Mike rides his bike down Grove Avenue. It’s a sunny day, although the wind is a bit chilly. He carefully crosses the wide and busy Oak Tree Road and pedals hard downhill, picking up some speed. On the left he sees his old high school. Big, boxy, and unwelcoming as ever. It’s been thirteen years since he last roamed the halls there. He wonders if any of his classmates, besides Robert and Sammy, still live around here. Perhaps a few who have been laid off or are waiting for graduate school to start in the fall.
He passes the houses of a couple of girls he used to fool around with in high school. He knows they are long gone, working elsewhere and maybe even married or maybe even parents. He remembers Gale, the only Chinese girl he ever knew with that name. He would sneak over to her place after school their junior year, making out in her living room while daytime soaps played in the background. She would let him touch her anywhere and was never shy about walking around the house naked. For one reason or another, they never became boyfriend and girlfriend. They just gradually stopped hanging out and found others. In his memory, she was a pleasure to be around, with her dry, witty humor and tomboyish tendencies. They would toss the football around together in her backyard sometimes or play horse on her driveway. He knew that he took her for granted.
He turns on to a quiet street and stops in front of a small green house. The driveway is cracked in various places and the front yard is in desperate need of mowing. He punches in the code to the garage and lets himself in. He takes out his laptop and connects to Robert’s wireless network. He checks his email and pays his bills online. He spends some time doing some research for his short story. Some history about the waterfront town where the story takes place. What butcher shops do with scraps they don’t sell. A blog entry by a journalist who trailed a butcher for a day.
He goes outside and checks on the garden in the backyard, pulling out a couple of weeds and feeling the hardness of the unripe tomatoes. When he returns inside, he sees that Robert has come back.
What’s up, Robert says. Anything new?
Nope, just riding around and enjoying the weather. And you?
Just got back from the supermarket. You going to stay for dinner?
Sure, he replies.
He’s grateful that Robert’s always willing to make him food. He helps unload the groceries. He washes the vegetables and starts to peel the carrots while Robert chops up the onions and celery. They’re having beef ragu. There will be enough to last a couple of days. Enough so that he can pack some up in Tupperware, secure it with a plastic bag so it doesn’t spill inside his backpack, and ride back home.