible skills, so Harry invited her home and groomed her to take over the alley. To his surprise, Jane turned out to be a frugal, careful manager. Theft went down. Profits rose. Harry began to date. No one special, but it was a start. Things started looking up. Then the new lane girl disappeared.

She had reminded Harry of Debra, though not in the looks or personality departments. The lane girl was a big midwesterner with a husky voice and white, American teeth, plus long thick legs and a stunning amount of blond hair, styled in a way that screamed Parmatown Mall! Debra, like her mother, was dark, thin, smart, and pretty, with a lone shock of white hair that arrived, overnight, in her late twenties. But both Debra and the lane girl had the pout. When Harry told the lane girl she was hired but, sorry, he had a policy against pay advances, boom! Debra's pout. Lower lip barely stuck out, eyes blinking only twice. Harry gave her the money (she said she needed it for the deposit on an apartment) on the condition that she please not mention it to Jane. For two weeks, Harry had the lane girl of his dreams: smiling, quick, graceful with the drunks. Anything went wrong with an order, she flashed the customers the pout, and boom! all was well. She hit it off with Ray, the bartender, who was black and seemed honest but was hard to get to know. (Ray had been there a year; about all Harry knew was that he was pursuing a teaching degree at a pricey Catholic school on the east side.) The new lane girl made enough tips on just two league nights to pay Harry back. But on the day of her first payday, she didn't show up.

At first, Harry just thought she was late. Who misses work on payday? An hour passed. A senior citizens group from Rocky River began to arrive. "We're about to be butt-slammed, Dad," said Jane. She'd pressed herself into service at the main counter. "Where's the new girl, what's-her-face?"

"Karen," said Ray, overhearing. "She has a name. Karen." He sat in front of the bar. He was reading a library book by someone with an Asian name. The dining lounge was empty.

"Can someone call Karen?" she said. "Dad?"

Harry went to his office. The number on the lane girl's employment application was in Cleveland Heights. The phone had been disconnected. No further information, a voice said, about this number. "Any minute, probably," Harry told Jane, "she will be here."

Cuyahoga Lanes was filling up with old people, tottering in, lugging their own shoes and balls. Last of an era. The average American home, Harry had read in a trade magazine, no longer contained a bowling ball.

Harry decided to wait the tables himself. The seniors didn't order much. When they did, he was often forced to say sorry, no no-salt, no-fat chips, but he'll look into it. No veggie burgers. No soy milk. Sorry.

The seniors went home sharply at nine. For the next two hours, the alley was dead except in lane eight, where three young men in goatees and polo shirts were getting noisily drunk. Ray asked Jane if she'd talked to Karen. "Yesterday at work," she said. "But we didn't really talk talk."

"Does anyone know where she lives?" Harry asked.

"God knows," said Ray. "But I don't." He sang: "'That's the difference between God and me.'"

Jane found this very funny. Harry didn't know the song.

"What do we know about her?" Harry asked. "Boyfriends and whatnot. What," he said, looking at Jane, "do the women know?"

"Oh, Daddy," Jane said. "You're so cute."

Mrs. Urancek, the ancient Slovenian cook, couldn't even remember Karen's name. Harry called his other lane girl, a married young redhead named Maureen. A baby wailed in the background. "Sorry, Mr. K," Maureen said. "She and I never said more'n hi and bye."

Jane and Ray told screw-in-a-lightbulb jokes for a half hour. Then she said he could go home.

At eleven, Harry ushered out the college boys, making sure they returned their shoes. The janitors arrived, a fiftyish Mexican couple. The only conversation Jacinto and Luisa remembered having with Karen concerned Elvis. She felt many of Elvis's movies were underrated. Luisa agreed; Jacinto disagreed. "All crap," he said. "Every one." Luisa elbowed him, and he chuckled. "Our first date," Jacinto said, "it was Girl Happy."

Jane closed out the register, and Jacinto let Harry and Jane out the locked side door. As they crossed the parking lot, Jane waved the canvas bank-deposit bag in the summer moonlight. "Maybe you're right, Dad," Jane said. "Maybe something's wrong."

"Probably it's nothing," said Harry. "Don't worry."

Two days later, Harry flew to New York to see Debra. She had an opening in what she called a small, influential gallery, in a warehouse in TriBeCa. "Brace yourself, Dad," Debra had said on the phone. "My new work is a real leap from my old work."

"What am I, a philistine?" he said. "Artists are supposed to make leaps."

"Mom was shocked."

"Your mother isn't me." He was hurt Anna had seen the paintings first. Harry was a Sunday painter. He painted scenes on old saws, scenes of old farm women, wagons, scythes, frolicsome boys and girls in fields of grain: images of his childhood in Croatia. His family had emigrated in 1947, when Harry was eight. Things had been bad in Croatia then, but now! He could only imagine. He wouldn't have the heart to go back. He painted the pictures in his mind. He knew it wasn't really art, like what Debra did. Debra had training, the best schools. She'd been written up in New Art Examiner. She'd won a grant from the United States government. Still, Harry was proud that, each June, when he set up a tent at a craft fair, his saws sold briskly.

The gallery was in the basement of the warehouse, and the opening did not begin until 11 P.M. Beforehand, he, Debra, and her husband-the-creep had dinner upstairs, in a restaurant owned by three famous actors Harry had never heard of. Today there were so many new stars. Too many.

