One of my father’s real social skills, however, was carving out space in a crowded bar. Someone would pivot slightly and there he’d be, one elbow on the mahogany, clearing somebody’s highball glass out of the way with a sophisticated sleight of hand, a twenty-dollar bill materializing in its place. Given this small opening he then managed somehow to look for all the world as if he’d been right in that spot since the building was erected. The illusion was so overpowering that those he displaced often apologized when they discovered him there.
In the clearing around the shack were high mounds of junk. There were stacks of bald tires, car bodies without hoods, rusted hubcaps, foaming car batteries, splintered wooden ladders, broken sheets of fiberglass, brown bed springs. It was interesting to look down from the top of the embankment at all that junk, because a lot of it you couldn’t even identify and it was fun to see if you could figure out what it had once been used for. Sometimes stray dogs found their way into that clearing and sniffed among the mounds, looking for the right place to lift a leg. When you tossed pebbles down from the embankment, they believed in God.
…from The Risk Pool, by Richard Russo. Years ago, my friend Ramon (a lanky man with a startling gaze, chaotic hair, and a philosopher’s taste in video games) handed me this book in a Hong Kong beer joint. It took me half a decade to read. The lesson, as always, which I should have remembered from the decaying, hungover afternoons of our youth in Southern China: when Ramon hands you a book with the both of his hands, read it immediately.