Nascent Players on a Lopsided Dock
The threat of rain brought them all inside, except for Dana, who wanted to feel the cool, country wetness dot his tongue. Mirabelle called motheringly to him from the window of the cabin and he tilted back his head and clenched his eyes and replied:
“He’s back on it,” Mirabelle told the others and shut the window.
Gregory tried to reignite the fire while Sam and Molly went back to their half-finished puzzle of Klimt’s The Kiss. Gina put the kettle on the stove and lighted the burner with a fireplace match.
“Why does he get like that?” asked Joe, drying his hands.
“Because he’s an asshole,” said Sam, and Mirabelle shot her a look.
“He’s sensitive,” Mirabelle countered.
“I don’t know why you always defend him,” said Sam. “He treats you worst of all.”
Mirabelle turned back toward the window. “He’s my brother,” she said simply.
“Joe,” said Sam, “You’re fucking him. Tell us: is Dana sensitive? Or just an asshole?”
“Guys,” said Gina, “can we not do this?”
All was nearly silent for a while – Mirabelle still at the window, Gregory quietly blowing at embers, Sam and Molly at their puzzle, Gina at the stove and Joe plopped onto the sheet-covered couch – until the sound of rain beating on the shake roof, and then Gina’s kettle began to hiss, and then Sam, too.
“He’s been this way ever since he was a kid,” she said. “Remember, Molly? He was always the first to take his toys and go home if everything didn’t go his way. No wonder he can’t find a job. Who’d hire such a spoiled brat?”
“Jesus, Sam! Why don’t you fuck him already and get it over with?” asked Mirabelle.
“What’s that supposed to imply?” asked Sam.
“I wouldn’t say he was like that in college,” Gregory interjected from the fire. “He was pretty mellow.”
“Because he was probably high the whole time,” said Sam, glaring still at Mirabelle.
“Sam,” said Gina, sitting across the puzzle with her tea. “How’s your novel coming?”
Joe went to Mirabelle, still at the window. Outside, Dana stood with his arms outstretched, his head back and mouth open.
“Turkeys drown doing that,” said Joe. Mirabelle smiled and touched Joe’s arm.
“Why is he like that?” Mirabelle whispered.
“All geniuses have their quirks.”
“He looks so…disturbed.”
Joe took Mirabelle’s hand and led her away from the window to the couch. “Do you love him?” she asked in a whisper, although Gregory, on the floor by the fire, was the only one who would have heard the question as the others were talking together, and she wouldn’t have minded if he had.
“I’m very fond of him,” said Joe. Mirabelle smiled sadly.
“I love him,” said Mirabelle.
“I know you do.”
“Do you know what he told me about you? He said that you fit into his arms better than anyone he’s ever met.”
“Should I go talk to him?” Joe wondered, and as Mirabelle was thinking of how to reply, the cabin door burst open and in came Dana, drenched in rain, his hair slicked to his head.
“Jesus, Dana, you’re getting the floor all wet,” said Sam.
“Joe,” said Dana, “come outside with me. I want to show you something.”
Joe followed Dana out of the cabin and Mirabelle went back to her post at the window. She watched as Dana led Joe down the sloped lawn toward the small, lopsided dock on the small, irregularly shaped pond. The rain had slowed to a drizzle and fog was lifting off the pond in wisps. Dana put his arm over Joe’s shoulder and the two men stood looking out across the water. And then Dana suddenly dropped to one knee and took Joe’s hands. Mirabelle gasped, which caused everyone else – everyone but Sam – to join her at the window.
“Is he….?” asked Gina.
“That’s why,” said Mirabelle. “He’s been nervous.”
“What?” asked Sam, joining the others at the window.
“I think Dana’s proposing to Joe,” said Gregory.
“Shut the fuck up,” said Sam.
They watched in silence as Dana remained down on his knee for what seemed like a long time. Finally, he rose, and he and Joe hugged for another long time, and then stood face to face. Then, without warning, Dana turned and ran off the end of the lopsided dock, doing a cannonball into the misty water. Those at the window froze, until they noticed that Joe was laughing, and then they collectively let out breaths. Mirabelle went to the door and the others followed, except Molly, who remained transfixed at the window by what she’d just seen but didn’t entirely understand.
“Come on, Molly!” yelled Sam, already outside.
“Coming,” called Molly, leaving the door open as she went.
J. Edward Kruft received his MFA in fiction writing from Brooklyn College. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in online and print journals, including Bartleby Snopes, Bop Dead City, and Jellyfish Review. He has never been to Florida, nor has he ever eaten Dunkin’ Donuts. He has, however, worked at a McDonald’s, and as a stripping gorilla, although not at the same time. He lives with his husband, Mike, and their adopted Siberian Husky, Sasha, in Astoria, NY and Livingston Manor, NY. His recent fiction can be found on his Web site: www.jedwardkruft.com.
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