Book One, Part One, Chapter 10: The Story Teller
After work each night, I go to Ernie’s stucco cottage. We lie next to each other on the daybed, his right arm hugging my shoulder and my head on his shoulder, and he tells me stories of his life. Of Helen, his first wife, the one who left his MG on the railroad tracks.
“She was a redhead, fiery. With freckles. Men looked at her when she passed. She liked to party on weekends. I liked to party, too, but I’ve always had a serious side. We lived in Frankfort, and I worked on the Frankfort paper, covering the statehouse. Got a lot of my stories hanging out at bars with the politicos. But I wanted to start my own paper, and I did. I called it The Crusader. That’s how I saw myself — righting wrongs, fighting corruption. I only put out two issues. I had big dreams but little money. I left town owing the printer, the advertisers, and my landlord, who confiscated my Zeiss camera for the back rent.”
“How long were you and Helen together?”
“Not much longer. One night, we went to an engagement party for Sally, the sister-in-law of Roger, a good friend of mine. I liked Sally. She and I used to go to movies together. She wouldn’t marry me because I drank. Most women considered me a poor prospect. Undependable. A dreamy, drunk, undependable writer. Sally was engaged to a doctor from Michigan. After the party, Helen accused me of flirting with Sally. ‘You love Sally. You don’t love me!’ Before I knew it, she had a single-edged blade in her hand. Slash. Slash. Blood spurted everywhere.”
“What did you do?”
“I wrapped her wrist as best I could and took her to the emergency room. They fixed her up, then called the police. She’d obviously slit her wrist, and attempted suicide was a criminal offense. She spent the rest of the night in jail.”
“Then what did you do?”
“Called a crafty lawyer I know. He got her out the next day, with the charges dropped. He never even sent me a bill.”
“Did you and Helen make up?”
“Hardly. She spent that night with a fraternity brother of mine. He’d always had the hots for her. If I’d had a gun, I would have killed them both.”
Jesus, what a story. It didn’t seem real to me. Besides, what did Ernie’s past have to do with us, now?