“It only took about a month for Bill to give in to the gravitational pull. Graham was working late and I was asleep. He walked into Claudia’s room, sat down on her bed and woke her up. He told her he had been in love with her from the minute he saw her. He admitted that the only reason he was living with me was to be close to her. Claudia pushed him onto the floor, grabbed a shoe and swatted him out of the house. She woke me up and told me to come into the kitchen. She lit a cigarette, blew her nose and told me what happened. Claudia had never liked Bill.
‘Maggie, you picked a real schmuck.’
Schmuck is the perfect word to describe Bill. It’s a nasty word, without lyrics, without taste or grace, it has no music, it’s artless and crude.
‘He was naked,’ she said with disgust.
A box of toothpicks was on the table. I took one, chewed it and spat out a sliver of wood. ‘I knew this would happen.’
Claud had no idea how attractive she was. She had no idea she was wired with jumper cables and charged with gravitational pull. She was rubbing sleep out of her eyes. I loved Claud’s eyes in the morning. They reminded me of a cocker spaniel I once had named Ginger Peachy.
‘What are you talking about, Maggie?’
‘Sooner or later.’
‘Maggie – Bill’s an asshole.’
‘It’s not just him, Claud. I’ve always wondered, whoever it was…’
‘You know something, Maggie? I’m glad Bill’s gone. He’s a creep. And he stinks too, God, I mean, what BO.’
I always suspected Bill had slipped acid into Graham’s Seven-Up at the Halloween party. He was on Valium for two months.
I had a French Theater of the Absurd exam that morning but I didn’t take it. I took a kitchen knife, scratched up the bookshelves and Claud and Graham and I piled into Graham’s Austin Mini Cooper and drove to Cape Ann. Graham took a photo of Claud swimming at Wingaersheek Beach. It won first prize in The Boston Globe. He was wearing his aviator anorak with the hood pulled up. The air was cold, I had gloves on. It was a silver day, the sky was like a sheet of aluminum. It wasn’t just the sky, everything was silver, the water, our hair, the dunes, the tall grass, and the seagulls were silver too. When Claud got out of the water her lips were little butter knives.”