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Three-Moon Nights

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"You an' me," Skipper said. He looked happy as a flea at a dog show, just like Brick felt, still thrumming with the buzz of the win. Nothing much better than that, 'cept maybe Maggie waiting for him in the bedroom (or the boudoir she'd call it when she was being all fancy), wearing that little cream slip, silk or some such confection, one strap falling off her shoulder and just a glimpse of one little pink nipple. She liked to tease, did Maggie, and Brick wasn't averse to it. Got the blood flowing, it did.

"You're in a world of your own," Skipper said, and prodded Brick in the side with his elbow. Brick thought he might have missed a part of the conversation.

"I'm just thinkin' I got an empty glass in front of me, and there's something sure wrong about that," Brick said. He didn't know why he didn't just admit he was thinking about Maggie, but somehow it seemed wrong with Skipper right there beside him and Maggie half way across the country. Maybe it was a'cause sometimes Skipper went that little bit tense when Maggie was around, didn't talk as much, like he thought Maggie wouldn't want to hear what he had to say, or didn't feel like he was sharp enough to be joining in the talk. So Brick didn't mention Maggie at all, just nudged his empty glass towards Skipper. Not that he needed to drink that night, not when he was already high with no need for recourse to dope or alcohol, but it was the companionable thing to do.

"Bartender," Skipper called out, voice loud enough to carry easy over the hub-bub of an entire football team. Then, quieter, loud enough for Brick to hear but not to go any further, "You an' me, we're one hell of a winning combination."

"Meant to be, that's what we are," Brick agreed. They were the stars of the Dixie Stars, and there was no disagreeing with that, specially not after a day like they'd just had, when Brick threw the ball true and Skipper made every catch firm and strong.

Brick slung an arm around Skipper's shoulder. He had to stretch up a fraction; he was a tall man, but Skipper was taller still. That'd always seemed like the way it ought to be to Brick, that Skipper should be just that bit bigger and taller than him. He was a handsome man, was Skipper, for all that the women didn't seem to notice him half as much as they ought, not since Doris broke it off with him. Brick asked Maggie just a few days prior, didn't she think Skipper was handsome, and she'd laughed and agreed, but said her baby was even more handsome. Brick didn't disagree out loud — couldn't really, not with Maggie kissing him and showing him just how handsome she thought he was — but when he thought about it (which wasn't often, just sometimes, when Skipper was standing next to Brick and he could see their reflection in the mirror above the bar), he thought Skipper was unusually handsome. Maybe not so classically handsome as Brick himself, but there was something about his straight nose and the cleft in his chin and the way his sandy-blond hair curled around his ears that Brick thought was fine.

*

"You looked like you got dressed in the dark, baby," Maggie says. She's smiling at him though, and Brick thinks she's like one of those Siamese cats, all confident and sleek, just that bit too proud to start purring or rubbing 'gainst his legs, but thinking of it. Once upon a time, she'd have said something like that, and he'd have thought she was a little black scorpion waving her tail in full view, warning what she could do with just one flick of that tail. Funny how a few months make you see things different.

Brick stands perfectly still while she straightens his black tie — new and expensive, bought yesterday because Maggie insisted on it — and smoothes down the collar of his jacket. She flicks off what he's sure is an imaginary piece of lint. There's a hint of concern in her eyes, but she's keeping it well enough hidden that Brick can pretend he doesn't see it.

Maggie stands back, looks him up and down, and nods. It's a nod of perfect satisfaction. "Now that's much better. You look respectful now."

There's a shriek in the distance, and then the howling of a brat crying. Maggie purses her lips in disapproval, little lines in the corner of her mouth like upside down Vs. "Why Gooper and Sister Woman had to bring their entire brood, I don't know. It's indecent, that's what it is, having them running an' hollering around the house like wild animals, making all that noise at a time like this. Big Daddy sure wouldn't have liked it, and he'd have said so too. I suppose I'd better keep my mouth shut."

"Well, now, that wouldn't be like you at all."

