Small Press Spotlight

Grand Central

Peter LaSalle


 

 

Admittedly, it was a strange time to be in Grand Central, mid-morn­ing like that and in August.

 

And Jameson would later tell himself that running into De­Barsy—after what was it, over forty years back at Harvard?—and then DeBarsy talking about what happened on the rugby team’s so-called spring tour to Jamaica—in what was it, 1967, no, 1968?—fit right in with the entire mood of the station, strange as the encounter with De­Barsy had been.

 

Truth of the matter was that Grand Central, the cliché for crowds and hurrying, could take on a certain stillness at about ten o’clock, once the rush hour was not only over but somehow close to com­pletely forgotten.

 

* * *

 

This sunny late August morning, Jameson had left the hotel on East Twenty-eighth. He’d decided he might simply walk the dozen or so blocks to midtown and the station, a single small green athletic bag in hand. As the artist he was, never one who had much occasion to dress up, he was wearing comfortably faded black Levi’s, a red pocket T-shirt, and the black-and-white basic nylon Reeboks that were good for walking, a new pair still packing real bounce. Jameson liked the smell of New York on a summer morning, before the heat, and the smell was in the mix of the lingering dew and the perhaps pleasant tinge of mo­tor exhaust, even the thoroughly indefinable something, metallic and flat, that seemed to define the city, that made it like no other place any­where for him—Boston or San Francisco, Paris or London—which is to say, that made it very much what it was, New York.

 

Jameson walked out of the sunshine and into the shade of the old overhead cast-iron taxi ramp that led up to the terminal, on Forty-second. He pushed through one of the many heavy doors set in a row, such clean glass and gleamingly polished brass. He often thought that whatever the hour, going through those doors was beyond just the rou­tine of entering the station, and the way that Grand Central itself sud­denly came upon you in its enormity, engulfed you, was always for you to almost be, well, delivered there.

 

The white marble walls rose right to the vaulted ceiling, its blue of a night sky patterned with constellations. Gilt dots outlining those figures were like brilliant stars indeed. The main information kiosk sat separate, an island in the center of the expanse; behind the kiosk’s brass cage several lamps on the counter glowed under translu­cent green-glass shades. A suspended American flag—sizeable, a flat slab—could have been a recent addition, yet undeniably appropriate. And falling in long, repeated diagonal shafts through the windows high up, the strong morning light meant a glare to it all; the scatter­ing of commuters walking across the empty concourse, this way and that, were shadowy and nearly disembodied in that glare, which was surely intensified by the very polished floor that appeared still bigger as you looked again—it stretched wide and entirely open between the seemingly distant white marble double-staircase on one end and the matching one equally far off on the opposite end, both offering plenty more of the gleaming brass for the fine old ornate railings and banister caps there. Actually, the station was deserted enough that Jameson could hear the distinct clicking of one woman’s high heels, hollowly and rhythmically echoing.

 

He stood in Grand Central, took everything in. Nice, Jameson thought.

Jameson would take a commuter local up to New Haven and then, changing trains, an Amtrak mainliner to the small station in western Rhode Island and the rented farmhouse in the countryside. For the past couple of years he had been living in Rhode Island with Amanda, his former grad student from when he had taught for a semester as a visit­ing professor of studio art out at the University of Iowa. He had been in the city for a few days to talk with the gallery owner in Chelsea who was organizing a show of his new work in the fall, and the hotel where he’d stayed near Madison Square Park had been comfortable during this visit. It was a place called the Latham, which was, in fact, part hotel and part a social services residence funded by the city, a home for teenage single mothers. If he was thinking of anything beyond how almost dreamlike Grand Central was in the morning, it was that he had accomplished what he had needed to while in New York for the few days, sitting down with Levy at the gallery and figuring out some logistics for the layout and display of his paintings, going over the contractual stuff, too. Or maybe he was just telling himself again that he had been lucky to have found a place like the Latham, which he had been using lately when coming down to New York (there were few tourists at the hotel, and it was, thankfully, too old and basic for that, plus there was the relaxed, very friendly feel of the Latham, how the staff—husky black and Hispanic men in ill-fitting blue blazers—clowned around in the lobby with the teenage mothers from the social services residence and their little kids, who the men seemed to have gotten to know so well); Jameson only hoped the Latham Hotel lasted the way it was and that it didn’t get bought out by one of the chains, to be clinically refurbished, which had happened to most of the com­fortable old small hotels he used to rely on in the city, around Times Square.

