I was seventeen when I met David, back in 1916. Now I don’t very much care to count my age. It’s April 1972 here in Cambridge. White puffballs that must be some sort of seedpod have been floating by the window above my writing desk for days, collecting on the sidewalk like first snow.
Every morning I sat on the terrace and waited for him. Night would fade to gray dawn, the sun’s first rays struck the kilometer-high spire of Burj Khalifa,and then the sculler would appear. No other craft plied Dubai Creek at that hour, no working dhows or party cruises. River belonged to sculler and sculler to his boat, and I would sit with my coffee and envy him.
Somewhere in the attic I have letters from Bud, typed on a real typewriter and sent to me when I was in high school and college. The letters chronicle the adventures of his terrier and on occasion were written in the dog’s voice. The dog used to wait for his chance—when the man was sleeping or when he took up his guitar in a corner of a room with a bottle and some cigarettes, maybe the beginnings of a tune. Then the dog would leap to the typewriter and start tapping the keys with small white paws.
Two weeks ago today, I woke up reading an email that Watertown was closed. The Boston, Cambridge, and Watertown police departments had sealed a perimeter. No entrance, no exit. The office was closed. I had started working for a landscape architecture practice in Watertown that Monday, the morning of the Marathon. After three months on the city’s outskirts, writing full-time, at last I had started traveling around Boston and Cambridge. The Lockdown froze the city in its novelty for me.
I recollect at last those first few weeks
on Beacon Street: broke newlyweds, we hid
our finite riches in a little room,
a basement studio whose cost seemed gruesome.
Fresh from Corpus Christi, you learned to speak
a northern language, talk of “quarters” wide-
mouthed like a Chowdahead’s wicked idiom.
Townieis a book about fighting and writing. But it’s mostly about fighting: wanting to fight, learning to fight, training to fight, getting in fights. In the end, it’s about learning not to fight. (I’m not giving much away: a whole lot happens in the middle, and the final scene in which Dubus peels himself away from the urge to fight is lovely and stirring.)
Andre Dubus III spends his boyhood getting beat up a lot. Still scrawny at fourteen, he tells himself:
“I don’t care if you get your face beat in, I don’t care if you get kicked in the head or stabbed or even shot, I will never allow you not to fight back ever again. You hear me?”
This Saturday (October 16th) The Common makes its way to the Boston Book Festival. The event features readings, workshops, book signings, great food and more. We will be sharing a table with our friends at Small Beer Press. Swing by to say hello, check out our prototype Issue 00, learn about submissions, and even WIN A SIGNED BOOK by one of our Editorial Board members. We’d love to see you there!