"When was your mother here?" Harry asked. The pointlessly huge tables forced diners almost to shout.

"Last month," said the creep. He did that, answered for her.

"She and Jack were en route to Paris," Debra said. Jack was the new husband. "A layover."

"Paris," Harry said. "Huh."

The creep, Eric, a record executive, told a tiresome story about Parisian rock music. He was tall, with a high voice, and had never, in Harry's opinion, taken Debra seriously as a painter. In their apartment, Eric had a home office and a fitness room. Debra was forced to share studio space in a part of Brooklyn where she'd been mugged twice.

Dinner was served before Harry had an opening. "So," he said, "what's shocking about your work?"

"You'll see," said Eric. "Man, will you see."

"Maybe my daughter would like to answer."

"I'm right here, Daddy," she said. "No need to call me 'my daughter' with me right here."

Harry nodded, in concession.

"A year ago," Debra said, "when I got the NEA, I made a list of the things I liked about my work and all the things I didn't."

"Good idea," said Harry. Harry was a list-maker.

"What I liked was the light and the space," she said. "I didn't like how austere my work was. How serious."

"Not too serious, I never thought." She had been doing odd still lifes-bowls of fruit and cheap toys, with dozens of TV sets in the background. Harry loved them. "But to grow is important."

"Well, I'm doing nudes now."

"So?" said Harry. His stomach lurched. "There is a long tradition, nudes."

"Mom was shocked."

"Enough already with your mother."

The check came while Debra was in the bathroom. The waiter left it near Eric, who looked away, as if forgiving a rudeness. The table was so large, Harry could not reach for it. "Here," Harry said, pointing. "Let me."

Eric frowned. "This?" He picked it up and looked at the total. "I got it," he said. "When we're in Cleveland, you can get it."

Harry gamely protested. Eric-though he was in the music business, and Cleveland now had the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (of which Harry was proud, and kept meaning to visit)-was the sort of man who bragged about never having set foot in Cleveland.

Debra took them downstairs for an early preview. Two young women were setting out wines and adjusting the lighting.

The nudes were penises.

Close-up, painted in shades of gray. Erect and limp, all races, circumcised and not, dangling from squatting positions, fat men and thin. One penis was so alarmingly small, Harry wondered if it was a freak. The paint was thick, purposefully cracked.

"People you know?" Harry said, trying to sound cosmopolitan.

"Models," Debra said. "Plus a few friends. The friends said it helped their self-esteem."

Harry did not want to know how.

"There hasn't been as much done with the penis," she said, "especially by women." She laughed. "Women painters."

The laugh put Harry at ease. "Right," he said. To his surprise, he found himself able to study the paintings, with appreciation. It was not what he'd hang at the alley (which featured four of Harry's saws, two of Debra's still lifes, six posters of Cleveland sports figures, and an aerial photo of the city he'd bought at the Cleveland bicentennial celebration). Still, though he didn't have the training to explain what impressed him, his instincts were that this would help Debra make a name for herself. The penis, Harry thought, truly is a sad, slouchy little guy. "This work is amazing, sweetheart."

Copyright © 2002 by Mark Winegardner

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,
including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department,
Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

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Table of Contents

Contents
Thirty-Year-Old Women Do Not
Always Come Home
Ace of Hearts
Song for a Certain Girl
Tales of Academic Lunacy: 1991-2001
I. The Visiting Poet
II. The Untenured Lecturer
III. Keegan's Load
Janda's Sister
Last Love Song at the Valentine
Travelers Advisory
Obvious Questions
Rain Itself
How We Came to Indiana
Halftime

