"Anyone can slay a dragon. . .but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That's what takes a real hero." - BRIAN ANDREAS
Originally published for "Ascension," January 14, 2009.
“I need boxers,” I say to my mother hopefully. Mostly Sean gets everything new, and I get passed-down jeans with ripped pockets and shirts with armpit stains. I draw the line at underwear.
“We’ll see if anything’s on sale after I look at ties.” She heads off.
That was easy. Mom must be in a sentimental mood. UNLV’s been courting Sean with a full basketball scholarship since he won the championship last year. There’s just the formality of the interview, which is why we’re at the mall after practice, buying suits we can’t afford.
On the thinly carpeted floors in the hallway of the men’s dressing room, I stretch out my legs, turn up the volume on the iPod I worked all summer to buy. Ten minutes later, I peer under the cheap particleboard partitions to see if Sean’s done. My brother’s sitting, still in his own clothes, staring at a piece of paper.
“Sean? What’s up?” He doesn’t stop me when I open the door, reach down to grab the note.
The words stay low, stuck in his throat. “I’m off the team. Coach said it’s lucky I’m not expelled.” I tower over him. I’d kept his secret, but now. He’s in deep.
“Tell Mom I’m going to look at boxers.” I drop the paper.
I trip out of the dressing room, walk down the hall, through the men’s department, onto the escalator, up, high, higher.
Originally published for "In Vino Veritas," July 14, 2009.
Twenty-two hours from San Francisco to Kathmandu. Four hours until the layover in Hong Kong. Caelin will have finished grading papers by then. She arches her back, stretching, then wiggles her toes, and catches the eye of the flight attendant.
“More, please.” She indicates the travel-sized wineglass. The remaining ruby droplets glisten in the spotlight of her reading lamp. The attendant nods from the galley.
“You realize that’s basically grape juice?” Chloe peers around the headrest as her business class bed reverts to its upright position.
“It’s a second growth Bordeaux and you know it, O Queen Food Critic,” Caelin retorts. “How’d you sleep?”
“Not well. Looks like fourteen bottles of questionable Bordeaux didn’t help you sleep, either.”
“And nervous. What if she hates us?”
“Sweetheart.” Caelin strokes her wife’s cheek as Chloe unfolds the passport she’s been clutching. A little girl with dark eyes and copper skin gazes at them, unsmiling and unafraid. “She liked us well enough before. Any kid will hate her parents at some point. Let’s just focus on getting her home.”
The flight attendant materializes with the bottle of Château Cos-d'Estournel 1989, which streams like scarlet silk into the stemware.
“Like the orphanage is going to let her come home when you show up drunk,” Chloe teases, leaning close. Caelin smiles into her spouse’s black curls. Points of light play on the surface of her wine, casting images against the back of the seat in a rosy haze.