Skolnik Page 20
never shown him any real love and he had always fought with his sister. In effect he was alone in the world. Sometimes he felt sorry for himself and drank himself into a stupor but most often he was sober and got through the day without doing any damage to himself or others. When he drank in company he sometimes became expansive and convivial, talking about the things he'd seen like a seasoned traveler and people listened and told him he'd had an interesting life and he'd say, "Yeah, that's for sure," and tip back his drink in a cocky way and get a nice lift for a moment or two before he came crashing down again. He'd used drugs for a while and that had given him a lift too but he was clean now, he'd known it could kill him and had taken himself in hand right after he broke up with that woman and preferred to drink, which was cheaper, though he knew that that could kill him too. When he'd gotten out of jail he'd checked into a cheap hotel and lay on the bed smoking and staring at the ceiling

where the neon lights from across the streets kept blinking on and off and made patterns like the bars on a prison wall and he went downstairs and found a whore and felt better than he'd felt in years. But the good feeling hadn't lasted a day. It never did. He'd had these few good days in his life and the rest had been like prison days or shipboard days or days in the greasy spoon. He was just punching in and punching out now. All his dreams were like wads of crumpled paper.
     Charlie's boy was studying business administration at the community college and the girl had gotten a job in Walgreen's and neither of them was around a lot. The girl had a boyfriend too, a gangling, pimply type who looked like he had hayseed in his hair but it turned out he had a basketball scholarship at the University though he wasn't a starter or anything and the girl went to every game and both Charlie and Ginny started watching the telecasts looking for him on the bench and the girl in the stands and