Billy Schnupp crossed and re-crossed his hands over the kitchen table.
“You’re not going to do it,” Maggie said. She stared at the percolator on the stove.
“Well, why the hell not?”
His argument was not convincing himself either.
“Because you know it’s stupid, and it goes against...”
“Yes. And because you know better.”
The baby began to fuss.
“No. It goes against opposing batters, and I’ll be the winner.” He twisted his wedding band. “You and me will be the goddamn winners.”
She went to the earthen jar and pulled up their bread knife. She clattered it onto the table.
“Then do it.”
Billy sighed. “Dr. Carroll said he will.”
“A degenerate gambler.”
“He brought you, me and Em into the world.”
“Degenerate.” She wished that the coffee would hurry.
Billy frowned at his hands and at the knife.
“Honey, this pitch is gonna work.”
“Yeah, yeah... Teddy.”
“Oh, yes, our dear Edward Devins, the drunken, irresponsible cheat.”
“That was only once.”
He looked again at his hands on the table. He examined the true blade of the knife, comparing its edge to that of a scalpel. He used both hands to rub his forehead. The percolator began to pop. She wiped her hands on her apron, and he could feel her gaze. He could feel her gaze upon the knife.
“Do you think either one of them would stick by you if it didn’t work? They wouldn’t need you anymore, so why don’t you cut out the middlemen? Why don’t you do it yourself?”
“It would be for you and Em.”
“Then do it. Do it for me.”
As only a woman can, in one motion she banged down a cup of coffee without a spill, snatched the bread knife, and shoved the handle into his palm.
“Make us all rich,” she said.
“I don’t get you. I’ve got a way to do it, the curveball to beat all, the curve, and you don’t want me to do it.” He looked at his hands. “I don’t need it so much. I don’t even want it so much.” He poked the knife hard into the Formica, and the steel blade bounced, startling him. “It’s only a fuckin’ finger. What difference does it make?”
She sat down with her own cup of coffee, smoothing her apron as she did. Her fingers splashed over her thighs in a manner that neither he nor she noticed.
“Billy, it matters to me.”