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First Chapter

Thirty-Year-Old Women Do Not Always Come Home

Bowling wasn't what it used to be and neither was Harry Kreevich. Once, the pro bowling tour got good ratings, tape-delayed, Saturdays on network television; back then, Harry's place, Cuyahoga Lanes, hosted important events. The great Nelson Burton Jr. once bowled a 300 game there. Harry considered him a personal friend. But Burton retired. So did the great Earl Anthony. There were no more giants in the sport. Tour events moved to newer facilities. As bowling's TV ratings dwindled, so did Harry. His wife Anna, whom Harry had loved until the end but who had been, in Harry's opinion, frigid, bought a book about masturbation called Women: Selfloving, and left him. His older daughter Debra, the painter, moved to New York and married a creep. His younger daughter Jane spent ten years in college and finished with an unfinished Ph.D. in English and no discernible skills, so Harry invited her home and groomed her to take over the alley. To his surprise, Jane turned out to be a frugal, careful manager. Theft went down. Profits rose. Harry began to date. No one special, but it was a start. Things started looking up. Then the new lane girl disappeared.
She had reminded Harry of Debra, though not in the looks or personality departments. The lane girl was a big midwesterner with a husky voice and white, American teeth, plus long thick legs and a stunning amount of blond hair, styled in a way that screamed Parmatown Mall! Debra, like her mother, was dark, thin, smart, and pretty, with a lone shock of white hair that arrived, overnight, in her late twenties. But both Debra and the lane girl had the pout. When Harry told the lane girl she was hired but, sorry, he had a policy against pay advances, boom! Debra's pout. Lower lip barely stuck out, eyes blinking only twice. Harry gave her the money (she said she needed it for the deposit on an apartment) on the condition that she please not mention it to Jane. For two weeks, Harry had the lane girl of his dreams: smiling, quick, graceful with the drunks. Anything went wrong with an order, she flashed the customers the pout, and boom! all was well. She hit it off with Ray, the bartender, who was black and seemed honest but was hard to get to know. (Ray had been there a year; about all Harry knew was that he was pursuing a teaching degree at a pricey Catholic school on the east side.) The new lane girl made enough tips on just two league nights to pay Harry back. But on the day of her first payday, she didn't show up.
At first, Harry just thought she was late. Who misses work on payday? An hour passed. A senior citizens group from Rocky River began to arrive. "We're about to be butt-slammed, Dad," said Jane. She'd pressed herself into service at the main counter. "Where's the new girl, what's-her-face?"
"Karen," said Ray, overhearing. "She has a name. Karen." He sat in front of the bar. He was reading a library book by someone with an Asian name. The dining lounge was empty.
"Can someone call Karen?" she said. "Dad?"
Harry went to his office. The number on the lane girl's employment application was in Cleveland Heights. The phone had been disconnected. No further information, a voice said, about this number. "Any minute, probably," Harry told Jane, "she will be here."
Cuyahoga Lanes was filling up with old people, tottering in, lugging their own shoes and balls. Last of an era. The average American home, Harry had read in a trade magazine, no longer contained a bowling ball.
Harry decided to wait the tables himself. The seniors didn't order much. When they did, he was often forced to say sorry, no no-salt, no-fat chips, but he'll look into it. No veggie burgers. No soy milk. Sorry.
The seniors went home sharply at nine. For the next two hours, the alley was dead except in lane eight, where three young men in goatees and polo shirts were getting noisily drunk. Ray asked Jane if she'd talked to Karen. "Yesterday at work," she said. "But we didn't really talk talk."
"Does anyone know where she lives?" Harry asked.
"God knows," said Ray. "But I don't." He sang: "'That's the difference between God and me.'"
Jane found this very funny. Harry didn't know the song.
"What do we know about her?" Harry asked. "Boyfriends and whatnot. What," he said, looking at Jane, "do the women know?"
"Oh, Daddy," Jane said. "You're so cute."
Mrs. Urancek, the ancient Slovenian cook, couldn't even remember Karen's name. Harry called his other lane girl, a married young redhead named Maureen. A baby wailed in the background. "Sorry, Mr. K," Maureen said. "She and I never said more'n hi and bye."
Jane and Ray told screw-in-a-lightbulb jokes for a half hour. Then she said he could go home.
At eleven, Harry ushered out the college boys, making sure they returned their shoes. The janitors arrived, a fiftyish Mexican couple. The only conversation Jacinto and Luisa remembered having with Karen concerned Elvis. She felt many of Elvis's movies were underrated. Luisa agreed; Jacinto disagreed. "All crap," he said. "Every one." Luisa elbowed him, and he chuckled. "Our first date," Jacinto said, "it was Girl Happy."
Jane closed out the register, and Jacinto let Harry and Jane out the locked side door. As they crossed the parking lot, Jane waved the canvas bank-deposit bag in the summer moonlight. "Maybe you're right, Dad," Jane said. "Maybe something's wrong."
"Probably it's nothing," said Harry. "Don't worry."
Two days later, Harry flew to New York to see Debra. She had an opening in what she called a small, influential gallery, in a warehouse in TriBeCa. "Brace yourself, Dad," Debra had said on the phone. "My new work is a real leap from my old work."
"What am I, a philistine?" he said. "Artists are supposed to make leaps."
"Mom was shocked."
"Your mother isn't me." He was hurt Anna had seen the paintings first. Harry was a Sunday painter. He painted scenes on old saws, scenes of old farm women, wagons, scythes, frolicsome boys and girls in fields of grain: images of his childhood in Croatia. His family had emigrated in 1947, when Harry was eight. Things had been bad in Croatia then, but now! He could only imagine. He wouldn't have the heart to go back. He painted the pictures in his mind. He knew it wasn't really art, like what Debra did. Debra had training, the best schools. She'd been written up in New Art Examiner. She'd won a grant from the United States government. Still, Harry was proud that, each June, when he set up a tent at a craft fair, his saws sold briskly.
