Fiction Fiction Issue


“Oh, you’ll succeed just fine,” he told her. “You’ll just never be any good.”

Why had she returned to the F Lot? She remembered telling herself that she just wanted to make sure that the young man was all right. If he was still in distress, she’d call the campus police, who, after all, were paid to handle such situations. But even at the time she’d known she was more curious than concerned. Had he tried to cross the street and been run over? (Would that be her fault?) Or, in his literally blind rage, had he assaulted the next passerby (proving how wise she’d been to steer clear of him)?

At least ten minutes had elapsed, so she wasn’t surprised to see that someone had the young man in hand now. But she hadn’t expected it to be Bellamy. He had the boy (he looked younger now, for some reason) by the elbow and was preparing to help him cross the now-flooded street. She considered just driving by, but what if Bellamy recognized her? Did he know her car?

“Janet,” he said, when she pulled up next to them, “you’re a lifesaver.” He led the boy around to the passenger side of her car, helping him into the front seat, an accusationSee how harmless he is?

“God bless you,” the boy muttered as Bellamy, still out in the rain, got him situated, fastening his seat belt. “God bless you.” Was she included in this blessing? The boy faced forward, as if unaware of her. Did he imagine the car drove itself? Or had he caught a whiff of her in the lot before she darted off, and recognized her scent now? Another possibility also occurred to her. What if the boy was only partially blind? Maybe that was why he refused to look in her direction.

“Here,” Bellamy said, taking the boy by the wrist and putting his cane in his hand.

“God bless you.”

“William here needs a lift to the Newman Center,” Bellamy said (he already knew the boy’s name?), and then he slid into the backseat, dripping, diamonds in his hair.

“Where’s that?”

“Turn right on Glenn. Two blocks, on the left,” Bellamy told her. Was he Catholic? Why else would he know where the Newman Center was? She tried to picture The Great Bellamy on his knees, praying.

The rain was falling even harder now, but straight down; the wind had abated some. “Do you want to put your top up?” she asked, indicating the Mustang.

Bellamy regarded her curiously, perhaps surprised that she knew which car was his, then burst into laughter. “That’s hilarious,” he said.

"Everything okay?” Robbie wanted to know. He was standing in the doorway, regarding her wistfully as she sat on the edge of the bed in her bra, and she felt a wave of something like nausea pass over her as past and present merged. “You looked like you were about to cry.”

She rose, went over to the dresser, took out a sweatshirt, and pulled it over her head. “I’m fine. Just had to deal with a plagiarism.”

“Those are always fun,” Robbie said. “Did he come clean?”

She nodded. “Then, to make matters worse, I ran into Tom Newhouse.” She wouldn’t mention that this had happened in the Hub Pub. One of Robbie’s complaints, back when it looked like they might divorce, was that except for the rare dinner party, they never went out anymore. He loved live music, even the kind of junky garage bands that played loud blues in the mill-town dives that ringed the campus, the kind he’d played in himself back in their university days.

“Turns out my plagiarist is taking a class with him too, and Tom starts raving about this Joyce paper the kid wrote. Then he gets mad at me when I suggest he might want to look into it.”

Robbie frowned. “Why did you do that?”

“Do what?”

He just shrugged.

“No, what are you saying?”

“Don’t get angry. I was just remembering high school. I always hated it when the nuns compared notes. If I got into trouble in one class on Monday afternoon, by Tuesday morning they were all pissed at me. It didn’t seem fair.”

“The solution to that problem was not to fuck up with the first nun.”

He shrugged again, unwilling, as usual, to take the bait. “You want me to cook something, or go out for pizza?”


“Pizza, then. Marcus can come with me. He loves Pizzoli’s.”

Really? How can you tell? Not saying this, of course. Because it probably wasn’t the real reason he was taking Marcus with him. It was just better not to leave him alone with her.

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Richard Russo is the author of a collection of short stories, five novels (including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls), and several produced screenplays. He is currently at work on a new novel.

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