William Scott Williams

Fiction by William Scott Williams

Levers

From “Levers” – Vol. XLVIII, No. 2 The Massachusetts Review

Him climbing the apartment wall bare-handed, that’s what I remembered most about Andy: His constant, never-ending need for attention. Much like a child, you used to say. But whenever I mentioned Andy’s condition, made light of it, and called it out into the open for everyone to examine, it had the opposite effect of what I wanted. Instead of prying Kristen and Andy apart, it drew them closer together. Of course you also did your part, but as a wedge between the two of them, we were iterative failures.

Thank God at least there were no kids. Imagine how that would’ve played out. One on the roof in his underwear yelling, “Watch this!” Another on the handlebars of his bike yelling, “Watch this!” A third on a skate board. On a half-pipe. Padless. Helmetless. Headless.

The next to last time the Metzgers called, with Andy in the kitchen and Kristen on the extension down the hall, Andy said they were trying hard and that, while he had to admit it was fun, the process itself was draining, time-consuming, and so far, fruitless.

“As such things go,” Andy told me, “I find it relatively demoralizing.”

Kristen groaned.

“Making babies is hard work,” I said, as if I had some idea. We have no children, you and me, no babies, no eggs to speak of. For that matter, we don’t even have each other anymore.

“It takes time, energy,” I reassured them—like I knew something, anything, for certain—before returning the phone to its cradle.

Three months later, after you’d already packed and left for L.A., Andy called again, this time with the invitation, the offer to fill a weekend over Christmas break.

Ambien and beer on the train down to the District. I read Hölderlin in my sleeping car and thought more about human reproductive strategies. And maybe I was a little relieved that fatherhood had not already found me.

Somewhere south of Providence, the porter knocked on my door and startled me awake. It must have only been midnight; it seemed like we’d just left South Station. He was asking me for my ticket, which I was sure he’d already punched because I remembered the sour look he gave me when he punched it. But I dropped everything looking for it, fuzzy-headed from my pill, and fumbled through coat pockets, pants pockets, and bags, panic rising in my chest. I found it resting in the folds of my sheets, where I’d left my book: a beige strip of paper, a star-shaped hole already neatly punched through the center. I handed it to the porter. He looked at it and then handed it back.

No “Sorry.” No nothing.

[…]

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