Home > Love in the Present Tense(6)

Love in the Present Tense(6)
Catherine Ryan Hyde

I was thinking, fire somebody. I have got to fire somebody. This is no way to run a fucking business. I was thinking, this is why you shouldn’t hire your friends. Because you can’t bring yourself to can their asses in a pinch. I was thinking, you start a business out of your home, they forget this is real. Think it’s a game. Not to me it isn’t.

Then I heard this voice, this funny little voice. “Hello, down there.” I looked around. It was weird. If it was one of my people playing a joke, it wasn’t so goddamn funny. I was in no mood. “Up here,” it said.

“Who is that?” I said.

“It’s me. Leonard.”

“Leonard who?”

“Leonard up here.”

I looked up at the second-floor window of the house next door, and there was this little kid waving to me. Like he thought I was waving my arms at him, so he was waving back. I didn’t have the heart to tell him how wrong he was, and all that rage just slipped out of me even though I needed it to stay.

I walked over until I was standing in the grass under his window. “Hello up there,” I said.

“Hello down there,” he said.

He was kind of Asian looking, somewhat. Kind of melting pot multiracial I guess. He smiled, and his front teeth weren’t all the way grown in. He had this dark, really jet-black hair that was noticeably unruly. It stuck up on his head like a spiky little weed patch. Shiny, like somebody had been trying to slick it down unsuccessfully. I was trying to remember what I’d just been all pissed off about because right at that moment I thought I still wanted it back.

“Leonard what?” I said.

“Leonard Leonard. Just Leonard. That’s all the name there is.”

I figured he was playing a game with me, but it was an okay game, really, far superior to what waited for me back inside. “That’s the whole name, huh? Just Leonard?”

“Yuh,” he said. He was wearing these really thick Coke-bottle glasses with heavy black frames, and the way he was leaning out the window, I was positive they were about to fall into the grass at my feet.

“You’re going to lose those glasses,” I said.

“No way. Look.” He turned his head over so he was nearly looking at the sky, and I could see a wide black elastic band holding them in place.

“Pretty cool,” I said.

“Yuh,” Leonard said. “I know.”

When I got back inside, Cahill was holding the phone receiver for my private line. “For you, Doc,” he said. With this funny look on his face.

“Don’t tell me, let me guess. It’s a little kid.”

“Right you are, Doc.” He seemed to feel better, knowing all this at least made sense to me.

I took the phone. “Leonard,” I said, tucking the receiver between my shoulder and chin.

“Hi, Mitch. It worked.”

“You did good, Leonard.” I sat down at my computer and settled back to the task in front of me, sorting through a slough of HTML code on a Realtor’s Web site, to see why we were getting complaints about bad links. They looked okay to Graff, which wasn’t saying much for them.

“What should we talk about?” he asked.

“I don’t know. What do you talk about when you call total strangers?”

“I dunno,” he said. “Stuff.”

I was feeling distinctly less like canning somebody. “Okay. Talk to me about stuff.”

Oh boy did he. For nearly an hour. All kinds of stuff. He talked about moon races on the way up from L.A. and borrowed cars with the keys left in. The race came out a tie and by the way he was five years old. And a lady named Rosalita who he thought was his grandmother but really it turned out he didn’t have any, and how they visited Rosalita in jail. He told me he got “borned” too soon, and that his mom’s name was Pearl and she left L.A. with him because she thought they’d be safer here, and that he didn’t have a last name. And that he had to spend tons and tons of time at the clinic. He told me it was really clean over there because his mom liked it that way, and that Mrs. Morales who owned the house liked the way Pearl kept it clean, only now Pearl was out at somebody else’s house, cleaning over there, too, and Mrs. Morales was supposed to look in on him every few minutes to see he was okay, but then she fell asleep in front of the TV and never did. He said when he got big he was going to get a great big dog like the one that gets walked down this street every day at six in the morning; did I ever see that dog?

“Six a.m.,” I said. “I am always snoring at six a.m.” And he laughed.

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