 

After buying a ticket, he didn’t need to hurry to the hallway lead­ing down to the tracks, because the commuter trains to New Haven left every twenty minutes or so. And it was there in the main concourse that he heard somebody speak his name. At first Jameson had no idea who the gaunt man who came up to him was—even the man’s own rather aristocratic name didn’t quite register, or it didn’t at first.

“John DeBarsy, from Harvard,” the man said.

 

“Of course,” Jameson said; he smiled, still drawing a blank.

 

Wearing a khaki summer suit and a blue button-down with a black knit tie, the gaunt, hollow-cheeked man who had approached Jameson now smiled himself, and when he did, boyishly, it suddenly registered with Jameson—yes, DeBarsy.


Jameson was the much taller of the two, lanky and always in shape. His silvery hair was cut short. He put down the small green bag and they vigorously shook hands. There was talk of where they lived (DeBarsy in Westchester with his wife, saying his four children were grown and long out of college), and talk of their work (DeBarsy was in investment banking, had weathered multiple mergers and also, he laughed, the latest crazy recession; he said he liked the work a lot, to be honest, it having allowed him considerable international travel over the years), and even talk of how they looked (DeBarsy nodded to ac­cept Jameson’s somewhat automatic polite compliment to DeBarsy on that, Jameson in a way lying, because DeBarsy didn’t look good at all, and DeBarsy did explain that he had survived “a scare,” adding, “But who hasn’t had a scare somewhere along the line”; Jameson answered that DeBarsy was sure right about that, not knowing what else to say). DeBarsy was shaking his head now, a delayed gesture of disbelief, his smile wider. He said it was amazing that he had just run into Jameson, claiming that he had recognized him as soon as he had seen him, tall as Jameson was, that loping gait— “Unmistakable,” DeBarsy said, laughing.

 

“I read a long piece on you in the Times,” DeBarsy told him, “maybe two or three years ago. Really complimentary. You must have had a show, or maybe it was a museum exhibition.”

 

“I think that piece was a little longer back than that.”

 

“I remember how you used to complain that there was no real studio art at Harvard, and look at how you turned out. Seems like you didn’t need it.”

 

“Well, I could have used it, all right, some official studio training,” Jameson said, “but I guess things did turn out OK for me without it. I got by.” Jameson now laughed a bit.

 

Jameson knew that a guy like this—living in maybe Scarsdale or Larchmont, somebody who had thrived on Wall Street for so long—could certainly buy and sell Jameson who knows how many times. And granting that an article in the Sunday Times might give Jameson a measure of minor general celebrity, the situation had often been touch and go when it came to a means of support for him, especially during his two marriages when he had his own kids to raise and life got pretty rocky; the sales of his paintings were better in recent years—he had a solid critical reputation—but at his age he still had to take the occa­sional visiting job at a university campus, to get ahead on the financial front for a while so he could buckle down and just paint without inter­ruption some more.

