Published in The Massachusetts Review.
He sat at the table, which was covered with a plastic-coated red and white checked tablecloth, and looked out the window. In his hand he held a lukewarm beer. Five empty bottles were lined up directly in front of him, five bottles on five checked squares. In the harbor a flock of Bufflehead ducks, tiny pierrot clowns, wove themselves between the orange winter-sticks and dived. Down towards the cove it was all iced-up, and the floes creaked in their miniature sea. It was a monochromatic kind of day, gray and bleached, at the end of February.
“I can’t even get drunk on this shit,” he told her, after she had sat down at the end of the table, facing the bottles and the door that she had just come through. The glass was smeared with brown yellow mud from last week’s plows. Piles of snow lay, suspended in their melting, at the end of the drive, a kind of sticky shaving cream clinging to the asphalt and the sandy stubble.
“Hey, where have you hidden Bill my favorite brother?”
“He doesn’t live here anymore.”
She felt very weary after standing on her feet all day yesterday. Her hands were cracked with dryness in their folds and a chunk of polish had been scraped off her thumbnail. Nobody had answered the phone.