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:: By the River : Joseph Pettigrew ::
"They must be freezing out there with the wind off the water." Jack pointed to a lone sailboat on the river.

"I wonder what it's like," Michael said.

"You've never gone sailing?"

Michael shook his head. "Have you?"

"Yeah, a couple of years before we met. I had a boyfriend who was really into it. Mostly I remember having to work a lot. Moving back and forth, pulling on ropes, making sure the boat didn't tip over. It wasn't nearly as much fun as I thought it would be."

"What is?" Michael said.

Jack looked at him, saw a wry smile on his face and smiled back. Michael put his hand on Jack's shoulder and gave it a squeeze. Then he put it into his jacket pocket and started walking again.

Jack followed as they continued along the path by the river. It was early spring and the sun had finally appeared after weeks of cool, gray weather. The asphalt was cracked here and there from the effects of the winter, and the two of them had to tread carefully in spots so as not to stumble. Rollerbladers and joggers passed them as they walked.

"You tired?" Jack asked. "We could get something and rest for a while."

"I'm not tired." Michael looked off in the distance.

"You're sure?"

"I think I'd know if I was tired." Michael turned towards him.

"OK. Fine." Jack looked off at the sailboat again.

"But I am hungry."


"I just don't want to botch it," Michael said as he broke his balsa wood chopsticks apart. He picked up a piece of broccoli and put it in his mouth. "I've heard stories about that, and it's even worse than --"

"Yeah," Jack said. "But don't worry; everything would be all right. If it came to that, I mean."

"So I think we've got to do some planning to make sure it will go all right," Michael said.

"Well, if the time came, we'd do what we had to." Jack fumbled with his chopsticks.

"But when the time comes, we need to be ready. We don't know what kind of shape I'll be in."

The restaurant was almost empty. Jack looked at the bored waiters talking by the cash register.

"Someone in my support group told me about a friend of his who took some pills," Michael said. "They found him and pumped his stomach, but it was pretty much eaten up by that time. He lived for two more months and --"

"Oh, God." Jack dropped his chopsticks. He turned his head away and stared out the window. He could make out the tip of the sailboat on the river.

Michael couldn't see his face. "Sorry." He put his hand on Jack's forearm. "I worry about it."

Jack turned back and sighed. "Why don't we just eat?"


The wind had picked up, turning the air colder. The joggers and rollerbladers were still out, but most of the casual strollers had headed in. Jack and Michael walked for several minutes without speaking. After a while, they stopped and leaned over a rail, side by side.

"I think I'd like to try it some time," said Michael. The sailboat was now moving along at a fair clip.

"Do you know anybody who sails?" Jack asked.

"What about your old boyfriend? You still on speaking terms?"

"No. Well, yes. I mean, he's not here anymore."


"But we'll find someone, if that's what you want." Jack turned towards him. "I'll ask around. We must know somebody who does it. We'll keep looking until we find somebody."

"It's not that big a deal."

"But we could find somebody. You should experience it if you want."

"It's not like it's been a lifelong dream or anything."

"I don't want you to miss something you want to do."

"Before it happens."

"That's not what I meant."

"It's not?"

Jack turned and leaned back against the railing on his elbows. Across the street was a subway stop. "Maybe we should be getting back."

"Look!" Michael said. Out on the river, the sailboat had capsized; its sail bobbed up and down on the waves. Two men could be seen swimming around to the underside of the boat.

"Should we call someone?" Jack asked. "We should do something, shouldn't we?"

"What can we do?" Michael said, staring at the scene. As they watched, the two men uprighted the boat. It sat low in the water and the rim came close to going under as they climbed back in.

"Looks like the mast is broken," Michael said. The sail leaned over at an angle and flapped uselessly in the wind. One of the men unhooked it from the rigging and gathered it into a ball in the middle of the boat.

"They could probably fix it, don't you think?" Jack said.

"Maybe," Michael said skeptically, "but it looks pretty gone to me."

"But they could try."

"Not if it's beyond repair."

"But it would be worth trying. That mast might be OK if they reinforce it."

Michael looked at Jack, sighed, and said, "Why don't we head back home?"

Jack gave him a wan smile and headed across the street to the subway entrance. Michael followed and put his arm around Jack's shoulder as the two of them went down the steps into the station.


:: 4.2.01 : 4.2.02 : 4.2.03 : 4.2.04 : 4.2.05 : 4.2.06 : 4.2.07 : 4.2.08 ::

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