Page 5 of Mystic River


Jimmy's father showed up and stood in the corner of the kitchen looking mad and distracted, his eyes watery, weaving a bit as if the wall kept moving behind him. He didn't speak to Sean's father, and no one spoke to him. With his usual capacity for sudden movement muted, he seemed smaller to Sean, less real somehow, like if Sean looked away he'd look back to find him dissolved into the wallpaper.


After they'd gone over it four or five times, everyone left? the cops, the guy who'd drawn on the pad, Jimmy and his father. Sean's mother went into her bedroom and shut the door, and Sean could hear muffled crying a few minutes later.

He sat out on the porch and his father told him he hadn't done anything wrong, that he and Jimmy were smart not to have gotten in that car. His father patted his knee and said things would turn out fine. Dave will be home tonight. You'll see.

His father shut up then. He sipped his beer and sat with Sean, but Sean could feel he'd drifted away on him, was maybe in the back bedroom with Sean's mother, or down in the cellar building his birdhouses.

Sean looked up the street at the rows of cars, the shiny glint of them. He told himself that this? all of this? was part of some plan that made sense. He just couldn't see it yet. He would someday, though. The adrenaline that had been rushing through his body since Dave had been driven away and he and Jimmy had rolled on the street fighting finally flushed out through his pores like waste.

He saw the place where he, Jimmy, and Dave Boyle had fought by the Bel Air and he waited for the new hollow spaces formed as the adrenaline had left his body to fill back in. He waited for the plan to re-form and make sense. He waited and watched the street and felt its hum and waited some more until his father stood up and they went back inside.

* * *

JIMMY WALKED BACK to the Flats behind the old man. The old man weaved slightly and smoked his cigarettes down to pinched ends and talked to himself under his breath. When they got home, his father might give him a beating, might not, it was too close to tell. After he'd lost his job, he'd told Jimmy never to go to the Devines' house again, and Jimmy figured he'd have to pay up for breaking that rule. But maybe not today. His father had that sleepy drunkenness about him, the kind that usually meant he would sit at the kitchen table when they got home and drink until he fell asleep with his head on his arms.

Jimmy kept a few steps behind him, just in case, though, and tossed the ball up into the air, caught it in the baseball glove he'd stolen from Sean's house while the cops had been saying their good-byes to the Devines and nobody had even said a word to Jimmy and his father as they'd headed down the hallway toward the front door. Sean's bedroom door had been open, and Jimmy'd seen the glove lying on the floor, ball wrapped inside, and he'd reached in and picked it up, and then he and his father were through the front door. He had no idea why he'd stolen the glove. It wasn't for the wink of surprised pride he'd seen in the old man's eyes when he'd picked it up. Fuck that. Fuck him.

It had something to do with Sean hitting Dave Boyle and pussying out on stealing the car and some other things over the year they'd been friends, that feeling Jimmy got that whatever Sean gave him? baseball cards, half a candy bar, whatever? came in the form of a handout.

When Jimmy had first picked up the glove and walked away with it, he'd felt elated. He'd felt great. A little later, as they were crossing Buckingham Avenue, he'd felt that familiar shame and embarrassment that came whenever he stole something, an anger at whatever or whoever made him do these things. Then a little later, as they walked down Crescent and into the Flats, he felt a stab of pride as he looked at the shitty three-deckers and then the glove in his hand.

Jimmy took the glove and he felt bad about it. Sean would miss it. Jimmy took the glove and he felt good about it. Sean would miss it.

Jimmy watched his father stumble ahead of him, the old fuck looking like he'd crumple and turn into a puddle of himself any second, and he hated Sean.

He hated Sean and he'd been dumb to think they could have been friends, and he knew he'd hold on to this glove for the rest of his life, take care of it, never show it to anyone, and he'd never, not once, use the goddamn thing. He'd die before that happened.

Jimmy looked at the Flats spread out before him as he and the old man walked under the deep shade of the el tracks and neared the place where Crescent bottomed out and the freight trains rumbled past the old, ratty drive-in and the Penitentiary Channel beyond, and he knew? deep, deep in his chest? that they'd never see Dave Boyle again. Where Jimmy lived, on Rester, they stole things all the time. Jimmy had had his Big Wheel stolen when he was four, his bike when he was eight. The old man had lost a car. And his mother had started hanging clothes inside to dry after so many had been ripped off the line in the backyard. You felt different when something was stolen as opposed to simply misplaced. You felt it in your chest that it was never coming back. That's how he felt about Dave. Maybe Sean, right now, was feeling that way about his baseball glove, standing over the empty space on the floor where it had been, knowing, beyond logic, that it was never, ever, coming back.

Too bad, too, because Jimmy had liked Dave, although he couldn't put his finger on why most times. Just something about the kid, maybe the way he'd always been there, even if half the time you didn't notice him.

2

FOUR DAYS

AS IT TURNED OUT, Jimmy was wrong.

Dave Boyle returned to the neighborhood four days after he'd disappeared. He came back riding in the front seat of a police car. The two cops who brought him home let him play with the siren and touch the butt of the shotgun locked down beneath the dash. They gave him an honorary badge, and when they delivered him to his mother's house on Rester Street, reporters from the papers and TV were there to capture the moment. One of the cops, an Officer Eugene Kubiaki, lifted Dave out of the cruiser and swung Dave's legs high over the pavement before placing him down in front of his weeping, giggling, shaking mother.

There was a crowd out on Rester Street that day? parents, kids, a mailman, the two roly-poly Pork Chop Brothers who owned the sub shop on the corner of Rester and Sydney, and even Miss Powell, Dave and Jimmy's fifth-grade teacher at the Looey & Dooey. Jimmy stood with his mother. His mother held the back of his head to her midsection and kept a damp palm clamped to his forehead, as if she were checking to make sure he hadn't caught whatever Dave had, and Jimmy felt a twinge of jealousy as Officer Kubiaki swung Dave above the sidewalk, the two of them laughing like old friends as pretty Miss Powell clapped her hands.

I almost got in that car, too, Jimmy wanted to tell someone. He wanted to tell Miss Powell more than anyone. She was beautiful and so clean, and when she laughed you could see that one of her upper teeth was slightly crooked, and that made her even more beautiful to Jimmy. Jimmy wanted to tell her he'd almost gotten in that car and see if her face would fill with the look she was giving Dave now. He wanted to tell her that he thought about her all the time, and in his thoughts he was older and could drive a car and take her to places where she smiled at him a lot and they ate a picnic lunch and everything he said made her laugh and expose that tooth and touch his face with her palm.

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