error. Never again, he decided. The tournaments were far away lots of times, anyway, in Ventura and Palm Springs and Las Vegas, so he and his dad left on Friday nights. Weekends were not for lying around with friends, taking hits on somebody’s bong, but for killing kids who said, “Let’s go!” in the round of sixty-four to make the round of thirty-two to make the round of sixteen to make the round of eight and so on to the finals, to be ranked and recruited, to play Division I tennis, to live, ad infinitum, where the green court smelled like hot paint and the ball kept coming at you like a thing you thought you had already killed. For this his mother had brought them to live in the Deckerling Arms on Fourth Street, grilling chicken on a crappy balcony and taking care of old, sick people in the Shores, though tennis was not a game she understood or liked or even came to watch when the high school had a home match. It was his fault, in a way, because when he was still playing in under-twelves, he had lost when she was watching and he screamed at her not to watch him anymore and she said, “Okay, I won’t.” She didn’t. Not ever again. Plus, she had her job.
Kids who hated Clay said that anyone who was friends with him was in it for the bling, but those same people were the first ones to show up when Clay threw a party, because his sister was happy to buy the booze. The Mooreheads’ house was right on the water, and sitting in any part of it, you could see the Hyatt and Seaport Village across the bay, “the whole toolbox,” as Clay’s father had called it one time, showing Jerome how the Hyatt was shaped like a flathead screwdriver, Emerald Plaza was a set of Allen wrenches, and the One America building was a pointy-cross-shaped Phillips head. In the blue current that was deep enough for container ships and aircraft carriers but narrow enough that you could fantasize about swimming across it someday, an endless parade of boats went by. It mesmerized Jerome to sit there on those weekends when he lost in the round of thirty-two or sixteen and came home scared and Clay said,
You’re the best, man. Don’t worry about it.
The bayfront walls of the Mooreheads’ living room were made of thick glass, hooked together by hinges in a slot that allowed you to fold the whole house open, and when you did that, the living room extended to a lawn planted somehow on a platform that hovered right over the rocks and slabs of broken concrete that rose from the mud at low tide. It was there you could feel for whole seconds at a time that you were on the way to the best, that you certainly had the best in front of you, so there was no need at all to worry. This was the feeling money could buy.
S he points her toes to touch the wooden door and tries to stretch the duct tape. She smells disgusting. When did this happen? When he shot her with the gun? She’s like a goat penned at the fair. Black diarrhea on its trembling legs.
She calls out, “I half do pee,” and “Leth be outh,” twice, three times. The boat rocks, the gag crushes her cheeks against her teeth. Finally she hears the click of the outer door, his heavy feet, the scrape.
There he is with his turtle skin and his spotted lip.
In his hands he holds a white blouse that’s yellowy tan at the collar, a knitted poncho in pink acrylic. Small clothes, like for a child. “Remember these?” he asks her, and his eyes are trying to be soft but they scare her to her very core. The fear that keeps her from nodding or shaking her head is that he used to have sex with Julia. She closes her eyes and holds her bladder tight in the stinking, hot cabin of the crazy man’s boat. Seven signs, he says. Sand dollars are one of the seven signs. He puts aside the ancient blouse and the stained poncho so he can hold up a jar of sand dollars packed in sand. “For you,” he says. “I wrote the date on the bottom and the number it is in the collection. They’re good luck, you
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