Story — From the April 2018 issue

Find the Edges

Download Pdf
Read Online

His wife had worked at jigsaw puzzles like he imagined beavers worked at logs. If you were a beaver and you worked at logs, you probably had a saying or two that you could pass on to others who didn’t normally undertake such things: “Start on the side facing the moon at night — so you can see better — and work your way in.”

His wife said, “Find the edges.” Start with the corners, make an edge, work your way in. Puzzle, meet solution. She had worked in the kitchen where he sat now, the puzzles she did with the boys seemingly too large for the table itself.

“My Mother’s Puzzle, Oldwick, New Jersey” (detail), by Doug DuBois © The artist. Courtesy Aperture Foundation

Now the table was strewn with papers. Bills, notes to self. Wreaths had been ordered. The Rendons must have been by earlier when he was out, visiting the fellow he privately dubbed the Monument Man. The man with the hammer. Old-school. He never saw him at work, of course, and most likely he had a drill — something air-compressed, high-end. It wasn’t 1947, after all. His wife had been born in 1975. He was from 1977 himself.

A pie sat amid the papers. Comfort food, as Mrs. Rendon said to him. Her car was often in his driveway now, even though she couldn’t have lived more than two hundred yards away. He tended to measure in football fields because football was one of the sports that his boys played. “Mrs. Rendon really should walk,” he thought as he grabbed a piece of pie. It struck him that he would have to return to work at some point. He thought about how he was not dead, and how people just expected you to be able to pretend you were alive.

In the hospital, everyone watched the television. Some laughed. Life didn’t stop so much that you couldn’t laugh — even he had, once or twice. He thought of that too as he bent over the sink and threw up the pie. The television in the hospital was always on the same station, as if governed by some entertainment-industry bylaw.

He thought of his wife’s instructions in these matters. “Relax, now, Ted,” she had said when he lost his job and Clay had been recovering from pneumonia and Danny was having his trouble, which meant counseling sessions. “We’ll get through this.” Danny was getting beaten up every day behind the dumpster before he went to school. Getting beaten up, it turned out, because he asked the other kids to beat him up. Neither he nor his wife understood why, and neither did the kids, but they complied anyway, kids being kids until the end of time.

“Relax, now, Ted,” his wife had said when his mother died after he had stopped speaking to her for three months. It had been one of those small arguments, dredged up like something from a trawler, something that should have stayed on the bottom.

You’re supposed to let those things be. But he was always too anxious, too eager, wanting to improve things. He wanted to be a better parent. His wife was the one the boys came to. His duties lay elsewhere, as far as they were concerned. Ice cream man. He took them for treats after his wife had done the fixing-up. His job was to pretend that this trip to the Dairy Queen represented a new start. Now things would get better. Half a puzzle had been assembled on his watch, but mostly thanks to his wife’s love and counsel.

“Fuck that,” he thought, looking at the chunks of piecrust in the sink. He laughed. You never think it’s good to be alone, save when you laugh when you shouldn’t. You have to be alone for that. That’s the company you’re after.

Previous PageNext Page
1 of 3

You are currently viewing this article as a guest. If you are a subscriber, please sign in. If you aren't, please subscribe below and get access to the entire Harper's archive for only $23.99/year.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Download Pdf
Share
has published three collections of short fiction. The most recent is The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe (Dzanc Books).

Get access to 169 years of
Harper’s for only $23.99

United States Canada

THE CURRENT ISSUE

November 2019

Men at Work

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

To Serve Is to Rule

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Bird Angle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The K-12 Takeover

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The $68,000 Fish

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

Close

You’ve read your free article from Harper’s Magazine this month.

*Click “Unsubscribe” in the Weekly Review to stop receiving emails from Harper’s Magazine.