He nodded. 'Yes. The same sort of intuition that caused me to give you Reba. My intuition is that in your case, time may soothe you. Time and memory.'
I didn't tell him I remembered everything I wanted to. He knew my position on that. 'How much time are we talking about, Kamen?'
He sighed as a man does before saying something he may regret. 'At least a year.' He studied my face. 'It seems a very long time to you. The way you are now.'
'Yes,' I said. 'Time's different for me now.'
'Of course it is,' he said. 'Pain-time is different. Alone-time is different. Put them together and you have something very different. So pretend you're an alcoholic and do it as they do.'
'A day at a time.'
He nodded. 'A day at a time.'
'Kamen, you are so full of bullshit.'
He looked at me from the depths of the old couch, not smiling. He'd never get out of there without help.
'Maybe si, si, maybe maybe no, no,' he said. 'In the meantimeEdgar, does anything make you happy?'
'I don't knowI used to sketch.'
I realized I hadn't done more than doodle while taking telephone calls since an art class for extra credit in high school. I considered lying about this - I was ashamed to seem like such a fixated drudge - and then told the truth. One-armed men should tell the truth whenever possible. Kamen doesn't say that; I do.
'Take it up again,' Kamen said. 'You need hedges.'
'Hedges,' I said, bemused.
'Yes, Edgar.' He looked surprised and a little disappointed, as if I had failed to understand a very simple concept. 'Hedges against the night.'
It might have been a week after Kamen's visit that Tom Riley came to see me. The leaves had started to turn color, and I remember the clerks putting up Halloween posters in the Wal-Mart where I bought sketchpads and various drawing implements a few days before my former accountant's visit; that's the best I can do.
What I remember most clearly about that visit is how embarrassed and ill-at-ease Tom seemed. He was on an errand he didn't want to run.
I offered him a Coke and he took me up on it. When I came back from the kitchen, he was looking at a pen-and-ink I'd done - three palm trees silhouetted against an expanse of water, a bit of tiled roof jutting into the left foreground. 'This is pretty good,' he said. 'You do this?'
'Nah, the elves,' I said. 'They come in the night. Cobble my shoes and draw the occasional picture.'
He laughed too hard and set the picture back down on the desk. 'Don't look much like Minnesota, dere,' he said, doing a Swedish accent.
'I copied it out of a book,' I said. 'What can I do for you, Tom? If it's about the business -'
'Actually, Pam asked me to come out.' He ducked his head. 'I didn't much want to, but I didn't feel I could say no.'
'Tom,' I said, 'go on and spit it out. I'm not going to bite you.'
'She's got herself a lawyer. She's going ahead with this divorce business.'
'I never thought she wouldn't.' It was the truth. I still didn't remember choking her, but I remembered the look in her eyes when she told me I had. I remembered telling her she was a quitting birch and feeling that if she dropped dead at that moment, right there at the foot of the cellar stairs, that would be all right with me. Fine, in fact. And setting aside how I'd felt then, once Pam started down a road, she rarely turned around.
'She wants to know if you're going to be using Bozie.'
I had to smile at that. William Bozeman III was the wheel-dog of the Minneapolis law-firm the company used, and if he knew Tom and I had been calling him Bozie for the last twenty years, he would probably have a hemorrhage.
'I hadn't thought about it. What's the deal, Tom? What exactly does she want?'
He drank off half his Coke, put the glass on a bookshelf beside my half-assed sketch, and looked at his shoes. 'She said she hopes it doesn't have to be mean. She said, I don't want to be rich, and I don't want a fight. I just want him to be fair to me and the girls, the way he always was, will you tell him that?' So I am.' He shrugged, still looking down at his shoes.
I got up, went to the big window between the living room and the porch, and looked out at the lake. When I turned back, Tom Riley didn't look himself at all. At first I thought he was sick to his stomach. Then I realized he was struggling not to cry.
'Tom, what's the matter?' I asked.
