Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Streak - 57

At the urging of Joe Maines and Matt Gillis, the team's carousing on this road trip was limited to the hotel bar. Even during the day, they were strongly discouraged from exiting the premises. Ordinarily, the guys would go to bars or strip clubs and wander back drunk through high-end shopping districts to buy ritzy gifts for the wife: diamond earrings, crystal tchotchkes, guilt-compensation stuff. Today there was a whole lot of lying around watching TV.

Evan took the opportunity to call home. It was never an easy thing to do. It got harder the longer he waited. It got harder the more he lost.

Denise picked up.

"Hey, it's me," said Evan.

"Hey! All the way from Minnesota." Denise sounded strangely cheery.

"How's everything?"

"Oh, you know. It's a laugh a minute over here."

Somehow Evan knew that in the wording and brisk cadence of that remark there lay the indication that she had found another man.

"Well that's good. I'm happy for you. How's the boy?"

"He's good, lemme get him," she said, then put her hand over the receiver and called out Ryan's name. A few seconds passed. Through her fingers, Evan perceived a sharp phrase she directed at their son. Then there was a moment of silence.

"Evan, I'm sorry. He's being really difficult."

"What's he doing?"

Denise sighed. "He says he doesn't want to talk to you."

Evan felt a burning sensation deep within his chest.

"Put him on," he said angrily, realizing at once the absurdity of his request.

"For chrissakes, Evan. Don't you think I'm trying to put him on?"

"I'm sorry."

More urgent, muffled conversation ensued. Denise imploring sternly. Ryan protesting loudly in the background.

"I'm sorry, Evan. I'm trying. He's having some kind of moment."

"What's he saying?"

"He's saying he doesn't want to talk to you, Evan, what do you want me to –"

"Ask him why."

"Do you really think that's a –"

"Ask him why."

The phone went silent again as Denise complied. Evan could feel his heart pounding, blood pumping through his veins.

Denise began again with another sigh.

"Listen, Evan. You asked."

"Tell me what he said."

"You asked, so don't get mad at me."

"Tell... me... what... he... said."

"He says he hates you, he says you're a loser, he says all the other kids say you're a loser. He says he hates you."

"I see."

"It's just a phase," Denise added helpfully.

Now Evan emitted a deep exhalation.

"Tell him I love him."

"Of course."

"I'll try again tomorrow."

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