Jerry, at the Construction Site

By Samantha Kirby


“This way,” Rich said, and made an abrupt right turn at the corner.
“This way?” I asked, shuffling a bit to keep up. “Why are we going this way?”
“Jerry’s working in the old East End Theater up here a couple blocks.”

“Oh.” Classic Rich. He was always doing this – stopping without warning: stopping to buy fertilizer or garden tools, stopping to have the car looked at, taking the long way round just to impress you with his knowledge of the back roads – always forcing detours, always springing his projects and his friends on you while he had you balled up as a prisoner in his fist. Jerry was at work for God’s sake. Rich pulled out his cell phone and gave him a ring.

“Hey man, whatcha doin’?” A pause. “Oh, nothin’. I was just down here by the East End Theater and I thought I’d stop by and say hey – can you spare a few minutes?” Another pause. “Cool man, I’m right outside.” I’m right outside. Why not we? Classic fucking Rich.
“So how’s Jerry doing?” I venture to ask.
“Oh he’s doing fine. You know Cameron just got married.”
“Yeah, I heard about that – isn’t she like….”
Rich read my mind. “She’s nineteen, yeah. They’re living with Jerry and Sandy.”
“And Uncle Nate?”
“And Uncle Nate.”
“That’s quite a crowd.”
“Well, that’s just how they’ve got to do things out in Moody.” I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but I let it slide.
Jerry was our dad’s cousin, and I had probably thought about him without his name being mentioned or without him being physically present a grand total of five times in my entire life, that of course being a generous estimate. I didn’t consciously avoid him, or at least the thought of him; it was a simple matter of him doing his thing, me doing mine. A simple, textbook example of two strangers who happened to be tenuously related, one of whom was to the other a representation of distant, half-baked imaginings, the other of whom was doubtlessly to the first just another absent name dropped at Thanksgiving.
The East End Theater was a relic from the 1930s, an ornate stone building stretching for half a block in either direction from its corner view of the last few numbered avenues of Northside. It had closed down in the eighties, just like most everything in this Southern city, when stalled progress turned standards of living belly-up and everyone who could afford it flocked to the suburbs. But recently urbanization had taken on a trendy hipster feel, and the children of the very same emigrants who fled the city to raise them in relative affluence were flocking back like chutes and ladders, revitalizing and restoring and trend-setting and envelope-pushing, and in just one and a half generations the city was making a comeback, baby. Problems never die, of course, but every nadir has its zenith, and we were on the upswing, you could feel it in the air. Jerry’s construction outfit was just the next sign: an old theater with an old history being converted into a new theater with an old history. At the current moment Jerry himself, a graying man in his early fifties, was stepping over its threshold.

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