The Stories of Richard Bausch

The Stories of Richard Bausch by Richard Bausch Read Free Book Online

Book: The Stories of Richard Bausch by Richard Bausch Read Free Book Online
Authors: Richard Bausch
said. “I’m going out in a minute.”
    He sat on the edge of the bed and had a mental image of himself coming home with this news of what he had done, as if it were some prize. What people would see on TV this evening, if they saw anything, would beAldenburg telling about how unhappy life was at home. No, they would edit that out. The thought made him laugh.
    “What,” she said. “I don’t see anything funny about this.”
    He shook his head, trying to get his breath.
    “Gabriel? What’s funny.”
    “Nothing,” he managed. “Forget it. Really. It’s too ridiculous to mention.”
    He lay down. For a time they were quiet.
    “We’ll both be better off,” she said. “You’ll see.”
    He closed his eyes, and tried to recover the sense of importance he had felt, scrabbling across the floor of the burning school bus. He had been without sleep for so long. There was a deep humming in his ears, and now his wife’s voice seemed to come from a great distance.
    “It’s for the best,” she said. “If you really think about it, you’ll see I’m right.”
    Abruptly, he felt a tremendous rush of anxiety. A deep fright at her calmness, her obvious determination. He was wide awake. When he got up to turn the little portable television on, she gave forth a small startled cry. He sat on the edge of the bed, turning the dial, going through the channels.
    “What’re you doing?” she murmured. “Haven’t you heard anything?”
    “Listen,” he told her. “Be quiet. I want you to see something.”
    “Wait,” he said, hearing the tremor in his own voice. “Damn it, Eva. Please. Just one minute. It’ll be on here in a minute. One minute, okay? What’s one goddamn minute?” He kept turning the channels, none of which were news—it was all cartoons and network morning shows. “Where is it,” he said. “Where the hell is it.”
    “Gabriel, stop this,” said his wife. “You’re scaring me.”
    “Scaring you?” he said. “Scaring you? Wait a minute. Just look what it shows. I promise you it’ll make you glad.”
    “Look, it can’t make any difference,” she said, beginning to cry.
    “You wait,” he told her. “It made all the difference.”
    “No, look—stop—”
    He stood, and took her by the arms above the elbow. It seemed so terribly wrong of her to take this away from him, too. “Look,” he said. “I want you to see this, Eva. I want you to
who you married. I want you to
who provides for you and your goddamn hero brother.” When he realized that he was shaking her, holding too tight, he let go, and she sat on the bed, crying, her hands clasped oddly at her neck.
    “I can’t-” she got out. “Gabriel-”
    “Eva,” he said. “I didn’t mean—look, I’m sorry. Hey, I’m—I’m the good guy, honey. Really. You won’t believe it.”
    “Okay,” she said, nodding quickly. He saw fear in her eyes.
    “I just hoped you’d get to see this one thing,” he said, sitting next to her, wanting to fix this somehow, this new trouble. But then he saw how far away from him she had gone. He felt abruptly quite wrong, almost ridiculous. It came to him that he was going to have to go on being who he was. He stood, and the ache in his bones made him wince. He turned the television off. She was still sniffling, sitting there watching him.
    “What?” she said. It was almost a challenge.
    He couldn’t find the breath to answer her. He reached over and touched her shoulder, very gently so that she would know that whatever she might say or do, she had nothing to fear from him.


    Mattison bought the lottery ticket on an impulse—the first and only one he ever bought. So when, that evening, in the middle of the nine o’clock movie, the lucky number was flashed on the television screen and his wife, Sibyl, holding the ticket in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, put the coffee down unsteadily and said, “Hey—we match,” he didn’t understand what she was

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