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GOREPAC / Will Baker I'VE HAD A LONG day with the sharks, and Audrey is exhausted after a basement workout. It's Time for Two time. Bliss out with a drink, take stock, relate. So we make the arrangements: Gabe shooed off to the neighbors, answering machine on duty, and Falafel has his kitty kibbles. Aud puts together a tray: chips, salsa, a Miller and a Blue Mountain Spring Water, one frosty mug. My thing, to keep glass in the freezer for that extra edge. "I'm benching eight nineties," Aud says as she folds down to the rug, parking the tray between us. She makes a sound like a punctured tire. "Fantastic. You look great." I lay a ribbon of gold along the side of the glass, tilted just enough to give me a creamy head. "Downright bad." She is pleased. But I am not lying. Aud looks tight and springy as a coed, though forty is now in sight. She's sweaty at the moment, still a bit stoked. Sometimes that turns me on. Damp curls and a flush and so on. Only when she wears a summer dress, and leans over to lever up a bit of dip with a celery section, you see too much delt. "Flattery will get you absolutely everything you want. You cad." She winks just as she chugs the Blue Mountain, an odd effect. I watch her throat working, wait for her to uncouple, give her unladylike burp and a-a-a-h. Aud has gusto. "Everything?" "Sure. Within the bounds of middle class pornography. You know. No chickens or sheep." We laugh at this line from an old joke. For a while we dab and shovel salsa, taking care not to break a chip, which in our house means gofering the next round of drinks. Except for the forced air and a power mower somewhere down the block, it's very quiet. "So?" Audrey finally says. She is not looking at me. She is picking at the Blue Mountain label with her long thumbnail. "So. So I called him." I drink from the mug, feel the ice crystals on my lower lip. I wish she had waited a little. It's not often this calm, just us two. The Missouri Review ยท 23 I take a deep breath. This is an effort. "He says come in twice a week. AU of us." "Sweet Jesus." Aud's eyes are closed, her face absolutely empty and no longer flushed. "I just took on the Arts Council thing. What does he say?" "I was talking on the modular, in traffic. We didn't get into it. A suggestion. Just a suggestion." I drink swiftly, deeply. "Did you tell him? The whole story?" "Aud, I was on my way to work. Twenty-five minutes, fullbore freeway, two other calls to make." She turns her head ninety degrees and addresses the corner of the living room. "Which, I wonder, did he make first?" I open my mouth, then close it in the next heartbeat. Push pause. I have learned. She turns back to me, and then in a moment she is shaking her head slowly, fingers on her temples. "Baby, baby. I'm sorry. Not fair." She lifts one hand away, holds it out to me. "Touch." I take her cool fingers and press them to my forehead, my cheek; then let her draw my hand in and do the same. We both close our eyes and image our best moment together, a technique we learned at a retreat before Gabe was born. For me the beach at Cabo under a full moon, us naked and sandy and salty, a thermos of margaritas. "Listen, I would do anything, absolutely. He's our kid, our own flesh and blood, what can I say?" I am squeezing her hand and she winces, only half-comically. "I mean, we are aware of the problem." We release and she wiggles her fingers, making a quick claw. "For a fat guy, you still have a grip." I smile, but the sense of effort is still there. Nor am I, actually, what you would call a fat guy. A basic athletic frame, but...


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