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By Dean Bartoli Smith
Rusty Thorpe lounged on the couch with a new baby boy in his arms. I sat
across from him in a worn leather easy chair. He had gained weight since moving
south, and the baby rested precariously on his belly like a cheese-steak sub.
My former brother-in-law was itching for his new wife to relieve him so he
could enjoy a midday cocktail. His purple velour shirt was slick with drool and it
was clear to me from his tenuous hold on the child that most of the diapers were
changed by Rachel, the woman he married after my sister died.
I hated the fake silver Christmas tree and the lone pair of Old Spice gift
packs beneath it. The row home on Doxbury Road belonged to Pete Casey, Rachel's
brother who'd been recently divorced.
The place had a post-war feel to it.
Rachel emerged from the kitchen with my wife, Sharon, in the nick of time,
holding a Jim Beam on the rocks for her anxious husband.
"Thanks, hon." He lifted the boy to its mother, Rusty's hands shaking like
Relieved, he stirred the drink with his finger.
"Corey's a full-time project, buddy." Rusty shook his head, slurping his
whiskey. He was tan, his snow-colored hair thinning.
"Corey's a little cutie. Yes, he is."
Sharon swooned, and tickled the baby underneath its chin.
The two women stood in the middle of the living room.
"So good to see you again, Rachel."
Outside, branches tottered in the icy wind. Their lean structures reminded
me of my dead sister.
"Billy, what do you think?" Rachel held Corey up.
"He looks like you." I didn't want Rusty taking credit for anything.
She blushed, a strand of her shoulder-length brown hair wisped over her eyes.
I hadn't spoken to them since their wedding two years ago. Rachel sat on the
wicker loveseat in the corner next to Sharon, far away from me.
"It's like I told you, Rache," Rusty announced, looking over to her with the
baby on her lap, lifting his drink. She was an Irish brunette with a nice figure, 20
years his junior.
"The Farleys made it possible for me to become a daddy. I saw how your
family cared for Diane. You stepped up real big for me, Billy, in the clutch. I'll
forever be thankful. I mean that, pal."
I knew his sales pitch, the one that hooked my sister when he worked the concession
at the duckpin bowling lanes. It usually meant he was going to ask for money.
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