Maggie flits around the room, not staying still for a moment. She winces at each new scream, but doesn't say much more, just slams her dressing table drawer shut so hard her perfume bottles rattle.

Brick slides a finger under his tie — not enough to make Maggie want to straighten it again, just enough to leave room for him to breath. Better be able to breath if he's going to talk later.

He moves across to the window, and there's a rustle in his pants pocket. Two pieces of paper, the speeches he's written. One's what he wants to say, and the other's what he oughta say. He's not properly decided which one of the two he's gonna use. Maybe he should leave it to chance, just pull one out and see what fate decides for him.

He spares a quick glance to the liquor cabinet, and the empty glass sitting there. No bottle next to it. Nothing but sodapop inside the cabinet. It'd be easier to say what he oughta if he had something burn its way down his throat first. Words come out smoother when some liquor's prepared the way.

Maybe that's why he doesn't say so much these days. That, or he's said enough already. Seems like he used to open his mouth and the wrong words would come out every time, or he didn't speak, and that'd be the wrong thing too. Brick's sent a man to his grave by not speaking up when he should, and another to his grave miserable because Brick opened his mouth. If he could just be stupid drunk all the time, so drunk nobody would expect more of him than to stay upright with a little help, the world would be a better place.

"You're quiet, baby," Maggie says, and Brick pulls up the bamboo blinds and looks out the window. There's a car waiting outside.

*

They were celebrating in a bar for once, because Maggie wasn't there to fix them up with a hotel ballroom. She was off up in Nashville, visiting her cousins.

"What can I get you boys?" the bartender asked, and Skipper ordered for both of them. He didn't need to ask, because they always had the same drink to celebrate a win. A highball, because Skip thought that was appropriate, seeing how high Brick threw the ball. He sounded simple, the first time he explained to Brick why it was they had to drink highballs even though Brick hadn't gotten a taste for whisky. Skipper wasn't simple, just saw things more simply, and that was something altogether different. Brick thought really that made Skipper the smarter one of the two of them, because Brick sure as hell would have liked to see everything simple. He almost envied Skip for that, but then Brick had the better arm — could throw a ball so high it seemed impossible, like it'd never fall back to earth — and Brick had Maggie too, and he guessed that made up for things being all complicated sometimes.

Crazy Man, Crazy was playing on the juke box, but they weren't listening to that, because Heath was giving a blow by blow account of the game, and that was what the after party was all about, reliving the victory, and old victories too and getting as drunk as old Cooter Brown.

There were girls, naturally, because a victory party was nothing without girls, even though half the team had wives waiting at home, or girls they were seeing. It didn't mean nothing, though, a girl in a bar on victory night.

"That's one damn fine woman," Brick said admiringly, watching a new woman enter. She was classy for the establishment, skirt longer than the rest, eyes not wandering round the room like she was eying them all up. She leaned against the bar and called for a drink. Brick was thinking of buying it for her, but Skipper was right next to him, humming something tunelessly under his breath. Besides, Brick was happily married, no call to be hooking up with women, even classy brunettes.

Of course, maybe Skipper was interested. Brick motioned sideways with his head. "You want to—?"

Skipper shook his head. He looked kinda sad, Brick thought, too blue for a victory night. Brick wasn't having that, not then, not never. Time for another round.

*

"A lovely oology. Real moving, all them things you said about Mistuh Pollitt."

"Fine words, fine words, son, for a fine man."

Brick doesn't let himself fidget though the hand-shaking and slaps to his shoulder, though he's itching to be moving anywhere but here, and his collar and tie are too tight. Like a noose.

"You did your daddy proud, you did. Yes, sirree."

Brick shakes hands of people he knows and even more he doesn't. He's pretty damn sure Big Daddy wouldn't have known the names of a half of them either. 'Sides, people tend to look much of a muchness after a while, especially all dressed in their best drab. All so very dull.

Maggie doesn't look dull, even in black. She's blooming.

He can still taste the lies he spoke in his eulogy, like ashes on his tongue, but he'll take a drink later, even if it's nothing more than a seltzer, and he'll be rid of the taste for good.

