I picked up the tire iron and handed it to him. This time he did
the deed and danced back from the spray of red glass.
"Can I do the
other one?" he pleaded.
When he'd finished we stood back and admired our work until we
heard the screen door of the house across the street squeak open and a
guy shout, "Hey, what's going on over there?"
We tore down Sandstone back to Main and down Main toward
Tyler. We didn't stop until we hit the Flats.
Jake bent over and held his ribs. "I got a stitch in my side," he gasped.
I was breathing hard too. I put my arm around my brother. "You
were great back there. A regular Mickey Mantle."
"Think we'll get in trouble?"
"Who cares? Didn't that feel good?"
"Yeah," Jake said. "It felt real good."
The Packard was parked in the church lot across the street from
our house. The light over the side door was on and I figured Dad was
still inside putting Gus to bed. I set the tire iron on the Packard's
hood and we walked to the door, which opened onto a set of stairs
that led to the church basement where Gus had a room next to the
Gus wasn't related to us by blood but in a strange way he was
family. He'd fought beside my father in the Second World War, an
experience, my father contended, that made them closer than brothers.
They stayed in touch and whenever Dad updated us on his old
friend it was usually to report another in a long litany of missteps.
Then one day just after we'd moved to New Bremen, Gus aad shown
up at our doorstep, a little drunk and out of work and with everything
he owned stuffed in a pack in the sidecar of his motorcycle. My father had taken him in, given him a place to live, found him
work, and Gus had been with us ever since. He was a source of great
disagreement between my parents but only one of many. Jake and I
liked him immensely. Maybe it was because he talked to us as if we
weren't just kids. Or because he didn't have much and didn't seem
to want more and didn't appear to be bothered by his questionable
circumstances. Or because on occasion he drank to excess and got
himself into trouble from which my father would predictably extricate
him, which made him seem more like an errant older brother
than an adult.
His room in the church basement wasn't much. A bed. A chest of
drawers. A nightstand and lamp. A mirror. A squat three-shelf case
full of books. He'd put a little red rug on the cement floor of his room
that added a dash of color. There was a window at ground level but
not much light came through. On the other side of the basement was
a small bathroom which Dad and Gus had put in themselves. That's
where we found them. While Gus knelt at the toilet stool and puked
my father stood behind him and waited patiently. Jake and I lingered
under the bare bulb in the middle of the basement. My father didn't
seem to notice us.
"Still ralfing," I whispered to Jake.
"You know. R-a-l-f," I said and drew out the word as if I was
"That's it, Captain." With some difficulty Gus stood and my father
handed him a wet cloth to wipe his face.
My father flushed the toilet and walked Gus to his room. He
helped Gus out of his soiled shirt and pants. Gus lay down on his
bed. He wore only his undershirt and shorts. It was cooler in the
basement than outside and my father drew the top sheet over his
"Thanks, Captain," Gus murmured as his eyes drifted closed.
Research shows that 90% of Americans value public libraries(Dec 11 2013) According to a survey by the Pew Research Center, about 90% of Americans aged 16 and older said that the closing of their local public library would have an...