He shook his head, tried to speak, and produced only a watery croak. He cleared his throat and tried again. 'Boss, I can't get used to seeing you with just the one arm. I'm so sorry.'
It was artless, unrehearsed, and sweet. A straight shot to the heart, in other words. I think there was a moment when we were both close to bawling, like a couple of Sensitive Guys on The Oprah Winfrey Show The Oprah Winfrey Show. All we needed was Dr. Phil, nodding avuncular approval.
'I'm sorry, too,' I said, 'but I'm getting along. Really. And I'm going to give you an offer to take back to her. If she likes the shape of it, we can hammer out the details. No lawyers needed. Do-it-yourself deal.'
'Are you serious, Eddie?'
'I am. You do a comprehensive accounting so we have a bottom-line figure to work with. Nothing hidden. Then we divide the swag into four shares. She takes three - seventy-five per cent - for her and the girls. I take the rest. The divorce itselfhey, Minnesota's a no-fault state, she and I can go to lunch and then buy Divorce for Dummies Divorce for Dummies at Borders.' at Borders.'
He looked dazed. 'Is there such a book?'
'I haven't researched it, but if there isn't, I'll eat your shirts.'
'I think the saying's eat my shorts.''
'Isn't that what I said?'
'Never mind. Eddie, that kind of deal is going to trash the estate.'
'Ask me if I give a shit. Or a shirt, for that matter. All I'm proposing is that we dispense with the ego that usually allows the lawyers to swallow the cream. There's plenty for all of us, if we're reasonable.'
He drank some of his Coke, never taking his eyes off me. 'Sometimes I wonder if you're the same man I used to work for,' he said.
'That man died in his pickup truck,' I said.
If you've been picturing my convalescent retreat as a lakeside cottage standing in splendid isolation at the end of a lonely dirt road in the north woods, you better think again - this is suburban St. Paul we're talking about. Our place by the lake stands at the end of Aster Lane, a paved street running from East Hoyt Avenue to the water. In the middle of October I finally took Kathi Green's advice and began walking. They were only short outings up to East Hoyt Avenue, but I always came back with my bad hip crying for mercy and often with tears standing in my eyes. Yet I also almost always came back feeling like a conquering hero - I'd be a liar if I didn't admit it. I was returning from one of these walks when Mrs. Fevereau hit Gandalf, the pleasant Jack Russell terrier who belonged to the little girl next door.
I was three-quarters of the way home when the Fevereau woman went past me in her ridiculous mustard-colored Hummer. As always, she had her cell phone in one hand and a cigarette in the other; as always she was going too fast. I barely noticed, and I certainly didn't see Gandalf dash into the street up ahead, concentrating only on Monica Goldstein, coming down the other side of the street in full Girl Scout uniform. I was concentrating on my reconstructed hip. As always near the end of these short strolls, this so-called medical marvel felt packed with roughly ten thousand tiny points of broken glass. My clearest memory before the scream of the Hummer's tires was thinking that the Mrs. Fevereaus of the world now lived in a different universe than the one I inhabited, one where all sensations were turned down to half-strength.
Then the tires yowled, and a little girl's scream joined them: 'GANDALF, NO!' For a moment I had a clear and unearthly vision of the crane that had almost killed me filling the right window of my pickup truck, the world I'd always lived in suddenly eaten up by a yellow much brighter than Mrs. Fevereau's Hummer, and black letters floating in it, swelling, getting larger.
Then Gandalf began to scream, too, and the flashback - what Dr. Kamen would no doubt have called a recovered memory a recovered memory - was gone. Until that afternoon in October four years ago, I hadn't known dogs - was gone. Until that afternoon in October four years ago, I hadn't known dogs could could scream. scream.
