Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I started to expand a story into a novella. So I guess I haven't had much to post here. I wrote this story after reading some Tobias Wolff. The man must have had patience.


They were sitting on a couch in an apartment full of boxes of books and dishes and garbage bags full of clothes. The pieces of a disassembled bed-frame leaned up against the wall opposite the couch.

The new tenant for the apartment got up and said that the two of them should go back downstairs to get the last of the boxes.

The other said, “Again, already. All right, let’s finish it up.”

“You didn’t have to help out,” said the tenant. “I really appreciate it.”

The two shook hands.

“No problem,” said the other man. “I don’t mind at all. It’s really a pain to move, especially when you don’t know anyone around town to help you.”

The tenant had been right. The other man didn’t have any reason to help the first man. The other had woken up late one morning and gone downstairs through the back door of the apartment building to have a cigarette. Outside there was one man backing up a truck and another man, the tenant, guiding the driver. Furniture lay all over the bumpy asphalt. The couches and bed were in pieces. The boxes were stacked in threes and the bags were grouped in one big pile. In the corner were a bicycle and a bag of golf-clubs. In another corner were a television and a wooden stand.

The tenant had said, “Do you mind not smoking next to the furniture? Sorry, I just don’t want them smelling like smoke.”

The other man had said, “Not at all.”

Then the truck drove away, and the tenant looked back at his pile of stuff. The other man watched him.

“Do you want some help?” he asked the tenant.

“You don’t have to do that,” said the tenant.

“I have time,” he said. “I’d be happy to help you move in.”

When they finished getting everything into the new apartment, they sat again on the big white couch and drank some beers.

“It feels good to be done,” said the tenant.

“Yeah,” said the other. “Yeah, I bet it does. Where did you move from?”

“Denver,” said the tenant. “I lived there for about four years.”

“Why’d you move?”

“I followed someone out there,” said the tenant. “Then it didn’t really work out with her. I got a job out here, so here I am.”

The other man thought and then said, “Where were you from before that?”

“Manhattan, Kansas,” said the man.

“Oh,” said the other. “That’s not too far away. Not as far as Denver, anyway.”

“Nope,” said the tenant. “When I was driving, I felt like I was coming home in a way.”

“Did you ever have any tornadoes?” asked the other man. “I mean, did you see any when you were in Manhattan?”

“Sure,” said the tenant. “There were tornadoes from time to time. I guess I never saw any up close, but I’ve been through them.”

The tenant got up and walked to the refrigerator. He pulled out another bottle and then motioned to the other man on the couch, who nodded. Then the tenant came back with the beers.

“I wonder if people in Manhattan, New York, have ever been in tornadoes,” said the other man.

“Yeah,” said the tenant. “I was thinking about how funny it used to be in Denver when I told people that I was from Manhattan. They would always assume.”

“I would have too,” said the other man, “if you hadn’t been up front about it.”

They sat in silence for a little while, drinking the beer and generally just resting their tired bodies. The move had been hard, up three flights of stairs.

The other man said, “Have you been driving through most of the night?”

“Yeah,” the tenant said. “I left Denver yesterday evening, because I didn’t want to drive during the hot days. I thought the humidity would make the drive uncomfortable.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” said the other. “Did it work?”

“I was still sweating and hot,” said the tenant.

The two laughed.

“I was soaked through,” laughed the tenant.

“Yeah, I bet you were,” laughed the other man.

The other man got up to get two more beers. There was a pile of bottles getting bigger and bigger on the floor next to the couch. In the tenant’s eye was a softening gleam, like his eyes had been open for too long. The other man’s face was getting redder.

“Another?” he said from the refrigerator.

The tenant said, “Yeah, thanks.”

The other man brought the beers back to the couch, handed them to the tenant, then said, “I’m going to go have a cigarette. Do you want one?”

“No,” said the tenant. “Not for me, thanks.”

“I’ll be right back, then,” said the other man.

