The Beaches Are Always Sunny In San Diego (2014 Short-Fiction Contest Winner)

san-diego-postcard

Jason Steed’s short-story, “The Beaches Are Always Sunny In San Diego,” is the winner of the first annual Lawyerist Short-Fiction Contest.

Butts clenches his teeth and works his fists around the steering wheel when he thinks about staying at Clayton’s. Fitz had called and said, “C’mon, Buttsy. He’s the only one who still lives there,” and Butts had said, “I hate Clayton, man. I’d rather sleep in my car.”

“Butts, seriously—we’re talkin’ about one lousy night,” Fitz had said. “And it’s homecoming—twenty years, for crying out loud.”

Butts clicks his eyeteeth together. He checks in the rearview mirror for the bag on the backseat—the old green duffel bag that Tracy won’t possibly miss. In it there is just enough for overnight: underwear, his Blazers T-shirt, a new toothbrush from the pantry.

Tracy will start wondering where he is in an hour. He should be coming home from work, but he hasn’t been to the firm in days. Tracy doesn’t know that he’s been leaving early for weeks, to go watch matinees. He hates his partners. He hates his clients. His clients are always the men and they’re always cheaters. When he isn’t leaving early or skipping work entirely, he’s supposed to help these men not to lose everything to their snarling wives. He’s never told Tracy how much he hates everything.

A pickup with an orange flag atop its antenna rushes by, doing ninety at least, and Butts falls in behind, matching its speed. He watches the Gorge go by on I-84, and he refocuses his hatred.

Bodie Clayton. The way he always hung his thumbs in his beltloops. Hadn’t Clayton been the first one, in third grade, to call him Joe Butthead? And there’s what he did to Sabrina Fairchild their senior year.

Butts remembers a conversation with Sabrina Fairchild when they were sophomores. Beautiful Sabrina. She had asked if he liked Woody Allen. “My dad loves Woody Allen,” she’d said. “I like him too, I guess.” This was before all the creepy stuff, obviously. Butts hadn’t heard of Woody Allen back then, and remembers thinking he was a folksinger. Later, in college, he had broken up with a girl after two months and for two weeks he had raided six video stores for every Woody Allen movie he could find. Their junior year in high school, Sabrina went on a student exchange to Spain and had asked Butts to write to her, but for some reason he’d never gotten around to it. She came back their senior year and started dating Bodie Clayton.

Sabrina. Those narrow hands, the gnawed fingernails. The twisted braids, horseback-brown.

Clayton had thrown Sabrina into a desk that was sitting outside a classroom, on an afternoon when the light was slanting in rectangles across the school’s red-carpeted hallway. Clayton and Sabrina had been going together for about a month. They were arguing and later Clayton said he hadn’t meant to push her so hard. Butts had seen it happen as he came out of Biology. When Sabrina landed Butts was the first on the scene, the first to kneel and to touch her wrist, to ask if it was tender—“Here? What about here?” He had offered to go with her to the hospital, but then the other girls had arrived in shrieks, amassing themselves with the whites of their eyes. Tracy—Butts’s Tracy, long before she became his Tracy—was among them, tall and square-shouldered. Her sharkfin nose was the hub of their circle. Butts was expectorated. He stood aside, watching Sabrina in her glory as she said, “It’s okay you guys—you guys—I said I’m all right.”

And she was all right. No tears. She held her wrist above her shoulder as she and Tracy walked out the school doors to the ambulance.

When Tracy returned she went to Mr. Donnell and told him it was Clayton. Everyone watched her—so tall—as she extended her long finger at Clayton, who stood with his thumbs in his beltloops and his weight on one foot, his head cocked to one side like someone getting the raw end of a deal. Mr. Donnell suspended him and made him apologize.

Clayton came back from his suspension and Lammers shook his head as Clayton approached them. “Man,” Lammers said. “Clayton, what are you doing? What were you thinking?”

Clayton laughed and held out his hands and said, “What?”

But that was it—it was the only thing any of them ever said about it. Each of them signed Sabrina’s cast with a different colored marker.

***

Butts locks his elbows against the steering wheel. Twenty years. He feels the clench in his throat. Staying at Clayton’s! Fitz had promised that Lammers and Scotty and Adelman would all be there. He said there could be others.

And what about Sabrina? Sabrina used to tell Tracy that she looked radiant. Butts would see them greet each other in the mornings, and Tracy would say, “Hi, darling,” and Sabrina would say, “Oh, Tracy, you look simply radiant!”