The gallery was in the basement of the warehouse, and the opening did not begin until 11 P.M. Beforehand, he, Debra, and her husband-the-creep had dinner upstairs, in a restaurant owned by three famous actors Harry had never heard of. Today there were so many new stars. Too many.
"When was your mother here?" Harry asked. The pointlessly huge tables forced diners almost to shout.
"Last month," said the creep. He did that, answered for her.
"She and Jack were en route to Paris," Debra said. Jack was the new husband. "A layover."
"Paris," Harry said. "Huh."
The creep, Eric, a record executive, told a tiresome story about Parisian rock music. He was tall, with a high voice, and had never, in Harry's opinion, taken Debra seriously as a painter. In their apartment, Eric had a home office and a fitness room. Debra was forced to share studio space in a part of Brooklyn where she'd been mugged twice.
Dinner was served before Harry had an opening. "So," he said, "what's shocking about your work?"
"You'll see," said Eric. "Man, will you see."
"Maybe my daughter would like to answer."
"I'm right here, Daddy," she said. "No need to call me 'my daughter' with me right here."
Harry nodded, in concession.
"A year ago," Debra said, "when I got the NEA, I made a list of the things I liked about my work and all the things I didn't."
"Good idea," said Harry. Harry was a list-maker.
"What I liked was the light and the space," she said. "I didn't like how austere my work was. How serious."
"Not too serious, I never thought." She had been doing odd still lifes-bowls of fruit and cheap toys, with dozens of TV sets in the background. Harry loved them. "But to grow is important."
"Well, I'm doing nudes now."
"So?" said Harry. His stomach lurched. "There is a long tradition, nudes."
"Mom was shocked."
"Enough already with your mother."
The check came while Debra was in the bathroom. The waiter left it near Eric, who looked away, as if forgiving a rudeness. The table was so large, Harry could not reach for it. "Here," Harry said, pointing. "Let me."
Eric frowned. "This?" He picked it up and looked at the total. "I got it," he said. "When we're in Cleveland, you can get it."
Harry gamely protested. Eric-though he was in the music business, and Cleveland now had the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (of which Harry was proud, and kept meaning to visit)-was the sort of man who bragged about never having set foot in Cleveland.
Debra took them downstairs for an early preview. Two young women were setting out wines and adjusting the lighting.
The nudes were penises.
Close-up, painted in shades of gray. Erect and limp, all races, circumcised and not, dangling from squatting positions, fat men and thin. One penis was so alarmingly small, Harry wondered if it was a freak. The paint was thick, purposefully cracked.
"People you know?" Harry said, trying to sound cosmopolitan.
"Models," Debra said. "Plus a few friends. The friends said it helped their self-esteem."
Harry did not want to know how.
"There hasn't been as much done with the penis," she said, "especially by women." She laughed. "Women painters."
The laugh put Harry at ease. "Right," he said. To his surprise, he found himself able to study the paintings, with appreciation. It was not what he'd hang at the alley (which featured four of Harry's saws, two of Debra's still lifes, six posters of Cleveland sports figures, and an aerial photo of the city he'd bought at the Cleveland bicentennial celebration). Still, though he didn't have the training to explain what impressed him, his instincts were that this would help Debra make a name for herself. The penis, Harry thought, truly is a sad, slouchy little guy. "This work is amazing, sweetheart."
"That one's mine," said Eric the creep, pointing.
"Ah," said Harry. The creep pointed to a series of small paintings in which a penis was half inserted into different sorts of fruit, citrus and otherwise. Harry felt sick and must have looked it; when he made eye contact with Debra, there it was: the pout. "A strange thing happened at the alley," Harry blurted. "A lane girl disappeared."
"Disappeared?" said Debra.
"A 'lane girl'?" said Eric, amused.
"She didn't come in to pick up her paycheck. She'd only been there two weeks."
"People disappear all the time," Eric said. "Who knows what kind of bug-out she's having. Believe me, she'll turn up."
"How do you know?" asked Harry. "Did you ever know anyone who disappeared?"
"As a matter of fact," Eric said, "yes. I used to volunteer as a counselor at Jewish Social Services. You'd be surprised how many Jews disappear. How long has she been gone, a day?"
"Three."
"Is she Jewish?" Eric said.
"Why?"
"Curious." Eric shrugged.
"It's illegal to ask that," Harry said.
"She'll come back," Eric said. "It's about love, drugs, or alcohol. Unless it's a psychotic episode."
"A psychotic episode," said Harry. "How comforting."
"I've always loved his accent," Eric said to Debra. "Almost Jewish, but not. Isn't it great?"
"I am right here." Harry did not think he had an accent. "No need to talk like I'm not."
Eric looked at him, blankly. "Well," he said. "Okay."
At eleven, the place was still empty. Five or six people. "New Yorkers," Eric said. "We're always late."
It pained Harry to hope Eric was right about something. On a tilt-top table near the refreshments was a sheet listing the titles and prices. Harry was afraid no one would pay so much for work like this, no matter how accomplished.
Across the gallery were two men (one taking notes), both dressed in loose-fitting suits that Harry supposed cost as much as a nice used Plymouth. They had Debra cornered and were effusively interpreting her own paintings for her. Debra nodded at everything they said. She made eye contact with Harry. Her forced smile widened and turned genuine. Harry felt blessed.
By midnight, Harry was exhausted and ready to go back to his hotel. Suddenly, as if there had arrived out front a bus full of affected undertakers (so much black!), the crowd arrived. The young women who'd set out the wine began to affix red dots to the laminated title cards beside some of the paintings. Did this mean a sale? Harry never saw money change hands.
