The New World
“For courage,” Starsky said as he poured another glass of wine.
“You don’t have to do this, you know,” replied Hutch.
“I want to tell you. It’s time.”
“I remember the snow…” began Starsky.
New York City had its first real snowstorm of the season that day. It had started snowing during lunch, a few tentative flakes that danced around the heads of the children as they played. He and his friends would laugh, then stop and look up, heads tilted back, mouths open to catch the darting flakes. Back at their desks, the room filled with the smell of wet wool, they recited times tables and drew maps of the New World. The teacher talked about Christopher Columbus and Davey daydreamed how the hill at the back of his house could be the New World, and his sled could be the Pinta, or maybe the Nina. Nicky’s sled would be the Santa Maria because that was the smallest ship and Nicky always acted like a baby anyway. All afternoon, he kept one eye on the window, checking to make sure it was still snowing. Last Tuesday it had started like this, but by the time they headed home it had stopped, and what had fallen melted away quickly. Davey had felt cheated and a little embarrassed for acting so excited. Today he would play it cool.
By 3:30, the cars in the teacher’s lot stood like softly rounded white sculptures against a background of grey sky, and someone had scrawled LET IT SNOW across the hood of Mr. Murphy’s station wagon. Davey knew that if it snowed enough they might close the school tomorrow. Maybe his father would get a snow day too and they could all go sledding on the hill or start the skating rink he promised to make for the boys.
Davey had to walk his brother home after school everyday and he hated it. The other kids always ran on ahead without him and though he tried to make Nicky walk faster so they could catch up, he was always one block and half a conversation behind his friends. One day he didn’t wait, he thought Nicky would take the hint and go home alone. But he cried, and his mother had to go get him, and everyone made a big fuss, which made Davey even madder at him. When his father asked him why he did it, Davey told him he was on strike like those men on the docks he heard the grownups talking about.
His father sighed, and then told Davey, “Brothers don’t go on strike. Taking care of Nicky is not a job, you do it because he’s your brother and you love him. The same reason I take care of you and your mother.” His father hugged him and told him to go to bed. Davey felt a little ashamed both of what he had done and of the tears filling his eyes. He wiped them away quickly before his father could see.
Today while he waited for his brother, he passed the time throwing snowballs at the girls. They squealed with feigned indignation, and then lingered by the fence as they brushed the snow from their coats, glancing back to make sure he was watching. Davey acted like he didn’t care, but threw another snowball at Jenny just so he could watch her laugh. He liked the way she always smiled at him when no one was looking. Nicky finally appeared, his coat undone and wearing only one mitten. Davey tried to remember what his father said while he zipped up his brother’s coat and dug the other mitten out of his schoolbag. He hoped his father knew how hard he was trying not to yell at Nicky.
His brother was even more excited about the snow than Davey was. He wanted to go straight to the hill. They knew it would get dark early and if they went home first, there would be no time to go back outside to play. “We can use our schoolbags for sleds, and we can race each other. Ma won’t mind. She’ll figure out where we are,” Nicky begged. Davey knew they would probably get in trouble, but he decided not to think about it. It would be worth it.
It was fun, and Davey forgot how much Nicky bugged him. They climbed the hill and flew down on their schoolbags like ships catching the wind. Then they did it again. Once they pretended the ships capsized, and they rolled down the hill screaming and laughing. Davey lost his hat in the snow, and the two boys pretended the hat was a puppy buried by a huge avalanche. Davey said the puppy could survive three minutes without air and they counted out loud as they searched.
They finally noticed it was dark. They didn’t know what time it was but their stomachs told them it was past supper. As they walked home together, feeling like brothers for the first time in a long time, they practiced the excuses they would use. Nicky thought he would tell Ma that he broke his leg on the ice and Davey had to take him to the hospital to fix it, and they didn’t have a dime for the phone. Davey would say they were chased by robbers and they had to hide out until it was safe. Then Nicky thought maybe they should say they met an alien and he took them to his spaceship, and they barely escaped with their lives. How could Dad be mad if he thought they had been in danger? He would be so happy they escaped; he would forget to be mad.
When they turned the corner onto their street, they saw the police car with its lights flashing in front of their house. Two cars he didn’t recognize were parked in the driveway. Davey’s heart sank; Ma must have called the police when they didn’t come straight home. This was going to be bad. He thought about turning back, but they had nowhere else to go. And they were both hungry. No matter how mad Ma got, she always made them supper. He decided to get it over with, he took a deep breath and his brother’s hand and stepped through the front door of their house.
“But the police weren’t there because of me and Nick, they were there because of my father....because of what happened. All I could think about later was that while we were playing, my father was dying.”
Starsky drained his wine glass, walked to the window and stared outside. Hutch thought how young his partner looked standing there in the soft light of sunset. The reds and oranges had washed out the little lines around Starsky’s eyes and mouth. Hutch remembered the night they took their first tentative steps towards their own New World. He remembered how his fingertips had traced the lines and contours of Starsky’s face as he softly repeated “This is mine….and this… and this.”
In all the years they had been together, first as partners and now as something more, Starsky never once spoke about the day his father was killed. But he had offered it up tonight as a gift to Hutch, proof there could be no secrets between them.
“I still miss him, you know.”
Hutch moved to stand beside him at the window. Starsky turned to face his partner and saw tears glistening in Hutch’s eyes. As Starsky gently wiped them away, he repeated the words that had been whispered to him months before, “These are mine… and these….and these.” Finally, his hand moved to rest over Hutch’s heart and he smiled and said, “And this is mine.”