“Your married now,” Butts tells himself. He says it out loud, into the empty car. “C’mon man,” he says. “You’re married now. To her best friend.”

It’s like talking into an empty bucket, alone in the car, and it’s liberating. The sky hangs low, gray and heavy, and on his right the Columbia rolls like liquid lead. Butts takes off his sweater and stuffs it behind his back. He smiles and says—again out loud, his voice delightful inside the bucket—“Lammers. Laaaa-mers,” he says, making his mouth wide and chewing the r.

Then, like a bark: “Scotty!”

Butts does this—says names, talks out loud. He plays travel games, still holding onto a hint of his hatred while finding letters of the alphabet on license plates and road signs. He says each letter with a funny voice. Exiting out the south end of Portland, onto I-5, he mentally choreographs a fistfight with Clayton.

He pictures it happening at the football game, under the stadium lights. Clayton and those cocky eyes, that Aryan hair. Clayton would chest up to him. And Butts would make a face that says, Give me a break. Then Clayton shoves him, two-handed. Butts takes it and sustains his smirk, and when Clayton tries to shove him again, Butts sweeps the arms aside with his left hand (Wax on!) and steps in with his right (Wax off!). He comes down hard on the hinge of Clayton’s jaw and Clayton careens to the ground. It ends with Butts standing over him, looking regretful—he hadn’t wanted to fight! The others understand that his hand had been forced.

He recreates the scene with variations until a yellow VW bus pulls onto the freeway in front of him and he has to break cruise control. Something flares inside him and he wants to yell at the kid in the VW—to put bumper to bumper. But the moment passes. He looks up for rain. When he checks his watch he is pleased the time has gone so fast. A green sign lists the exits for Salem. He wonders if Tracy has called anyone looking for him. He feels surprisingly good about being alone in the car and on the road. And he checks again for his bag in the mirror. For a moment he thinks he could keep driving. The beaches are always sunny in San Diego.

***

He cuts through Salem. On 99 he passes the Polk County Fairgrounds. When he comes into Hinkley he takes a right at the stoplight. Hinkley looks the same—the Ben Franklin, The Market Place. A bike shop has opened up across from Zirker’s. Butts parks on the street and steps out, and far away, in the direction of the ocean, there is a flash of lightning.

Zirker’s is packed with college students. Butts hears his name and sees Fitz standing at a far booth. Butts waves and sidesteps his way through the Friday-night crowd. The lights are harsh. They seem to amplify the clamor.

“How’s it going, Buttsyboy?” says Fitz, all smiles, the space between his front teeth like a bookmark. “It’s a good thing you made it, man—for a while I was starting to think it was just me and Clayton.”

Clayton sits in the booth with his hands on the table, and Butts avoids looking at him. His throat clenches.

Clayton says, “Hey Buttsy.”

Fitz slides over for Butts to sit, but Butts remains standing, a panicky feeling in his chest. “Where’s Lammers?” he says. “Where is everyone?”—but is voice is no longer commanding, outside the car. He isn’t sure if Fitz can hear what he’s saying.

The jukebox starts up and Fitz puts his head back against the booth. “Man,” he says. “Lammers called up last minute and said he had to work, and Scotty’s going to Vegas. I never got ahold of Adelman.”

Butts looks at his shoes on the checkerboard linoleum. “They’re not coming?”

Fitz shakes his head. “Nope.”

Butts clicks his eyeteeth and clenches his fists. This is the part, he knows, where Tracy would suspend her anger to laugh at him. It makes him sick and furious and he tries to relax his shoulders. To one side a guy and his date are having a good-natured argument, and Butts hears the guy say, “No, no—come ontell me it’s not the same,” as some other kid yells over the crowd, “OH YEAH, BABY!”

“Now Butts,” Fitz says. “Now shutup,” he says. “Seriously. You’re havin’ a good time—it doesn’t matter.” Fitz is holding up one hand to signal a halt to Butts’s fury. Fitz says, “It’s homecoming. Twenty years, man! Seriously. Sit down. It’s not that big a deal.”

Butts sits. Clayton watches all this with his eyebrows raised. Fitz yells to a waitress for three orange juices, keeping his eyes on Butts, and Clayton slaps the table and says, “Orange juice all around!”