Least he's alive enough to lie. Time was he wasn't.

*

One bar led to two led to three. It was a brilliant night, street lights sparkling and light spilling outta windows, and music too. It was a good part of town to be merry, and they were all merry, every last Dixie Star.

Until it was just him and Skip and a bottle. Brick wasn't sure if they'd gotten left behind, or if the others couldn't keep up with them. Didn't matter to him either way — all he needed for a good time was his best friend, and Skip was right beside him all the way.

*

"You shouldn't be leavin' Maggie stand on her feet all this time, Brick. She'll be getting' swollen ankles. What are you thinking of?"

Big Mamma's been organizing everyone all day, stomping around like the power of a whirlwind's behind her. Every time anyone tells her to take it easy, she just sniffs and says she'll have plenty of time for that later. Brick hasn't told her to take it easy, but she's been sniffing at him regardless, like it doesn't matter if he says it or not — same old trouble: devil if he does, devil if he don't.

Maggie just hugs Big Mamma. "I'm fine, Big Mamma. But if you'd like it, we can take the car back now, with Miss Sally too, and leave Brick to follow along behind later. I think that might be a good idea, don't you, honey?" She doesn't wait for his answer. "Sookey," she calls out, "have Lacey fetch the car around for Big Mamma."

Brick shakes another hand. Maggie can do what she damn well wants.

He doesn't say anything when she shows up beside him a few minutes later and whispers that she's sent Big Mamma and Miss Sally back, but wanted to wait for him. But the scratch in his throat doesn't hurt so bad all of a sudden.

*

"We torched them." Skipper swayed in the middle of the road, and it didn't matter, because he could stop traffic. Brick knew this, sure as he knew anything.

"We torched them," he shouted in reply, because they did, so why not shout it? "Bet they're hurtin'."

"Yeah, hurtin' real bad," Skipper cried, and weaved his way back to the sidewalk and Brick. Brick leaned on him, and Skipper leaned back, and that's how they made their way to their hotel. Nice and easy.

*

Skipper's funeral had been all hushed and awkward. Brick remembers old Mrs. Barton going up to Skipper's parents and starting to tell them what a great man their son was, what a loss, and then she'd just petered out. She must have realized her voice was too loud and nobody else was talking about him directly, just sidling up to mentions of him, then shying away at the last minute, like nervous horses. Brick had been just as bad as the rest of them, wanting to say something, starting even, but not managing to follow through. The worst kind of coward. An washed up ex-jock who couldn't follow through, that was him. He'd even left quickly, swallowed a single dainty ham sandwich that had like to gotten stuck in his gullet and then marched right out of there, out of the stuffy little room full of people who couldn't talk about the truest friend he could ever imagine having.

All he could keep thinking of was those last words Skipper had said, that he wanted to confess again. Confess properly, he'd said. Like it wasn't the first time he'd confessed to Brick.

Brick had gotten drunk that night. On highballs, because it seemed like the only way he could say sorry right then, and then he'd stumbled back to Maggie, pretty little Maggie, waiting alone for him in their big bed in her creamy soft negligee. He'd tried to fuck her — he can remember that, the last time he touched her in months — but he was too drunk or too sad or too ashamed or too much of something else that made his dick stop working, left it soft and pathetic, dangling between his legs like it didn't know what to do. So he'd crawled out on the balcony, and watched the moons, all three of them lined up across the night sky, and tried to remember why they all looked so familiar.

*

There was a streetlight right outside their room, and the moon was high, a big fat full moon. Once he'd gotten into his pajamas Brick flung open the windows and let the light and the night breeze in. The curtains fluttered into the room like pale bird wings, like a flock of seagulls flying up from the ocean. The room was almost as light as day but the color was all bleached out of it, the same sepia as all the old Pollitt family photos Big Mamma kept on the sideboard in the hall.

Skipper grumbled from his bed, but didn't bother rising to close the window. "Why you gotta have the window open all the time, I don't know," he said.

