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DONT CALL IT CHRISTMAS/Ryan Harty WHEN HE GOT HOME that night it was raining hard, and the girl lay in the entryway, crying. The boywas gone, but his chromebike stiU stood against the waU. The girl glanced up from her dirty yeUow blanket, eyes red, cheeks dark with mascara. "What do you want?" she asked. "I don't want anything," he said. "What happened to your friend?" "How should I know?" she said. "You need any help?" She shook her head. He felt awkward, standing above her with his bag of Chinese food. It was the first time he'd spoken to her. Theboy, with his phony accent, had always done the talking for both of them. "WeU, you can call me from right here if you need anything," he said, and waited until she looked at him. "I Uve in 2B." She nodded, and he opened the front door. The rain was cold and blowing in from the street. At the top of the landing he heard the phone ring; at first he thought it might be the girl calling to ask for help. He quickly unlocked the door and set his food on the table. But it was only ErroU calling from the hospital in Phoenix. "I hope I didn't catch you at a bad time," ErroU said, his voice bright and desperate. "Ijust got home with some dinner." "I won't keep you, then," ErroU said. "I just wanted to let you know we had a hopeful week, is aU. Your mother's numbers are looking better, and her eyelids are fluttering like crazy. I keep expecting her to open her eyes and start chattering Uke a magpie!" He laughed his big laugh. "That's great," WiU said, though he knew it didn't mean anything at aU. ErroU was always hopeful when he phoned. "We'U show those doctors what the final verdict is," ErroU said. "I hope so," WiU said. "So how you doing, kid? You able to get some work done?" "I got a Uttle done today." "That's great. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know we had a good week. Tm betting on a merry Christmas. I just miss her so much, you know what I mean? I miss having her come home with some new cactus or a video she's read about in the papers—even if it's Japanese!" 124 · The Missouri Review "I know what you mean," WiU said. "I was alone for a long time before I met your mother." "I know," WUl said. "WeU, Tm going to let you eat your dinner now. I won't go on and on like an old man." Will tried to think of something encouraging to say but couldn't. He said, "Thanks for calling, ErroU. Let me know if anything changes." "Oh, it changes aU the time," ErroU said in his upbeat voice. "TU keep you posted." WiU hung up the phone. He went into the kitchen and opened a bottle of wine, then sat and poured a glass and looked out the window. Rain was coming down in sheets. The wine smeUed of oak, and he drank it and looked at the people in the apartments across the courtyard: the Indian couple on their long white couch, the husband reading to their blind Uttle girl, the old ItaUan man working on one of his model ships. WiU pictured his mother in a hospital bed with the tube in her nose. It pained him to imagine her Uke that. He had left Arizona when they'd told him nothing would change, and now every time he thought ofher he pictured her with that tube. He took a sip of wine and felt his scalp go tight. As he filled his glass again, a Ught came on in the waitress's apartment. He stood and turned off the kitchen Ught. The waitress walked through her apartment and into the kitchen, a pretty black-haired woman with thin white arms. He'd seen her in Katia's Restaurant on Haight Street, where she'd been his waitress once. She'd smiled and been friendly, but only in the...


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