Jay wanted to know if I thought he was the right fit for Abby. I guess because I’d known her longer. I’d known Abby since fourth grade or so. I still have a picture she drew of a castle, some mountains, pine tree, and two very happy-looking pigs. She tried to show me how to draw those pigs, once, all sorts of animals. Abby saw the shapes of bodies and knew how they joined together to make a whole. I never could catch on to it.
Jay was also a Junior. He’d been a JJ and just J for a while right out of high school. Never went on a date with a girl more than twice. Then his dad left his mom and moved to New Jersey, and he was just Jay again. Those were awful long roads for him to travel. I thought of Jay shooting pool in the community college’s rec room. I’d seen him fistfight a guy who stole the 8 ball one day to make a knob for the gearshift of his pickup. Jay fought and had been through women, guess sums it up. We didn’t have conversations about fitting.
We had driven to the river, and we were drinking beer while boats turned rich and pretty out on the wide part of the water. I watched the clouds, sometimes thought I caught things in them. I started to point shapes to him, images, but then decided against it. He didn’t say anything else.
Earlier that morning we’d stood outside the middle-school gymnasium and listened to Abby’s choir sing to old folks bussed in from churches, homes, I didn’t know where. They sang of altitude, the high and the low, and how wings picked a body up and set it down both. Abby had joined not too long ago, didn’t have a solo or anything but said she enjoyed it. I couldn’t pick her voice out, standing and smoking outside the big double doors, but Jay said he could.
“Right there, when they all come together,” he said. “They’re pretty.”
Yeah, they were pretty.
Marvin Shackelford is author of a poetry collection, Endless Building (Urban Farmhouse). His stories and poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Epiphany, NANO Fiction, Southern Humanities Review, Folio, FiveChapters, and elsewhere. He resides in the Texas Panhandle with his wife, Shea, and earns a living in agriculture.