The Mortgaged Heart

The Mortgaged Heart by Margarita G. Smith Read Free Book Online

Book: The Mortgaged Heart by Margarita G. Smith Read Free Book Online
Authors: Margarita G. Smith
grown faster than any boy I ever saw. He's almost as tall as I am and
his bones have gotten heavier and bigger. He won't wear any of my old clothes any more and has bought his first pair of long pants—with some leather suspenders to hold them up. Those are just the changes that are easy to see and put into words.

    Our room isn't mine at all any more. He's gotten up this gang of kids and they have a club. When they aren't digging trenches in some vacant lot and fighting they are always in my room. On the door there is some foolishness written in Mercurochrome saying "Woe to the Outsider who Enters" and signed with crossed bones and their secret initials. They have rigged up a radio and every afternoon it blares out music. Once as I was coming in I heard a boy telling something in a loud voice about what he saw in the back of his big brother's automobile. I could guess what I didn't hear.
That's what her and my brother do. It's the truth—parked in the car.
For a minute Sucker looked surprised and his face was almost like it used to be. Then he got hard and tough again. "Sure, dumbbell. We know all that." They didn't notice me. Sucker began telling them how in two years he was planning to be a trapper in Alaska.
    But most of the time Sucker stays by himself. It is worse when we are alone together in the room. He sprawls across the bed in those long corduroy pants with the suspenders and just stares at me with that hard, half-sneering look. I fiddle around my desk and can't get settled because of those eyes of his. And the thing is I just have to study because I've gotten three bad cards this term already. If I flunk English I can't graduate next year. I don't want to be a bum and I just have to get my mind on it. I don't care a flip for Maybelle or any particular girl any more and it's only this thing between Sucker and me that is the trouble now. We never speak except when we have to before the family. I don't even want to call him Sucker any more and unless I forget I call him by his real name, Richard. At night I can't study with him in the room and I have to hang around the drug store, smoking and doing nothing, with the fellows who loaf there.
    More than anything I want to be easy in my mind again. And I miss the way Sucker and I were for a while in a funny, sad way that before this I never would have believed. But everything is so different that
there seems to be nothing I can do to get it right. I've sometimes thought if we could have it out in a big fight that would help. But I can't fight him because he's four years younger. And another thing—sometimes this look in his eyes makes me almost believe that if Sucker could he would kill me.

    [
The Saturday Evening Post,
1963]

COURT IN THE WEST EIGHTIES
    I T WAS NOT UNTIL SPRING that I began to think about the man who lived in the room directly opposite to mine. All during the winter months the court between us was dark and there was a feeling of privacy about the four walls of little rooms that looked out on each other. Sounds were muffled and far away as they always seem when it is cold and windows everywhere are shut. Often it would snow and, looking out, I could see only the quiet white flakes sifting down against the gray walls, the snow-edged bottles of milk and covered crocks of food put out on the window sills, and perhaps a light coming out on the dimness in a thin line from behind closed curtains. During all this time I can remember seeing only a few incomplete glimpses of this man living across from me—his red hair through the frosty window glass, his hand reaching out on the sill to bring in his food, a flash of his calm drowsy face as he looked out on the court. I paid no more attention to him than I did to any of the other dozen or so people in that building. I did not see anything unusual about him and had no idea that I would come to think of him as I did.

    There was enough to keep me busy last winter without looking at things outside

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