The Next Best Book Blog

Crying in Italian

Click here to listen to Virginia Pye read a selection from her
short story collection Shelf Life of Happiness, Crying in Italian


An Awesome Gap

By Virginia Pye

Around the corner, the lot opened up and the asphalt smoothed out. The rough patches disappeared and Patrick glided along, gaining speed as he headed for a concrete barrier. A half dozen of them sat angled in different directions, each with its own character and challenge. Patrick loved the soft roar of his wheels, the clack and rattle and bang of the other boards nearby, each skater doing his thing. A bunch of the guys were over checking out a gap beside the dumpster on the other side of the parking lot. Patrick wanted to check it out, too, but no way with his dad still nearby. 

He couldn’t believe he’d let his dad drive him. He felt his heart speed up and it literally hurt his chest to think of his father waiting for him in his car, as if this was some lame soccer practice. Patrick first said no to the ride, even though he knew buses didn’t run to this part of town on Sundays. He’d have gotten here somehow, maybe hitched a ride. He would’ve figured something out. But then his dad turned it into a family outing and Teddy had to tag along. 

“I’m happy to drive you boys to the skate park,” his dad had said as they climbed into his new car. 

“It’s not a skate park, Dad. It’s just a spot.” 

“All right then, skate spot.”

“Don’t call it that, either. It doesn’t sound right when you say it.”

“OK, I’ll call it that place you like to go.” 

“Just don’t call it anything.”

His father offered a slight smile in the rearview mirror and Teddy let out a giggle. Patrick had pressed his forehead to the car window and seriously considered climbing out at every red light. A few blocks before they reached the spot by the river, he begged to get dropped off, but his dad said the neighborhood was too rough. As soon as he put the car in park, though, Patrick was out of there. He bolted with his board under his arm and hoped no one had seen him arrive.   

He shook his head hard now to get focused again. He went up one of the ramps, took it slow to start out, ollied off and landed it. A few more times, same thing, but then Teddy showed up beside him and said, way too loud, “That was awesome, dude!”   

Patrick wanted to ditch his little brother so bad. Skate off to the other side and act like he’d never met him before.


Press 53

Best Man

By Virginia Pye

Snow fell hard up in Reno. The interstate started out gray, but as the elevation rose, the white line disappeared and cars crawled as they came into town. Keith gently pressed his foot against the floorboard in sympathy with Caroline, who was at the wheel and making slow, intermittent progress behind a snowplow that scattered wet sand. It struck the windshield and made a sound like rice hitting the backs of a bride and groom.

Keith had arrived in San Francisco on a flight from New York that afternoon. He was here to serve as best man to his closest friend Don, who planned to marry his new girlfriend Caroline up in Reno on this Wednesday afternoon. No one had expected a surprise late-April storm and Keith wondered if that might change things. From the passenger seat, he handed Caroline a bandanna, which she used to wipe the fogging glass.

The car heater whirred on high to keep Don warm in the back seat. He was fast asleep and snoring, a sleeping bag bundled up to his chin. Keith remembered that familiar sound from their tiny freshman dorm room where their beds had been so close he could reach across and poke Don to get him to stop. Keith was tempted to do that now, but when he looked around, the sight of Don made him suck in air between his teeth. Keith’s old friend looked worse than bad, even when sleeping, or maybe especially when sleeping.

Caroline spoke softly. “He wants his ashes tossed out over the ocean.”

Keith nodded as if he were prepared for this. He had met Caroline for the first time at the airport only a few hours before and assumed they’d skirt the issue for at least a little while longer.

“He wants you and your old buddies to toss them into the ocean off Cape Cod.”

“Sure,” Keith said.

He couldn’t imagine it, couldn’t fathom it—how Don had arrived so suddenly at the end of his life. As the wipers did their hypnotic best with the wet snow, Keith looked at Caroline’s striking profile and tried to piece things together. A half year earlier, this petite, athletic-looking woman had moved in with Don when he could no longer take care of himself. Don hadn’t bothered to mention over the phone that she was a beauty, though he did call her a dynamo and someone to be reckoned with, which Don said he needed. She had taken over caring for him with intense, though loving, determination. Based on what Don had said, Keith had pictured someone more masculine, a hardy nurse-type, not this fine-boned woman with the blond ponytail and Pacific-blue eyes.