Authors: Ivy Pochoda
“The bodega guy,” Cree says after a second.
“Fadi. My name is Fadi.”
The two women look over from the table.
Fadi takes the envelope out of his waistband. He taps it on his opposite hand, before passing it to Cree.
“From Ren,” Fadi says.
Cree takes the envelope. “Do you know where he is?” Cree asks.
Fadi shakes his head. “You don’t want to open it?”
The woman with the gray braids drops something small and shiny attached to a chain from her palm. It spins once. “He wants you to get moving,” she says, then looks up. “He was a good boy.”
Cree looks from the old woman to the envelope. He runs his thumb under the seal. His eyes widen as he looks inside. “Whoa.” He hands the envelope back to Fadi. “I can’t. You’re the one who found June, right?”
Fadi shakes his head. “Only officially. Ren was the one who really found her.”
“So this money belongs to Ren.”
“No,” Fadi says. “It belongs to you.”
“You going to do something useful with that?” the older woman asks. “Or are you going to sit around all day like your mother holding on to something that just isn’t there?”
The other woman wriggles her hands free from the older woman’s grasp. “He’s going to use it to go to college.” Her speech is slow but determined. “It’s a gift from Marcus. He just reached back into this world and handed this miracle over to Cree.”
“No Marcus. No miracle, Ma,” Cree says. “This is Ren’s doing.”
With difficulty, Cree’s mother folds her arms over her chest. “Reward money for that dead girl isn’t going to make up for killing your daddy.”
“Nobody’s trying to make up for nothing,” Cree says. “Somebody’s just trying to be my friend.” He turns to Fadi. “Thank you.” Cree offers Fadi his hand. “And thank Ren if you ever see him again.”
When Fadi crosses back to the waterside, the foghorn is sounding for the
’s departure. Even though the ship brought little business and no real change, Fadi wants to see her off. Jonathan got a job on board. “Show tunes and smorgasbords,” he said when he’d visited the store one final time to say good-bye. Fadi knows he won’t be back.
He heads down to Valentino Pier. It’s crowded with people watching the ship. The foghorn bellows three more times, then the
begins to ease from the dock, four tugboats leading her out.
Fadi walks to the tip of the pier, trying to see if Jonathan is on the top deck as he said he would be. There are two girls at the end of the pier—Valerie and Monique, the girl from the Houses who came into his store to buy gum the same day June drowned. Val is sitting on a bench. Monique is standing at the railing, leaning out over the water. She is singing a gospel hymn. Val listens with her eyes closed.
Fadi sits on a nearby bench and watches the
. Monique’s song drifts over to him—a story of hope and prayer and stormy seas. He imagines her voice carrying over the water to Jonathan, blessing him on his journey.
slides away, revealing the edge of Manhattan it had obscured. Red Hook’s shoreline is restored. The last taxis and buses that had deposited passengers pull away.
Instead of returning to his store when he reaches Van Brunt, Fadi crosses to the Dockyard and goes inside.
Happy hour is gearing up. He pulls out a seat at the bar. He keeps his head down so other patrons don’t embarrass themselves by saying hello without remembering his name.
The bartender has a beard like Abraham Lincoln. He smokes American Spirits and drinks his coffee black. Twice a week he buys a tin of mints.
“Hero Man,” he says, placing a coaster in front of Fadi.
“Hero Man, right? You found that girl’s body. First drink’s on the house.”
A few customers look in their direction. They raise their glasses.
The walls of the Dockyard are covered in memorabilia from a different Red Hook. Photos of sea captains, bustling docks, tall ships pulled up to the old warehouses, long decommissioned tugs and fishing boats. All these are interlaced with the strange junk the newcomers seem to relish—busted taxidermy, Christmas lights, nautical refuse. On these walls the old lives among the new, the true Red Hook with the imagined one.
“Hero Man.” Someone slaps Fadi on the back. It’s the redheaded bartender, the woman Fadi often sees walking home alone as he’s opening up, the sad echo of her footfalls welcoming him to work. “I was beginning to wonder if you’d ever join us,” she says, sliding behind the bar.
The redhead pours Fadi another beer. It’s the same brew he sells for half the price, but it tastes better here. He looks over his shoulder to the glow of his shop across the street.
Hero Man. Maestro. RunDown.
We let people invent us as they please
, he thinks.
The truth we keep to ourselves
. Fadi sips his beer and thinks of Jonathan on the boat, disappearing underneath the span of the Verrazano. He will no longer have the musician to transform the neighborhood into one of his songs. Fadi will do this himself, listening for the melody of the local noise, the grinding, rattling, slamming, and silence. The music leaking from the bar, from passing cars, from open windows. The sad moan of the telephone wires on Van Brunt. The voices over his shoulder and outside the Dockyard’s window coming into concert, finding their own harmony to lift this place up and carry it along.
Gratitude unmeasured to my teachers Doug Bauer, David Gates, Alice Mattison, and Lynne Sharon Schwartz. Thanks to my wonderful agent, Kim Witherspoon at Inkwell Management, as well as to Lyndsey Blessing and the incomparable William Callahan.
I know I’m punching above my weight to have had the amazing fortune to work with an editor such as Lee Boudreaux, likewise Michael McKenzie, Ashley Garland, Karen Maine, and Dan Halpern at Ecco. And Dennis Lehane, my gosh,
. In the UK, thanks to Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge & White and Suzie Dooré and Francine Toon at Sceptre.
To everyone at the James Merrill House—especially Lynn Callahan, Sibby Lynch, and Stuart Vyse—thank you for giving me a magical place to begin this book. Much love to Tiffany Briere, Sandra Ramirez, Lisa Fetchko, Carlin Wing, and of course, Louisa Hall for their advice and assistance. It goes without saying, but thanks to Justin Nowell, Matt Stewart, Mary Kelley, and Judyth van Amringe for their love and enthusiasm.
Most important, thanks to my parents, Philip and Elizabeth Pochoda, who are the best and most careful readers (in entirely different ways) whom I could have asked for. You might have had reason to worry when I was up all night in Red Hook—but, look, it worked out in the end.
Photo © by Justin Nowell
grew up in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and lived in Red Hook for serveral years. She is the author of
The Art of Disappearing.
A former professional squash player, she now lives in Los Angeles with her husband.
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Cover design by Steve Attardo
Cover photographs: New York City skyline
© by Eli Reed/Magnum Photos; water © by Erin Trieb
This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
. Copyright © 2013 by Ivy Pochoda. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.
EPub Edition © JULY 2013 ISBN 9780062249913
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