The waitress, a pretty college girl with purple-painted nails, brings three glasses of orange juice. She leans over to set them down and Clayton makes himself obvious, craning his neck at the girl’s v-neck sweater. She curls her upper lip and says, “Did ya get a good look, doughboy?”

The waitress glances at Butts, assuming he will share her disgust, but it takes a moment for Butts to register her remark and to notice Clayton’s chins. He hadn’t really looked at Clayton until now. He can’t believe he hadn’t noticed. Clayton is not only fat—at least fifty or sixty pounds overweight—but he’s also gone bald.

The cliché-ness of it all is striking—but it doesn’t dampen Butts’s feelings of triumph. He re-envisions the fight scene, this time his fist mashing deep into Clayton’s gelatinous jowls.

But Clayton doesn’t gloat over the peek he’s just copped off the waitress, as he would have in the past. The doughboy remark cut him a little. His smile is only half-mouthed. And suddenly Butts is tired, and sorry he came. It’s a three-hour drive back home again. Or eighteen hours to San Diego.

Fitz pulls a bota bag from under the table and squirts what must be vodka into the orange juices. He drinks half his glass and turns to Butts with a mustache of orange pulp, trolling for laughs, and Butts offers a small grin. The song on the jukebox is over.

“Hey,” Fitz says, eyes wide. “Guess who I saw last night at The Market Place.”

Clayton’s smile goes wet. He says, “The dairy girl,” as though he’s been waiting for an excuse to say it.

Fitz closes his eyes and repeats the words: “The dairy girl.”

“Dude, do you remember her?” says Clayton.

Butts looks at the two of them. The dairy girl was two years ahead of them in high school. Guys called her that because she had big breasts. Butts imagines Clayton as a client, laughing and putting out his hands and saying, What?

“No, seriously,” Fitz says. He looks at Butts. “Sabrina Fairchild,” he says.

“What’re you looking at me for,” Butts says. “I’m married, remember?”

“So?” says Clayton.

“That’s right I keep forgetting,” says Fitz.

“So what?” Clayton says again.

“She was getting a cake,” says Fitz. “I think she’s living here—back in graduate school or something.”

Butts says, “You didn’t say anything to her?”

“Who cares if you’re married—what does that matter?” says Clayton.

“Naw, she didn’t see me,” says Fitz. “She was checking out already.”

Butts takes his first drink of the vodka and orange juice and thinks about The Market Place. He runs his hand over the table. The kids in the booth across from them get up to leave.

Fitz says, “Forget it, Buttsy. You’re married now—give it up already.”

“Who gives a crap if he’s married?” Clayton says, getting louder.

“Man, will you shutup already?” says Fitz.

Butts shakes his head. “I haven’t seen Sabrina since, like, a year or so after high school.”

Fitz shrugs. “She looked pretty much the same, except maybe a little more makeup. She had a baseball hat on.”

Dude,” says Clayton, leaning forward over the table, his drink in both hands.

Butts looks at him. His wisps of Aryan hair like cornsilk on a cancer patient.

“What’s it like?” Clayton says, eyes glittering, attempting the same cocky edge they once held. “Seriously,” he says.

Fitz snorts and says, “Man, let it go.”

“What’s it like?” Clayton says, keeping his eyes on Butterfield.

Butts shakes his head. He wants to leave. The jukebox starts up again.

“C’mon, dude,” says Clayton. “Tell us about it.”

Butts feels like he could crack a tooth. He lifts his shoulders and lets them fall. Fitz had said on the phone that Clayton had moved into the trailer park on the other side of town, and that he’s working at Mezzo’s Pizza across from the high school. Butts starts to think he might actually feel sorry for the guy.

“Doesn’t it suck?” Clayton says. “Being married to the Queen Bitch? Don’t you hate it?”

Butts’s glare is broken by the movement of the v-necked waitress crossing behind Clayton. Clayton looks over his shoulder and—seeing the waitress—he grins and says, “Yeah, dude.” It’s a guttural noise, full of phlegm. “I see how it is,” he says. And he drinks from his orange juice.

“Clayton,” says Butts—but there’s nothing. He feels like he;s breathing through a straw. He has never hated anyone so much.

“Clayton,” says Fitz. “You’re such an asshole.”

Clayton stretches back in his seat, his grin faltering. His eyes grow dull and shallow, and he signals for a refill.

***

The three of them leave Zirker’s and cut through the University campus, watching cars full of high school students roll by, horns blaring. From where Church Street starts up again they can see the stadium at the foot of the hill. The vodka doesn’t sit well in Butts’s stomach.

