An excerpt from Andre Dubus III’s latest novel, forthcoming from W. W. Norton.
Just before the shelves of fasteners and adhesive is a barrel of threaded pipe, gray and an inch and a half wide and four feet long. They are just like the one that lies in the trunk of Mark’s car, and he grasps one. It is cool and hard, the sure diameter of it fitting nicely inside his fist.
He sees himself swinging it into the bald head of Frank Harrison, Jr., caving it in like a watermelon, the sheet pulled to Laura’s shoulders in the Marriot’s king-sized bed, her mouth hanging open in a silent scream.
But this image seems to come not from his life, but from a movie Mark saw as a boy and his hand lets go of the pipe and he keeps walking. How exhausted he is. Soon he finds the wood glue, a contractor’s grade in a long plastic bottle he drops into his cart. He moves through busy people and their busy sounds and he finds the tile section, its various tools that apparently make any flooring job easier: wet saws and rubber gloves, grout floats and sponges and big plastic buckets. His stomach is an empty cavern. There’s a throbbing in his forehead. Is he really going to do this? Take all this home and get on his hands and knees to repair the floor he no longer even treads? And does he even know how? Most of the process seems to be common sense, and there are directions on the side of the mortar bag, but will they be enough?