Read The Good Neighbor Online

Authors: William Kowalski

Tags: #Fiction, #General

The Good Neighbor


HarperCollins
e-books

The Good Neighbor

THE

GOOD NEIGHBOR

A NO VEL

W
ILLIAM
K
OWALSKI

For Kasia, my little girl, and also

young Ethan Lars

Contents

Author's
Note

v

PART ONE

  1. Going Home • 3

  2. The End of the Golden Age • 11

  3. The Brass Ring • 25

  4. The Blood of Angels • 37

  5. A Historical Digression • 45

    PART TWO

  6. The Prescription • 65

  7. Things as They Ought to Be • 83

  8. Survival of the Fittest • 89

  9. The Chicken of Despair • 99

  10. Drink This to Make It Better • 107

  11. The Visitor • 119

  12. White Men from the Future • 125

  13. The Diary of Marly Musgrove • 137

  14. The Cemetery • 151

  15. Breathing • 161

  16. Zero-G • 169

  17. A Historical Digression (Continued) • 185

iv

C
ONTENTS

PART THREE

18

Where Old Machines Come to Die • 207

19

Rumors • 225

20

Cruelty • 233

21

Disinterment • 243

22

The Necrophobe • 247

23

The Morgue • 261

24

The Collision • 267

25

The Confession • 271

26

Forgiveness • 279

27

Judgment • 297

28

The Offer • 309

29

Heading North • 327

30

The Hearing • 331

31

A Historical Digression (Concluded) • 341

PART FOUR

32

The Turkey of Bliss • 353

33

Getting Ready • 365

34

Once More to the Apartment • 371

35

Everything Is Connected • 375

36

To Live at Adencourt • 387

37

Sold • 397

Epilogue
• 399

About the Author

Praise

Other Books by William K
owalski Credits

Cover Copyright

About the Publisher

Author’s Note

I would like to express my appreciation to my wife, Alexandra, my agent, Anne Hawkins, and my editor, Marjorie Braman, for their continued support during the writing of this book. Nathan Sidoli and Michael Wolfe were also helpful, and Paul Romaine gave generously of his time and energy in helping me see the world through the eyes of a professional stock trader. Larry Finlay, my editor in the U.K., has been a constant source of optimism and encouragement. Without these people and others, this novel would not have come to be, and they have my full and unending gratitude.

The town of Plainsburg, Pennsylvania, is fictitious, and should not be confused with any actual place.

William Kowalski

Part One

1

Going Home

I
n the morning, the river seemed flat and still. At this early hour, there was no depth to it; it was as if one could bend down and

pinch the water between thumb and forefinger and just peel it away, like a bandage, and underneath, the earth would be dry. There would be bones down there, and other secrets, too, whis pering of the things that had already happened in that place, as well as things that were to come—but they wouldn’t have known any of this, not yet.

They came around that last bend in the road, where the bluff ends and the river plain begins, and the valley opened up before them like a drawing from a long-forgotten children’s book. There was the house on one side of the road, and the thin, silent river on the other. Growing along the river were trees in profusion— Francie saw wise sycamores, tentative birches, and weeping wil lows, as well as several sprightly young oaks and one stately old one. In their brilliant headdresses, they seemed to her like torches that had been stuck in the earth and left there to glower against

4
W
ILLIAM
K
OWALSKI

the ragged gray belly of the sky. It was fall, the best time of the year in that part of the world.

Later, like jealous explorers, they would argue about who had seen the house first, Francine or Coltrane. It was difficult to deter mine, because the house wasn’t the only thing to come to the eye once one had swung around the bend. There was too much else to look at. There were the rumpled mountains in the distance, for example, unstriking in either height or appearance, but lending a softening distraction to the scene, as if they were not real but a background image done in paint or chalk. They looked like some thing you could jump into, Francie thought, like the park scene in
Mary Poppins
. Also, there was the river, and all around them, the broad, fecund fields, whose varying greenness was still defiant and bright, so early was it still in this new season of dying. There was the road, which unspooled over the hilltop in the foreground like a runaway ribbon. But, really, it was the trees that got you first, with their colors of priestly saffron and Martian red.

Francie would later tell Colt that he could not possibly have seen the house first, because he was driving, and it was tucked away on her side of the car. She let him have credit for discovering the river, because she didn’t care about the river. She only cared about the house, and from the moment she saw it—it really
was
she who saw it first, though they both exclaimed about it at the same time—it was as if she’d never cared about any other place in her life until now.

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