I got the job because it had been my brother’s, and everybody’d loved my brother. I tracked down Mr. Lewicki at Stu’s, sitting at the bar and squinting up at the OTB channel. His eyes flew open when he saw me. “Jesus, son, I thought you were a ghost,” he said, and returned his attention to the small screen. He balled-up a straw wrapper between his thick thumb and index finger and rolled it around and around and around. “Guess you want to drive the truck,” he said. “That’s fine.”
The next morning I woke up and didn’t know where I was, and I held onto that feeling for as long as I could. Before I opened my eyes I knew: I was in my old room at my dad’s house, my brother was dead, and I was on bereavement leave from school and a good thing, too, because I’d been this close to flunking out. It was raining and too cold for anyone to want ice cream, so I spent the morning in bed watching porn on my phone, thinking about my few conquests over the last two semesters. The last one was a sympathy fuck, but I took it like I deserved it, not worrying about how I did or what she thought. The shock of the news had knocked me out of my body, made me feel separate from myself, and bigger. Like it was me and not my brother floating away.
* * *
On Wednesday the sun broke out and I was glad for something to do. I ran a dust rag over my dad’s bike, filled the tires and pulled out onto 7th Street toward Mr. Lewicki’s. The air felt good and thick for May, and I was sweating before I got to the lot. I felt around in the wheel wells for the keys and found them on the backside driver’s. All the while I was checking and prepping the freezers, pulling stock, filling napkin and spoon holders, I was thinking about my brother. I found a clean-ish apron (green) and looped it over my head. Another half an hour and I was rolling out the route.
I snaked through the neighborhood that led to the swimming pool. Behind a row of sand-colored apartment buildings was a dirt trail we used to ride our bikes on. Somewhere back in the little woods along the creek, I could never find it now, was a big dirt bowl you could ride and air out the lip a little bit.
The first run around the pool was a bust but later in the afternoon I was burning through Bombpops and Drumsticks and ChocoTacos. Mostly the kids are alright.