Sam LipsyteUSAWriting2012
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Excerpt from a Story

Davis called, told me he was dying.


He said his case was – here was essence of Davis -- time sensitive.


“Come visit,” he said. “Bid farewell to the ragged rider.”


“You?” I said. “The cigarette hater? That’s just wrongness.”


“Nonetheless, brother, come.” 


“Who was that?” said Ondine, my ex-mother-in-law. I kissed her cream-goldened shoulder, slid out of bed.


“A sick friend. I’ve known him twenty years, more, since college. I might have to leave town for a while.”


“No,” said Ondine. “You’re leaving town for good. The occupation ends today. It’s been calamity for us, for the region. Go to your friend.”


“He’s not really my friend.”


“All the more reason to go to him,” said Ondine. “Jesus would be in Pennsylvania by now.”


 
Ypsilanti was easy to leave. I wasn’t from there. I’d just landed there. The Michigan Eviscerations had begun in Manhattan. Martha was a junior at NYU, heiress to a fuel-injection fortune. I was the cheeky barista who kept penciling my phone number on her latte’s heat sleeve. Cheeky, and I should add, quite hairy. Martha finally dialed the smudged figures on the corrugated cuff, cavorted in my belly fur. The woman never exhibited any qualms about our economic divide. After all, she’d remind me, I was a Jew. One day I’d just quit mucking around with burlap sacks of Guatemalan Sunrise and start brewing moolah.


“You can’t help it,” she said. “It’s a genetic thing. You weren’t allowed to own land in the Middle Ages.”


I wasn’t allowed to own land in Michigan either. We got married but her folks bought the Ann Arbor house in her name. Martha enrolled for a master’s degree at the university. She demanded I concoct a passion she could bankroll, a “doable dream.” What would it be? Poetry journal? Microlabel for the new jam rock? Nanobatch raki boutique? I mulled these and other notions, but mostly focused on my favored pursuit: grilling premium meats. I grilled grass-fed beef, saddles of rabbit, bison, organic elk. My mulled projects moldered. I’d always pictured myself the genius in the journal, on the label, not running the damn things. Moreover, wasn’t there bookkeeping involved, basic math? No matter what Martha believed about my inherited numerical wizardry honed on the twisty streets of Antwerp, or maybe Münster, I could barely count.