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What Kent Boyd Had

From: The Missouri Review
Volume 36, Number 4, 2013
pp. 106-122 | 10.1353/mis.2013.0091

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And then, in his midforties, just as he started to feel slower in his limbs, the mornings seeming to drag, the darkness seeming to fall sooner each day, even in the spring and summer months, Kent Boyd nonetheless convinced himself that he still had, among many other things, his youth. He had countless sunrises before him. He had a great deal more to expect and hope for, especially if his past was a predictor of his future; and since he was an optimist, he chose to believe it would be. He had two kids, Alice, thirteen, who’d inherited her mother’s fair complexion and curly red hair, a conflagration that blazed halfway down her back, and Ethan, eleven, who’d gotten Kent’s oddly handsome bulldog face and his lumpy nose, a feature Kent had always regretted and often lied about, claiming he’d broken it, which was no longer an option now that his son carried around a small replica of it; he had a million-dollar house in a nice neighborhood of Boston, a partnership in a small corporate law firm he’d helped to found that specialized in copyright and patent law. He had a decent if weathered Subaru, a car he chose to drive, even though he could afford much better, because he wanted to set an example for his kids. He’d met enough class-conscious rich brats and didn’t want to father two more. He had several summers and long vacations behind him dedicated to his obsession with golf, of rising at five every morning, heaving his clubs into the old Subaru, meeting friends to tee off at sunrise, slashing away at the bright little ball, its dot of light soaring above the vast green dunes, until late in the afternoon. In the game, he had two spectacular achievements: a thirty-four-foot putt on the most difficult green—with a severe back-to-front slope—at St. Andrews, in Scotland, birthplace of the sport—and a birdie at Augusta; he had Bernhard, his partner and closest friend, who never let him forget his talent, celebrating it in the bar afterward by lifting a glass and shouting, “You’ve got balls, Boyd! You’ve got one hell of a stroke.”

And it was true: he had—or had had—one hell of a stroke until he gave up the game just like that—never call Kent Boyd predictable—and started running four mornings a week until he had two marathons, the Boston and the New York, to his name, until the belly he’d had, and that his golf buddies still had, was gone. He had a new lease on life, a refinanced mortgage on the house, at just under 4 percent, though he could easily have paid off the rest in cash, a significant patent-infringement victory—Gillette vs. Bic—in which he’d shown the court to the tune of $700 million that Bic’s Revolutionary Glide System was a thinly veiled rip-off of his client’s Six Glide Pivot Head. “Is that playing fair?” he’d asked the court, flashing a fistful of disposable razors in the air. “I don’t think so.” Nor, it turned out, did the jury. And he had—didn’t everybody?—some things he’d just as soon not have: childhood memories, for instance, of growing up in Pueblo, Colorado, where his father had worked at the Colorado Fuel and Iron Mill as long as he could stand to, which turned out to be about four years into Kent’s life, just in time for him to remember this man, a strange, sepia-toned giant, arms akimbo, a large smile on his face that seemed inconsistent with the cold, vacant eyes, an oversized laugh that could turn to a shout and a fist on the table in an instant. He left one morning for the mill and never came back. Working as a nurse’s aide at the State Hospital for the Chronically and Mentally Ill, his mother had lived so much in fear—fear of financial ruin, fear of homelessness, fear of murderers breaking into their little home...

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