Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane Read Online (FREE)
Originally published: May 28, 2019
Author: Mary Beth Keane
Genres: Coming-of-Age Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Nominations: Goodreads Choice Awards Best Fiction
FRANCIS GLEESON, TALL AND thin in his powder blue policeman’s uniform, stepped out of the sun and into the shadow of the stocky stone building that was the station house of the Forty-First Precinct. A pair of pantyhose had been hung to dry on a fourth floor fire escape near 167th, and while he waited for another rookie, a cop named Stanhope, Francis noted the perfect stillness of those gossamer legs, the delicate curve where the heel was meant to be. Another building had burned the night before and Francis figured it was now like so many others in the Four-One: nothing left but a hollowed-out shell and a blackened staircase within. The neighborhood kids had all watched it burn from the roofs and fire escapes where they’d dragged their mattresses on that first truly hot day in June. Now, from a block away, Francis could hear them begging the firemen to leave just one hydrant open. He could imagine them hopping back and forth as the pavement grew hot again under their feet.
He looked at his watch and back at the station house door and wondered where Stanhope could be.
Eighty-eight degrees already and not even ten o’clock in the morning. This was the great shock of America, winters that would cut the face off a person, summers that were as thick and as soggy as bogs. “You whine like a narrowback,” his uncle Patsy had said to him that morning. “The heat, the heat, the heat.” But Patsy pulled pints inside a cool pub all day. Francis would be walking a beat, dark rings under his arms within fifteen minutes.
“Where’s Stanhope?” Francis asked a pair of fellow rookies also heading out for patrol.
“Trouble with his locker, I think,” one said back.
Finally, after another whole minute ticked by, Brian Stanhope came bounding down the station house steps. He and Francis had met on the first day of academy, and it was by chance that they’d both ended up at the Four-One. In academy, they’d been in a tactics class together, and after a week or so Stanhope approached Francis as they were filing out the classroom door. “You’re Irish, right? Off the boat Irish, I mean?”
Francis said he was from the west, from Galway. And he’d taken a plane, but he didn’t say that part.
“I thought so. So’s my girlfriend. She’s from Dublin. So let me ask you something.”
To Francis, Dublin felt as far from Galway as New York did, but to a Yank, he supposed, it was all the same.
Francis braced for something more personal than he wanted to be asked. It was one of the first things he’d noticed about America, that everyone felt at ease asking each other any question that came into their minds. Where do you live, who do you live with, what’s your rent, what did you do last weekend? To Francis, who felt embarrassed lining up his groceries on the checkout belt of the Associated in Bay Ridge, it was all a little too much. “Big night,” the checkout clerk had commented last time he was there. A six-pack of Budweiser. A pair of potatoes. Deodorant.