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Gerald Majer

Peg

Heís wearing the No Poser T-shirt with the red slash, standing at the door with the graduation bicycle, silver Royce Union model, one of the latest. The identifying decals are off the bike, to distinguish it from others owned by friends, a popular type this summer. It has slightly fewer silvered patches where the manufacturer intended the logos and stripes and cross-hatchings to go, now sticky blanks.

Heís shouting in a voice Iíve heard only hints of before, adolescent power suddenly strong, violent, uncontainable. All right, all right, Iím saying. Heís flushed, still shouting, and I understand then that the word is pegs, yes, all right, the pegs on the bicycle, theyíre gone, and itís black people to blame, black people in general heís shouting about out here on our street, diverse neighborhood, a black person might be walking around the corner right now, maybe the guy with wire-rimmed glasses who says hello when I pass him down the block washing his car, maybe one of the shopping-cart guys who scavenge all around here, maybe one of the dignified elderly ladies from the small church down the street.

In the shouting, the word has a strange sound. I feel a laugh, unaccountable, inappropriate for a father but rising anyway though held in check since he is clearly upset. I keep pulling into its slide, into something like "pigs," then instantly recalling family jokes about him as a baby, piglet we still say, little piggy, looking at the photographs of him with a bald head, puffy cheeks, but of course heís turned out great and weíre deflating his ego a little bit just in case. A more exotic tenor is in it, too, pegs veering toward picks, pecks, some local Baltimore drawl or drag settling into his Midwestern accent after a year plus here. Iím saying before I know it that he sounds strange, I couldnít understand him at first: Oh, yes, Iím sorry, the pegs. I get you.

The pegs were briefly a matter of contention when we selected the bike, the question arising of whether such things were necessary and, in my mind, of whether this might be the kind of bicycle that attracts attention, thieves, pegs spelling trouble. I was not aware such things existed until I saw them in the store, extending out on each side of the rear wheel, attached to the axle bolt. Thick, silver, shiny of course, with a rough sure-grip surface, fine-checkered pattern. The character of the bicycle had something to do with stunts; not a mountain bike, long distance, eighteen speeds or whatever, but low-geared, spinnable, an elaborated í90s version of the old stripped-down street bicycles, the stingrays with banana seats and chopper handlebars. The purpose of the pegs wasnít clear: for hanging the bike upside down in storage? The rider gets off the seat and stands on the pegs and pedals with his hands? Ridiculously vague and incorrect, since the pegs are for carrying a passenger. Iíll ride you, you say, and then your friend stands on the pegs behind, resting his hands on your shoulders, and there you go. Pegs.

Well, all right, then, letís at least get in the house, I say, since he is still announcing to the street the loss of his pegs and blaming it on black people. Black people suck. It was black people. I hate black people. Who on the street knows what heís talking about, with this pegs business? He probably seems to be acting up, shouting, heís unreasonable, wonít tone it down. I hear now a pathos in the wordís sound, as though itís the name of some hurt or lost friend, an injured pet. Oh, poor pegs or pigs or picks or pix, heís mourning in a sort of wail of anger, no tears, not for him, but swearing, yes, and I canít stop him in this case, heís swearing richly, with passion, righteousness, grief.

Somebody, though, might understand the other part, about black people, might even agreeómaybe the white folks who run a corner tavern down the block, out on their stoops and walking big dogs and keeping an eye on things adjacent to their compound of bar and rowhouses, generations there with new cars, old beaters, grandmothers and babies and wild noisy kids playing ball in the middle of the street. The husband told me one day that a dog was lost, probably stolen. It was those people from the projects, he said, sure Iíd know what he meant, but couldnít any of those kids right here just as easily have done the same kind of thing, stolen the pegs?

This question gets addressed once weíre in the house, the pegless bike against the studio wall, something cold to drink for a bracer. White kids donít bother him, he says, he rides all over the place, downtown, the park, and the only thing the white kids ever say is, Nice bike, you want to ride with us, no? Okay, then, see you. I argue that heís idealizing the white ones, heís polarizing, the whites are all such angels. So itís not all black people, he admits, just the guys, the girls are all right. And itís not all the guys, either, but those black people, he says irrelevantly, theyíre weak, I could take them one-on-one or two-on-one, but four of them on me at once I couldnít fight them all and so they got my pegs.

