Mac savored it, the smell of late spring twilight and just-cut lawns when it was already hot but not dried-up and brown like later in the summer. John's house was dim as Mac drifted up slowly along the curb and let the Fury die, windows down, among odors of soil and flower-bed nutrients and dying heat and pavement scored by errant treadmarks. He could hear a mower still going, and a dog somewhere, but saw no citizens outside their houses. A ghost town, except for the sound of air conditioners.
There was a neatness to the yards and minutely-edged drives and sidewalks unfathomable to Mac, a will-to-trim that escaped him. The blades of St Augustine grass glowed individually, each with its own peculiar shade of green-upon-green. The aspect of the neighborhood was otherwordly, untouchable. To visit here was oddly comforting.
It was a flat neighborhood, reclaimed swamp. The sky here seemed to cover the entirety of creation. Only the houses and cypress tree-lined horizon kept limitlessness in check. You had to drive across a modest levee to enter, a sort-of-not-everyone comes in here kind of effect intended. Near the gateway, on a branching drive, was a preserved Indian mound. Mac wouldn't look at it.
He prolonged waiting in the car until John appeared at the door, urgently waving him in; "Look, put your bomb up the driveway, okay? Not really supposed to park on the curb here." Mac confusedly pointed out other offenders, but John insisted. Mac loped back and pulled the Fury in behind their boxy station wagon.
Inside, a swell of exotic, woodsy odors: Mac spotted a prominent bowl of dead leaves that appeared to be the culprit. Chandra seemed perhaps two shades off her usual peak tenseness around him; the kids, aged six and eight now, hovered behind her, eyeing Mac with an air of having just received strong warnings. "Hey," Mac said warmly; both Katie, the younger, and Blake smiled broadly back before being urged to their rooms.
Chandra produced supper rather promptly, saying to Mac: "Well. Tell us how you have been. Okay?"
"Sure. I got my job back, which is good. I was saving some money up, maybe going to try to trade up the Fury, you know, and I had to go to the doctor, you know, and that took all my cash."
"Really? Okay. So what's--why did you have to go, Mac?"
"It's just this thing, when I pee, you know, it gets itching real bad--"
"Oh! That's okay, I didn't mean to--"
"It's inside, you know what I mean, that feeling in the middle of--well I mean, you're a girl, I know, it's not--"
"Really, Mac, you don't--"
"I don't mind. I'm not embarrassed or anything--"
"Mac," John said sternly. "She doesn't want to know in detail what going to hookers does to your dick."
"John! Damn it--"
"Hey! I'm just helping you out!"
Chandra was out of the dim dining room already.
After a while Mac said "Are the kids coming in to eat?"
"Hmm? Oh, they ate already."
Mac's biannual visit. One in winter, one in early summer always. Upon John's insistence. Mac endured it, always believing once it would turn out not something to be endured.
The house was spotless, humming, dimlit, perfect at achieving what it wanted to be.
John stood up, leaving dishes on the table, and motioned back to the TV room. As they left, Mac caught of glimpse of Chandra easing by; "Hey, don't listen to him, I don't talk to those girls even, mostly--"
"Leave her alone, Mac. Wanna catch a flick? Need to use up some of these dollars I spend on the cable bill."
The couches--U-shaped--were incredible. Mac had never felt anything so soft. He could see a person not ever wanting to get up from one of these. He tried to ask John about Mama or Connie, but John deflected, saying there was a new good one coming on. He looked at his watch when the opening credits were over. "All right. Twelve and a half minutes."
The movie involved lots of hidden pistols and women in dresses riding elevators. Mac had trouble following the way it jumped around. He saw Chandra come in a side door and sit in a chair facing the TV only indirectly, out of the light. He wasn't sure if John saw her. "OK. Within five minutes now," John said.
After a couple of cuts, there was a woman lifting her blouse up. "Uh-oh," Mac said, as if a mistake had been made somewhere. Chandra stood up noisily. "John! Oh, some on!"
"What? We're just watching a G D movie here, what's eating you?"
"You're just watching trash!"
"I have told her this before: These movies come straight from the theatre. This is not a cheap movie. It is made by a major Hollywood studio.
So the shadow of those gun-barrel nipples on the sheets is a metaphor, right? Illuminating the subthemes of violence and power, huh? Nothing there to make you hard, huh?
Chandra, god-damn it. This is supposed to be in here, yes, but because we have bought it. It is a well-known fact that you cannot finance a major Hollywood movie like this without banks and banks will not provide money unless certain conditions are met; namely X minutes of minor frontal nudity, and it is part of my male G D contract to watch what I have paid for and enjoy it like 40 million other happy households in this country--
Mac was looking anywhere but at the TV; Chandra had already left the room.
Huh? What--the bitch wont even listen to me? --Hey! Chandra! Honey--you can watch too!
The phone trilled. John picked up the portable. "Yeah, what. Huh? Well, I'll be damned. . ."
Mac wished theyd let him see the kids.