Requisite Kindness published here for the first time tells the story of a man who must come to terms with a life of treating women badly when he goes to live with his sister and dying mother. Rare & Endangered Species demonstrates how a wife and mother's suicide reverberates in the small community where she lived, and affects the lives of people who don't even know her. Finally, Spirits is about the pain that men and women can and do inflict upon each other. These three very different works illuminate the unadorned core of love not the showy, more celebrated sort but what remains when lust, jealousy, and passion have been stripped away.
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Wives & Lovers Chapter One After
December 22, 1994
The afternoon bus from Newport News was twenty minutes late, and the first five people who got off were Navy men. Brian Hutton's younger brother Norman was the last of them, looking leaner than Brian remembered him -- though it had only been a little more than a year. Twenty-four years old now, sixteen years younger than Brian. Life at sea obviously agreed with him. His skin was tan, his eyes clear; the musculature of his upper arms showed under the uniform. Everything about him made a contrast to the older brother, whose frame had begun to sag.
Norman said, "Hard times, Bro."
They embraced. "Hey," Brian said. He felt heavy and awkward. He stepped back and reached for his brother's duffel bag.
"I got it," Norman said, shouldering the bag. They stood gazing at each other. "Somehow I'd talked myself into thinking this day wouldn't come."
"Almost ninety-five," Brian said. "A good long life."
Norman nodded. "I still hate it."
"Dad and Aunt Natalie are at the funeral home. You want to clean up first, or go straight over?"
"It's your call, Norm."
"Let's go see them."
They headed across the open lot of the station with its borders of freshly plowed snow piled high. They had to shield their eyes from the sun; the air was crisp and cold. All along the highway beyond the end of the station lot were telephone poles festooned with bright Christmas ribbons and tinsel. You had to enter the terminal building to exit out onto the street, and inside, a thin-faced smiling man in a dark business suit stood next to a largecardboard box of pocketsized Bibles. The box was sitting on a plastic chair. "Praise the Lord," he said, nodding deferentially, offering Norman one of the Bibles.
"Beat it," Norman muttered.
He walked on.
"Pardon?" the man said to Brian.
"Excuse me," Brian said.
Norman was waiting, smiling, by the door. "Check out his face, man. He's a confused evangelist now."
Brian let him pass through, then turned to look at the man with the Bibles, who was staring after them. He thought of going back to apologize.
From out on the sidewalk, his brother said, "Forget something?"
He stepped out and they walked along the street, toward the public parking lot up the block. "Just out of curiosity, Norman, what do you think Gram would've said about that particular exchange?"
Norman hefted the duffel bag higher on his shoulder. "Guy giving Bibles away in a bus station. I guess I'm home, all right."
"It's Bibles, Norm. What harm is in that?"
"I don't like it shoved in my face like that."
"But really -- what do you think Elena'd say?"
"I know," Norman said. "Okay? I know."
They walked on a few paces.
"So, you were there for it," Norman said. "What was that -- what did it -- " He halted.
"I was only there at the very end. It was Dad mostly. The whole eastern seaboard was snowbound. Aunt Natalie was down in Florida with a tour group, stranded at the airport. Dad and Gram were alone and they went through it that way, the two of them."
"She feels awful for not being there when it happened."
They crossed the street and entered the municipal parkinglot. Norman shifted the duffel bag to the other shoulder. "God, I feel bad now. I don't know what gets into me. I can't help myself when that Bible stuff gets thrown at me, like it's a snack food or something. Gram never did that. Not once. I've got a roommate, man -- spouts Bible and chapter and verse all the damn time. You should see him -- he doesn't have pictures of his family or a girlfriend in his wallet, he's got pictures of Jesus and the saints. Most of the time it's like I'm the devil, because I want to drink a little whiskey now and then and go with the girls."
"Gram probably would've loved him."
"I said, 'I know,' okay?"
For a few minutes Brian couldn't recall where he put the car. He stopped and turned slowly, looking for it among the glaring shapes. The sun reflecting off the snow was brighter than it ever seemed in summer.
"Is Mom coming back?" Norman asked.
"It's too far. Um, she says. Under the circumstances."
"I figured. Christ. What about Tommy?"
"Tommy's with her."
"Well, it's a long way to come for a funeral. But Gram would come to theirs."
"It's having to be anywhere around Dad, isn't it?"
"I wasn't going to come out and say it."
Brian found the car, and opened the trunk. Norman threw the duffel bag in, then decided to retrieve something from it -- a small metal flask.
"My ration of vegetables," he said. "Corn. Can't be without it." He twisted the cap open and took a swig, then offered it to Brian.
"Thanks anyway," Brian said.
"A lot of nutrition in an acre of corn."
"I'll have some later."
"What about Tillie?" Norman asked. "Will she be there?"
"What do you think?"
"So the marriage and divorce are off."
"Funny," Brian said.
"She and Gram got along though. Gram liked her."
Brian said nothing. They got into the car. His brother took another swig from the flask and offered it again. He waved it off, starting the car. "Damn," Norman said. "I'd like to see Tillie."
"Tillie's gone," said Brian. Then he took the flask and drank from it, feeling the burn as it went down. Handing the flask back to his brother, he rested both hands on the steering wheel. "I'm not built for this shit," he said.
Norman smiled at him, holding up the flask. "That's what you keep saying, there, bro. But you keep getting yourself into it."Wives & Lovers. Copyright ? by Richard Bausch. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.