"The red dot means a sale," Eric stage-whispered to Harry.
"Ah," Harry said. "Thank you."
More dots went up. Harry felt guilty. The artist's father should buy something. He made a lap of the gallery and chose a piece that focused on the model's thigh. Harry thought it might only be on second glance that you'd notice the painting had a penis in it. He slipped a check to the woman pouring wine. She pointed to another woman. "For Study Number Thirty-seven," Harry said to that woman. "Ship to the address on the check, please. Mark down the sale as 'Anonymous.'"
Harry sought Debra out. "I'm beat," he said. "I know you have to stay until the bitter end. I'll take a cab and see you in the morning, for breakfast."
Again, the quick pout. Again, he thought of the lane girl.
"Okay, Daddy," she whispered. "It meant so much to have your friendly face here. This is so weird. All these strangers. It's about me, but I feel apart from it, too. Like being a bride."
"You are a beautiful bride," Harry said. "You have made good work. Be proud."
"I am," she said, "now. Coming from you, it means something."
Harry arrived at Hopkins Airport late the next night. Jane wasn't there. He called home, got no answer, waited an hour, then took a taxi. His house was dark. Jane's new red Jeep was gone from the carport. Harry headed up the porch steps, sweating in the cool darkness. He flicked on the lights, saw the legal pad on the kitchen table. A ransom note, he was sure, asking for money in exchange for the lane girl and now Jane. Harry had been robbed six times at work. He knew about crime.
He was wrong. It was from Jane. Harry had forgotten to give her his itinerary. She apologized for not being there, but what else could she have done? In a PS, she wrote that she'd be out late and not to worry. He said, "Ha!" He said it very loud.
Harry filled a metal iced-tea tumbler with ice and vodka. He turned on a television set but did not even look at it. He went to his basement workbench and spent two hours painting a saw with a beach scene from Split. It brimmed with safe children and blue water.
In the morning, Jane's bed was undisturbed. She had not come home. She did not always come home. She was thirty. Thirty-year-old women did not always come home. He had to accept that.
Harry went in early to work. When Jane arrived, she came straight to the office and bluntly told him she was moving in with Ray the bartender. They had, apparently overnight, fallen in love, though Jane claimed they had been dating for weeks; how could Harry not know? Harry did not know. Harry had no idea.
"What about the lane girl?" Harry said. "Karen."
"I called information," Jane said, defensively. "No listing. So I called the in-case-of-emergency number on her job application."
Why hadn't Harry thought of that? "And?"
"And nothing," said Jane. "It was long distance. Las Vegas. I kept leaving messages on a machine-maybe six calls total-but nobody ever called back. What can you do? The message on the machine was a hair-metal song. No 'please leave a message' or 'wait for the beep.' Hair metal."
Jane disapproved of this hair metal, which pleased Harry, even though he had not heard the term before and could only imagine what sort of music it codified. "I'm calling the police," he said.
"Daddy," she said. "Please. She's got her story, and one day she'll come get her check and tell us what happened. Either that or she won't. We'll never know, and that's that. Did the beer guy come in?"
"He just left. I paid him cash. We're square."
"Did you get a receipt?" she said. "I can't believe you pay those guys cash."
Harry had read an article in the Plain Dealer that said the world would do away with cash by the year 2010, which, Harry was afraid, he would live to see. Harry Kreevich was a man worth about half a million dollars who did not have an ATM card. He liked talking to the tellers.
Ray came into the office now and asked to use the phone. He told Jane he was going to order a new, larger bed from a toll-free number. You could do that now. A bed! Same-day delivery.
"Go ahead," Harry said. "I suppose congratulations are in order."
Ray looked confused for a moment. "Oh, right," he said. "I got you. Thanks, Harry."
"Excuse me one second," Harry said, reaching past Ray, opening his desk drawer, pulling out the beer man's receipt, waving it at Jane. "I am not a fool, you know."
Jane laughed. She was a washed-out version of her sister. Book-smart, more sure of herself. "I know, Daddy. I'm sorry."
They set up shop. Saturday: teen leagues, with one-tenth the kids they had when Jane and Debra were girls. Jane put cash into the register at the counter, Harry into the one at the bar. They made eye contact. "So?" Jane said, hopefully. She used her head to point inefficiently toward Ray.
"So your sister is painting penises." He said it a little loud, and flinched.
"I know," Jane said. "She sends me slides. They're good. Less austere than her old work."
Everyone, it seemed, knew everything that came as news to Harry Kreevich. "I bought one."
"A slide?"
"Please," Harry said. "Pay attention, young girl in love." At this, Jane smiled. She had a pretty smile. She should smile more. "I bought a painting," Harry said. "One of Debra's."
Ray emerged from the office. "Done," he called, to both of them. Done with the office, done ordering their bed. "How 'bout that Tribe, eh, Harry?"
"This may be the year," said Harry. He was not a baseball fan, but everyone in Cleveland was saying this may be the year. They had been saying this for several years now.
"I can't wait to see it," Jane said. "Debra's painting."
"They're shipping it," he said. "When are you moving?"
"Tonight," she said. "At least get a start on it."
Harry bit his tongue so he wouldn't say anything that would sound old-fashioned. "Tonight," said Harry, pushing the cash register closed, "is as good a night as any. No time like the present."