I broke into a lurching, crabwise run, pounding the sidewalk with my red crutch. I'm sure it would have appeared ludicrous to an onlooker, but no one was paying any attention to me. Monica Goldstein was kneeling in the middle of the street beside her dog, which lay in front of the Hummer's high, boxy grille. Her face was white above her forest-green uniform, from which a sash of badges and medals hung. The end of this sash was soaking in a spreading pool of Gandalf's blood. Mrs. Fevereau half-jumped and half-fell from the Hummer's ridiculously high driver's seat. Ava Goldstein came running from the front door of the Goldstein house, crying her daughter's name. Mrs. Goldstein's blouse was half-buttoned and her feet were bare.
'Don't touch him, honey, don't touch him,' Mrs. Fevereau said. She was still holding her cigarette and she puffed nervously at it. 'He could bite.'
Monica paid no attention. She touched Gandalf's side. The dog screamed again when she did - it was was a scream - and Monica covered her eyes with the heels of her hands. She began to shake her head. I didn't blame her. a scream - and Monica covered her eyes with the heels of her hands. She began to shake her head. I didn't blame her.
Mrs. Fevereau reached out for the girl, then changed her mind. She took two steps back, leaned against the high side of her ridiculous yellow mode of transport, and looked up at the sky.
Mrs. Goldstein knelt beside her daughter. 'Honey, oh honey please don't'
Gandalf began to howl. He lay in the street, in a pool of his spreading blood, howling. And now I could also remember the sound the crane had made. Not the meep-meep-meep meep-meep-meep it was supposed to make, because its backup warning had been broken, but the juddering stutter of its diesel engine and the sound of its treads eating up the earth. it was supposed to make, because its backup warning had been broken, but the juddering stutter of its diesel engine and the sound of its treads eating up the earth.
'Get her inside, Ava,' I said. 'Get her in the house.'
Mrs. Goldstein got her arm around her daughter's shoulders and urged her up. 'Come on, honey. Come inside.'
'Not without Gandalf Gandalf!' Monica screamed. She was eleven, and mature for her age, but in those moments she had regressed to three. 'Not without my doggy doggy!' Her sash, the last three inches now sodden with blood, thwapped the side of her skirt and a long line of blood spattered down her calf.
'Go in and call the vet,' I told her. 'Say Gandalf's been hit by a car. Say he has to come right away. I'll stay with him.'
Monica looked at me with eyes that were more than shocked. They were crazy. I had no trouble holding her gaze, though; I'd seen it often enough in my own mirror. 'Do you promise? Big swear? Mother's name?'
'Big swear, mother's name,' I said. 'Go on, Monica.'
She went, casting one more look back and uttering one more bereft wail before starting up the steps to her house. I knelt beside Gandalf, holding onto the Hummer's fender and going down as I always did, painfully and listing severely to the left, trying to keep my right knee from bending any more than it absolutely had to. Still, I voiced my own little cry of pain, and I wondered if I'd be able to get up again without help. It might not be forthcoming from Mrs. Fevereau; she walked over to the lefthand side of the street with her legs stiff and wide apart, then bent at the waist as if bowing to royalty, and vomited in the gutter. She held the hand with the cigarette in it off to one side as she did it.
I turned my attention to Gandalf. He had been struck in the hindquarters. His spine was crushed. Blood and shit oozed sluggishly from between his broken rear legs. His eyes turned up to me and in them I saw a horrible expression of hope. His tongue crept out and licked my inner left wrist. His tongue was dry as carpet, and cold. Gandalf was going to die, but maybe not soon enough. Monica would come out again soon, and I didn't want him alive to lick her wrist when she did.
I understood what I had to do. There was no one to see me do it. Monica and her mother were inside. Mrs. Fevereau's back was still turned. If others on this little stub of a street had come to their windows (or out on their lawns), the Hummer blocked their view of me sitting beside the dog with my bad right leg awkwardly outstretched. I had a few moments, but only a few, and if I stopped to consider, my chance would be lost.