 

Then DeBarsy began talking to Jameson about the rugby team, which at Harvard back then actually wasn’t a varsity sport but one with club status. It was the basis of their acquaintance at Harvard, and it attracted guys who had played various sports in prep school or high school—ice hockey specifically for Jameson at his high school in Minnesota—and didn’t want to get caught up in the full-time pur­suit that a varsity sport could be in college. Loosely organized, rugby meant just assembling at the playing fields along the river, there by the football stadium and next to Soldiers Field Road, and getting a good workout in the course of the twice-a-week late-afternoon practices, and then the matches with other college teams from the area on Saturday morning. Jameson had played during his first three years in college, an art history major on scholarship who wanted to paint, but he forgot about the sport entirely during his senior year, when he was deep into the campus war protest of the time. There probably had been no war protest for somebody like DeBarsy, who Jameson seemed to recall was in one of the better “final clubs”—the Fly Club or even the most exclusive of them, the Porcellian—at Harvard. The final clubs were housed in proper red-brick Georgian buildings, mostly along Mount Auburn Street; they were more or less like London gentlemen’s clubs and a depository for benevolent enough prep-schoolers, often from old and wealthy families, those who made no protest about receiving their comfortable low C’s and certainly spent as much time during the day at the clubs—which, like Harvard College itself, were emphati­cally all-male back then—as they did actually attending lectures. Now that more of it came back to Jameson, he remembered how, in fact, DeBarsy was sort of legendary for what happened one especially fine spring afternoon, the trees surely puffing their first fragile blossoms and the wide, winding River Charles bluer than blue. Yes, one spring afternoon DeBarsy, while sitting around with other clubbies and prob­ably playing cards and drinking more than his share of cocktails with a bunch of them in their Brooks or J. Press tailored suits, let’s say, he decided that he might head down to the river and change quickly at the field house, to catch the tail end of rugby practice. He showed up on the field, the scrimmage in progress, and the first time the ball got tossed to him, DeBarsy launched into a maddened, zig-zagging, drunken, and ultimately tackle-dodging charge just about the full length of the grassy expanse and scored, not accepting any congratu­lations after doing so, but—out of breath, exhausted—he simply put the ball down and walked to the staid old fencing along the periphery of the playing fields, a dozen yards away. Alone there, he steadied himself with a hand clutching onto one of the upright black iron bars; he leaned over and vigorously vomited out the alcohol in him for sev­eral minutes, before nonchalantly heading back to the field house to shower and dress—a big arcing wave to the team with a smile as he left—then most likely taking a Yellow Cab the few blocks back to Harvard Square, to resume drinking at the Porcellian or Fly, where a formal sit-down dinner would be served by waiters later on.

 

DeBarsy’s famous run, that was it, almost like something out of a short story about football Jameson had once read, yet Jameson didn’t bring up anything about the run now, and DeBarsy said to him:

 

“Man, that rugby was a good time, though, wasn’t it?”

 

“I always liked it myself,” Jameson said. “A good time, like you say.”

 

Standing there, they mentioned the names of other teammates, laughing together, and then it started. DeBarsy began talking about the “spring tour” one year, when in April the team went to Jamaica to play teams in the island’s well-established league of clubs sponsored by towns around Kingston or local companies—Jamaica, a former British colony only recently independent, took rugby, a very British sport, almost as seriously as its acknowledged national obsession of cricket. For the Harvard team, a tour like that in itself was more of an excuse for a spring-break vacation than anything else, and a good part of the winter off-season was spent by the rugby club officers—as a club sport, there was no coach or staff—working the phone and the mail to raise funds from alumni who had played, to pay for an annual trip that would allow the team to travel to some place warm for several games, usually Florida and once Texas.

 

“Do you remember that last game, with the Jamaican army team?” DeBarsy asked.

“I don’t know about any particular game,” Jameson said, “but I remember all of the games in general when we were in Jamaica as being pretty absurd. I think it was something new for us to finally be playing people who genuinely knew what the hell they were doing when it came to rugby.”

 

Which was true, and outside of a few British undergrads and also one Tongan and one New Zealander on the Harvard team during those years, probably nobody playing for Harvard or any of the other teams they had matches with at home knew much—or had even heard much—about rugby prior to going out for the sport in college.

 

“But that last game,” DeBarsy continued, “it was out at the field at the new university campus in Jamaica, in the mountains near Kings­ton, where we played all the games. And it was the very last match, with the Jamaican army team, or Jamaica Regiment, I think is what they called it. When their guy got hurt. Remember?”

