The Weather

Lifeline

From the outside, Bogey’s Bar and Grill, in Bunker Hill, West Virignia, looks like a large, ranch-style house. Pale yellow siding and a peaked roof the color of rust, windows flanked by slatted black shutters. Not much different from the home I grew up in, the House of Sencindiver. But the House of Sencindiver was not so noble, was, in fact, always wanting for that one indispensable mark of lordship: the doorbell. Growing up, my friends’ houses all had them. Neighbors, too. Up and down Pickett Lane homes both one story and two had the little golden medals screwed to their chests. Travelers, take heed: Your own power is inadequate in summoning us, for even the most stalwart of knockers have despaired at this threshold. We may be in the basement. We may have the volume up. We may be busting dust, or making protein shakes. Mash this gleaming button and wait. Someone will be with you shortly. Please wipe your feet. Too ostentatious for my parents. They stuck with the original iron knocker, which didn’t even have a lion on it, but it was still heavy and demanded physical effort of our guests and so, to me, was far more presumptuous.

Bogey’s is belled both front door and back. Most West Virginia bars are, with a camera outside for spotting plainclothesmen and Mexicans. Unless you’re buzzed in, them doors are locked like Grandpop’s knees! I meet Linus in the parking lot—he’s dressed as Matt Foley, Chris Farley’s motivational speaker.

“The fuck are you supposed to be?” he asks.

I look down at my sweats. I’ve got the shark mask in my back pocket. “I’m Sharkosaurus.” I pull the mask out and tell him about the bogus History Channel special.

“A dinosaur shark?” Linus laughs, claps me on the back. “We’ve missed you out here, kid.” We approach the front door, Linus mashes the bell. It’s cold, and with his breath in the orange light, it looks like he’s coughing up Cheetos. “Forgot how long it’s been since you’ve been with the band. Which must mean somehow I forgot how old I am.”

“I’m twenty-five in January,” I say.

“Young buck.”

“Ever number your years like letters?” I ask.

“Like, A equals one.”

“Well, twenty-four is Year X.”

“Year X,” Linus repeats. “So Y’s on deck, Z’s in the hole. But twenty-four is nowhere near old Jake. Believe that. When I was twenty-four, I had a kid. Now that’s old.” Linus blows into his hands, then looks at them and holds them up for me to see. “See these hands? Michelle took me to a psychic for my birthday, kind of a joke. And you know what she said? Take a look.”

His palms have thick, cracked skin. Scars. Cuts, new and old. “No idea,” I say.

Linus mashes the doorbell a few times. “Said she can’t read Chinese.”

“Funny. You get your money back?”

“Got no lifeline,” Linus says, flexes his fingers. “That was the problem. Worked it right out.” He smiles. “That’s the secret, young man: work. I’m gonna live forever.”

The door buzzes, unlocks, and Linus swings it open and bowls past me. “Age before beauty, Cinderella.”

Roger is a composition teacher at Georgia College in Milledgeville, Georgia. He's working on his first novel, and would like to tell you all about it.