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A novel in verse … and the writing thereof
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Me and the Boys

Mac watched them go. “Your cousin, huh?”

“Yes, Mac.” I looked sidelong at Cory. “A member

     of my family. Something to bear in mind.”

Cory was still leaning back, at his ease. “I’ll risk it.”

When he did put his elbows on the table, he was not

     looking at me.

“Say, Lewis, why is it you think you’ve a right

     to meddle in my personal affairs?”

“You mean, other than that you talk about

     nothing else, for the past month, except

this great girl you met, more or less inviting

     not just us but every stranger in the county

     to listen and advise?”

Cory grinned. “Yeah. Other than that.”

“Well, Bri’ m’boy, ever since you posted

     my drawers on the Captain’s door, with the size written

     on them—”

“—You never pinned that on me!”

I couldn’t resist. “‘Bri’?”

“Not on you, but on the Captain’s door,

     like he said,” Mac chimed in.

“—since you made so free with

     my private life, I figure

     I’ve a right to yours.”

“Mac, why is he calling him ‘Bri’?”

Mac looked at me, more or less, and said, “Because it’s his name?”

“I never confessed.”

“No it’s not!”

But Mac was following the main conversation. “Now that’s true,

     Lewis, he didn’t, though you all but

     keel-hauled the fellow.”

“Mac, that’s not his name.”

Lewis leaned back in his chair, one elbow

draped over the back. “I concede, he held up nobly

     under torture—”

That got my attention. “Torture?”

“Yup, honey, you’ll be getting a broken man.”

I patted his arm. “That’s okay, as long as you

               broke bravely.”

“—so nobly I’d trust you in the hands of the Japs,

     but that does not prove your innocence, Bri,

     merely your courage.”

“You’re a hard man, Lewis, a hard man.”

“We didn’t really hurt him, Linda, just

     pretended to.”

“Didn’t hurt me? Mac, you try squeezing into

     one of those lockers and tell me

               it don’t hurt.”

“Then why’re you laughing?”

“Hell, I don’t know. You two are just

     a quarter shy of a million, I swear.”

“If you did hurt him—You know, you’ll have to face

     me now.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Your girl?” said Mac.

Cory grinned. “Yep.”

“And you’re gonna marry her?”

“If she’ll have me.”

“Have you!” I exploded. “I don’t even know your name,

     it seems, or else they don’t, or else

     you’re not who you said you were

     to one of us at least, or maybe all.

               Why ‘Brian’?”

“Just a nickname,” Lewis said. “Because he’s Irish.”

“Scots,” Cory said.

“Scottish, Irish, what’s the difference?”

“You’d better stay

     on this side of the pond, Lewis. Talk like that

could get you killed, over there.”

“Yeah, I nearly did get killed

     over there. Remember? But I have a question

for Linda here. Are you going

     to do it?”

“Marry him, you mean?”

“Oh, he’s a great guy, Linda, you couldn’t do better.”

Cory put his hands

     over his face. “Be quiet, Mac. Drink your beer.”

“Coffee,” I said.

“Coffee, then.”

“I was just—“

“I know what you were doing. Talking me up.

     You think if she doesn’t believe me yet,

     she might believe you?”

“I only wanted—”

“Okay, drink my beer,” said Cory, sliding it across the table,

     but a hand intercepted his, over his shoulder, and

You drink your beer, Cory,” said Mary, back again,

as she slid into her seat. “This could be interesting. Inasmuch as

I’m the one who dragged Linda downtown that night

and am therefore at least in part

     responsible for this engagement—”

Cory sputtered, and grabbing my shoulder,

     demanded, “How come she gets the credit?”

“Or blame,” I suggested. He threw up his hands.

“So you are engaged?” Mac asked me.

“—if it is an engagement,

     which I doubt, the evidence so far rendered being

     suggestively inconclusive—”

“Now, there’s a mouthful,” Mac observed.
“She works in a lawyer’s office,” I explained.

Lewis pounded the table. “Let the lady finish!”

Mary’s date drifted away. “Aw, Mary, give a guy a break,” Cory pleaded without

     conviction, and turned to me. “Do something, Linda, please.

     She’s your cousin.”

I looked at him.

     “You can’t be serious. No one stops Mary, when she’s

     on a roll. Clearly, you don’t

     know her very well. Nor me,

     for that matter. I get a kick outa this.”

I think,” Mary continued, unperturbed, “we should

     hear these boys out.”

Lewis looked at Mac. “Hear us out? She’s the one

     who was talking, wasn’t she?”

“Ah, but Mac, here, was about to

     give us his opinion of Cory,

I believe. A girl likes to know

what a fellow’s buddies

     think of him. Right, Linda?”

“Who, me? I’m just the girl, remember?”

“Well, I do, anyway. So, Lewis, if you’d be

     good enough—”

Lewis looked at me. “You want the lowdown?”

“The goods.”

“The skinny?”

“The scoop.”

“The whole shebang?”

“Yeah, that too. Do your worst.”

“All right then, here it is: Don’t do it, Linda. I grant you, he’s got charm—

     look at him there, chewing on that toothpick

     as if he’d not a care in the world. But this guy—

               he’s trouble all the way.”

“Is that so? Well then, it’s lucky I

     met you before it was too late.

     What do you advise?”

“Well, how’s this: forget him, and

     marry me instead?”

“Hey!” The legs of Cory’s

     leaned-back chair hit the floor.

Mac pushed between them. “What about me?”

Lewis shouldered him

     out of the way. “Get in line, Mac.”

     “Or put up your dukes.”

Cory rolled his eyes and leaned back again,

     toothpick in play.

Mary drew on her cigarette and shook her head.

“You boys are wasting your time. That’s the girl

     who didn’t stay to watch

two guys fight over her back in tenth grade.”

Mac and Lewis clamored for the story

     of course, and Mary seemed

               ready to oblige, so I just put

     my elbows on the table and

     my head in my hands, but not before

I saw Cory lean forwards, with a little grin

               at me. Mary was just revving up

     when Cory’s voice said in my ear,

“Hey, pretty lady. Wanna dance?”

“Don’t you want to hear the rest of the story?”

He shrugged. “I got the gist. Besides,

     I’d rather hear your version.”

I stood up and turned

     to his arms.

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