I open all the mail the night I get back from Puerto Angel. There’s two months’ worth of letters and packages, so it’s no easy task. It’s not so much deciding what to read as deciding what not to read. The personal letters are easy. The catalogues and magazines have to be sorted out, the contest mailings and penny savers dumped. Finally, there’s all the business stuff: statements, invoices, bills I forgot to pay, dunning notices.
It is the winter of three snows in Austin. With the first snow and its ice-covered streets comes news of my mother, in another city’s hospital, with a breast lopped off. Second snow — and Austin, not used to such snow, again covered in white — finds me by myself waiting for a teenage daughter who picks the coldest night to run away to the bed of an old carnie twice her age. It is the third snow. The air itself has turned to ice but I walk downtown early anyway to open the bookstore for snow refugees laid off from school and work, for motorists warned off the streets. A woman in a black suit is waiting in a car across the street when I turn the lock and the sign to “Open.” She follows me in and when I answer yes to her question of managership, she opens her wallet and flashes a card. Then she begins to call me Pat and I call her Dolores.
Parting with trembling fingers the veil of myself. What to say. What to say.
This is a chapter from William Penrod’s as-yet-unpublished novel, A Beer Drinker’s Story: The Mama’s Boy.
The trees of Alabama were the stadium. The center field fence was an irrigation ditch, long unused, slowly eroding back to even ground. The dugouts were tucked under chinaberries; the boys waited in the shade for their turn at bat. The wind was the roar of the crowd, a reverse echo drifting in from the future when fans would one day lean out of the Polo Grounds, their cries ornamenting the crack of wood against ball and the slap of ball against leather glove.