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The Request Part (3 of 4)
“Well,” I said, “I can tell you all kinds of things. Ronald Reagan will be a great president; in twenty years the USSR will be gone. Computers will be really big. The telephone and computer will combine to form one known device. As ‘the Internet.’ . I like gas prices and inflation here. I can talk about football, baseball, but none of that helps; you need to know tonight.”
“I should know what tonight?” Cole looked really confused.
“We’ll talk about that later,” I said. I took a deep breath, steadied myself, and sighed. I felt the radio in my coat and could see it coming together. “Tell me,” I said, “what will please you tonight?”
Cole’s marble gaze unnerved me. “Tell me what’s going to happen tomorrow,” he said. “And be specific.”
“Fine” My jaws locked as Angie walked in, sour from her grounding. “Cole,” I said, “I’ll tell you what’s going to happen tonight.”
Cole nodded. Trevor turned towards us.
“So we’re sitting here,” Cole said. “Not much happening. It’s Wednesday…”
“Two things will happen in the next hour,” I said. “The first Sylvia will be home from church.”
“Yeah,” Cole said, “there’s a pretty good chance she lives here.”
“Ah,” I said, “but she won’t come alone.” Angie’s cold stare reminded me of my earlier mistake with the hippies, but I decided to get on the ice. “Hank will come in with her.”
“Not too shabby,” Cole said. “Hank hasn’t been here in three days, so there’s about an eighty percent chance he’ll show up tonight.”
Trevor held the poodles tightly. He ran towards us licking his lips. “Why is Hank coming,” he said. “Does he have my birthday present?”
“Trevor, Hank’s not going to give you a present,” Cole said.
“Hey, Hank’s bringing you a present, okay, Trevor,” I said.
Cole’s face turned red. “Don’t lie to my son,” he said.
“I’m stating the facts.”
“Then you must be right!”
I gathered my courage and leaned towards him. “In a few minutes,” I said, “Sylvia and Hank will walk in. Hank will have a box, a heavy one, wrapped in red ribbon. He apologizes to Trevor for missing his birthday. hit.”
“You mean his truck.”
“No, I mean his car, the one he just bought at the store.” I was happy to repeat what Hank had told me a hundred times over the years. I didn’t think the story would have changed in the retelling.
“I haven’t heard anything about Hank going on a trip or getting a new car,” Cole said.
“Oh, you will,” I said. “He’ll open that box and there’ll be a…” I looked at Trevor, not wanting to give him a birthday present, not wanting to ruin the surprise. “Something to do with horses,” I said. “You know the old saying, ‘Close only counts…’
“Yeah, I know the saying,” Cole said evenly.
I stayed on the sofa rubbing rough threads. Cole forced a smile and dropped his paper on the floor beside the lamp. I could see lights flickering in the living room from the front street window and hear tires displacing gravel.
“My horse!” Trevor braced himself and ran for the door.
“Oh god,” Cole said, rolling his eyes.
Trevor opened the door. He was chatting excitedly when he heard a loud noise on the stairs. Everyone looked at the door. It opened. Sylvia arrived first, carrying a worn Bible and a substantial purse. Hank stumbled forward, a large box in his hands.
“Happy birthday Trevor boy!” cried Hank, dancing around Sylvia. “Sorry I missed!”
Trevor looked out confused. “Where is my horse?”
“Your horse?” Hank shook his head. “Sorry, kid, didn’t know you wanted a horse, but I got shoes!” He placed the box on the floor; Trevor tore into it.
“What is this?” Trevor shouted.
“It’s a horseshoe!” Hank shouted. “Let’s go back and play!”
“In the dark?”
“Yes!” Hank picked up the box and spun it in a circle on his way out.
“Wait!” Cole stood up, his mouth agape, brow red. “Hank,” he said, “why did you come here tonight?”
Hank stopped, craning his neck to look at Cole. “It’s the boy’s birthday today, Cole,” he said. “What, is he in trouble or something? I didn’t know.”
“Hank!” Cole’s face scrunched up. “Why did you buy my son horseshoes?”
“I don’t know, Cole.” Hank stood in the dining room, mouth agape.
Cole calmed himself. “Where have you been for the past three days?”
“Oh.” Hank dropped the horseshoe onto the tiled dining room floor. “You hear about fights? Yeah, I’m sorry. I can be a real ass.”
Cole’s hands were shaking. “Hank, horseshoe, whose idea was Leo?”
“For God’s sake,” Hank said exasperated. “To tell you the truth, I didn’t see anyone after the fight. I left the lunatic in my new car, I told myself I’d go for a little test drive, and I got stuck in Newport. While I was waiting for an alternator to ship, I stopped by this little fishing shop— Never noticed that place before. And I saw this horseshoe in the window, so I remembered how it was, you know, when Dad gave us the first set of horseshoes?”
“You think I’m stupid, Hank?” Cole clenched his fists.
Hank’s jaw dropped. “Shall we go back here, big brother? I only drove three hours. I didn’t even go home.
“You’ve talked to someone since you got home!”
“No,” muttered Hank, “no one called; no one saw.”
“No, of course,” Cole said, relieved. He put a smile on his quivering lips. “Just playing with you, little brother. Go ahead, play in the dark. Now is the best time to play horseshoes in the dark.”
Hank nodded. “Come on, Trevor,” he said, and off they went like chums.
“Cole,” Sylvia said, folding her fur coat over the dining room chair, “you look rough. Are you okay?”
Cole smiled nervously. “I’m fine,” he said, shoving his hands in his jeans pockets and shuffling his keys. “I think I’ll go for a walk.”
Something about ‘hit the nail on the right head’ was about to be said, but I rose from the closed lip of the chair. Cole stopped, turned to me, nodded and said, “So what do you want, a gold watch?” he said, and I just stared, afraid to make a fuss.
Finally I said, “And now?”
Cole frowned. “Nice trick, Leo,” he said, slapping his CZ cap.
“The trick?” My courage returned. “See it if you think it’s a trick. Ask Hank; he’ll never get along with me!” The closer Cole got to the door, the more I shuddered.
“Leo,” Cole said, “No matter how you pull the trick, it’s still just a trick. What I wonder is why you would go to such extremes for this idea, this lie.” He turned to Sylvia and scoffed. “He needs medicine, which can be found at a nearby nut farm.
I was angry when I saw him walk out the door. Sylvia rolled her eyes at me and I tried to stay calm.
“What was all this?” she said
“I don’t know.”
“I swear I never said you needed medication.”
“It’s all right,” I said. “Cole went out for air. I think I’ll do the same.” I opened the door as Cole’s Harley roared to life. The vibrations rattled the windows. I would have won. I showed him all the evidence he needed and he brushed me off. Leo, Moocher, I’ll always be good to him. I came here as if the family reunion was noble and lobbying Cole for permission. I didn’t need Cole’s permission. Cole would be out of the picture anyway in less than six years. So who will Trevor stay with?
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