So I took Gandalf's upper body in my good arm and without a pause I'm back at the Sutton Avenue site, where The Freemantle Company is getting ready to build a forty-story bank building. I'm in my pickup truck. Pat Green's on the radio, singing 'Wave on Wave.' I suddenly realize the crane's too loud even though I haven't heard any backup beeper and when I look to my right the world in that window is gone. The world on that side has been replaced by yellow. Black letters float there: LINK-BELT LINK-BELT. They're swelling. I spin the Ram's wheel to the left, all the way to the stop, knowing I'm already too late as the scream of crumpling metal starts, drowning out the song on the radio and shrinking the inside of the cab right to left because the crane's invading my space, stealing stealing my space, and the pickup is tipping. I'm trying for the driver's side door but it's no good. I should have done that right away but it got too late real early. The world in front of me disappears as the windshield turns to milk shot through with a million cracks. Then the building site is back, still turning on a hinge as the windshield pops out, my space, and the pickup is tipping. I'm trying for the driver's side door but it's no good. I should have done that right away but it got too late real early. The world in front of me disappears as the windshield turns to milk shot through with a million cracks. Then the building site is back, still turning on a hinge as the windshield pops out, flies flies out bent in the middle like a playing-card, and I'm laying on the horn with the points of both elbows, my right arm doing its last job. I can barely hear the horn over the crane's engine. out bent in the middle like a playing-card, and I'm laying on the horn with the points of both elbows, my right arm doing its last job. I can barely hear the horn over the crane's engine. LINK-BELT LINK-BELT is still moving in, pushing the passenger-side door, closing the passenger-side footwell, eating up the dashboard, splintering it in jagged hunks of plastic. The shit from the glove-compartment floats around like confetti, the radio goes dead, my lunchbucket is tanging against my clipboard, and here comes is still moving in, pushing the passenger-side door, closing the passenger-side footwell, eating up the dashboard, splintering it in jagged hunks of plastic. The shit from the glove-compartment floats around like confetti, the radio goes dead, my lunchbucket is tanging against my clipboard, and here comes LINK-BELT. LINK-BELT LINK-BELT. LINK-BELT is right on top of me, I could stick out my tongue and lick that fucking hyphen. I start screaming because that's when the pressure starts. The pressure is my right arm first pushing against my side, then spreading, then splitting open. Blood douses my lap like a bucket of hot water and I hear something breaking. Probably my ribs. It sounds like chickenbones under a bootheel. is right on top of me, I could stick out my tongue and lick that fucking hyphen. I start screaming because that's when the pressure starts. The pressure is my right arm first pushing against my side, then spreading, then splitting open. Blood douses my lap like a bucket of hot water and I hear something breaking. Probably my ribs. It sounds like chickenbones under a bootheel.
I held Gandalf against me and thought Bring the friend, sit in the friend, sit in the fucking PAL, you dump bitch! Bring the friend, sit in the friend, sit in the fucking PAL, you dump bitch!
Now I'm in sitting in the chum, sitting in the fucking pal, pal, it's at home but all the clocks of the world are still ringing inside my cracked head and I can't remember the name of the doll Kamen gave me, all I can remember are boy names: Randall, Russell, Rudolph, even River-fucking-Phoenix. I tell her to leave me alone when she comes in with the lunch I don't want, to give me five minutes to get myself under control. it's at home but all the clocks of the world are still ringing inside my cracked head and I can't remember the name of the doll Kamen gave me, all I can remember are boy names: Randall, Russell, Rudolph, even River-fucking-Phoenix. I tell her to leave me alone when she comes in with the lunch I don't want, to give me five minutes to get myself under control. I can do this, I can do this, I say, because it's the phrase Kamen has given me, it's the out, it's the I say, because it's the phrase Kamen has given me, it's the out, it's the meep-meep-meep meep-meep-meep that says watch out, Pamela, I'm backing up. But instead of leaving she takes the napkin from the lunch tray to wipe the sweat off my forehead and while she's doing that I grab her by the throat because in that moment it seems to me it's her fault I can't remember my doll's name, that says watch out, Pamela, I'm backing up. But instead of leaving she takes the napkin from the lunch tray to wipe the sweat off my forehead and while she's doing that I grab her by the throat because in that moment it seems to me it's her fault I can't remember my doll's name, everything everything is her fault, including is her fault, including LINK-BELT LINK-BELT. I grab her with my good left hand, caught a break there, muchacho muchacho. For a few seconds I want to kill her, and who knows, maybe I almost do. What I do know is I'd rather remember all the accidents in the world than the look in her eyes as she struggles in my grip like a fish stuck on a gaff. Then I think It was RED! It was RED! and let her go. and let her go.
