Clos­est With­out Go­ing Over

The Iowa Review - - NEWS - An­nie dewitt

He’s that same Rocket, that same big-hearted swindler. When I ar­rive, he’s sit­ting on the back stoop of St. Luke’s fu­neral home, the one down­town with the Christ­mas lights, chain-smok­ing cig­a­rettes and get­ting drunk on com­mu­nion wine from the rec­tory. He was an al­tar boy as a child. Be­fore he came out. Or, the priest came out. Or, we all came out and re­al­ized that there was more to the world than this town. A mire of strip malls and tract houses built on old In­dian burial grounds. Rocket had once de­scribed the town to me as the gap­ing mouth of the con­crete jun­gle where his mother’s womb ended. “The best way to play a wake?” Rocket says as I sit down next to him. “Give it the game-show treat­ment. When they open the cof­fin, think show­case. Barker’s Beau­ties.” He mo­tions to­ward the win­dow of the mid­dle-class fu­neral home. In­side, peo­ple in suits are milling around his father’s body. Wait­ing to leave. Wait­ing to re­mem­ber. Wait­ing to feel any­thing at all. “The hard­est part?” Rocket says. “Bid­ding on the body. How much do I bid on my old man’s re­mains?” “Same rules ap­ply?” I ask. “Same rules,” he says. “Clos­est with­out go­ing over.”

Groups of his rel­a­tives—good Catholic peo­ple who, when they called me any­thing, had al­ways called me “Rocket’s girl”—hud­dle by on their way to the park­ing lot. “Je­sus, Gin,” Rocket says. “Is it still you? Are you still Miss GoodyGoody? I didn’t think any of the old team would make it.” “The truth is ev­ery­one’s from this town,” I say. “Or, one like it.”

The night we met, Rocket was sit­ting in the back­room of a down­town bar with Dolly drink­ing Jack and Gingers. Dolly could map out the whole coun­try on a cock­tail nap­kin. She too worked in the the­ater. “Where you from?” Dolly asked. “Florida,” I said. “To Florida,” she said, draw­ing the state and tuck­ing it into Rocket’s pocket be­fore rais­ing my Maker’s and shoot­ing it. Later, Rocket took me home. There was an evic­tion no­tice on his door.

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