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“Hello?” Jim said, holding Maggie’s foot against his cheek like a telephone.
She smiled. “Hello.”
Jim remembered a call. From his father in the hospital. To his mother. Jim had picked up the extension. They didn’t know. Talking about dying, the two of them. Putting their house in order. Talking about Jim, how would he manage, who could they find for him? Jim gnawed on Maggie’s little toe, and now she hardly flinched. After all, his mother had said, our Jim is no prize.
And he lowered her foot to his chest and pulled it against his breastbone, pulled hard, and he looked into her eyes which looked back, blinking, and he thought, Now I am looking at tomorrow. For now he, Jim, would have a son, someone like Randy, but who respected him, honored him, which Randy never would. Randy showed up, he helped, and he may have needed a father, but it sure as heck wasn’t Jim. Jim wanted a son. And here Jim was, lying here, looking at the mother of his son. Here he was, Jim was, looking down a plump wet leg at what was to come. Here, today, he’d found it. Here it was.
Mrs. Mundy sprayed Randy. She said to him, “No more.” The water hit the mud and splattered up his legs and bottom and member—beaten purple, poor boy—and she said, “There will be no more of this now,” and then she sprayed the mud off his legs and bottom and member. And Randy tried to get up and slipped and fell backwards in the mud by the window, pants down, squirming, and Mrs. Mundy sprayed his head, sprayed him up and down and said, “No more of this.” And Randy, shaking the water from his hair and face, a face now unfamiliar to her, glared back at Mrs. Mundy, and on his hands and knees struggled through the muck and the spray, fighting his way back to where she stood above him.
Maggie lay with her brown hair down and floating in the pooled water, her foot resting in Jim’s face, her eyes closed. The wind came in off the grass and along her wet body making her shiver. What was this, she asked herself, this lying here? Lying in the water with this poor man who had nothing to do. Because now having worried whether this man thought she was pretty enough was astonishing to her, and she had to cough to cover a harsh laugh that rose from deep inside her. My God, she marveled, there was going to be so much more to life than trying to love this man. And she winced, suppressing another titter. For there he was down there at the end of her, holding her foot in his warm mouth, and her foot felt better now.
But there was something else too now. Something outside, some noise. Sounded like an old woman and a boy, shrieking.