8 Eminently Likeable Characters Who Will Not Be Appearing Here




starXSmallThere’s Work To Do

People here, we keep to ourselves. We’re not showy; we’re not glad-handers. We keep our barns painted and our fences mended. The social life here can be found at 10am on Sunday morning at First Presbyterian. We keep our noses out of other people’s business.

And yet, when the Willard boy went missing, I knew, without having to place a single telephone call, that the women would be with Mrs. Willard and every able-bodied man would be waiting for me at the feed store.

My name is Grant. This star I’m wearing, I might pin it to my shirt two or three times in a year. I don’t draw a paycheck for it. Those men in the feed store, they’re waiting for me. I’m the law here, and there’s work to do.


Good Boy

“Who’s a good boy? Huh? Who’s a good boy?”

Woof! Woof!

“Oh yes you are! That’s right, you are! You are!”

Woof! Woof!

“What do I got? What do I got?”

Woof! Woof!

“A stick? A stick? Is it a stick, boy?”

Woof! Woof!

“Am I gonna throw it? Am I? Am I gonna throw it?”

Woof! Woof!


I Let Him In

He never calls ahead, never says how long he’ll be staying this time. Just shows up at my door, his shapeless cloth hat on his head, a rucksack slung easily over one shoulder. A wry, knowing half-smile on his face.

“Hey,” he says. Hey amounts to a speech from him.

And I let him in.

He always smells of boat fuel and brine. His skin is sticky with it for days. His hands are coarse and calloused from months of hauling nets. He has a careful way of moving, as if the very earth were a rolling deck that might sway out from under him at any moment. And, oh, his eyes. His eyes are the blue of the sea that’s calling to him already, even as he’s standing there on my porch.
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Sandy Hook, Proving Ground, Military Ordinance, stroke, morningMoments before my first stroke, the first bad one, I was overcome by the smell of waffles and hot syrup, a real olfactory wallop, that starchy essence of seared batter and the sharp carbon zing of scalded sugar. I was sitting at my desk doing nothing special after the Tuesday morning staff meeting, and, bang, there it was. Waffles. And syrup.

I probably haven’t eaten a waffle in forty years. Fifty. Pancakes, either. I never ate like that. Even as a kid, I was a careful eater. I’d eat a bowl of Wheaties or an apple. My father would make waffles, that was his thing, he had about forty minutes of fatherhood a week in him, and he used it up on Sunday mornings, making waffles. He left us when I was eight. My daughter’s like me, a poached egg would be a big deal. Most days, especially toward the end, after Marjorie and me finally called it quits, I got by on a cup of coffee, black, and a Power Bar. Now, of course, it’s a mouthful of juice from one of these devious single-serving containers the nurse has to peel open for me, and a spoonful or two of creamed wheat.

But that smell of waffles, it was so intense; it was like two poles connected by an electrical current over a vast distance, the air cleared by a powerful crackling charge, and then I was on my knees, wedged sideways between desk and chair, stunned and shivering, seeing so suddenly and clearly all the years that have passed while I haven’t done a thing.

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