What time would want to be like the present, that was what Harry Kreevich wanted to know. Once, he believed in the American Dream. He started as a pin boy at Erieview Lanes in the Slavic Village. He worked his way up until he was made assistant manager. He married Anna, the actual girl next door. They scraped and saved. They took his immigrant father's life insurance policy from the steel mill and paid cash for their own, new alley. It was in the west suburbs. Like true Americans, Harry and Anna Kreevich progressed westward. They ran the alley together, had two lovely daughters, and built a house in Bay Village, four blocks from the lake. Harry was raised to believe American lives were arcs of progress, all trends generally up. That's how it was, until it wasn't. When did that happen? By the time he noticed, it had been that way for a while. He felt that way a long time before Anna left. Maybe it was all Ronald Reagan's fault. (Harry, a little drunk, said this to a nice lady realtor he dated a few times. It scared her off. Realtors liked Reagan.)
Harry had modernized, computerized, expanded, made the Brunswick sales rep rich. But the pro bowling tour went elsewhere. Nelson Burton died. Anna was in Paris with her lawyer husband, diddling herself. Harry once asked Anna if he could watch her do that; she was shocked. Now, Harry was reduced to dating tired-looking divorcées he met from the personal ads they placed in the Plain Dealer. This was not progress.
Cleveland was booming and, according to what everybody said, no longer a joke to the rest of the world. But if you asked Harry, the rest of the world didn't know crap. The old Cleveland was a great American city, where his father worked hard in a steel mill and people made things. Now it was a place where all that people made was fancy food, public drinking, and play. Ask someone why Cleveland is booming and they will say, "Look at the downtown restaurants and all that neon in the Flats and also the tax-abated playground for millionaires where the Cleveland Indians play." Or they will mention the revived theater district. Or the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Food, drink, and, most important of all, play. Harry liked all of these things, and he should talk, making his living off people eating popcorn, drinking beer, and bowling. But this was nothing to build a city on. Nothing to build a society on.
What were people thinking? Where would all this lead? That's what Harry Kreevich wanted to know. His late-night theories were "nothing" and "nowhere."
Harry, not yet sixty, felt spent. Balding, paunchy, divorced. Told by his doctor to exercise, he took long walks, alone, down dark, well-edged sidewalks. Having Jane around and how lately she'd made things better-that had to be temporary. Harry had hired the perfect lane girl, and what happened? She disappeared. Of course.
For a woman who'd never had a full-time job for longer than a year, Jane was rich with things. The books! Hundreds of them, alphabetized on white laminated shelves she'd assembled herself. Ray had a truck, and all Jane was taking was what would fit in two trips: her summer clothes, half her books (many liquor boxes full), and all her rock music compact discs. Except for four of the bookshelves, her furniture stayed.
"I'm going to take a quick look," Jane said, "for any last-minute whatevers." They were nearly finished loading up for the second trip. Ray owned a duplex he was renovating himself, in Tremont. That used to be a rough place. Jane said it was coming up in the world. Harry hadn't been there in years.
Ray and Harry loaded up Jane's racing bike. The truck was full. "Why is it," Harry said, "people pick the hottest day of the year to move?" It was in fact only a run-of-the-mill hot day. Harry just wanted to say something. He and Ray had done most of this work without saying more than your side first and easy.
"Just say it, Harry," Ray said. "I know you're thinking it."
"Thinking what?" But Harry knew what Ray meant.
"C'mon," said Ray. "I'd be thinking it if I were you."
Harry shrugged. "It's a new millennium, right?"
"Your grandkids would be black. That's how it is, in America. How are you with that?"
"Is she pregnant?"
"No," Ray said.
"I love my daughters," Harry said. "I hope I live long enough, they will give me grandbabies to spoil." He reached for a half-finished can of beer he'd set on a shady flagstone. "Does that answer your question?"
Ray considered this. He finished his beer. He patted Harry on the back and laughed. "They got others back in Croatia like you?"
"I don't know," Harry said. "I left when I was ten years old. I haven't been back since."
Just then, with Ray's arm still around Harry, Jane came down the porch steps carrying Harry's VCR and one of Debra's still lifes. She hadn't asked to take these, but Harry didn't say anything. "My two guys!" she said. "Let me take a picture." But her camera-which Harry gave her last Christmas, his first year of shopping alone for the girls-would not work.
Dating made Harry Kreevich think of death. Even on first dates, women talked about diet taboos, or brushes with breast cancer, or how their parents were racked with Alzheimer's. Yet Harry resisted dating younger women. It is a slippery slope from the young girlfriend to the foolish accoutrements: red sports car, hairpiece, lifetime membership at a Vic Tanny health club.
He had spoken twice on the phone with this new woman, Beverly, who was in public relations, and they had met once downtown, for coffee. This was how it was done, from those ads. Neutral spots first. If things work out, you make a date. Harry always let the woman pick a place. He wanted them to see he was not the kind of man who had to make all the decisions.
Eat, drink, and maybe someday play. Harry was trying to build something with this frivolity, but what, exactly, he didn't have words for. Companionship is too sad a word, and wrong. Not love, either. Love was too simple and too complicated a word for the word Harry did not have.
Beverly lived in Chagrin Falls, so far on the east side, it wasn't Cleveland anymore. She picked a restaurant four blocks from her home, an hour's drive for Harry, plus another half-hour when he got lost. Before he set foot in the place, Harry had decided that dating this woman was pure folly. Inside, the place looked like a hunting lodge designed by someone who disapproved of hunting. Nothing on the menu was less than twenty-two dollars.
