Walker Clayfield’s older brother, Max, started the subcontracting business—house painting, carpentry, and wiring—upon his return from a hitch in the army in 1995. Back then he and Walker and Sean, the youngest, all lived with their mother, Minnie, in the old place on Highpoint Terrace. The house had been added on to decades ago, when Minnie was a newly married lady, and happy. It had a narrow backyard, at one end of which was the partial spine of an unfinished boat under a cracked plastic tarp—the failed project of Theodore Clayfield, the boys’ sad excuse for a father. The old man had begun to build it out of wood from scratch before his madness and his drinking and other forms of excess got him—a fatal heart attack at fifty-one. Growing up, the old man had apprenticed to his own father as a boatwright.

That man too had mental troubles—and bottle troubles.

Walker, after he entered high school, began helping Max during summers, and when he graduated the two of them worked together full-time. By this time Max was chasing after Jenny Glass, whose family didn’t like him. Once, when Jenny was having dinner at Paulette’s Restaurant with Bill Jonas, whom she had started seeing, Max stormed in and overturned the table where they sat and then went after Jonas. The two of them fell over another table, breaking several plates and glasses. Max ended up in the hospital. Jenny forgave him for it because he was bruised and beaten and because he was so contrite. But when, with her mother’s encouragement, she went out with Jonas again, there Max was, wet eyed and penitent and hurt—still wanting to fight.

People on couch
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