I know itís wrong, but the Steely Dan hit is running through my mind, Peg, it will come back to you, the only line I remember. No, thereís more: I see your picture, I keep it with your letter, something or other looks good on you. The tune always annoyed me, yet I found myself humming it a lot. It was the late seventies, disco getting big and then cocaine everywhere. At a college party I told a woman the music was manufactured for people to snort coke and have sex to; a backwards, letís-go-to-bed proposition, in keeping with the spirit of the times. Vapid, designedly catchy, weak vocal, chimy guitar, but for all that the song was irresistible, as though it was about something you didnít quite get, didnít have to get, it will come back to you. If I had ever been in a band it probably would have been the sort of thing I played, bass line and instrumental breaks, a little strut to it thereótasty, I would have called it. Peg, peg, the song the night I met a woman in the bar audience who later became my wife, weíd fight, cheat on each other, get divorced while I declared bankruptcy to write off the credit-card debts and then took a job in sales. Weíd stay friends after, blame it on the coke. The child we had would float between us, weíd even talk about getting back together, but then heíd go with her and theyíd move away, California or Denver, Iíd hear from them rarely and send them news of how I was making out with twelve-step down in Orlando, later in Atlanta where Iíd marry again, a woman named Peggy, and would think sometimes too of the song "Peggy Sue" and later the character Peg in Married With Children, off moments when I wandered into patterns of thingsóold addresses, names of cities, license-tag numbers, PINsóthe old song emerging now and then to tease me with a sense of how things pumped along on their own, vaguely meaningful, along some track or other coming back to you.

 

 

Suburban autos tour this city, cruising for rocks, maybe right now, again, in retro mode playing the same music on CD, the song, "Peg," and some suburban boys only a few years older might have been driving right past my son out there on the street on this comfortable Sunday afternoon while the kids were tracking him, quite possible since he stayed on the main streets, main routes from downtown to the tourist area, pubs and shops, waterfront attractions, his own neighborhood where he walks every day to school, rides all the time with his friends or by himself.

Theyíd see whatóthe streets as a movie-set, theatrical backdrop to the buy theyíre looking for or girls theyíre hoping to encounter along the way. Four or five kids chasing down another one wouldnít be worth noticing, they wouldnít notice either one white and the others not, what did that matter, race stuff, so what, for all they knew the one kid did something to the other four and was running away from what he deserved, kill íem all and let god sort it out, one of the car guys might have said, joking, the driver speeding up anyway to avoid stopping at the red at that same corner where my son was beginning to realize what was up, those guys on foot coming up faster behind him, the bike shining too silver in the afternoon sun, its beauty and flash now just stupid, attracting attention, and for godís sakeóhe must have exhaled then, his face already reddened somewhat from the heat of the day, getting redder, flushed, and some curse escaping him, word heís been taught he shouldnít say, one of the worst ones like goddamn or fuck, serious businessóthis is the very bike his parents just bought him, a lot of money for them, he knows that, they let him know, and how can he go and lose it so easy like this, dead corner between downtown and his neighborhood, warehouses and parking lot, not a regular store or house in sight?

Heís standing straight up on the pedals, not so much riding as running on wheels, the sturdy stunt tires are taking bumps and curbs that he only registers after heís passed already, slipping below him like terrain viewed from an airplane. Traffic signals and stop signs are meaningless, heís not careful as he was taught, looking all around. Heís become nothing but motion, flight, he crosses intersections with his field of vision tight, narrowed, reduced to the question of whether a vehicle is or isnít there and if he can make it. He even wishes something big and dangerous would come along, tractor-trailer speeding down the cross-street, heavy tour bus rolling down to the waterfront parking lots, like in the movies it might set up a blockade, give him a chance to turn off into some alley, round a corner to somewhere safe, man parked in his car, lady at the door of her house, taxicab idling or police car like he always sees suddenly there for him instead of now being nowhere just when he needs it.

