Richard Ford's The Sportswriter, 1986:
"So, like. Whaddaya do?" She has adopted a new sleepy way of talking, as if nothing could bore her more than I do. Again I hear a gull cry. My lip, where Vicki socked me, throbs like a goddamn boil.
"I'm a sportswriter."
"Uh-huh." She parks one hip against the door molding and leans into it. "Whaddaya write about?"
"Well. I write about football and baseball, and players." I take a sip of my sweet, cold float. I actually feel better. Who would've thought a root-beer float could restore both faith and health, or that I would find it in as half-caste a town as this, a place wizened to a few car lots, an adult book store, a shut-down drive-in movie up the road---remnants of a boom that never boomed. . . .
"So, were you, like, a pretty good jock sometime when you were young?"
"I liked baseball then, too, except I couldn't hit or run."
"Uh-huh. Same here." She takes a preposterous puff on her cigarette and exhales all the smoke out her mouth and into the shopping center air. "So. How'd you get interested in it? Did you read about it someplace?"
"I went to college. Then when I got older, I failed at everything else, and that's all I could do."
Debra looks down at me, worry hooding her eyes. Her idea of a big success has a different story line, one that doesn't confess any start-up problems. I can teach her a damned useful lesson in life about that. "That doesn't sound so great," she says.
"It is pretty great, though. Successful life doesn't always follow a straight course to the top. Sometimes things don't work out and you have to change the way you look at things. But you don't want to stop and get discouraged when the chips are all down. That'd be the worst time. If I'd stopped when things went the wrong way, I'd be a goner."
. . .
She has lost interest in me, and I can't blame her. I might as well have speaking French from the planet Pluto. I am not an answer man of any kind. . . .
As I watch her walk out into the lot toward the Ground Zero, her hands fishing in her pocket for a new cigarette, shoulders hunched against a cold breeze that isn't blowing, her hopes for a nice day, I could guess, are as good as mine, both of us out in the wind, expectant, available for an improvement. And my hopes are that a little luck will come both our ways. Life is not always ascendant.
Tags: Richard Ford, The Sportswriter