June is impatient to add the oats. Keeps lifting her cup to the hot pan.
No. Let the milk bubble.
Then she wants to stir, moves her stool too close. McCormick endures the risk.
When the goop is in the bowl she arranges apple slices just like the picture on the box, but adds a few raspberries. Then declines sugar or honey.
Doing it herself is sweet enough.
At school he unsticks a zipper, puts wet boots away. She doesn’t turn her head or say a word. Just a backwards wave.
Always, there will be these leavings.
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.
(Defending herself against the charge that she’s heartless…)
I don’t care that he’s a tenor. This isn’t about his singing voice. It’s all his other voices. They never stop. When the phone rings I cringe. But my mother always lets him talk and his pauses and sighs suck the air out of the whole house.
Then before first period its McCormick and Snow with the morning announcements. Hah Hah! Making fun of Students for Peace with a bogus meeting of Students for War. And his weekly column. “Live Mike.” So clever.
Don’t forget the pitiful notes in my locker. How much of him do I have to take?
The greatest pleasure was getting back together, after having ached and cried and crawled back to the sonic womb of After the Gold Rush and walked down Senior Hall with his head under his arm day after Ichabod day.
Then Winter relents and comes back to his room. McCormick will never know physical relief more complete than the return of her long fingers to the small of his back and the points of her hips pressed to his, Jordache grinding against Levi, until 10:30 when Bill raps stern on the door and says “Time to break it up in there…”
It’s the cornball joke of best-man toasts and widower’s eulogies, but McCormick seems compelled to marry up.
Watch the Christmas concert. Winter leans forward, red in her cheeks, the soloist bringing good cheer, while McCormick, who can’t find the tenor entrance note, silently mouths ding dong, ding dong.
In spring she gets 5s on three AP tests. He quits trying halfway through History. Just fills bubbles that make an X across his sheet.
And when they argue, Winter stands tall, car keys in hand, while McCormick enacts the death that would be losing her by crumpling to his bedroom floor.
Winter drove a Ford Falcon. Her forearms bowed with tension on the turns. It was a muscle car.
Her father kept it tuned at his shop but refused to purchase a power steering kit, explaining to McCormick “a beauty like that should be kept original.” Whether the NRA sticker on the bumper had been applied by Winter, Mr. Matheson, or a previous owner was a mystery.
The Falcon took them on their best date, up Middle Cottonwood. In the canyon Winter eased, spread the blanket she’d brought, opened her arms, laughed her alto laugh. The sun was hot all day.
Falling in love. Deciding to be in love. What’s the difference?
“Long May You Run” is playing. McCormick remembers the “chrome heart shining in the sun.” Winter Matheson driving away.
He’d chosen her at chorus practice from a row of altos, written her number on his palm like he imagined people did.
Neil Young songs charted the whole thing. She was a “Cinnamon Girl,” hungry mouth offering lifetimes. Until the day she couldn’t stand him, after which McCormick lived on his knees and always replaced the needle.
“Nestled in your wings my little one…tomorrow see the things that never come…”
He arrives early enough. Walkways are clear, although many benches are occupied. The homeless seem to sleep in.
There were sweeping city views the first time he was here, during the summer of online dating that lead miraculously to Julie.
That day’s Digi-Match was Greek. So is McCormick, on his mother’s side. She had shiny black hair and believed in angels. Told him about a friend’s child whose aura was indigo. Who had been born to save.
He called her again—Nikki—but she didn’t return. Ego dent. And new construction has made a narrow valley of this fancy park.
Reading Harry Potter aloud. June tracks it, but only stops practicing headstands when there is a picture. Her favorite is a bleeding ghost.
The Hobbit had no illustrations, but Bill’s reading voice was smooth like his singing. Delaware nights. Couch up on cinder blocks, bouzouki leaning spot lit in the corner beneath a lamp.
McGonagall tells Harry he’s made the Quidditch team, like his father before him.
“Wow, now Harry knows what he’s really good at,” says McCormick, compulsive provider of object lessons.
“Now he knows he had a real family,” June answers, because she is where it all resides.
Did the Delaware cul-de-sac teach him he’s a Sad Sack?
The neighbors had big lawns and lots of kids. After dark they threw crab-apples at bats that dove from beech trees. But it was just dusk when McCormick, the youngest, ran in front of the bull’s-eye painted on a hay bail.
Bud, the oldest, was sorry to say he’d dipped his arrow in poison lemon juice.
Fear of dying—Bud said he would by morning—was overmatched by shame over what he’d let happen. It was fitful 4am before he called Barbara and Bill to his room and said goodbye.