How can they be so fast when heís riding and theyíre on foot, he keeps thinking, itís a problem that stays abstract in his mind, accompanied by his breathing, heartbeat, heat of his sweat and fear, my sonís body, heís young, only fourteen, is getting pumped with adrenaline beyond anything heís experienced before, sports or arguments with us, somethingís happening to him, fear is cresting up into anger, rage, his body is becoming pure in some way, itís only his own, no one to hear him though heís been shouting for a while now, help, help, theyíre trying to steal my bike, the cars go by, a bus makes a wide turn with its engine roaring. Heís only four, five blocks from home, only a block from the main neighborhood street, lots of people around, but theyíre caught up to him now, a couple of guys about his age, a couple of them older, bigger, and the game is to knock him off, one of them yells back, you stole my bike, give me back my bike, and for a moment my son feels heís gone crazy, as though he really has done something himself, and this bike isnít his after all and feels at the same time a rage that makes him kick back, itís automatic, he doesnít have to think about what to do, and he veers over a curb, hits down hard on the pavement and keeps going. Theyíre all over him now and a man in a third-story window is shouting down, leave that boy alone, and heís shouting too, help, help, and my son has his fists up, himself still on the bike, he wonít be moved though theyíre pulling him and kicking the bike to get him off, heís not going to let them have it though they keep telling him to give it up, give it up.

And so he drags toward the main street, they stay on him disregarding the window man who doesnít come down or anything, people who see him now stay out of it, a bunch of rowdy city kids fighting about something, one says one thing one says another who wants to sort it out though an elderly guy tells them again to leave the boy alone. And my son, feeling heís almost home, just a couple of blocks up the street, the old church and then one short block, makes a mistake. Instead of going the other way, more touristy where the police and others are bound to be out, he takes his usual route past the stores closed now on Sunday and a bar with blanked windows, auto parts place, and theyíre wearing him down, Come on, one of them says, I need those pegs for my bike, give me my pegs, and while heís heading across the street, stores open there, someplace to go inside, ask for help, theyíre forcing him to slow down, stop, one kid is unscrewing each of the pegs, one, two, from the back axle and now across the street, just in front of the shoe store and the Middle Eastern place. Then they go all out for one last try at the rest, trying to lift the bike by the wheels and the crossbar in their hands, theyíre determined to hoist it up, shake him off, but heís holding himself in place, pushing back their arms and hands, and he makes it, pulls against their weight, he smells his sweating and them too with him, gets himself and the bike into the shoe store where he stumbles in and says help, help, they stole my pegs and so the guy in the store lets him stay awhile, steps out and scares the kids off, and after ten minutes or so my son hates to go out again but he has to, knows weíre watching the time, heíll be in trouble if heís late, he doesnít think of using the calling card or the coins we make him carry. He only wants to get home, get the bike inside and tell us what happened to his pegs.

 

 

Maria and I are driving around the city on a Saturday morning, the boyís still in bed, sleeping in, didnít want to join us on our search for tin, sheet metal, stuff for her artwork, whatever we might happen across at the salvage place. Weíre cruising the old parts of the city, mills along the Jones Falls, stone houses on lush bluffs, and then back downtown, Baltimore Street going east, a left down Eden, projects on one side, Little Italy on the other, scrap metal yard, corner carryout, rowhouses painted red and blue.

This is it, I say, as we come to the corner of Fleet, warehouses and parking lot, a forklift spinning around in the street, traffic waiting. They came up on him right from where we are now. Right here. Maria says nothing. Little bastards, I say, and she says nothing, then suddenly says, Yes, I donít want to but I hate them. I wish all of these places would be torn down. Theyíre full of screwed-up people, drugs and guns, no oneís watching their kids, having too many, a kid canít even ride a bike around here without getting preyed on. Youíre not saying itís a matter of black people, I say, and she says, No, I guess not; or maybe, Yes, thatís the reality, isnít it, and how can he ever feel safe again, how can we let him go out on his own, Iím just terrified, sick. I donít know why youíre dwelling on it like this, Iím having nightmares about it as it is. You bring me to the spot where it happened as though I donít think about it all the time already.

You think I donít think about it all the time, too.

She says, Yes, as a matter of fact, that is what I think. You have to make it real for yourself by coming here because you mostly think about your own things and not him. Whatís this corneróit could be any corner around here, the corner near our own house, it could happen anywhere. Youíre localizing it like an infection. Making it something you can manage and so be done with.

I keep thinking Iíll see them, I say. The same ones. Maybe with the pegs on their own bikes or hanging on a chain or something. I want to grab them, take them home to their parents. Of course they would deny everythingóhow could I prove they were the same pegs, I couldnít.

Thatís for the police, Maria says, though what can they doósearch every kid for pegs? Weíre just lucky he wasnít hurt. They could have pulled knives, a gun, god knows what.

To tell you the truth, I say, Iíd like to kick their little asses, knock their heads together. All of them. I can understand the vigilante impulse, people buying guns. If I had one, Iíd give them one hell of a scare.