“I guess I do. It was serious. A broken neck, wasn’t it? I do re­member it—he stumbled during a kick-off, fell down and hit the wrong way.”

 

 Which was the only prompting that DeBarsy needed in Grand Central to go through the whole thing in detail, telling Jameson what Jameson really didn’t fully remember at first. DeBarsy talked about how during the tour the team got put up—as arranged for by the Jamaican league—in a guesthouse outside of Kingston, and how the games were all a matter of losing by a dozen or sometimes as much as three dozen points, the situation getting worse and worse, with the entire schedule leading up to what was supposed to be the big final match against the team from the Jamaican army.

 

Jameson did remember the Harvard team spending about a week and a half of long, idle days at the guesthouse. It was a motel-style setup, a series of connected cottages, with a swimming pool and flow­ering gardens in a rather posh white suburb in the foothills of the blue-hued Jamaican mountains. Everybody on the team was completely banged up by that point, and quite uneasy, too, with the attitude of the middle-aged head of the Jamaican league who was blusteringly off-putting, a colonial-old-boy sort, white; the teams themselves in the league were by and large segregated, black or white. Harvard players had been dropping out. Lenny Sandler—a compact backfielder in the single wing who roomed with Jameson on the trip—had broken his arm in a game and already flown back to Cambridge along with a bunch of the younger guys, freshmen; upon first arriving, the fresh­men as a group had happily enjoyed the ready supply of cheap and extremely potent pot available in Jamaica but tired quickly of the un­relenting physical drubbing on the field, which is what the matches had fast turned into. Jameson himself had maybe considered getting out early, flying back, wondering after a while what he was even do­ing taking part in something as indulgent as a spring-break rugby tour, when he had catch-up work for his art history classes to think about, also involvement in SDS and the war protest to think about. He re­membered that he possibly stayed on only because of Ed Pawlowski, the de-facto captain. Ed was a gruff yet likable oaf of a guy, a stalwart in the pushing scrum from working-class Pittsburgh who had actually started as a varsity football lineman for a season, and he had asked Jameson personally to stick it out, so they could at least field a squad of fifteen and play that final match scheduled with the army team.

 

And DeBarsy spoke of how dry it had been in Jamaica, the throes of a drought, definitely. He spoke of what Jameson remembered more and more, how nobody vaguely felt like playing another game, everybody longed to be back in Cambridge. DeBarsy spoke of how nobody even wanted to get on the bus that day, a stark olive-painted army transport bus at that and driven by a soldier, which arrived at the guesthouse in the well-groomed Kingston suburb; the bus took the silent bunch of them in their uniforms and cleats up the winding mountain roads to the new campus of the University of the West Indies and a field that itself was all but bare, only a fuzz of dead yellow grass showing through to the hard, thoroughly baked red dirt underneath. DeBarsy said that he, for one—and probably everybody else—had no desire to get out of that bus when it did arrive at the field and he looked out the window and saw the muscular Jamaica Regiment players go­ing through their warm-up exercises, some of them wrestling around and butting heads against each other, strong—they were real athletes, the island’s perennial champions who must have done nothing else in the military but practice rugby the whole day, professionals for all in­tents and purposes and ready for big-time international competition.

 

“I seem to remember that,” Jameson said, though he still didn’t remember all of it and details came back to him only gradually. But he had no chance to ask many questions, because DeBarsy kept go­ing on and on, as if he had to tell somebody, as if it was something he had to say. “Yes, I suppose I do remember more of it now,” Jameson then said. “I mean, I clearly remember having all our meals out on what might have been a patio for dining there, and sitting around the guesthouse as well, long hours of waiting for the games, by the pool or in the rooms and trying to nap during the day with the shades pulled down against the sun, like a gang of criminals killing time before a bank hold-up, right? I know it was awfully hot. And I know they ar­ranged for a tour of the Red Stripe brewery for us with maybe free beer, it could have been on an off-day with no game. And I suppose that like everybody else I had my own share of being banged-up, the usual bruises and those skin burns and scrapes you’d get, always on the elbows and knees. I guess the field was hard, gravelly.”

