Bovina Center and Hobart and the college at SUNY Delhi, which began as a technical college and is now a place where one can get an Associates Degree in English. Brushland Diner closed and the Instagram account says that the owners are in Cambodia, so instead, Table on Ten. A bachelorette party of fifteen sits at a long wooden table in the cavernous basement, which echoes their chatter.
A guy in a black turtleneck sits by himself in that drafty basement, reading a book at a table four feet away from the gaggle of bachelorette revelers (can they get a stripper up here in the mountains? Would they? What would a male stripper in the Catskills be like? A guy in a black turtleneck reading a book at a restaurant?) No.
Someone thinks that the restaurant is owned by a Dutch lady. Or that someone involved in the place is Dutch. They sell pizzas. No one asks anyone about the Dutch. The service staff is comprised only of nice looking middle-aged women who smile when they bring pizzas to the table and wince at the echoing screams of the bachelorette crew – who, by the way, ignore the sign asking them to please exit by the upstairs door, and instead flood the entire basement with frigid draft.
Not before they invite the guy in the black turtleneck to take some kind of commemorative photo with the whole crew. They crouch in a group pose familiar to anyone who has attended a state school and watched a sorority group pose for pictures. He, in the middle, maybe having just had a fight with his wife. He’s forty-something and thinking to himself “why do I need that family anyway? They’re holding me back. Look at this. I’m on my own reading a book in a restaurant and I run into a group of twenty young women who want to take a photo with me. I can do this on my own. I can leave Natalia. It would be hard on Olivia and even probably the dog. But I’m stifled. I need to get out more.” But then, as he crouched with them into the photo and wondered what it would look like on social media somewhere, maybe he had a different thought. About kissing Olivia goodnight and then taking the dog out for a chilly walk before a big snow that he had heard was approaching. And then climbing into bed with Natalia and rubbing her back silently in the dark for a few minutes before turning over to go to sleep.
That guy was blessed by the big sorority group, maybe. They, by the time he was asleep, would be fourteen bottles of wine deep into an exploration of their own depths. Down the river, is what Charlie has been calling it these days. “We really went down the river last night,” he said.
“Didn’t find Kurtz,” I replied.
“No, but he’s out there. Eventually we’ll get the bastard.”
We left Table on Ten and drove back in the dark to the cabin that we rented.