I held Gandalf against my chest as I once held my infant daughters and thought, I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this. I felt Gandalf's blood soak through my pants like hot water and thought, I felt Gandalf's blood soak through my pants like hot water and thought, Go on, you sad fuck, get out of Dodge. Go on, you sad fuck, get out of Dodge.
I held Gandalf and thought of how it felt to be crushed alive as the cab of your truck ate the air around you and the breath left your body and the blood blew out of your nose and mouth and those snapping sounds as consciousness fled, those were the bones breaking inside your own body: your ribs, your arm, your hip, your leg, your cheek, your fucking skull.
I held Monica's dog and thought, in a kind of miserable triumph: It was RED! It was RED!
For a moment I was in a darkness shot with that red, and I held Gandalf's neck in the crook of my left arm, which was now doing the work of two and very strong. I flexed that arm as hard as I could, flexed the way I did when I was doing my curls with the ten-pound weight. Then I opened my eyes. Gandalf was silent, staring past my face and past the sky beyond.
'Edgar?' It was Hastings, the old guy who lived two houses up from the Goldsteins. There was an expression of dismay on his face. 'You can let go now. That dog is dead.'
'Yes,' I said, relaxing my grip on Gandalf. 'Would you help me get up?'
'I'm not sure I can,' Hastings said. 'I'd be more apt to pull us both down.'
'Then go in and see the Goldsteins,' I said.
'It is her dog,' he said. 'I wasn't sure. I was hoping' He shook his head.
'It's hers. And I don't want her to see him like this.'
'Of course not, but -'
'I'll help him,' Mrs. Fevereau said. She looked a little better, and she had ditched the cigarette. She reached for my right armpit, then hesitated. 'Will that hurt you?'
It would, but less than staying the way I was. As Hastings went up the Goldsteins' walk, I took hold of the Hummer's bumper. Together we managed to get me on my feet.
'I don't supposed you've got anything to cover the dog with?' I asked.
'As a matter of fact, there's a rug remnant in the back.' She started around to the rear - it would be a long trek, given the Hummer's size - then turned back. 'Thank God it died before the little girl got back.'
'Yes,' I said. 'Thank God.'
'Still - she'll never forget it, will she?'
'Well,' I said, 'you're asking the wrong person about that, Mrs. Fevereau. I'm just a retired general contractor.' But when I asked Kamen, he was surprisingly optimistic. He says it's the bad memories that wear thin first. Then, he says, they tear open and let the light through. I told him he was full of shit and he just laughed.
Maybe si, si, he says. Maybe he says. Maybe no no.
A Note on the Type
This book was set in Sabon, a typeface designed in 1964 by the German typographer Jan Tschichold (1902-1974). Sabon, a practical, multi-purpose typeface with non-overlapping characters, is noted for its legibility and grace. Tschichold based Sabon on the type designs of the French typeface designers Claude Garamond (c. 1480-1561) for the roman and Robert Granjon (1513-1589) for the italic. Sabon is named after Jacques Sabon (1535-1580), who cast the type for many of Garamond's faces.
The display typeface for this book is DIN Schriften Engschrift, one of a series of typefaces created in the 1930s by the German Institute for Industrial Standards for use on road signs. No further history of the face is known because the Institute, in Berlin, was bombed during World War II and its records destroyed.