 

DeBarsy nodded, resumed his talk. He narrated exactly what had happened that day at the drought-parched field with no more than a handful of spectators, friends of the home team, in the rickety stands to watch in the late afternoon. He said the temperature must have been an even hundred degrees, scarcely a breeze to rattle the mop-headed palms; why, plenty of dust got stirred up just in the course of the teams lining up for the kick-off, dust that then settled slowly in pink puffs, “like magician’s smoke or something,” DeBarsy said. And, yes, what did happen—Jameson listened as Debarsy recounted—was that at the ref’s whistle to begin play, the Jamaica Regiment team, all the players such able black athletes and wearing flashy green and yellow jerseys, the colors of the Jamaican flag, kicked off to the Harvard team, beyond weary by that stage after several games and wearing dirty crimson and white jerseys that hadn’t been laundered even once in the course of the matches; and as the ball arced through the air, wobblingly, with Ed Pawlowski softly basket-catching it, the line of Jamaican players charged—and that one guy on their team simply stumbled well before any contact with the Harvard players was made, maybe tripping, he simply jack-knifed over in the middle of the field in the charge and his head took the full weight of the fall, breaking his neck. He was carried off the field, “like a goddamn limp marionette,” DeBarsy said, with Jameson now aware of DeBarsy’s frequent—and perhaps very odd, too, for a Wall Street man—use of metaphor in his talk. Moving a body like that, DeBarsy emphasized, was something that wouldn’t be done nowadays, when there’s so much concern about spinal injury; before long, an ambulance came rumbling out from the direction of the white university buildings, the tires kicking up more dust, the red roof beacon flashing, the klaxon horn at first soft and then getting louder and louder as the rescue wagon approached from a distance—because Jameson suddenly was picturing everything very clearly—and the player in his rugby shorts and shirt showing the colors of the Jamaican flag was lifted onto a stretcher and taken away.

“We finished the match, didn’t we?” Jameson said.

 

“Eventually. I think we waited around for a while, then we did finish it, losing big, because those guys were good, working sweet, precision double-reverse plays for their backfield lateral passing, I remember, and every other thing you could imagine—they were so expert and smooth they didn’t need to get physical. Or, more exactly, we first had to start the game and then finish it, because what had hap­pened to their guy did happen even before there was really any contact or play, which was crazy in itself, I’d say.”

 

“That was it, he hit maybe a pothole in that hard field, right?”

 

“Exactly,” DeBarsy said, “and while just running with the line of them coming toward us on the kick-off, he got tripped up, like I said, and somehow tumbled forward with his head buckling under him, and he snapped his neck. An athletic, really handsome young black guy, the way I still picture him, or the way I’ve been picturing him a lot lately. I think about that guy, you know.”

 

DeBarsy was looking right at Jameson—DeBarsy’s face was defi­nitely gaunt and washed-out, now that Jameson himself did, in fact, look at DeBarsy directly.

There was an explanation from DeBarsy about how a fund was launched, to raise money for the young Jamaican guy’s wife and little kids, he said, organized by Ed Pawlowski and the rugby club officers once everybody got back to Cambridge, then word came from Jamaica after a couple of months that the guy had died; Jameson told him it was all coming back to him, saying he recalled that he, Jameson, had chipped in what he could for that fund. And DeBarsy said that lately he had been thinking of that guy more than a lot, thinking about him all the time, actually, how the guy had probably been only their age then, early twenties himself, and how everything is at heart a crap shoot, random chance. He said that anybody could have hit that dent in the bone-dry field that truly was as hard as pavement and broken his neck—anybody from either team, “you or me or anybody”—and not had any more than “twenty or so years on this planet, pretty much missed the whole fucking wonderful thing.”

 

That, too, was DeBarsy’s exact phrasing, “on this planet,” and then the very specific addendum, “pretty much missed the whole fuck­ing wonderful thing.”