For most of the meal, Beverly was charming. She and Harry reminisced like old friends about the baffling miracle of parenthood (Beverly had four sons), the surprising, inevitable ways children turn out. They talked about music that even oldies stations never played and movie stars no one talked about anymore. Stewart Granger. Olivia DeHaviland. Ida Lupino. "All dead, probably," Harry said. He winced. Sure enough, as they finished dinner, Beverly told him one son was dying of AIDS. She began to cry. Other diners stared. They think we're married, he thought. They think I've hurt her. The waiter, sadistically, kept refilling her coffee. When they finally got out of there, Harry walked her to her car and said he had to get up early the next morning. It was barely dark. They shook hands, and he was back in his car, pointing its hood ornament west.
Harry got onto I-480. He told himself that when the Lee Road exit came up, he might not take it. He'd scribbled the lane girl's old address on one of his own business cards. He'd made sure he had his Cuyahoga County street map. Yet he still thought maybe he wouldn't go. In truth, he'd thought about the lane girl all night, half listening as Beverly wondered whatever happened to Pérez Prado.
He went.
Lee Road, though it served as what Harry would call a main drag, was one of those streets that went from two lanes to one, back to two, then to an ambiguous width that was more than one and less than two: a street created as if no one but people who lived nearby would ever drive it. Harry persevered north, enduring the honking horns of impatient natives, until finally there it was, Sycamore Road. Harry overshot it, turned around, and was almost clipped by a BMW blaring rap music.
The street was a single quarter-mile block. Big trees and nice-enough houses. But even in the waning light, Harry could tell-shabby lawns, sagging porches-that this part of town had gone to rentals. The lane girl's old house was an up-down duplex, an ugly frame house painted a shade of dull blue popular in 1970s bathroom fixtures. The address didn't say up or down, so Harry started with the down. A young black woman answered the door. She was dressed in an untucked security-cop uniform and carrying a sleeping baby.
"Do you know a Karen Borkowski?" Harry whispered.
"We just moved in," the woman said. "Don't know anybody." She excused herself and closed the door.
He could hear the noise of a television from upstairs. He rang the other doorbell, waited, rang it again, and waited a long time before he saw in the stairwell a shirtless white man, built like a football player gone badly to seed and to beer.
"Do you know a Karen Borkowski?" Harry said.
"I know the Karen Borkowski," the man said. "Who are you?"
"She works for me. I own a bowling alley." Harry pulled out his card. "She's missed work. I'm concerned."
"And you drove all the way over here?" the man said. "You must be a great boss. Got any openings?"
"No," Harry said. "Unless you want to wait tables."
"Kiddin', chief. I own this house, those two there, plus two more in Shaker. Keeps me as busy as I care to be. Name's Parker." The men shook hands. "Karen lived downstairs. She and my fiancée, Holly. They had a falling-out. Holly moved up with me. I thought Karen went to live with her folks, in Arizona someplace."
"Nevada, I think," Harry said.
"Whatever," said Parker. "Karen's a good egg. I never saw what made Holly and her get on each other's nerves. That's how it is with chicks. Try to figure it out, you'll go nuts. Am I right?"
"Right." It was the only thing to say. "Maybe your fiancée would know where Karen is."
"Sorry, Harry." Of course this was the sort of young man who would presume familiarity. "Holly's in the hospital. Broke her leg last night. Stepped in a bucket. If she's got any ideas, I'll have her call you."
"No boyfriends?" Harry persisted. "Or"-he almost said psychotic episodes-"problems?"
"Not that I know of," Parker said. "She was a regular girl. But like I said, I'll have Holly call-"
"Have her call me either way."
"-if she knows anything," Parker said. "Look, it's nice of you to worry about your waitress, but I got chow nukin' in the mike."
Food cooking in the microwave, Harry finally figured out, but by then he was alone on the dark porch. He had an odd impulse to leave his Ford parked at the curb and set off on foot, to walk and walk, for days and days, until he got to a place where no one knew him, no one cared where he came from. And so he started walking. Six blocks later, he stopped at a Dairy Mart and bought cigarettes. He had not smoked in twenty years. He crossed the street to Cain Park, where he'd once taken part in a craft show. In the distance, in an outdoor theater, a man with a guitar was giving a concert. "You must be Daddy's little pumpkin," the man sang. That can't be right, Harry thought. I'm hearing what I want to hear. It's the same in painting, Debra once said. People see what they want to. An artist leaves room for people to believe what the artist would never dream of. Harry's saws meant what Harry meant them to-no more, no less. He sat on a park bench and listened to the music and smoked four cigarettes, then threw the rest in a trash can, walked back to his car, got in, and drove to Bay Village in silence. He was in the garage before he noticed his radio had been meticulously stolen, no dangling wires or broken dash, as if the thief knew he had all the time in the world.
Harry showered and shaved, which nowadays men did in the morning. But Harry, like his father, had a light beard and was a nighttime shaver. Where are you, Karen Borkowski, he thought as lay himself down to sleep, and what is the meaning of this?
In the mystery novels Anna read, many of which were still strewn about the house, Harry would become an amateur sleuth. He would solve the crime; solving the crime would solve much else. So much else! But this was not one of those improbable, exciting books. There may or may not have been a crime. Harry might never know what happened. He would not discover in his ordinary self an extraordinary gift for sleuthing. He would solve nothing. Accepting that, Harry realized, was its own, small solution.
