Thursday, April 19, 2007

All the Beautiful Names for Oblivion: Part II, chapter 6 from The Edge of the World (a novel in progress)

Things went on this way for a while. Drinking with Bino and Carone at the bar, fucking Rachel a few times a week and, here and there, another girl or two.

I'd been drinking a lot, usually just beer. But whenever Carone was with us at the bar he'd order a round of shots. Although through the course of an evening he'd get very drunk, he'd never pass out. He'd just get giddy and start asking for watermelon shooters, lemon drop shooters, any shooter he knew the name of and sometimes ones he didn't have names for. "Let's have a round of those... what do you call them motherfuckers with the kaluha and the rum or whatever. What do call those, Mown Brountain Fizzess? What the fuck? Bring 'em over for all of us. It's on me, fellas."

Bino was never one to refuse a free drink, and after a time neither was I. Coming home drunk was a good excuse for not fucking Lily with her big belly, and hanging out with Carone and the dogs was a good alibi for those nights with Rachel. Bino didn't seem to mind my fucking her, although I kept it a secret from him at first.

I always tried to look out for him. Although sometimes he had to be cut down a notch or two, as on those occasions when he'd get a bit too confident about himself. I'd always bring him back down to earth as soon as his head started to swell, saving him from a worse fall later on. So when he began fucking Thelma, and started thinking that she thought he was something special, I made him realize that she'd fuck just about anyone. He was disappointed at first, sad even, when I told him how easy it was for me to get her to fuck me. But to make him feel better I encouraged Thelma not to stop fucking him just because she was fucking me.

It was the same way with Rachel. He felt bad when he figured out that she and I were fucking. But to make him feel better I had him come to the hospital with me when Marly was born.

"With this new baby I'll have an excuse to tell Rachel why I can't go over to her place," I said on the way to Lily's room at the hospital. "Pretty soon Rachel will quit running after me."

He nodded solemnly.

"And then she'll start to take you into consideration," I added, even though I knew he didn't have a chance with her. It was like throwing a bone to a dog. Because even though the bone was useless, to the dog it was a prize of sorts—or a symbol of hope even. And when Bino was down, that's what I gave him.

When I opened the door to Lily's room she was holding Marly. Bino looked at Marly with a sense of awe. He wanted to have kids himself one day.

"Here she is," I said, stretching out my hand. "My daughter, Marly."

Bino didn't know that she was actually Leonard's daughter, just as neither he nor Carone knew that Leonard was my brother and Lily my sister. What Bino did know was that to name her Marly was my decision—that after Lily had named the dog I demanded I be the one to name this new baby. Because if it had Lily's decision again, the baby would have been given a name like "Girly" or something ridiculous like that.

When I'd told him the story, Bino said, "Yeah, Lily's got a strange attitude towards names," as if he had some kind of insight into Lily's rationality. Although he'd speak to Lily whenever I brought him to the apartment, they'd always discuss books, writers, foreign films, and little else. Where Bino got the impression that Lily was odd when it came to names I'll never know. But that was him, always picking strange details out of the air and speaking about things of which he knew nothing.

But I must say that as far the name Marly was concerned, it was something I too just picked out of the air. I'd pretended that I was pondering the matter seriously when the only thing that really concerned me was where my next fuck was coming from. When after a month had passed Lily asked me if I'd come to a decision I said, "Oh yeah... Marly. Marly Jane Bay." "Marly" and "Jane" were the first names that came to mind at that moment. They had no particular meaning for me, nor did they have any nostalgic value. I had never, as far as I could recall, met anyone with those names. At any rate, I'd never fucked anyone with those names.

This isn't to say that fucking would have made me remember. Granted, my memory isn't what it used to be, which is one case in which I'm no different from every Joe and Mary around me. Bino, though, had a memory which was rather alarming in its scope. That he was a drinker had no effect on what he recalled. Often he would remind me of things I'd said, things I'd done, as if there were something wrong with my sense of history—or as if I were rewriting my own history, changing the details to suit my present purposes.

He was wrong, of course. He was also wrong about my feelings towards Lily, believing, as he did, that I didn't actually love her and that my running around on her indicated that I was unwilling to make any sacrifices for her.

Sacrifice: To his excessively romantic sensibilities, that was the greatest sign of true affection. But Christ, my whole life has been one sacrifice after another, and for me to try to list them would an extreme act of vanity.

Suffice it to say that when I left Lily, after having lived with her for a few years, it was for her own good. Leonard had come back, and in the state he was in my presence would simply serve to remind him—and Lily—of their own failures in life. I had managed to develop the skills to start my own business and to be my own boss, while they would always have to work for someone else, making small change and struggling to make ends meet.

Indeed, there were many differences between us, and for me to live with them was similar to having a king living in the servants' quarters. Nevertheless, they somehow believed—or at least Leonard did—that they were the ones who were like royalty. With his inbred little family, Leonard saw himself and Lily as a king and queen exiled in a foreign land, biding their time in the hopes that their steadfast actions would put the world in proper motion. I wasn't about to destroy his dream, misbegotten as it was, by setting him straight on the ways of the real world—which is what my mere presence would have done.

Still, his return was not what prompted my departure, as by that time I was ready to leave Ft. Myers. The dog I'd given Lily had run away while I was taking him for a walk. A less assured person would have taken this as a sign that he hadn't quite mastered the art of training dogs, but I knew it meant something else altogether. And what it meant was that I was to follow its example.

On my last night there I took Lily down by the river, where I told her of my plans. Although she took it hard, she seemed to understand. I'd been there for four years, I told her, when at first I'd only planned on staying a week or two. I had provided for her and the kids, bought them what they needed for their home and in the meantime had found a business I wanted to be involved in. And the place where I wanted to develop my business was New York.

I left her down by the river so she could collect her thoughts, then drove to the bar to meet Carone.

"So... you're ready to make the big move," he said as he gestured with a french fry.

"Yeah, it's about time I got out of this fucking town. It's way too small for me."

"Well, that's the way you are. Me, I like being a big fish in a small pond."

A waitress came over to take my order. "A Bud, please," I said, winking at her.

"Whatever happened to that Rachel chick?" Carone asked. "You heard from her since she left town?" With me leaving town he'd become nostalgic all of a sudden.

"Nah, I ain't heard a thing. I just know that she went out west somewhere and went back to school. Or became a hooker. Shit, how the fuck should I know?"

Carone took a bite of his steak and cheese sub, then said, "Hey, take it easy there, Lemmy."

"Hell, I just want to think about the future right now," I said.

"Well, I'm all ready to go if that's what you're worried about."

Carone had let me keep some of the dogs I was training at his place and, since he'd been planning a trip back home, was going to drive up with me. We'd arranged to stay at his brother's house in Westchester County above New York city. He'd stay there for about a week, during which time I'd look for a place of my own where I could set up myself and the dogs.

"I got my guy to stay at the house and handle my dogs while I'm away," he continued. "I got the trailer set up to take your dogs. Everything's cool."

Later we went to Carone's house, where we went through a bottle of bourbon and an entire roast chicken—though it was Carone who did most of the eating. I mostly drank, sitting back on the porch listening to Carone tell jokes until I passed out. In the morning, we hitched up the trailer to my car, put the dogs in, then drove downtown so I could close out my bank account. Stepping out of the bank I had a cashier's check and a huge roll of hundred dollar bills. I got into the car and floored it as the dogs started to bark, leaving a trail of noise that would serve as a farewell to my days in Florida.

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