 

* * *

 

If DeBarsy had rambled, not appearing to have cared about the time as he went on about the occurrence in Jamaica, he now glanced at his slim, obviously expensive gold wristwatch and pronounced that he had to hurry, he had to catch his own train.

He quickly shook Jameson’s hand again, both of them smiling and saying how great it had been to see the other, as Jameson was left alone there in the emptiness of Grand Central again—the glare of the morning sunlight on the endless white marble, the rich blue vault of the huge ceiling patterned with starry constellations, the central in­formation kiosk with those brass desk lamps glowing like big jewels under green glass shades.

 

And thinking about the encounter all the way back to rural Rhode Island where he lived with his former student Amanda, making the change of trains in New Haven, Jameson knew it wasn’t just the tale related out of nowhere concerning the long-ago rugby tour, but it was also how DeBarsy had looked, his cheeks hollow and his pale green eyes staring so very—what would be the word?—staring so very pleadingly at Jameson as DeBarsy spoke. Also, there had been that talk from DeBarsy right at the start, Jameson knew, DeBarsy saying that he had survived “a scare,” and there was even something odd about the fact that a surely busy financial type, a Wall Street mover-and-shaker like John DeBarsy, was wandering around Grand Central in mid-morning and heading back to Westchester rather than into the city at that hour—all of which is to say, Jameson had no doubt about it:

DeBarsy was dying, all right.


Jameson probably had known that to be true even before he got to thinking about it more and more on the trip of a few hours to the farmhouse in Rhode Island—it was obvious as all hell while the two of them stood talking in Grand Central that fine August morning.

 

* * *

 

“How long were you there in Rhode Island with him?”

 

 “We lived together nearly two years,” Amanda said. “He had been my professor at Iowa during grad school for my MFA, a studio class that he came to teach as a visiting faculty member, an artist-in-resi­dence thing. I met him then.”

 

The two young women were in the Brightwater Bar in the Wil­liamsburg section of Brooklyn, the Friday before the long Fourth of July weekend. They were new roommates, paired together for only two days now and getting to know each other; they’d met through a web­site sponsored by Pratt that lined up people—art students and aspiring painters just starting out in the city—to share apartments. The young woman named Amanda was twenty-seven, and she was willowy, with loose black hair that fell in ringlets and large hazel eyes; she wore a short-sleeve peasant blouse and khaki shorts, simple rope-soled can­vas espadrilles, blue. The other young woman certainly recognized the artist’s name, as Amanda explained the situation to her—the two of them were sitting at the red-topped swivel stools at the bar proper, both having house salads—and Amanda said that he, the artist, was older, of course.

 

“I know his stuff,” the other young woman said to Amanda, “and I’m a big fan. I mean, I love how he’s taken something like he has, that Spanish Great Age painting, sixteenth or seventeenth century, I guess it is, and made his own something totally modern—even dark and postmodern, or you might say spookily visionary—out of it. And there’s so much sheer technique to what he does.”

 

 “No, you couldn’t be more right about that. He’s obsessed with Ve­lázquez and especially Zurbarán. And for him it all means long hours, such fine and exact brush technique on giant canvases, he works very hard. He instilled in me the importance of that. You know, I don’t know where I’ll get with my own painting, I don’t know where any us will get, but he showed me that hard work is as big a part of it as anything.”

 

Poking at her salad, wearing the kind of squat, black-framed, hip (hopefully) glasses that everybody seemed to be wearing in Williams­burg that year, her short spiky hair whitely blond, the other young woman said that she’d wholeheartedly second what Amanda had just said, and who knew what would happen to anybody their age, still in their twenties and trying to balance part-time jobs with some more studio classes and their painting there in what very much could seem the full-fledged rat race of the art world in New York.

 

“He was older,” Amanda said again, then added: “Much older.”

 

“But I’ve seen pictures of him, in Artforum and other places, pos­sibly online. He looks great.”