Clayton stops on the sidewalk where students’ names have been traced into the cement. He locks his knees against the alcohol and reads signatures. Fitz and Butts pass on either side of him. He spins and calls—“Come lookit this one! Guys! This one’s got a phone number—Lorraine s-s-something. Should we call it?”

Fitz and Butts keep walking. Across from the football field the University has put up a new P.E. building, and several skaters click and glance off the brick fountain, under the glow from the stadium. One of them leans too far and shoots his board into the street, landing on his hip, and the others guffaw. Butts watches them and wishes again that he’d kept driving. He could’ve stopped somewhere for more clothes. He feels the chill of the rain coming and imagines San Diego.

Fitz gives the tickets to the woman in the booth, and inside Butts extends his chin, trying to get a look at everyone. Jumbled lines at the snackbar, people carrying square seat cushions and blankets into the bleachers. Fitz smiles, gap-toothed, and says, “Hey man, check it out.”

There’s a group of kids horsing around, in line for the snackbar. One of them, a lanky redhead in a denim jacket, calls out to the skaters from the P.E. building, who are entering the gate: “Hey, hardcore guys. You guys are a lot cooler than we are.”

The kids in line are older than the skaters—juniors and freshmen, Butts guesses. Only three of the skaters have come to the game, and they laugh and approach the redhead.

“What’re you talking about, Piper?” says one of them.

“Those shorts,” says the redhead. “Good thing you wore those shorts, it’s so hot out here—at night—in October—in the frigging winter.”

Fitz looks at Butts and smiles. The redhead, Piper, could be Lammers twenty years ago. A Latino kid, also wearing a denim jacket, stands next to Piper.

The skater shoves Piper and tells him to shutup. Butts can tell one of the skaters is brothers with one of the older kids.

Then Clayton arrives at the gate, yelling at Fitz for his ticket, his voice like a duckcall. “Guys, guys,” he quacks. “C’mon, guys—lemme in!” To the lady in the booth he says, “C’mon, lady, I swear. See that guy—right there!—he’s got my ticket, if ya don’t believe me.”

“Aw, hell,” says Fitz. “I thought we lost him.”

Butts watches Piper and the skaters, who have turned to watch Clayton.

Fitz clears Clayton through the booth and the two rejoin Butts, who has inadvertently joined the line behind Piper and his posse.

“Where’d you guys go, dude?” says Clayton. He is practically yelling, and Butts can feel his throat clenching. Clayton wavers where he stands. His face is bloated and his breath smells like vomit.

Fitz fans the air. “Oh, man—what’d you do?” he says.

Clayton smiles proudly. “I—”

“No—don’t talk, man—shutup! Seriously!” Fitz contorts himself, fanning his hands. Butts smiles. It’s a performance for Piper and the boys.

Clayton, smiling with unsteady pride, sways into one of the skaters, who is in line just ahead of him.

The skater turns, lip curled like the waitress at Zirker’s, and says, “You need a little more space there, big guy?” He is the younger brother and the shortest of them all, with stringy blonde bangs parted down the middle. His voice is high and surprisingly confident.

Clayton doesn’t seem to hear him. But when he sways again it is with a stiffness—with direction.

Hey,” says the skater. “Hey big man!”

Clayton doesn’t turn. Instead he steps backward, into the skater’s voice.

The skater steps out of the way. “Look,” he says, to Clayton’s back, “I know you’re real big and everything. Did you wanna maybe give me a hug or something?”

Piper and his posse are cracking up. Fitz and Butts smile at each other. Clayton turns and puffs his chest and—making his voice less drunk—says, “You got a problem, kid?”

Clayton’s motion works an alignment in the boys, so that they all now stand facing him: the three skaters, Piper, the Latino, the older brother, and three others. The skater—Clayton’s target—raises his hands like it’s a holdup, his face in mock-terror. He says, “N-no p-p-problem here, t-t-t-toughguy!” And another skater, even less intimidated, chimes in: “We’re okay here, y’ fat bastard!”

Fitz chuckles and says, “C’mon, Clayton,” but Clayton is intent on exerting some authority over the situation.

People shuffle past and Butts steps to the side, into a profile view of Clayton and the skater, and an intense awareness grips him—locks him into the moment. He is keenly aware that the fight scene he’d choreographed might be realized, but with different contestants.