Who? Any black kids who come by here?

I know itís not black or white. There are good kids in this neighborhood, hardworking parents, they suffer too from the same thingsóthese wild kids. We know what it goes back toóinjustice, hundreds of years, and now the middle classes have left the inner city, whatís left but problems.

Itís just so crazy, she says. If they canít get the bike, they take the pegs. Itís like when the lions start out on the legs of the antelopes, drawing first blood and marking them for the kill. I donít know what weíre going to do about that bike now. Itís too late to return it.

I had misgivings, I say, but it was his decision and you seemed to think it was all right. I didnít want to say anything but now I see I should have.

Kids are getting killed in drug wars. Youíre going to war over pegs. Come onólook at those guys there on the bikesóare they the ones?

Thereís a group passing the corner and I think, yes, it could be them, why not? My gaze goes straight to the rear axles, any sign of the pegs, but there arenít any. Either theyíve been stolen, too, or these kids donít put them on the bikes in the first place, avoiding trouble. Or it could be not having the pegs gives them an excuse for chasing kids who do have pegsóhey, you stole my pegs, give me them backóand then they can go for the bikes as well.

I donít know, I say, I suppose youíre right. If you look at it in the bigger picture, I wonder if you can even blame them. Theyíve probably never known anything else. Bad parents, bad neighborhood, bad schools. Everything telling them theyíre no good, so they fulfill the prophecy. They see a kid with a rich-looking bike, and itís like a beacon. It would be like me walking around here wearing a three-piece suit, a gold watch. Itís their turf, so I should be surprised? Itís not even anything personal. Itís just the way things are, and you have to be careful. Hard as it is, heís learning that.

Thatís a pretty philosophical view of something terrible happening to your son, she says. Your big picture is as much a distortion as your localizing it. You donít feel anything much at all, do you?

Yes, of course I do, I say, moving the car now, donít want to sit too long here, and weíre rolling slowly up another street, through the projects where for once I donít feel nervous but like we have a right to be here, something like social workers or police, privy to a world most people donít know anything about. These arenít even bad projects, why should projects immediately be a bad thing, they were built to help people out, to be better places than the old tenements, these are townhouses more or less, just three stories tall, nice brick fronts and mature trees along the courts, quite a few of them empty or boarded up, but that just means the density here isnít much, in fact it might be that those bad kids, the peg and bike stealers, didnít even come from this area, but from somewhere else, worse projects north or west of here, this was just a convenient staging area, someplace from where they could drift into the tourist areas and then retreat, disappear, blend right in.

Where are we going, Maria says, weíre still on the lookout, then. I blame myself for it, youíre right, we should have never bought him that sort of bike. This stinking neighborhood, you canít have anything good, somebody will fuck it up.

Oh, so what are you saying, it was a mistake for us to move here?

No, Iím not saying that.

Iím a failure, I say, we should have more money and we could live somewhere safe, better neighborhood, the suburbs, a nice little town around here.

So now itís about you and your failure, she says, to hell with him, and she rolls up her window, faces me. She looks goddamned eccentric, artsy and defiantly slatternly, does nothing with her face or her hair in the morning these days, and Iím believing the whole thing comes out of just that, her own skewed abstraction that goes against common sense so I get pressured into something about the kid because if I say anything against Iím being selfish again, stupidly paternalistic and disapproving, or Iím the one whoís abstracted, thinking off in my own screwy dimension that supposedly has nothing to do with the real world.

Then to hell with you, I say, plunging into what will probably be several hours of recriminations and reappraisals, consensus for a while and then the irresistible impulse to return to some word, phrase, oh, so Iím always doing such and such, and whatís your evidence of that, how many times, when was this, letís come back to you, whoís the one whoó Itís as though each thing once said enters into a system over which thereís no control, or that solicits control, seduces into logics so that our son laughs at first and then disgustedly says heís going to his room, you people can straighten out whatever the problem is this time, and he must know, I hope he knows, that it always ends the same, one of us giving it up, saying Iím just wrong, you know, youíre the best, youíre right, I really do love you, letís stop this, and up in his room heíll hear us laughing and think, yes, everythingís okay.