"I like the fresh air," Brick answered, even though he knew perfectly well that Skipper didn't really mind, and didn't particularly care why Brick liked the window open. There were things about each of them, familiar things that they were used to, and maybe they half-heartedly questioned them sometimes, but they didn't try to change them. Besides, most of the time there was no reason for the things they did other than it was the way they'd always been. Brick'd always slept with a window open. He didn't know why — it wasn't that he was claustrophobic or any such thing, it was just the way it'd been since he was a kid, the way he was brought up. No point fighting the way you're brought up, not when it didn't do any harm.

The sheets were a touch scratchy, but that wasn't unusual for a hotel. It didn't bother Brick a bit. Skipper sounded like he was most of the way to sleep already, breathing slowed down and steady, but he reached out his right hand. Brick leaned across and took his hand to shake it goodnight. It was just another thing they did; not every night, or every win, but often enough that it felt like a comfortable habit between them.

"Brick?" Skipper said, like it was a question, Brick's name all heavy on his tongue, and this wasn't usual. Usually Skipper fell straight asleep after they'd shaken hands, and so did Brick.

Brick could have fallen straight asleep. He didn't have to answer Skip. He didn't know why exactly it seemed like a bad idea to answer him, but it did. Like this was something new, and they should stick to the way things always were.

It was Skipper, though, his best friend, the most constant person in his life, and he'd feel like he was letting him down if he didn't answer. So he did, though he didn't make any effort to hide the yawn in his voice.

"Yeah, Skip?"

"How drunk might you be right now? I mean, on a scale of one to ten, where d'ya think you'd lay?"

There was a crack in the ceiling right above Brick's bed that looked for all the world like the Delta. Brick followed the lines with his finger, though either the lines were moving or his finger wasn't behaving properly, because he couldn't seem to trace it from one end to the other.

"Brick? You still awake?"

Brick remembered the question he was supposed to be answering. "I think I'm too drunk to be answering any question with mathematics in it."

"You don't like math and numbers and figurin' even when you're stone cold sober, so that's no kind of answer at all."

"Why're you going on about mathematics, Skip? Sounds like you're a whole lot too sober to me." Worst of it is, all the talking was sobering Brick up, and that wasn't what he needed, not when it was time to go to sleep. Sobering up was a trick best done in a man's sleep, not while he was awake and feeling it. There was a natural order to things, and this was going against it.

"I wish I was sober, right now, Brick, I wish I was. Mebbe I'd be able to stop myself if I was sober." Skipper sighed, or it could even have been a sob, but the least Brick could do for him was pretend it was no more'n a sigh.

"Stop yourself from what, Skipper?" he asked softly.

"Confessin'. I want to confess." Skipper didn't sound like he wanted to do it at all, but he did sound like he needed to do it, which meant Brick would help him all he could, even if he thought it was a damn fool thing to be wanting. He'd never thought too highly of preachers, and secretly he didn't think God did either.

"It's a Sunday tomorrow," Brick said. "I'm sure we can find some church for you to go do your confessin' in the morning."

"No, that's not it, Brick. I don' want to confess to a preacher or to God. I want to confess to you." He sounded almost childlike, like a little boy with a man's voice. Like everything was black and white, the way children thought it was. Most children, anyways. Brick never saw life in black and white, not even when he was knee-high. He thought it would have been nice to see life that cleanly, even if it was just for a while.

Only thing worse than being disillusioned was never having any illusions to start with.

"I'm sure there's no need for that," Brick said.

He sat up in bed and punched the pillows — there were two of them, rock-hard and flat like all hotel pillows. They didn't respond to the punching, and even shaking them didn't make anything better out of them. He gave them one final punch anyway, then slumped back down on them. He stared up at the ceiling: the fan was drifting in slow circles, barely stirring the air. He could make himself dizzy watching it, but it didn't stop him. A man couldn't stop doing something just in case of what it might do to him.

