Gone for Good Page 63

Ken was indeed alive.

I had seen the proof. He had been living in New Mexico and using the name Owen Enfield. Part of me was ecstatic. There was a chance at redemption, a chance to be with my brother again, a chance—dare I even think of it?—to make this all right.

But then I thought about Sheila.

Her fingerprints had been found in my brother’s house, along with two dead bodies. How did Sheila fit into all this? I had no idea—or maybe I just didn’t want to face the obvious. She had betrayed me—when my mind would function, the only scenarios I could come up with involved betrayal of one form or another—and if I dwelled on that for too long, if I really allowed myself to sink into the simple memories—the way she tucked her feet under her when we talked on the couch, the way she pulled her hair back as though she were standing under a waterfall, the way she smelled in that terry-cloth robe when she came out of the shower, the way she wore my oversize sweatshirts on fall nights, the way she hummed in my ear when we danced, the way she could stop my breath with a look from across the room—that it had all been some sort of elaborate lie . . .


So I plodded on with one thought in mind: closure. My brother and my lover had both left me without warning, gone before good-bye. I knew that I could never put any of this behind me until I knew the truth. Squares had warned me about this in the beginning, about maybe not liking what I found, but maybe in the end, this was all necessary. Maybe now, finally, it was my turn to be brave. Maybe now I would save Ken instead of the other way around.

So that was what I’d focus on: Ken was alive. He was innocent—if I had been subconsciously harboring any doubts before, Pistillo had erased them. I could see and be with him again. I could—I don’t know—avenge the past, let my mother rest in peace, something.

On this, the last day of our official mourning, my father was not at the house. Aunt Selma was in the kitchen. She told me that he’d taken a walk. Aunt Selma wore an apron. I wondered where she had gotten it. We did not have one, I was certain of that. Had Selma brought it with her? She seemed always to be wearing an apron, even when she wasn’t, if you know what I mean. I watched her cleaning out the sink. Selma, Sunny’s quiet sister, labored quietly. I had always taken her for granted. I think most people did. Selma was just . . . there. She was one of those people who lived life below the radar, as though she were afraid of drawing the attention of the fates. She and Uncle Murray had no children. I did not know why, though I’d once overheard my parents talking about a stillborn. I stood and looked at her, as if for the first time, just looking at yet another human being struggling every day to do right.

“Thank you,” I said to her.

Selma nodded.

I wanted to tell her that I loved her and appreciated her and wanted us, especially now that Mom was gone, to be closer, that I know Mom would have wanted that. But I couldn’t. I hugged her instead. Selma stiffened at first, startled by my aberrant display of affection, but then she relaxed.

“It’ll be okay,” she told me.

I knew my father’s favorite walking route. I crossed Coddington Terrace, carefully avoiding the Miller house. My father, I knew, did that too. He had changed the route years ago. I cut through both the Jarats’ and Arnays’ yards, and then took the path that crossed the Meadowbrook to the town’s Little League fields. The fields were empty, the season over, and my father sat alone on the top row of the metal bleachers. I remembered how much he loved coaching, that white T-shirt with the three-quarter-length green sleeves, the word Senators across the front, the green cap with the S sitting too high on his head. He loved the dugout, hanging his arms casually off the dusty rafters, the sweat forming in the pits. He’d put his right foot on the first cinder step, the left on the concrete, and in one fluid smooth motion he’d take the cap off, do the forearm swipe of the brow, put the cap neatly back in place. His face glowed on those late-spring nights, especially when Ken played. He coached with Mr. Bertillo and Mr. Horowitz, his two best friends, beer buddies, both dead of heart attacks before sixty, and I know that as I sat next to him now, he could still hear those clapping hands and that repetitive banter and smell that sweet Little League clay-dirt.

He looked at me and smiled. “Remember the year your mom umped?”

“A little, I guess. What was I, four?”

“Yeah, something like that.” He shook his head, still smiling, lost in the memory. “This was during the height of your mother’s women’s lib stage. She wore these slogan T-shirts that said A WOMAN’S PLACE IS IN THE HOUSE AND SENATE, stuff like that. Keep in mind that this was a few years before girls were allowed to play Little League, okay? So somewhere along the way, your mom learned that there were no female umpires. She checked the rule book and saw that there was nothing forbidding that.”

“So she signed up?”



“Well, the elder statesmen threw a fit, but the rules were the rules. So they let her ump. But there were a couple of problems.”


“Like she was the worst umpire in the world.” Dad smiled again, a smile I rarely saw anymore, a smile so firmly rooted in the past that it made me ache. “She barely knew the rules. Her eyesight, as you know, was terrible. I remember in her first game she stuck up her thumb and yelled ‘Safe.’ Whenever she made a call, she’d go through all these gyrations. Like something Bob Fosse choreographed.”

We both chuckled and I could almost see him watching her, waving off her theatrics, half embarrassed, half thrilled.

“Didn’t the coaches go nuts?”

“Sure, but you know what the league did?”

I shook my head.

“They teamed her up with Harvey Newhouse. You remember him?”

“His son was in my class. He played pro football, right?”

“For the Rams, yeah. Offensive tackle. Harvey must have been three hundred pounds. So he took behind the plate and your mom took the field and whenever a coach would get out of hand, Harvey would just glare at him and the coach sat back down.”

We chuckled again and then fell gently into silence, both of us wondering how a spirit like that could be smothered away, even before the onset of the disease. He finally turned and looked at me. His eyes widened when he noticed the bruises.

“What the hell happened to you?”

“It’s okay,” I said.

“Did you get in a fight?”

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