I and You by J. David Stevens
82 pages – Arc Pair Press
The turkeys had been interesting before the problems began, but their apparent insanity made them irresistible. When several townships issued special hunting permits to thin the population, Raymond and Steve hit upon their plan to capture several of the birds and deliver them to safety.
The details of that delivery remained sketchy. Steve’s mother drove a Ford Winstar whose backseat could be removed to fit several toms, but he doubted his mother would drive them all the way to the Poconos. He said Hunterdon County might be far enough, the western portions especially, but the important thing was to capture a bird first. Bird in hand, their plan would have credibility. “Maybe we ought to bring rope, too,” Raymond said.
“We have the net.”
“It doesn’t look that strong.”
“Fine,” Steve conceded, “I’ll bring another net. And some burlap sacks.”
“And maybe a cage.”
“Where would I get a cage?”
“Where would you get burlap sacks?”
Steve looked at the sawhorses twenty paces away. “You want to throw the bolas?”
“I’ll try these,” Raymond demurred, rolling a cymbal between his hands. “What are we calling them?”
“Stun discs,” Steve said.
For the next half-hour they alternated weapons, launching them toward the sawhorses whichever way they would go. Occasionally they hit. One in five tries, Steve could get the bolas to wrap around a sawhorse leg, and Raymond, when he kept his arm level, got decent accuracy out of the two smallest stun discs, bringing them in a majestic sweep across his chest before releasing them. The net needed work. It wrapped around itself in midair, knots pulled taut by the fishing weights, before plunging to the ground in a clump. “Maybe lighter weights,” Steve said.
“Or a smaller net.”
“So when are we doing this?”
“Football tryouts start Tuesday.”
“Six days.” Steve clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth. “This weekend, I guess.” He held the net toward Raymond.
“I should go home. My dad wants to work on pass routes before dinner.”
“You know,” Steve ventured, “there are worse things than your dad spending time with you.”
“I know,” Raymond said. Steve’s father was an ophthalmologist who’d left a few months after Steve’s birth, moving to California with a blond X-ray technician. For the first six years of Steve’s life, Christmas and birthday gifts had arrived for him in the mail with cards talking about life in Los Angeles. At age seven, he’d told his mother to stop sending them, noting how he could read the New Jersey postmarks.
It was no surprise, then, that he could not see Raymond’s side completely. And perhaps it was better that way. Despite their friendship, Raymond had kept some secrets, things he still puzzled over himself. He knew, for instance, that his father had been married once before in China and had a daughter—mother and child left behind when his father fled to the United States. Did he know where they were? Did he care? Raymond’s mother had never answered these questions, assuming she could. She had meant only to explain, in her quiet way, why his father was older than his friends’ fathers—why her husband was thirteen years older than she.
Raymond wanted more. What kind of woman married a man who had left one family already? She must have at least asked why. Still, he would have felt guilty pushing for explanations she had not volunteered. Even the small secrets she offered came offhand while she was doing something else, weeding the garden or slicing vegetables for dinner. When she told him about his father’s other family, she’d been wrapping rice and pork into softened lotus leaves and had not even looked at him. She wanted him to make his own decision about things, he told himself later, and not feel her eyes on him as he processed the new information.
Or maybe it was the opposite. In her fragments and omissions, she meant only to say that adult lives were more complicated than Raymond knew, a gentle rebuke. This idea had occurred to him several times, and he had honestly struggled to see his father’s simple attitude toward life as the product of a more difficult past. From family stories, Raymond could imagine his mother: a shy girl, plain and awkwardly tall, working long days in her parents’ Jersey City restaurant, who had given up on marriage until his father came along. And he had no idea how to view them, two people in love or two people who had settled for each other in the absence of better options. Some days he saw his father as a hero, rescuing his mother, succeeding in a new country despite the odds. But other days he saw the opposite: a coward who abandoned those he should have loved, who ran, who took his mother simply because she was desperate and because no one else would have him.
Together, Raymond and Steve scraped the weapons into the duffel and dragged the sawhorses back to Steve’s house. As Raymond mounted his bicycle, Steve motioned toward the hills. A layer of orange sunlight eased down the slope to where it struck, at a break in the trees, a small flock of wild turkeys.
“It’s a sign,” Steve said.
“Saturday,” Raymond replied, before they touched knuckles and he was pedaling home.