Fiction - Winter 2017

Come, Labor On

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Ken Lund/Flickr

By Tom Jenks

December 5, 2016



I didn’t fly here to listen to your precious prattle about your kids, Red erupted at Happy, who’d been telling Mr. Original about her teenage daughter’s summer internship at Hotseat Capital. Conversation stopped, and the old friends around the dinner table looked warily at each other and at Red, who was florid with drink and irritation, and then at Happy, who was stung but appeared unfazed. And here I was worried you’d gone soft, Happy said. But you’re right, let’s talk about something else. She moved her hands through her thick dark hair, as if freeing herself from an attitude, smiled at her audience, and said, Really, I’m glad to be away from the kids for a few days. Sorry for running on about it.

Maestro, who’d organized the reunion and recognized Red’s outburst as a matter of impatient anxiety, said in a jocular way, Red’s not happy unless we’re talking about him. So how about it, Red, tell us what you’re working on these days.

I’ll tell you what I’m not working on, Red spluttered. I’m not working on these fucking conventional, empty lives you’ve cultivated for yourselves. What happened? You promised yourselves you’d do something great, each of you.

We did? Exeter said. I don’t remember that. Exeter, whose real name was Charlie Little, wore round tortoiseshell spectacles and had the same deceptively innocent face they all remembered.

Implicit, Red growled. You know what I meant.

We know, Runway said easily, but why chastise yourself? You’ve done a lot.

Red drew back into himself, casting bristly glances at the others, since no one was giving him the argument he wanted.

Anyway, Runway continued, there’s what we’ve done and there’s what we have yet to do. I’m not done yet. Her eyes cut modestly sideways and down, her lashes dipping, her quiet smile completing a dusky look immortalized decades earlier in Vogue, W, Interview. She’d once hosted SNL. Now she appeared in an infomercial for anti-aging skin-care products.

Maestro raised his glass. Here, here! To old age!

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Tom Jenks is the co-founder and editor of Narrative magazine.

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