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Fiction

Fruit Salad

by Dale Peck

Dale Peck
Fruit Salad
Men aren’t meant to be young, said the man who’d given his age as thir—forty-one. He shrugged off the false start, smiled slightly—small, borrowed, theatrical gestures that said, Had I been planning to lie? Or had I merely forgotten? He was two years into his fifth decade but not so long versed in saying it aloud. Men aren’t meant to be young. For a moment I tripped over a hiccup of vodka in his voice—if I wasn’t just tripping over my own Scotch—and I thought he’d said men aren’t men to be young, and by the time I’d added the elided t and a to letters that seemed to cut holes in the barroom fog, he was finishing up. It’s all over by thirty, he was saying, and I was twenty-nine. I’m twenty-nine, my Scotch said, and his vodka answered, Then we’d better hurry, and then there were the rooms of his apartment, so small they seemed to overlap. The refrigerator was wedged into a niche in the living room, directly opposite a hatrack on which hung the bathroom towels; the duvet spilled out the bedroom door like a crust of dried sea foam, and the only lights inside the bedroom were the alternating waves of green and yellow and red that came from a traffic signal outside his kitchen window. It was the light I watched, or rather its effect on his body, his green hands and yellow eyes and the tiny stop sign of his navel. I remember him getting out of bed in the middle of the night but I don’t remember him not coming back. I remember him struggling to shut the bedroom door, and I remember thinking that I was neither drunk enough nor young enough to pretend to sleep through the sound, but I did anyway. In the morning I found him in the kitchen, in the bathtub. He’d taken the towels from the hatrack—brand new towels, each as thick and fluffy as a good idea—and used them to cover himself. The vodka had come from the freezer and stood on the counter in a puddle of water; the Demerol had been in the sugar bowl. Long before I’d met him I’d given up the practice of asking a prospective trick “Who are you?” but it was what I thought of when I removed the green and yellow and red towels that covered the naked meat of his body like the discarded skins of a fruit salad. He’d had to curl and fold his limbs to fit into the tub, but I wasn’t sure if it was all that stretching which had pulled his skin as tight as a sheet of cellophane, or death. I tried to answer my unasked question with the last words I remembered him speaking: I don’t think I’ll get it fixed. He’d been talking about his alarm clock, which had broken earlier in the—yesterday.

Contributors
Dale Peck is the author of The Law of Enclosures, Now It’s Time to Say Goodbye, What We Lost: Based on a True Story, Martin and John, Hatchet Jobs: Writings on Contemporary Fiction. In August 2006: FSG will reissue Martin and John as part of the FSG Classics series. January 2007: Drift House: The First Voyage comes out in paperback; Drift House: The Amulet of Babel comes out in hardcover (Bloomsbury). Carroll and Graf will publish a new novel, The Garden of Lost and Found.



Dale Peck' photo

Dale Peck is the author of The Law of Enclosures, Now It's Time to Say Goodbye, What We Lost: Based on a True Story, Martin and John, Hatchet Jobs: Writings on Contemporary Fiction. In August 2006: FSG will reissue Martin and John as part of the FSG Classics series. January 2007: Drift House: The First Voyage comes out in paperback; Drift House: The Amulet of Babel comes out in hardcover (Bloomsbury). May 2007: Carroll and Graf will publish a new novel, The Garden of Lost and Found.

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