More about Burke

That summer, her parents divorced and they moved away to Dallas. Her father stayed in town, his longtime family home, rather than selling the business and moving to Belize, where he still owned a house and went for the summer. He was a war veteran, an original Navy SEAL. By junior year of high school, Burke wanted to join the service and sought advice from Erica's father, asking if he knew the famous Marlenko. "Yes I did," he said. "Total psycho." Erica's father's woman emerged from the house with two glasses of unsweetened iced tea. "Burke wants to join the Navy?" She liked him from her elementary art classes, for his small but sharp talent. "Wants to see the world," Erica’s father said, “maybe get himself killed." The woman, having made no gesture to stay outside for the conversation, continued inside without comment. Burke wondered about the benefits of education in the service, saying the Army promised a University of Chicago degree, through satellite campuses around the globe.
"Are you applying to Annapolis?"
"I have bad grades."
"What else do you have going?"
"What do you mean?"
"Besides talking to military recruiters."
"Nothing. I mean, I don't know. I like computers."
"There you are, computers," he inhaled, as avoiding a car accident. "That's something," he said, nodding. "That's something."
Over the winter of senior year, Burke stayed the weekend in juvenile detention for stealing from the country club. Handed to police for several things, but the several unopened bottles from the country club had been incriminating. He was relieved to find himself the largest boy in the center, and the least immediately disturbed. One had taken a baseball bat to his father and he cried when Burke left.
Upon release, the judge assigned a hundred hours of community service. The school sent him to the district psychologist, Dr. Allen. Burke impressed him on a test, and the retired professor wanted to make sure that Burke would stay in school. "You remind me of myself," he said. "My principal hated me," continued the professor, appealing to circumstance. "I got myself into a fix in high school. He didn't know I went on to college, and when he saw me the next time, it was on the bus. I was working on the carburetor of my car. You see, I like to work with my hands, and they were dirty. So he saw me on the bus, asking how I was doing. I told him I was in the PhD program at the university. And he said, 'Allen, you're a liar!' And he died believing that."
Dr. Allen convinced Burke to go to college, citing the merits of the research libraries at either of the major state schools. Burke sent his application to Kansas by the end of the week. It was March. By May it was sure he could attend the university. Also that they would enroll him in remedial math. Burke picked up dated algebra and trigonometry textbooks from the free shelves in the high school library, proceeding through both of them by August. During his first week on campus, having tested into the credit course he wanted, all was well in the world. I love this, he thought, bounding the stairs to the sixth floor, his room overlooking campus from the west.
Burke improved his grades and worked as a cook, part-time. The waitress registered his melancholy, working out his shoulders with her hands between orders, leaning over him from behind, her chest against his head, her long, straight black hair drawn about his face, rustling his cheeks until he smiled. At night he dreamed of her. She kept a dragon and a falcon, sent the falcon up to be followed by the dragon, a child's dream. She was delighted to hear about it.
Burke sent for a credit card and, receiving it the following week, bought a nice camera. He took it to work, aiming the lens at everything in the kitchen, where the light was, or out behind the restaurant in the alley, though interiors won him over. Taking pictures of cooking eggs, hashbrowns and bacon, he arranged their prints in long strips by degree of preparedness for serving, producing artwork for his dorm room walls.

The End

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