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The Evening of the Dock
by Steve Almond

A woman whom I had loved, at one time deeply, and whose husband I had some years earlier accused wrongly of racism – hoping to demonstrate the tyranny of the man she had chosen over me – this woman, pink with wine, led me late one night to the edge of a lake in Michigan, both of us drunk, though she more so, and lay on the dock and asked me to wrap my body around hers.

Her husband, a man I admired and pitied for his overweening ambition (he hoped to be president of a small Eastern European country and now traveled abroad with bodyguards) was up at the house, asleep in their bed. Earlier this same evening, the evening of the dock, he had received word that his business had been purchased for $40 million and wept like a child, and spoke to us with the fragile grace of a dictator and now slept, peacefully, while his wife, my friend, a woman long accustomed to shaping her life to his coups, curled under a tarp and pressed her bottom against me and announced how important it was that I was friends with her husband, how he needed good friends, then suggested we take our clothes off and swim in the lake.

“Don't worry,” she said. “Nothing’s going to happen. This is not what you're thinking.”

We had spent much of the evening discussing his fabulous successes (as we always did) and made no mention of her dark moods, her failed efforts to paint so much as a self-portrait, her assorted alternative therapies, which had come to seem, to both of us, without acknowledgment, elaborate self-deceits.

The lake showed the sheen of wet tar. The canoes tied off nearby made hollow thuds as their hulls hit. I was shivering cold, but refused to rub myself against her body, not because of any moral qualm (if anything the iniquity appealed to me) but because I had lost desire. This was my new secret, which replaced the old secret of my lust for her. I felt ashamed. I had wanted her for so many years, dependably, every time I saw her. And now I could think only of the wine, sour on her tongue, her lips seeming thin and stingy, her hair once dyed a vivid blond, now drossy and threaded with gray, so that when she coaxed me finally into the water, it was as a tribute to her vanished allure, to the capabilities she once held, though now, under the thick stars, her breasts hung like udders and her backside appeared broad and waxy. We let the cold water stir around us, shrivel us, and emerged as if we had passed some mandatory test.

Is there no sadder transfer than desire given over to pity? Which of our rituals accedes so neatly to sorrow? An image hangs here in my head of this woman who might have been my wife, a blue spirit chained to a man of bright red assurances, staggering over mossy rocks, the bottoms of her feet tender against the edges, and slipping, away from herself, away from me, and I am seized by a terrible thrilling secret: she will not be happy, not for the rest of her life.

All content in SmokeLong Quarterly copyright 2003-2014 by its authors.

Steve Almond's new book, "Candyfreak: A Journey Through the Chocolate Underbelly of America," is just out from Algonquin. His story collection, "My Life in Heavy Metal" is out in paperback. To find out what music he listens to, check out

Read the interview.
Issue Four (June 15, 2004): Bones by Vanessa Gebbie «» Possessed by Louise Jackson «» Clouds, the Gills of Fish by Myfanwy Collins «» Her Face in the Light by Sue Bond «» Left Standing by Susan Henderson «» Moonlighting by Jen Wright «» The Evening of the Dock by Steve Almond «» Microsecond by Stacy Taylor «» All the Good People by Kathy Fish «» The Problem with Logic by Theresa Boyar «» Layover by H. A. Fleming «» The Girl and the Snake by TJ Rivard «» Indulgence by Brian Howell «» Other Times at Sunrise by Melanie Ann Campbell «» The Beauty Of Estelle by Darby Larson «» Carnivale by Pia Z. Ehrhardt «» Remembering Elizabeth by Bob Arter «» Tiny Bombers by Jeff Landon «» Green Socks, White Lies by Liesl Jobson «» Certitude by Rusty Barnes «» Interviews: Vanessa Gebbie «» Myfanwy Collins «» Sue Bond «» Susan Henderson «» Jen Wright «» Steve Almond «» Stacy Taylor «» Kathy Fish «» Theresa Boyar «» H. A. Fleming «» TJ Rivard «» Brian Howell «» Melanie Ann Campbell «» Darby Larson «» Pia Z. Ehrhardt «» Bob Arter «» Jeff Landon «» Liesl Jobson «» Rusty Barnes «» Cover Art "Jealousy" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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