He got out of bed, filled his largest aluminum tumbler full of vodka and iced tea and went downstairs. He spread out his painting things and a great old barn saw he'd found at a junk store way out in Elyria. He stared at his supplies. He felt like painting, but he did not know what to paint. He finished his drink, made another, stronger one, then came back downstairs and got to work before he could catch himself thinking. He found himself painting women. All dressed in white robes. One was his daughter Jane and one was his daughter Debra and one was the Virgin Mary and one was his mother, who was a store clerk and a saint, too, and had died ten years ago from diabetes-triggered complications. Harry did not like to think of that. He did them all fast. There was so much space, on that long saw, for more figures. He stopped. He was sweating, more than he had when he was helping Jane move. He was drenched. He looked at what he had done. Terrible. They were terrible. All four women looked exactly alike. None looked like herself. To Harry's relief, none looked like the lane girl. They all looked like a cartoon character, a famous one. Harry couldn't think of her name.
He took out the turpentine and wiped the saw clean.
With this, Harry Kreevich went upstairs and fell asleep, alone in a king-sized bed, alone in a big dark house, surrounded by the cast-off belongings of his lost wife and two lost daughters-that and the drone and glow of the bedroom television set. He slept the sleep of the dead. When he woke up, he was stark naked, which was not the way he usually slept. Stranger yet, the clean, turpentine-smelling saw was in his bed, though he did not remember bringing it with him. For no reason he could think of, it comforted him. He ran his hand along the saw's smooth surface. The television was still on. It was Sunday morning. Protestants were singing a hymn Harry didn't know. I should go to Mass, he thought, which he hadn't done since Christmas. He ran his index finger along the teeth of the saw, daring himself to cut himself. His plump fingers pillowed out and whitened from the pressure.
Harry did not cut himself. He broke out laughing. Someone watching this might have mistaken it for crying. But there was no one to watch, about which Harry was awake enough to be glad. So Harry Kreevich's opinion is the one that counts. Call it laughter.
A week later, Harry and Ray were behind the bar together, and the dining lounge was busy, who knew why, when the top story on the TV news reported that a body of a young woman had washed up on the shore of Lake Erie, near a popular tine-smelling saw was in his bed, though he did not remember bringing it with him. For no reason he could think of, it comforted him. He ran his hand along the saw's smooth surface. The television was still on. It was Sunday morning. Protestants were singing a hymn Harry didn't know. I should go to Mass, he thought, which he hadn't done since Christmas. He ran his index finger along the teeth of the saw, daring himself to cut himself. His plump fingers pillowed out and whitened from the pressure.
Harry did not cut himself. He broke out laughing. Someone watching this might have mistaken it for crying. But there was no one to watch, about which Harry was awake enough to be glad. So Harry Kreevich's opinion is the one that counts. Call it laughter.
A week later, Harry and Ray were behind the bar together, and the dining lounge was busy, who knew why, when the top story on the TV news reported that a body of a young woman had washed up on the shore of Lake Erie, near a popular seafood restaurant. Whenever TV people have footage of paramedics pulling a dead white girl out of a scenic place, they will make it a big story.
"Jesus," Harry said. "Oh, no."
"Easy," said Ray. "It could be anybody."
That was hardly a comforting thought.
They called for Jane. By the time she got there, the news had progressed to the gruesome ends of other lives. Still it was Jane who took control, who called the TV station and also the cops for details.
It was not the lane girl. (Harry felt both relieved and disappointed.) The dead girl was a college kid whose boyfriend had been arrested last year for beating her with a Thermos. The boyfriend shot her and threw her in the lake. He proclaimed his innocence. "I don't believe you," Harry angrily said to the TV above the bar.
Six days later, the boyfriend confessed.
"Good call, Harry," Ray said.
"Thank you." Harry was beginning to really like this Ray. He was truly happy when Jane and Ray got engaged. He was even happier, a few months later, when they were married, and he gave Jane away, and at the reception, Debra and Eric announced that they were going to have a baby. After the grandbaby was born-a girl, Sara Jane-Eric turned out to be a patient, talented father. Even Eric was something Harry was getting used to.
Parker's fiancée never called. And since Harry did not get Parker's number and was unwilling to drive back to Cleveland Heights, that was that. Off and on, Harry tried the number in Las Vegas. Always the answering machine, with its caterwauling hair metal. Harry left messages. No one ever called back.
Harry looked for the lane girl's face in shopping malls and crowded places like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which he eventually visited (hair metal, he learned, had been big in the 1980s), but he never saw her. He gradually forgot what she looked like. He stopped calling the number in Las Vegas. He threw away her paycheck. But for the rest of his life, when he picked up a telephone and heard a click, he would wonder if that had been her.
As for Debra's painting, Study #37: When it arrived, Harry took it to a frame store in Parmatown Mall, where a nice young man suggested different frames and mats and had the good manners not to say anything untoward. Harry picked it up a week later. He hung it on his family room wall. When different women came over, it proved to be quite the conversation piece. "What I like about it," Harry would say, "is the light and the space and also how it is not austere."
Someday, he was sure, a woman would hear him say that, and hear how he said it. Someday, someone would hear what it was Harry Kreevich was really trying to say.
Copyright © 2002 by Mark Winegardner

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Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

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