The Final Detail Page 75

watching Myron struggle the way some people watch an injured ant before stomping it with their foot.

Billy Lee suddenly frowned. He lowered the weapon, studying it for a moment. "Hram," he said. "Might break my gun that way."

Myron felt Billy Lee grab his shoulders and lift him and the chair back up. The shotgun was at eye level now.

"Fuck it," Billy Lee said. "Might as well just shoot your sorry ass, am I right?"

Myron barely heard the giggling now. When a gun is pointed so directly in your face, it has a tendency to block out everything else. The double barrel's opening grows, moves closer, surrounds you until everything you are and see and hear is consumed in its black mouth.

Pat tried again. "Billy Lee..."

Myron felt the sweat under his arms begin to gush. Calm. Keep the tone calm. Don't excite him. "Tell me what's going on, Billy Lee. I want to help."

Billy Lee snickered, the shotgun still shaking in his hand. "You want to help me?"


That made him laugh. "Bullshit, Myron. Total bullshit."

Myron kept still.

"We were never even friends, were we, Myron? I mean, we were frat brothers, and we hung out and stuff. But we were never really friends."

Myron tried to keep his eyes on Billy Lee's. "This is a heck of a time to go tiptoeing through the past, Billy Lee."

"I'm trying to make a point here, asshole. You're peddling this crap about wanting to help me. Like we're friends. But that's a load of bullshit. We're not friends. You never really liked me."

Never really liked me. Like they were third graders during recess. "I still helped pull your ass out of a few fires, Billy Lee."

The smile. "Not my ass, Myron. Clu's. It was always about Clu, wasn't it? The drunk driving thing when we were living in Massachusetts. You didn't drive up to save my ass. You drove up because of Clu. And that brawl at that bar in the city. That was also because of Clu."

Billy Lee suddenly tilted his head like a dog hearing a new sound. "Why weren't we friends, Myron?"

"Because you didn't invite me to your birthday party at the roller rink?"

"Don't fuck with me, asshole."

"I liked you just fine, Billy Lee. You were a fun guy."

"But it got tired after a while, didn't it? My whole act, I mean. While I was a college star, it was pretty cool, right? But when I failed in the pros, I wasn't so cute and funny anymore. I was suddenly pathetic. That sound about right, Myron?"

"You say so."

"So what about Clu?"

"What about him?"

"You were friends with him."


"Why? Clu partied the same way. Maybe even harder. He was always getting his ass in trouble. Why were you his friend?"

"This is stupid, Billy Lee."

"Is it?"

"Put the gun down already."

Billy Lee's smile was wide and knowing and somewhere just south of sane. "I'll tell you why you stayed friendly with Clu. Because he was a better baseball player than me. He was going to the bigs. And you knew that. That's the only difference between Clu Haid and Billy Lee Palms. He got drunk and took drugs and screwed tons of women, but it was all so funny because he was a pro."

"So what are you trying to say, Billy Lee?" Myron countered. "That pro athletes are treated differently from the rest of us? Hell of a revelation."

But the revelation sat uneasily on Myron. Probably because Billy Lee's words, while wholly irrelevant, were at least in part true. Clu was charming and quirky simply because he was a pro athlete. But if the velocity of his fastball had dropped a few miles per hour, if the rotation of his arm had been just a little askew or if his finger position had not allowed for good ball movement on his pitches, Clu would have ended up like Billy Lee. Alternate worlds-totally different lives and fates-are right there, separated by a curtain no thicker than membrane. But with athletes, you can see your alternate life a little too clearly. You have the ability to throw the ball just a little faster than the next guy, you end up a god rather than the most pitiful of mortals. You get the girls, the fame, the big house, the money instead of the rats, the dull anonymity, the crummy apartment, the menial job. You get to go on TV and offer life insights. People want to be near you and hear you speak and touch the hem of your

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