He thought about that. He thought about the consequences of staring up at the fan when he was drunk, and he thought about the consequences of listening to Brick, and it felt like only a coward would back down just because of what might be. And Brick was many things, some of them good and some of them not so good, but he sure as apples were apples wasn't any kind of coward.

So he was gonna say something more. "Mebbe there's no need, and mebbe there is need, but whatever you want, Skipper. If you're wanting to get something off your chest right now, you go ahead and do it, and I'll be listening. I may not be talking the best sense in the world afterwards, on account of all the alcohol I've consumed tonight, but that can't stop me from listening."

"I appreciate that, Brick, I really do. But there's not much that I need to say, as such. More, well, I think it'd be easier if—"

Skipper flipped back his sheet and blanket and put his feet to the ground.

*

There are lilies in the hallway, and lilies in the drawing room, and probably lilies in the goddamn commode. Big Daddy woulda hated them, Brick's damn sure of it. Big Daddy liked the smell of money, not lilies. Said a man ought to get used to the smell of money, ought to crave that smell, and it'd make him work harder for it.

Everywhere's full of light and lilies, all white and bright and everyone in their black, like the house is rejoicing and the people in it are all dead. Except Maggie, because nothing can stop Maggie being full of life. That's why he fell in love with her, and that's one good reason he hated her after Skipper died. And that's why he's gotten his life back together again, because Maggie's full of life and damn obstinate with it, and there was nothing for it but he should keep on living with her. She clawed at him and cajoled him and did everything in her power, and she won in the end. Brick thinks he'll forgive her for it eventually, even if living hurts sometimes worse than walking on a broken foot. He's maybe already forgiven her inside, because it doesn't hurt to see her like it used to, don't make him ache whenever she walks in the room. It makes a spark inside him light up, and that's something he'd never thought he'd even want again, not after all that time when all he could think of was getting that click in his head when everything went quiet inside. Quiet and peaceful and no sparks.

There's a painful crescendo of notes from the piano, and Sister Woman runs over to it. Brick sure could do with some quiet and peace right about now.

"Aww, Polly, Big Daddy would have loved to have heard you playing that," Mae says.

Maggie looks like she wants to drop the piano lid on Gooper's kid's hands. Brick can't say he'll stop her if she does. "No, Mae," Maggie says, "he sure wouldn't have liked it, not one little bit. And you know what's more, he would have said so too. And seeing as he isn't here to say it, I'll say it for him. Besides, it's disrespectful on a day like today, that's what it is."

Polly pokes her tongue out at Maggie, who narrows her eyes in return and keeps her hands tight by her side. Brick would bet anything she's wanting to strangle the brat.

"I can't see you being any sort of mother," Mae says spitefully.

Maggie pointedly looks at Polly, who's running around the room now, chasing her brother, both of them whooping and howling at the top of their lungs. Maggie has to raise her voice to be heard over them. "Maybe you should be looking after your own, before they do too much damage, rather than pitying mine before the fact."

Brick winks at Maggie next time she looks over his way.

*

"Scoot over," Skipper said, and damn it but Brick did just that. Let Skipper into his bed without a second thought, all easy like it was something they did every night they were on the road, not something out of bounds.

The bed was too small, but they made it work, Brick on his side, back to the wall, and Skipper with his arms tight by his side, his turn to stare up at the ceiling.

Brick wondered when Skip was gonna start confessing, but it was a mighty strange phenomenon that, with all Brick had to drink, his throat was so dry and parched he couldn't bring a single word out of it. Maybe that was what was wrong with Skipper too, his throat gone parched all of a sudden, and that was why he'd gone quiet.

It wasn't an uncomfortable quiet, though. Just felt like they were both waiting for something, but like it'd happen when it happened. Maybe Brick was drunker than he thought, if he'd gotten all philosophical like that. He wasn't normally that patient a man, though he could pretend when he needed, or stand still long enough to look patient, even when he felt anything but.

"You know what it's like when you need to say somethin', but you just don't have the proper words for it?" Skipper asked eventually. His eyes were closed, and Brick had thought maybe he was asleep, the confessing all forgotten. "That maybe the right words don't even exist? Like there needs to be a whole nother language, and even then it might not be enough."