Outside the other man smoked and looked around the parking lot. Most of the cars were gone. People were at their jobs or at their schools. He smoked slowly and with pleasure, like he was kissing a young girl. That was what he imagined outside.

Upstairs in the apartment the tenant was feeling good, but pleasure was not exactly the right name for the feeling. The drinks made him feel all right, but the end of the move was not a sense of enjoyment. It was something else. Probably it was just a sense of another thing done and behind him.

The two men, separated then, were momentarily very different. The tenant got up from the couch to christen the bathroom. He stared at the water in the toilet as it flushed down into the pipes below. As he did so, the other man came back into the apartment.

“You smell smoky,” said the tenant.

“Sorry,” said the other. “I’ll try not to sit on the couch and get my smell all over it.”

The tenant laughed.

“She used to get upset about smells like that,” said the tenant.

“Don’t they all,” said the other.

“I think it’s about time that we went out on the balcony,” said the tenant.

On the balcony the two men began to talk like friends might. The alcohol made them loose.

“You any good at golf?” said the other.

“I’m shit,” said the tenant. “I keep that around just for rare occasions. But I’m just shit.”

“I could’ve guessed that,” laughed the other man. “They say golf isn’t a man’s sport, but to have the patience to do it, you need to be more than a man.”

“Who says that?” said the tenant.

“I don’t know,” said the other man. “Someone had to say it sometime.”

They laughed at that.

“I can’t believe I have a balcony,” said the tenant. “I never thought I would end up with a balcony.”

“Mine’s on the other side of the building,” said the other.

Across from the balcony were an alleyway and then the rooftop of a wide building. There were groups of businesses under that rooftop.

Another pile of bottles had grown up now on the balcony, near where the men were standing and talking. They kept drinking beers until they were almost out of bottles.

Then the tenant said, “You know, I never liked our place in Denver. It never had a balcony. I never liked the couch or the TV. It was all shit.”

The other man said nothing.

“And the golfing?” said the tenant. “I’m not even a golfer. I never knew how to play golf.”

“I think I like baseball more,” said the other man.

“Yeah, baseball,” said the tenant.

He finished his bottle and then walked over to the bag of golf clubs. He unzipped a pocket on one side and pulled out a handful of golf balls.

As he did so, the tenant said, “I like baseball too, but I was usually shitty at it.”

The other man said, “I can’t hit for shit, but I can throw.”

They laughed at this. The tenant brought the golf balls to the balcony.

“Let’s throw these,” he said. “Let’s make a baseball game out of golf.”

The two men looked at the rooftop beyond the balcony. There were some columns coming up out of the flat rooftop. Two of them were on the left and on the right. On the far end was a big aluminum box, one that looked like it was there for a swamp cooler for the businesses. And nearest the two men was a small pipe for steam.

On the balcony, the two drunk men threw some practice balls at the four parts of the rooftop that looked most like a diamond. They decided that this would be the game. The two men took turns throwing the balls from the balcony.

After a few throws, the tenant hit the aluminum box on the far end. After another few throws, the other man hit the column on the right.

“That’s two on,” said the tenant.

“This is much better than golf,” laughed the other man.

“Golf is shit,” said the tenant. “Golf is not a man’s game.”

“That’s what they say,” said the other man.

“They must be right,” said the tenant.

The tenant threw another ball and hit the column on the left.

“That’s three on,” said the tenant.

The men kept throwing balls, trying to hit the pipe nearest them.

“I’ll tell you about Denver sometime,” said the tenant.

“Tell me about Manhattan,” said the other man. “I hear that Denver is shit.”

The tenant laughed.

“It is,” he said.

“We’ve got three on,” said the other man. “Just need to hit the plate. Hit the pipe to bring them home.”

And that was how it went, the two movers taking golf balls out of their pockets until there were no balls left, throwing what they had on top of a rooftop from a balcony, trying to hit the pipe there that would bring them home.

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