 

 

What would be a parentís best advice to a kid in a situation like the one with the bike? Most likely, just give it to them, donít get hurt, thatís most important. You can replace a bike but not an eye or who knows even your life. And if youíre fighting back youíre in the wrong, legally and otherwise, a bystander or the police see both sides going at it, they donít know for sure whoís innocent or guilty. Though admittedly youíre being ganged up on at the moment it could be that the kids pursuing you are in a just cause, youíre a straggler from some larger group or a solo troublemaker theyíre following to set to rights. And being in trouble in some way means that youíre already in the wrong, a careful person, a reasonable person, mostly wouldnít get into such a situation in the first place, would avoid it, or just wouldnít be the kind of person to have such a thing happen, some kind of luck or protection following them by virtue of their virtues. So giving it up would hurt, but it would be the best and smartest thing to do to protect yourself. You canít expect all the world to worry about you, defend you and your interests, they donít know who you are and they canít sort out a situation that might be clear to you but to them might appear in any number of ways.

Give it upóthat two-hundred-dollar bike, symbol of your parentsí pride in you, such good grades, a big guy now, he can handle himself, heís smart and careful, always? How dumb you would feel, coming home without your bike, carrying on yourself a big nothing that would make you nothing, too, and all the talk youíd be bound to hear and make, momís sympathy and dad glad youíre all right while somewhere the minus sign is there in the accounting system, all those times you cost too much added with it and though nobody mentions it now itís still there, so how much better to fight the fuckers off and just lose your pegs, and sure enough theyíre happy with you, dad says street smarts, and youíre like your parents that way, they canít help it either, theyíll fight to the death like the time the guys had what they said was a gun and dad danced off crazy from them and your mom broke out of their grip, screamed like hell at them, they didnít get shit, not a thing.

And what if they killed you or something, better to be dead, out of the world anyway with your pride and property safe, youíre not a little rich kid who just would throw the bike aside like they might expect, four of them and they couldnít do it, weak, weak, and black, why should that matter, white kids could gang up the same way, they could, you canít trust anybody then, and what the hell it was only the pegs they got, you donít need them, they cause trouble, something to start up with, though it makes the bike lame, itís not new anymore already, better if itís not, it was that turn you made, up that damn street instead of the other way, never go that way again and your own fault if you do.

 

 

The kids donít get the bike, say, but they do get the pegs. All over the neighborhood, I notice on every kidís bikeóadults, too, sometimes, riding the same kind, mountain-stunt bike, silver or blackówhether the pegs are there or not. Mostly theyíre not. So itís likely that, what, tens, maybe hundreds of the pegs are not in use, stolen, lost, removed for safety?

I imagine the kids I see here and there could sell me the kind my son lost, maybe even the same ones for all I would know. What do they do with the things, since they donít appear on any bikes I ever see? There the kid is, heís running away from the shoe-store guy with his friends, theyíre crossing the main street, heading into the projects where I suppose theyíll be safe, go to someoneís house, aunt or mother there with something to eat, video on the television, or maybe nobody home, out to a church affair, or a single mother gone off to party, getting in trouble herself, or thereís a family gathering, a lot of people, and indeed the other guys are just cousins of the one with the pegs, they went out for a lark, some fun, and what turned up was my son, his bike, the pegs.

So they tumble into a bedroom, a lot of stuff in there, messy or not, under the bed or in a box in the closet all the loot, stolen goods or a mixture of things stolen and not. A special box, say, for the pegs, a large shoe box. The pegs shift and roll and clatter together in there like metal bones, when he picks it up the box sags because itís so heavy. He dumps out all the pegs on the bed, itís his collection, there are subtle differences in these things that all look the same to me, the boys comment on them, make comparisons, judge which are the best, which inferior. The new ones, from my sonís bike, are maybe pretty standard, it might be a matter of what kind of bike theyíre from, how expensive or hard to come across, or it might be some intrinsic quality in the pegs, the texture of the checkered chrome, the weight, the metal itself and how it shines.

Or something else altogether is involved, not the separate pegs, theyíre nothing in themselves, itís the quantity, the sense of booty as they roll around, clatter together, itís the story of where each set came from, how you got it with trouble or with ease, how you walked away laughing or ran your ass off. You take one and stick it in your mouth like a cigar, settle down to tell a good long tale while everybody else is smoking one, too, or hang one by your crotch, waggling the thing, hey check my peg. Or take a chain and string the pegs on it with wire, make a necklace like an ammo belt, the pegs knocking together, silver cartridges or cylindrical bombs.

