With six weeks to go before Winter will allow him near her, McCormick joins a road trip to Butte for a big basketball game.
The Hawks win. The party is fun. McCormick ends up sharing a Motel 6 bed with Vanessa Vinton, who he didn’t kiss (because of Winter or a different fear?) that day last summer when she came over and cut his hair in the backyard.
Six other kids sleep next to them, on the floor and the next bed, and Vanessa just had chicken pox. She whispers about her scabs when he moves closer in the night.
McCormick roamed free in the backseat and had a cassette player and the bandana blanket his Yiayia made. How much longer? Bill would answer, Three Batmans, and he’d play them in his head.
He offers June this measure—two more Sophias honey—but this emphasizes the absent iPad, the actual princess. And she’s strapped into the car seat, a condition no blanket relieves. She responds with her signature hmmph.
McCormick owned that Mustang. June despises their Honda. But she has her own skills. Eyes closed, she composes…
Did you know that I love you? Do a painting all in blue…
Sarah. My sister’s daughter. Like a sister to my daughter. June.
Visiting, from the Inland Empire, with her father. On their way to Thailand where he will give a workshop. Sarah says, After Poppa teaches his class I get to ride an Elephant.
Among my sister’s last wishes, Sarah should see the world, of which quite a bit is displayed here on the C train.
Sarah and June cling to the pole in the center of the car.
Why do I hear so many languages? Sarah asks.
New York, June answers, shrugging in the way our town has taught her.
It’s our last day and I’m sad. I won’t see stars at night for a whole nother year.
We’re doing the waterslides one more time: Baby Slide, Fast Current, Death Defying.
Momma screams the loudest of anyone!
But the day is actually over before we even leave for the airport, because Daddy shakes his head and collects all the, like, pieces of paper and cups and stuff floating down the lazy river with us, and Momma repeats words I don’t understand.
Notsies. Rule of Log. Sybil War.
And of course, like everyone always says, Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Donald Trump.
First, that scooter he bought to ride around with June. Then showing off at beach yoga. Anyone could have predicted what would come next.
Facebook posts. Many. Of his kid and his wife, at the volcano and the waterfall…OMG, JUNE IS SNORKELING!
Worst of all, selfies from the golf course.
The only pics left in the camera were of food. Sure, you could have tasted that brick of flaming marshmallow flanked by banana ice cream and an elegant pile of graham cracker crumbs right through the video. But he had to maintain a shadow of his fiction. That cool reserve.
Back home dudes shame him with handstands on the way down to chaturanga. On the beach he’s the only one jumping up to complete the vinyasas.
So he becomes that guy, rising unbidden from bridge into full wheel and doing a sweet, solitary shoulder stand before savasana.
After class he presents, sweaty and sandy, for an attaboy.
But teacher Whipple congratulates himself. “Dude you’re here without your wife? I’m super impressed! I converted you to yoga!”
Denied his dose of praise, McCormick smiles and nods and walks into the waves, which are cool and soothing, just like the day before.
At beach yoga McCormick checked the other towels. Sunburned ankles, vanilla thighs, sandy glutes. But no buzzing and slapping. The carrion call was for him.
Probably because of the knee he skinned falling of his scooter last week. (Oh, Mikey, remember how you reviled grownups on scooters?)
New flesh came off like pudding skin in the hot-tub. Left a puffy yellow glob. The flies thought he was dead already.
Ten hours later, while June naps, he runs Makena Road. Left his glasses in the room. Can’t read the heart monitor. But he feels fast and hot, even this close to sunset.
After the morning race for chairs, from which Julie emerges with four under an umbrella, away from the smell of the grill, McCormick remembers rising early in Laguna Beach to claim the curtained couch by that pool. Because his sister-in-law needed privacy and the softest seat.
He’s glad Julie, helping June into a shimmering mermaid suit she bought her on the way to breakfast, doesn’t hear the women in the row ahead describing elaborate exploratory, the chance of biopsy.
Why do they sit together, leisure and mutation? And, as June asks often, what do you look like when you’re dead?
“Julie, Jesus! Go!”
“He sees us, Michael. Stop barking.”
“When I fear for our lives, I bark.”
Oh my word, this is the fourth time today. I don’t even know before I say it that I am going to say:
“That’s enough! Next time decide not to argue before we get in the car!”
Mommy says, “If your father could calm down…”
Daddy says, “Sorry, June Bug. We’ll do better.”
I guess better means not talking for like ten or twelve minutes and then asking each other how much it costs to buy the houses we just keep driving past.
Their visit to the funky Northwest recalls the disappointment of his beloved alma mater almost making him faculty when he finished his Ph.D.
But if he’d gotten that job, and not stayed in New York and found Julie again, where would the life force that is their daughter have manifested?
In the Peconic Bay mansion of a German fund manager Julie met at a private equity conference? Crammed into a two-bedroom bungalow with McCormick and a grad student who dropped out when she got pregnant?
No. Those are stories. Really, without this overcast day, June wouldn’t be anywhere.