Johnny knew of the angry nights in pool rooms, when his father whirled like an eight ball spinning above the socket. A shiver of movement, and the game was over. He saw the muscles rippling as the man rustled his morning paper, the flash of gritted teeth as he pushed the lawn mower through the sticky pit of summer. His strength was his skin, worn into like the habit of flinching at a firing gun. The same thick blood raced through his son. While the house quivered under his father’s footsteps, Johnny would run. Dashing in the dewy mornings, guided by starlight and his own breath, around wispy fields and sunken sidewalks and unmarked rivers, their names scrubbed off of maps. He would sit at a school desk, sneakers tied, legs wiggling too much to concentrate on combustion reactions. Boom. At the bell, he was a hamster in a wheel, treading on rubber until the coach told him, Go home, Johnny Boy. Desire bubbled from his tremendous lungs at supper, burning a hole through the tablecloth, deep in the wood. He would walk dutifully to bed, only to slip out of his sheets — a blurred bandit. The day of the race came. Johnny broke the news like eggs over breakfast with his father. I’m busy today, Son the man said. And that day, outside, the defeated man pushed
the lawn mower over the dying grass. It was his third week without work. He was listening. The chorus of voices rose up, over the bushes, through the thick, wet air.