The Beginnings of a Storm

After work, James rushes home to scrub off the specks of asphalt and grime of exhaust from a ten-hour workday. His jeans lie in a wad on the motel room floor and in the front pocket is $800, all in twenties—an entire week’s pay. Most of that will be gone by Monday when he’ll arrive back at the airport to get behind the wheel of a bulldozer or front loader, hungover and cotton-mouthed. But now, in the cool stream of water, the money represents nothing but possibility and access, two complete days of not hearing the loud whine of diesel engines or jet planes rising from the earth. He takes a long drink from one of the beers he’s brought into the shower. He has denied himself this specific pleasure all week, trying to practice some measure of restraint and discipline until Friday afternoons, when often he gives in to his impulses. On the drive home today he stopped at the corner store on Lamar and bought a sixer and two tall boys and set them on the passenger seat, waiting until exactly 5:00 p.m. before he cracked the first one. Until then the cans seemed to stare, to bubble with life just a foot from his reach. When the digital clock on the truck’s stereo tumbled to the magic numbers, he was in a winding line of cars by the university. He grabbed the first tall boy from the bag and popped its top all in one motion, just as a couple of blonde, long-legged sorority girls crossed in front of his truck. He raised the can to them and called out “Cheers” as they walked right on past, turning their heads just enough so that their hair became filled with sunlight.

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