Chances are thereís a trade, some kind of market, so the other kids look over the collection considering what they might want, what kind of deal they might strike for themselves. Or the pegs have some use I know nothing aboutótheyíre hollowed, made the perfect size for rocks or vials, drug-selling kids attach them to their bikes and everybody but the cops knows theyíre holding, hey, heís got a peg, okay, give me the money, you take my peg here.

My son then was riding around with something not even rightfully his since he didnít know the meaning or function of the pegs, not really, but of course I donít really know either, I donít know anything about those kids and what they do, Iím imagining something too exotic and stereotypical and itís just as likely the guy with the pegs carries them in his hand until he finds the right spot, a good solid wall in a place that will make some echoes, or maybe he goes to the water down near the harbor, or maybe to a window in an abandoned house, and he just throws one and then throws the other with all his might, stand back, guys, and he hears something strike or ring or splash or break, the sound satisfies him and he doesnít bother about the pegs anymore, he leaves them where they fall, heís finished with them.

 

 

The bicycle shop, down the street, so obvious I hadnít thought of it. It might be the kids sell back the pegs there, ready cash over the counter, but now it doesnít matter, I just want to buy him a set, even if theyíre not exactly the sameóheís not a baby anymore, not like he used to be, insisting on everything to the letter, just that one certain way or what a tantrum he would haveóand if they are the same I wonít know it, it could be Iím buying as new the very pegs that were stolen from his bike and strangely enough there would be a sort of justice in that, a balance at least.

So I take them home, the new or old or retrieved pegs, they clank together comfortably in the plastic bag but I finally get them into my jacket pocket, I want to keep open the chance of a surprise or at any rate some graceful way of this possibly excessive or intrusive making good of my sonís loss, donít want to embarrass. I think of the story about the combs and the watch chain, she sold her hair and he sold his watch, and hope nothingís happened to the bike now, but that couldnít be, he hasnít taken it out since.

And Maria, I havenít told her about this, no time and one of those things you just do, no big deal, natural for a father or a parent to do, get the kid a new one of whateverís been lost, more symbolic than anything showing you care, and so donít notice at first the way sheís holding something back, a bag or package she has, and itís a beautiful moment, whatís happened, both of us doing the same, she bought the pegs too the day before and was just waiting for the chance, somehow all of us together was best, not her taking him aside and giving just from her, and I feel that way, too, and weíre laughing over it already when we put the two bags with the pegs into his hands and he of course knows, heís expected this, his parents, they love him, he loves us, and he opens the bags, his head hunched over like itís work to do it and like itís work to lift out first hers and then mine, and then he weighs them in each hand, lets them roll together, mixes them up so I lose track of whose was whose and weíre saying sorry, son, sorry that happened to you, we want you to be okay and happy, and he says, oh, thanks mom, thanks dad, and the pegs are rolling together, silver like some kind of money, and he taps one very gently against another, as though trying the sound, hearing a beat, thereís a little scratchiness in it, the scrape of the metalís texture, and a little glint, too, off the light in the kitchen, and he says, I donít know what Iíll do with these but I appreciate the thought, and Maria and I are smiling, we know this is the best weíll get, and it means a lot, as much as anything more sentimental he might have said but of course never would nor would we.

Is everything okay, then? he says. Because I was thinking of going out. You know, for a ride. But not with these, he says, lining up the pegs on the table where probably the slightest motion would roll them off though he balances them just so. That all right with you?

I can see it in Mariaís face, a small collapse, sheís edging to a panic that would keep him here forever. Iím already thinking, all right, all right, let him go but a few minutes and Iíll get in the car, follow him discreetly, just a half block behind.

That okay? he says again. Iíll be back soon, half an hour, and the pegs rattle as heís standing up to go, they fall off the table and roll onto the kitchen floor. Heís a good boy, crouches down and picks them up, turns to us with them bunched in his hands and says, Here they are, and we both say, Thanks, son, and then I hold the door open for him as he carries out the bike, kids are yelling down the street, a car goes by with music rumbling, Maria watches him all the way down the block, waiting for him to turn and look back, wave, but he wonít, and I donít take the car and follow, she finally closes the door, and each of us looks surprised at our hands, the pegs weíre gripping there like peeled metal fruit.

Well, he made a quick getaway that time, she says. I say, He sure did, and left us holding his pegs, too, whatever that means. She says, Heíll be okay, right? He has his watch, money for a call. I say, Yes, of course he will.

And so we believe itóheíll be back soon, like he said.

 

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