Clayton snatches the skater’s sweatshirt and swears at him, the slur returning to his lips, but the kid looks like he might spit in Clayton’s face. Then Piper steps forward.

“Hey,” Piper says, “it’s not like you’re bigger than all of us, toughguy.”

Clayton looks away from the skater for the first time and Piper lifts his eyebrows in mock-sincerity: “We don’t mean to be disrespectful, mister, cuz you’re way too tough for us—and plus don’t forget, you’re really, really big.”

Clayton lets go of the skater and steps toward Piper, who is skinny but taller.

Fitz, still smiling, says, “Clayton, seriously man—just leave it alone.”

Clayton bumps Piper with his chest and quacks, “Dude, you’re lucky you’re a kid or I’d kick your scrawny ass.”

Piper feigns concern. “You look like you could use a drink,” he says. The Latino kid—who is wearing his game face—moves in behind Piper.

Then Clayton brings one arm up, loose-fisted. It is a slow, clumsy move, and Butts sees it coming long before it comes. And then he is moving, swooping forward from his fenceline position, his body buzzing, and there is a dull chock when his knuckles hit the side of Clayton’s skull, just above the ear. And a breaking pain shoots up Butts’s wrist and pools in his triceps. And the blow sends Clayton into a drunken squaredance, as he trips over crowded feet and skids to the asphalt.

***

Butts regains some clarity outside the chainlink fence, on the signatured sidewalk across from the P.E. building. Fitz is saying, “Joe. Butts. Joe, buddy. Man, are you okay?”

The pain in his wrist is like little red earthquakes, and there’s velvet in his ears. He remembers vaguely the way Clayton went down, and the shouts from the kids, and trying to get out past the ticket booth. He feels the weight settle onto his legs again.

“You look a little shaky, man. Seriously,” says Fitz.

Butts takes in a breath. His stomach muscles are jumpy.

“I’m okay,” he says. “I think I broke my hand, or my wrist or something.”

“Oh man,” Fitz says, looking down at it. “You need to go to the hospital?”

The arm is swollen, and Fitz puts his hand at Butts’s shoulder and turns him toward Zirker’s, and his car.

On the way, Fitz tells Butts about Clayton, back at the stadium, cussing his head off and having trouble standing. “You leveled him, Buttsyboy!” Fitz says. “You seriously leveled him!” Fitz tells how the guys—Piper and his posse—thought it was hilarious, and how they kept asking where Butts had run off to. “But that sucks about your wrist, though,” Fitz says.

They cross the lawn behind the library, Butts cradling his arm, and Fitz says, “We hardly got to see anybody, man. I saw Sabrina just as we were leaving.”

Butts stops on the grass. “Sabrina was at the game?”

Fitz stops and smiles and shakes his head. “She was with a guy, man. Give it up already.” Butts stares at the gap in Fitz’s teeth. He wants to know what the guy looked like. He wants to know what she looked like. He wants to know if she saw him level Bodie Clayton. He starts walking again. He wishes he could take Sabrina in the car to California.

***

The rain comes just as they reach the car. Fitz helps Butts into the passenger side. They drive and Fitz says, “Salem hospital?” and Butts says, “Corvallis.”

“Corvallis is in the opposite direction,” Fitz says.

Butts says, “We always went to Corvallis growing up.” He twists to look over his shoulder. His green bag is still in the backseat.

Fitz turns into The Market Place. “You gotta call Tracy, man.” He pulls the car into a parking space and looks at Butts. Butts winces. The clock over the door of The Market Place says almost eight o’clock: he’s been gone for nearly six hours and missing for three.

“You gotta call her, Butts,” Fitz says. “Seriously, man.”

The rain is fat and sparse on the windshield, but growing sharper.

“You want me to do it?” Fitz says.

Again Butts looks at him. The right side of his body feels numb, paralyzed. “She doesn’t even know I’m here,” he says.

Fitz snorts. “What do you mean?”

“Just tell her it was an accident.”

Fitz’s smile dissipates and he watches the wipers. He seems to be thinking of something. Butts waits for him to say something important. But Fitz shakes his head and smiles again, and climbs out of the car and into the rain.

Butts watches him cross to the payphone and pick up the receiver. He pokes the phone, then jams his hand into his pocket and waits. His head bobs and his mouth starts moving, and Butts turns up the wipers to keep the windshield clear. He tries to imagine what Tracy is saying.

