In For a Penny

In For a Penny by James P. Blaylock Read Free Book Online

Book: In For a Penny by James P. Blaylock Read Free Book Online
Authors: James P. Blaylock
bedroom still haunted the new house like a dwindling ghost. But that was thin ice. There was nothing to be gained by skating around on it this morning.
    There seemed to be some sort of
increase
in whatever was going on out in the woods, a series of blips and blaps that synchronized with the rising glow of a strangely purple light, like an old hippie nightclub. He could see movement now, too, large shadows shifting and growing and then shrinking away again. The bed creaked, and he turned around, thinking that Lisa had awakened, but she slept the sleep of the just, probably whacked out from yesterday’s work.
    They had just gotten the last of the boxes from the move unpacked, putting in God knew how many hours, with the bulk of his crated-up stuff relegated indefinitely to the garage, which is what struck this off-key nostalgic chord in him. Lisa’s vast collection of films occupied an entire bedroom downstairs. She taught film classes at San Francisco State, so the films were her
work
, whereas his own stuff was useless trash. Being married meant making concessions, and of course now that she was pregnant, there would be more concessions. His simple observation that the concessions were largely
his
had spoiled their late-night dinner, that and his unfortunate mention of his bowling ball, which was one of the treasures living in the garage, and which was actually more of a sore point than any of the rest of it, his trains included.
    He cocked his head, hearing a high-pitched, dog-whistle-type shriek, just barely audible, as if it were projected at an inhuman decibel. A dog immediately started howling some distance away, and the sound of the howling struck him as unnatural, as if the dog sensed the presence of something fearful out in the woods. The sound diminished, but the howling continued now that the dog was spooked.
    Back when he was single, Ed had bowled in a Tuesday night league. He had enjoyed the bowling alley: the sound of pins falling, the smell of spilled beer from longneck Budweiser bottles, the predictable wit that followed a picked-up spare or a lucky strike. He still had his bowling shirt with their sponsor’s name embroidered on it: Nick and Fergy’s Appliances. But Lisa wasn’t a fan of bowling. That was the long and the short of it. She just didn’t appreciate the art form. She had tried to for a little while, but it didn’t wash, and, as with so many things, his bowling had gone by the boards as their marriage defined itself over time. He still wore the shirt now and then, although it made him feel like a fraud to invoke the names of Nick and Fergy now that he had become an outsider at the lanes.
    The dog’s howling stopped abruptly, as if someone had shut the creature up. A long shaft of ruby red light shot straight up into the sky from the darkness of the woods, then blinked out, followed by a half dozen such shafts, perhaps beacons, projected skyward now from the red perimeter lights. He wondered if this was some kind of Air Force or Army maneuver—nighttime war games using infrared lights.
    Suddenly cool, he walked across the room to find a sweater in his open closet. Inside hung his retired bowling shirt, a delicate robin’s egg blue that looked silver in the white light cast from the thing on the hillside. It was made of a high-quality rayon that could pass for silk, with royal blue embroidery—sixty dollars’ worth of peerless, hometown American shirt. It occurred to him that it wouldn’t be out of place framed, hanging on a wall, but then the very idea that it had become a mere keepsake depressed him, and he shut the closet door quietly and returned to the window, pulling on the sweater.
    The bowling ball trouble had reared its ugly head several months ago, right after the move, when he had gone down to the lanes on San Pablo Avenue with his friend Jerry to bowl a couple of frames. He found that he hadn’t lost his touch, even after two years of abstinence, which had probably made him

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