"The language of drink, that's what you need, buddy. There's nothin' you can't say with some Dutch courage inside you."

"Well, I sure got plenty of that tonight, but maybe even that isn't enough. Or maybe it's me who's not enough. Not enough of a man."

Skipper sounded resigned, like he really believed that and couldn't do a thing about it. Brick wasn't having any of that, not having his best friend thinking he was anything less than he was, the truest, best man Brick had ever known. That wasn't the sort of thing Brick was used to putting into words though, not even inside his head let alone words that would reach the air. So he stuttered a little starting. "Skipper, you're— you're a good man. You're the best—" Brick took a deep breath, and it could be that was what knocked him forward, just as Skipper was turning his head to look at him. However it happens, they were face to face all of a sudden, and the dark didn't seem anything like dark enough, and Brick's throat was dry again, and he wasn't sure he could finish his sentence even though he knew he had to, he had to do it for Skipper's sake, Skipper who was looking right at him, moving in towards him like—

Like he was going to kiss him.

Brick opened his mouth to speak. Nothing came out, but it didn't matter because Skipper was kissing him, right on the mouth like they were sweethearts. And Brick was kissing back, mouth open and letting Skipper in, groaning because it felt so good. They shuffled in the little bed, Skipper turning and Brick moving closer until he could feel how much Skipper wanted this, and Skipper could feel how much Brick was liking this, and it was so hot in that little hotel room, with the white curtains flapping in the wind and Brick had to toss the sheet back for all the heat in the room.

*

Brick wishes everyone would hush up about Big Daddy, instead of going on about him like he was everyone's daddy.

Except the preacher. He's not mentioned Big Daddy once in the last ten minutes. Brick knows that because he's been standing in the doorway watching the clock, the big old clock Big Daddy brought back from Europe, listening to Preach, every greedy word that's come falling out of his mouth. He's talking to Gooper now.

"Y'know what I saw last month, on a trip to Memphis? Finest font I ever did see. It brought tears to mah eyes, and glory to the Lord. And the Lord knows, no one in that church is ever goin' to forget the fine Mr. Miller who gave it."

"Seems to me, Preach," Gooper says, "you've got a perfectly serviceable font already. Best have a simple one, then folks'll be listenin' to you preachin', not staring at the font and wonderin' how much it cost, and ignorin' all the wise counsel you're givin' them on how they best live their lives."

Brick snorts. Preach isn't daunted, and goes on. Smooth as sandpaper, he is. "I heard talk of this new artist. From some two-bit town just outside of Memphis, and not much more than a kid, but he's already doin' work fit for the big city. Been workin' with some fine colorful glasswork, etched glass or some such thing it's called. He can make water look like it's really movin', looks like a miracle, they say. I'm thinkin' some of his work, that'd be a fine testament to your daddy."

"There isn't gonna be—" Gooper starts, but Big Mamma interrupts. Brick wasn't aware of her coming into the room, and that's strange in itself. Big Mamma's not a woman made to be quiet, or go unnoticed, but in her drab black and no diamonds or pearls, he didn't see her.

She doesn't stay quiet, though. "Hush now." Gooper opens his mouth, and Big Mamma puts one fat hand up to it. Her hand's shaking, but her voice isn't. "You set there and listen. Now I ain't Big Daddy's wife any more, just his widow, which don't seem to count for all it should, but I'm gonna have a Memorial window made in his memory, and that's that."

The preacher looks delighted, and doesn't even try to hide his gloating.

Brick hopes the window is really ugly.

*

After, they were both quiet. Brick's throat wasn't dry any more, but he felt like if he opened his mouth, everything would come out, everything he was thinking and everything he didn't even know he was thinking, and that'd be too much. Even after everything they'd just done, that'd be too much.

He took a deep breath, and tried to stop himself from thinking, even though it was as impossible as trying to stop a whole herd of angry buffalo from charging.