He closes his eyes and tries by controlled breathing to make the throbbing in his arm subside, and he pictures Piper and his posse at the stadium—a whole twenty years lying ahead of them—and he wonders about their Sabrina, and what she might look like, and if their Sabrina has a Tracy, and if their Tracy will eventually marry the skater’s older brother.

He opens his eyes and Fitz has turned his back on the car. Butts tries to make a fist with his hand. The shards of pain make his stomach spasm. Tears well in his eyes and he blinks against them.

Fitz turns and hangs up and ducks across the parking lot again.

“Seriously,” he says, getting in and shaking the water from his hair.

“She’s pissed, huh,” says Butts.

Fitz hesitates. “No,” he says. “Not really. Actually, she was practically hysterical. Seriously, I could hardly talk to her, man.”

He starts the car. “You guys have insurance for this?” he says.

“What do you mean, hysterical?” says Butts. “She was worried?” He clicks his eyeteeth. “You mean she was crazy mad,” he says.

“Mmm, I don’t know,” Fitz says. “C’mon, man—are you serious? You think she’s going to be mad at you for breaking your wrist?”

“I mean about me coming down here and everything.”

“Nah—well, I mean she was upset. But I’m pretty sure it was more in a worried way. Seriously, I think it’s all right.”

Fitz turns left at the stoplight, northbound on 99. The highway is fuzzy in the rain. The throbbing in Butts’s arm has boiled down to a soft carbonation in his fingertips. Fitz is taking him to Salem, but Butts doesn’t say anything. He can always head south later.

***

Sometime next week, Fitz will be the one the authorities will call. The authorities will be the Hinkley Police Department. They will find Fitz’s number on Clayton’s refrigerator, and an officer will tell Fitz over the phone about how Clayton walked out the back door of his trailer in the early morning hours, after the game that night—walked right out his back door and into the river. Fitz will imagine Clayton staggering to the trees to take a piss in the dark, and stumbling down the bank and into the water, but the officer will say something and Fitz will say, disbelievingly, “Killed himself?”—and the officer will say, “Well, we’re still investigating.” And Fitz will sit in a chair for nearly an hour before calling Butts to tell him about it.

But Butts won’t be at home the first time Fitz calls, or the second time. The third time Fitz calls, he will leave a message saying, “Joe, man, you gotta call me—seriously. It’s important.”

But that is in the future. Right now, it is still Friday night. Fitz and Butts are driving in the rain, and Fitz says, “Man, seriously. Tracy’s a piece of work, isn’t she.” He breathes hard out his nose, then whistles through the gap in his teeth. “Good ol’ Tracy,” Fitz says, and he shakes his head. “Good old Tracy.”

Headlights flash past them. The windshield wipers swa-click, swa-click. They pass the fairgrounds where the sign says “ABC Rally This Friday,” and Butts brightens. The letters make him feel better. Like the start of a new game.

He says the letters aloud—“A, B, C”—in a funny, quacking voice.

Fitz laughs, thinking it’s an imitation, and he pounds the steering wheel and says, “Ho, you sure did level ol’ Clayton, man. You leveled him.”

“Yeah,” Butts says, and he smiles, cradling his wrist. He lays his head back against the seat and watches the rain on the windshield. He tries to reconstruct the fight as it might have looked to Piper and his posse, and he feels a sense of deep pleasure. He makes a face as if to say, apologetically, The guy asked for it. This was never my intention.

Fitz is still shaking his head and smiling. Then he says, as though the thought has just occurred to him, “Hey—why didn’t you just bring Tracy to the game? You mean you didn’t tell her anything about it?”

Fitz takes his eyes from the road to look at Butts, and Butts says, “Nope.”

“Why not?”

The wipers swa-click, swa-click.

And Butts looks out his window into the rain and thinks about the sunny beaches in California, where Lammers lives. Fitz pesters him but Butts is no longer paying attention. Instead, something begins to bother him. A nagging memory—no, something he can’t remember. He wants to retain the pleasure he was feeling over leveling Bodie Clayton, but this new thing won’t let him. It’s that Woody Allen movie. The one with the Hemingway actress. Butts looks out his window into the rain and touches his thumb to his index finger, teasing the tenderness of his broken wrist and trying to remember the title of that movie. That was his favorite one. The one with that beautiful Hemingway girl. The girl who looked so beautiful and perfect in black and white. So radiant. What was the name of that movie? He imagines he will find it and watch it in San Diego.

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