 

“He does look great. He’s probably in better shape than most guys our own age, slim, very tall, plus so intelligent, the important thing. I would have had a child with him in a minute. It was all I really hoped for, to be honest. And when he told me he thought that it would be best for us to split up, that we both should move on in life, it caught me off-guard, right out of the old blue, like they say. I never saw it coming, and even during the long and sad talks we had after that during last fall, no shortage of sappy weeping on my part, of course, nothing real­ly got explained. I know he cared for me, I know he always wondered if it was boring for me being at that ramshackle farm with its creaky farmhouse out there in the sticks in Rhode Island, but I told him I loved it, which I did. It was a beautiful old farm, really. He was rent­ing it, only a half-dozen acres but with some pasture and hilly woods, and he had set up his studio in the big barn, did the work himself to rig up foil insulation and giant electric heaters there. With the bars of the heaters glowing orange, then that orange wildly reflected by the shiny aluminum of the sheets of padded insulation on the walls, you know, the whole place could seem on fire with his excitement once he really got into his work, painting for hours and hours. I could have lived at that farm forever, painting with him.”

 

“And he told you nothing? He did nothing but say it was over?”

 

 “Oh, he did do a lot. He gave me enough money, what he could, to get set up here when I first came to New York right after Christmas last December, even if he usually was close to broke. But there were sales from a show he had at his Chelsea gallery in the fall. He’s never wor­ried about money, that’s a great thing about him. Whenever he makes money from selling paintings at a show, he always seems to spend it fast, traveling somewhere or whatever, almost to prove money doesn’t matter to him. He doesn’t have a materialistic bone in his body. When he’d have to come down from Rhode Island and to the city to talk to a dealer or gallery people, he’d stay at some fleabag hotel that he liked off lower Fifth Avenue in the Twenties, near Madison Square Park, just because it wasn’t touristy or bourgeois. I miss him still, so very much.”

 

The two young women continued with their salads in the big wooden bowls, occasionally sipping from their water glasses. There was some talk about how the Brightwater Bar might be a pool-table dive, right down to the, true, full four pool tables and the Brooklyn College and NYU boys who regularly hung out there playing either pool or the beeping Big Buck Hunter electronic game in the dim back corner, but Brightwater did put out a very, very good house salad, a complete and healthy meal on its own; the other young woman mar­veled to Amanda at just how many of the plump cherry tomatoes there were in her salad, how the vinaigrette dressing was freshly mixed and seasoned, and not the gooey pre-mixed stuff, thickened with awful corn starch, that you got at most places.

 

“So he never explained it,” the other young woman then said to Amanda, “what it was?”

 

“Not really, but we talked a lot, like I said. There was something he tried to tell me about Grand Central, but I don’t know if I under­stood even that.”

 

“Grand Central, like the station?”

 

“Yeah,” the pretty young woman said, this Amanda with the glossy, naturally ringleted black hair, the large hazel eyes. “Yeah, ‘Grand Central,’ he said, but nothing else.”

 

“Weird,” the other young woman said.

 


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Antioch Review cover

 

First published in the Antioch Review

 

Editor: Robert Fogarty

 

Mission: The Antioch Review, founded in 1941, is one of the oldest, continuously publishing literary magazines in America. We publish fiction, essays, and poetry from both emerging as well as established authors. Authors published in our pages are consistently included in Best American anthologies and Pushcart prizes. We continue to serve our readers and our authors and to encourage others to publish the “best words in the best order.” The Antioch Review was a finalist for the National Magazine Award in 2009 for an essay and in 2010 for fiction. We will celebrate our 70th anniversary in 2011.

 

Peter LaSalle is the author of the novels Strange Sunlight and Mariposa's Song (forthcoming) and three short story collections: The Graves of Famous Writers, Hockey Sur Glace, and Tell Borges If You See Him: Tales of Contemporary Somnambulism. His fiction has appeared in many magazines and anthologies, including The Paris Review, Tin House, Zoetrope, Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, Best of the West, Sports Best Short Stories, and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards.