Three Pieces — Glen Pourciau


On a brisk, windy Friday night I’m stand­ing out­side a resort hotel’s entrance where Betsy and I have just had din­ner, wait­ing for the valet to bring our car around, Betsy inside away from the wind, all three lanes jammed with vehi­cles, most­ly pick­up trucks and SUVs, the hotel host­ing a week­end con­ven­tion, two oth­er men near­by wait­ing on a valet.

A cou­ple is unload­ing their pick­up in front of us, both of them over­weight, bent, limp­ing, wob­bling from side to side, the pickup’s back seat crammed with stuff. The woman pulls out a walk­er and then a pet car­ri­er with an ani­mal inside that she speaks to. She puts the car­ri­er on the walker’s seat, turns back to the truck and takes out two Styrofoam con­tain­ers and sets them on the pet car­ri­er. A mas­sive pick­up is parked behind them, its own­ers and one of their teenage chil­dren heav­ing suit­cas­es and two cool­ers onto a lug­gage cart, ready to roll into the hotel, described on its web­site as a trop­i­cal par­adise nes­tled with­in hun­dreds of acres of trop­i­cal gardens.

The woman with the walk­er has pushed it inside and the man piles some of their lug­gage onto a cart, chuck­ling and chat­ter­ing to him­self as he works. On the truck’s bed cov­er, I see a case of soft drinks, 24 16.9 ounce bot­tles, the wrap­per says, and three ware­house-size box­es of snack food. The man huffs on his way to them, and I tell myself to help him unload instead of watch­ing him suf­fer. Is he chuck­ling because he’s embar­rassed by the judg­ing eyes on him, includ­ing mine? A staff mem­ber rolls his lug­gage cart away and leaves anoth­er for him to fill. He drops the soft drinks and snack foods on the ground by the cart, then limps to his truck and leans into the back seat, reach­ing for more belong­ings. I shift on my feet, think­ing I could go around to the oth­er side and push them toward him at least or pick up the heav­ier pieces and bring them around to the cart. After the back seat is more or less emp­ty he wob­bles to the rear of his truck, pant­i­ng, pulls up the bed cov­er and props it open with a lift strut, chat­ter­ing as he peers down at more of their prop­er­ty. He sticks a hand in and grips the han­dle of a suit­case that almost top­ples him when he rais­es it out with a grunt.

I take a few steps, look­ing for my car, and see it com­ing in the out­side lane, which has some­how been cleared. I turn and wave at Betsy.

Inside the car, we com­ment on the hub­bub as we make our escape from par­adise, our house less than a mile away.

Did you see the home­less woman?” Betsy asks. “She limped through the door hold­ing onto her walk­er and talk­ing to an ani­mal in a plas­tic box. Her take­out con­tain­ers fell off the box and fried food scat­tered across the floor. I could still smell it and see pieces of crust when I left.”

I tell Betsy she was not a home­less woman but a hotel guest dri­ving in with her hus­band, also mobil­i­ty-impaired, and I fill her in on their belongings.

We have a nice din­ner and those are the images we’re left with. Can you pic­ture them putting all that junk in a hotel room? How long can they be staying?”

Watching him, I couldn’t help see­ing his point of view.”

The hotel was extreme­ly busy. They couldn’t give full ser­vice to all those people.”

There’s more to it. I could have helped him.”

Did you see any­one else help­ing him? We didn’t go there to work. You’re tired at the end of the day.”

He was more tired than I am.”

You didn’t make them bring all that para­pher­na­lia, and you don’t work for the hotel. Are oth­er onlook­ers now both­ered they didn’t help them emp­ty their truck? He might have got­ten mad if you’d touched his stuff. If you had it to do over again, would you help him?”

Probably not.”

So for­get about it. You did what you want­ed to do.”

It would have been bet­ter if I’d helped.”

You should accept your deci­sion. You didn’t help him. Case closed.”

It will nev­er close.”



When my neigh­bor friend Monica called me up angry and want­i­ng an expla­na­tion I said I didn’t know what she expect­ed me to explain. “The char­i­ty cock­tail par­ty?” she said. “I took the time to get ready. I was dressed and wait­ing for you. You stood me up.” I wavered. “You invit­ed me,” she said. As I lis­tened to her the invi­ta­tion began to sound famil­iar. “ I for­got,” I con­fessed. “My plans changed. I didn’t go myself.” “What about me?” she asked. “She wouldn’t for­get some­thing like that,” I heard her hus­band, Harry, shout in the back­ground. Monica said it didn’t make her feel any bet­ter to think I would for­get her, and she end­ed the conversation.

Later I texted her that since I hadn’t men­tioned the par­ty again she could have touched base with me or sent a reminder. Because I’d invit­ed her, she answered, I should have been the one to remind her, which made no sense. How could I send a reminder when I’d for­got­ten I’d invit­ed her? Was she capa­ble of see­ing that? Harry replied with a text: “You are not wel­come at our house.” They lived across the street and two doors down, and I dread­ed see­ing them when­ev­er I walked out my door.

I resent­ed them for think­ing the worst of me but accept­ing that the fault was mine I tried tak­ing the high road. I called Monica, who greet­ed me with near silence, and apol­o­gized. I said I regret­ted my mis­take and was sor­ry for the trou­ble I’d caused her. I offered no defense, except to say I was get­ting more for­get­ful. I hoped she could for­give me. I heard her speak­ing to Harry. “Why for­give her when she did it on pur­pose?” he said. “Why does he think I did it on pur­pose?” I asked her. “Why would you for­get me?” she asked and hung up.

I’d nev­er known Monica to be an angry per­son. She had always seemed a sym­pa­thet­ic lis­ten­er. I won­dered what she’d real­ly been think­ing when I spoke to her, and the fact that she’d turned on me so eas­i­ly made me regret the good­will I’d shown her in the past. Several months before I’d giv­en her a gold link bracelet she’d noticed on my wrist and admired. It was a cos­tume piece but had some style. I’d been wear­ing few­er bracelets, self-con­scious about draw­ing atten­tion to the age spots and dis­col­oration on my hands. Now I pic­tured her eye­ing it with anger and per­haps throw­ing it in the trash. In her state of mind I couldn’t think she’d take any plea­sure in wear­ing it. The bracelet kept me awake for a cou­ple of nights and I decid­ed I couldn’t be at peace with it in her possession.

I texted her that I want­ed the bracelet back. Under the cir­cum­stances I was sure the thought of wear­ing it repulsed her, I said, so why should she want to keep it? Put it in my mail­box, I sug­gest­ed. I looked out the win­dow, as if expect­ing to see her charge out­side with the bracelet in hand, run up the street, and fling it at my front door. I imag­ined open­ing the door and catch­ing the bracelet, my eyes meet­ing Monica’s.

She did not emerge, but a text soon arrived. “Now we see the big pic­ture!” Harry said. A text from Monica fol­lowed. “All this to reclaim the bracelet? I’ll give it back if you promise to seek pro­fes­sion­al help.”

I haven’t promised her and she has not returned my bracelet.



As far as I knew, my sis­ter, Anna, had not been strug­gling with her hus­band, Doug. They were in town, vis­it­ing me from out of state. They seemed the way they always did, Doug full of wise remarks and Anna smil­ing and nod­ding rather than laugh­ing at them. We all laughed about going blank on cer­tain words or names, which struck us as nor­mal since we were in our seventies.

It was part of my rou­tine to take an ear­ly-morn­ing walk on the beach, and one day Doug said he’d like to come with me. The beach was a cou­ple of blocks away and we got to the sea­wall in min­utes and took the steps down, the Gulf gray and chop­py, piles of sea­weed washed up by the waves, lines of pel­i­cans over­head, cloud cov­er, wind in our faces as we head­ed west.

What stuck with me was that Doug told me he’d been think­ing. If Anna were to die before him, he said, he had two women in mind who could replace her. Questions occurred to me, none of which I asked. Was Anna sick? She was four or five years younger than Doug. Why was he say­ing this to me? Was he going out of his mind?

One of his prospects lived near them in the coun­try, and she made pick­les in her own kitchen. That was the way he described her. Did she know him well? I asked. Only slight­ly, he said. I had oth­er ques­tions but couldn’t catch my breath well enough to ask them. The oth­er woman, he said, wrote restau­rant reviews for the local news­pa­per. I wait­ed to hear more about her. He gazed ahead, squint­ing, as if at his life with­out Anna. I couldn’t tell if he won­dered what I was think­ing. He‘d shown no sign of self-con­scious­ness. A silence hung over us, except for the ris­ing wind, and I pic­tured it blow­ing Doug away.

Back at the house, I con­sid­ered ask­ing Anna if they were both well. I kept imag­in­ing com­ing out with Doug’s alter­nate future and regret­ting it after I did. I restrained my anger at him and tried to ignore his ongo­ing clever remarks.

Months lat­er, Doug’s health began to fail. Anna has devot­ed her­self to his care, but his best days are behind him. News of his decline, I admit, raised a smile I could not com­plete­ly sub­due. But unless Anna reveals pent-up regrets, I don’t know if I’ll ever tell her what he said.


Glen Pourciau’s third sto­ry col­lec­tion, Getaway, was pub­lished in 2021 by Four Way Books. His sto­ries have been pub­lished by AGNI Online, Green Mountains Review, New England Review, The Paris Review, Post Road, and others.