*

"Do you think I'll make a good mother?" Maggie asks as she undresses for bed. "I mean, I know I can't stand those no-neck monsters of Gooper's, but they're let run wild, and nobody can love children that are left to run wild like savages, doin' and sayin' whatever they want. No wonder they named them all like critters from a farmyard. Mae denied it, but then they went and named the baby Flopsy, and if that's not a rabbit's name, I don't know what is. We won't be like that, will we, Brick? Will we?"

She smoothes her hands nervously over the round of her belly, looking straight at him all the time. There's a curl of hair fallen loose over her shoulder, glossy black against her pale skin. Brick likes her hair best loose.

"We'll love this baby, and bring it up right. I'd like a boy, with red curls just like yours when you were little in that picture in Big D— Big Mamma's room. Dinky red curls, and dimples in his cheeks when he smiles, and a proper neck — just like yours, because you've got a fine slim line of a neck, not like Brother Man. Wouldn't you like a boy, Brick? I know I'd like a baby boy."

Brick imagines holding a baby, his baby. A little boy. Being responsible for him, loving him, bringing him up right and knowing that he's loved. Teaching him good values. First time he's let himself really think about it, believe it's actually happening, and the shock is, it doesn't scare him like he thought it might.

"Yeah," he says. "A boy would be fine," and that's all it takes for Maggie to run at him, arms round his neck, happy like he's just given her the world. He holds her up, no real weight to her, and even with her clasping him tight, it doesn't feel too bad. It's not too tight like his collar and tie earlier. Somehow he's gotten used to her touch again, and more than that, grown to like it. It's comfortable, and even if it's never anything more than that, he reckons that's better than hating her for his own mistakes.

The curtain flaps idly in the evening breeze. He'll close the window soon: it's getting colder at night, and he doesn't want Maggie catching a chill.

*

Brick wasn't sure he'd remember any of this in the morning. Not that he was that drunk, but he didn't think he could let himself remember. It was already settling in, what a dirty thing he'd done, what a shameful thing, and worse, how much he wanted it and enjoyed it, wrong as it was. But he wasn't queer, not like those two sissies, Jack Straw an' Peter Ochello. And it wasn't something you could catch like the clap, so it had to be just this one time, the drink doing crazy things to them. He thought he'd be happiest if he drank some more and made sure he didn't remember any confessing in the morning, from either of them, or what confessing led to.

He slipped out of bed, found the bottle he'd put down on the floor, and filled a glass to the brim. He leaned against the window and looked up at the big, big moon, and drank until the moon doubled and drank some more until there were three of them, three fat moons. And then he didn't remember anything past those three big moons in the night sky.

*

They sleep together that night, Maggie curled up against him like she won't survive if she can't share his body heat. It's too hot, Maggie this close and the window closed, but he doesn't move away. He rests his hand on her belly, and there's something, a movement, then another.

Maggie laughs, all excited. "Did you feel that, did you, Brick? He kicked. More than once."

"Yeah, I felt that."

"He's got a strong kick, just like his daddy. He could be fixin' to be a fine athlete, gettin' in some practice already." Maggie rests her hand on top of his. "Have you thought of names yet?" she asks, voice softer and almost tentative. Brick stills and holds his breath. Don't say it, he thinks, desperate.

"I'm sure there's no rush," Maggie says. "We've got plenty of time to think of names, jus' so long as we can come up with ideas that don't sound like they belong in the zoo." Brick lets out his breath. "I bought a book, full to the brim of names it is, all sorts of ideas. We can weed out the crazy ones, and the ugly ones, and all the barnyard animals, but that'll leave us plenty of choice."

"Something new," he suggests, the closest he can come to vetoing the suggestion he thinks she might make some time. He's not ready for that. Maybe if they have another boy, sometime down the line, when the healing's fully done and the scar doesn't itch so much any more, maybe then they can remember the best friend he ever had.

"Yeah," she sighs softly, "something new would be good." She's still, then, and quiet, tucked into his chest, and Brick falls asleep watching the moon rise.