“I’m going to move to Oklahoma,” Rock Shop said, “and work in high-rise construction.”
We were in a bar in Little Falls, New York. Rock Shop’s real name was Lawrence but his father used to own a diamond store that was called the Rock Shop and so I called him Rock Shop. By this point his father had lost the shop and then died and Rock Shop was too old to have a nickname that I’d given him in high school and I was too old to be calling him by a nickname that I’d given him in high school, but I called him Rock Shop because it was too late to start pretending he and I were something we were not, even though now Rock Shop was pretending he was going to work in high-rise construction in Oklahoma and even though over the days and months and years before this we’d sat in this bar too early in the morning (it was too early in the morning) and pretended we were going to move to North Carolina, California, Florida, Georgia, and Texas and work high-rise construction.
“Someone bombed Oklahoma City,” he said. He’d said this earlier. This was how we’d gotten started on the subject of Oklahoma.
“How could they tell?” I said, and we laughed, even though had we looked out the window (we did not look out the window) we would have seen the building that had once been the Rock Shop and was now For Lease and had been For Lease forever and which Rock Shop and I, when we were not talking about moving somewhere warm to work in high-rise construction, talked about burning to the ground for the insurance, even though neither of us owned the building or its insurance policy, and even though neither of us had ever been to Oklahoma City to know what it looked like, pre or post-bombing. We’d never been to Oklahoma. We’d never been anywhere at all.
Brock Clarke is the author of five books, most recently Exley (which was named a Kirkus book of the year) and An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England (which was a national bestseller and has appeared in a dozen foreign editions). His stories and essays have appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review, One Story, The Believer, The Georgia Review, The Southern Review, The New York Times, and Ninth Letter, and have appeared in the annual Pushcart Prize and New Stories from the South anthologies and on NPR’s Selected Shorts. He is the Boston Globe’s “By the Book” columnist, and teaches creative writing at Bowdoin College.