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Authors: Richard Ford

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Off, streets away, I hear again the bells of St. Leo gong-gonging out carols for the spiritually wavering. “Doesn't feel much like Christmas,” I say.

“If you don't like the weather . . .” Ezekiel's going past me, smiling as if he has a secret.

“. . . just wait ten minutes,” I say. He is as fully expressed as anyone I know. “Are you heading for a big holiday, Mr. Lewis?” I say, standing by my still-warm car, taking him admiringly in.

“Oh, yeah. Count my blessings.” He's bending to slip the yellow card under the door bottom. Eddie will never see it. Ezekiel is a huge man, though dainty in his practiced movements. “Our church's taking a panel truck of food and whatever over to those people sufferin' on The Shore. Cain't do that much. But I'm here. So I cain't do nothin'.” He's headed back toward me in the sunny morning.

“That's right,” I say. It is. I will think on it more. Time fixes things, but it is also short, and precious.

“I started taking Spanish lessons at the Y,” Ezekiel says. A trace of heating oil scent accompanies him, his big, soiled workman's gloves in his hand. “Be'ahtrice and I are both doin' it. There's a church over in Asbury. A lot of 'em don't even speak our language. How they gon' make out?” He's nodding, his cheeks partly inflated by thought. Christmas is serious to him. An opportunity. Heating oil is secondary.

We're unexpectedly, then, trapped in the instant—too much sudden seriousness. We fall silent. Though he smiles at
me in recognition. I smile back. It becomes for us a moment to know the expanding largeness of it all.

“How's your son Ralph, Mr. Bascombe?” He means my son Paul. They knew each other long ago in school. It is a sweetness that brings tears to my eyes.

“He's fine, Ezekiel. He's just fine. I'll tell him you asked.”

“Is he still . . .” Ezekiel looks at me oddly. He's sensed his mistake and is transfixed. It is the finest of fine with me.

“He
is
,” I say. “He's still in Kansas City. He runs a garden supply out there.” I touch my fingertip to my eye's corner.

“He was always good with that,” Ezekiel says,

“He was,” I lie.

“All right then.” Ezekiel's moving. “Santa's gotta get on back to his sleigh and be flyin'.”

“You do that,” I say. He shakes my hand in his large, amazingly soft one. That is what we have a chance to say to each other on Christmas Eve. A few good words.

Then he goes. And I go. The day we have briefly shared is saved.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

My thanks to my great friend Daniel Halpern for encouraging the writing of this book. My thanks to my dear one Amanda Urban for being this book's advocate, and mine. My thanks, as well, to the wonderful Dale Rohrbaugh for invaluable and resourceful help. My thanks, also, to Laurie McGee, the best copy editor a boy could have. And thanks to Eleanor Kriseman for precious assistance in many phases of this book's life.

My thanks to Janet Henderson for long conversations over time, which vitally informed one of the stories here. My thanks to the Gros Morne Summer Music artists for playing Copland for me in Newfoundland. My thanks to my friend Philip Levine for his knowledge of obdurate pigs.

Several friends who inspired and affected this book's origins have sadly departed and are sorely missed: Holly Eley, whom I thank for her great wit; Jeff Levin, whom I thank for
his refinements, humor, and ingenuity; Bill Wyman, for his dear affection.

I also thank my lifelong friend Charlie Scott for being exemplary in life. And I thank most of all Kristina Ford for her countless grace notes.

—RF

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Photograph © by Greta Rybus

RICHARD FORD
is the author of the Bascombe novels, which include
The Sportswriter
and its sequels—
Independence Day
, the first novel to win both the Pulitzer Prize and the PEN/Faulkner Award, and
The Lay of the Land
—as well as the
New York Times
bestselling novel
Canada
and the short story collections
Rock Springs
and
A Multitude of Sins
, which contain many widely anthologized stories. He lives in Boothbay, Maine, with his wife, Kristina Ford.

Discover great authors, exclusive offers, and more at
hc.com
.

ALSO BY RICHARD FORD

A Piece of My Heart
(1976)

The Ultimate Good Luck
(1981)

The Sportswriter
(1986)

Rock Springs
(1987)

Wildlife
(1990)

Independence Day
(1995)

Women With Men: Three Stories
(1997)

A Multitude of Sins
(2002)

The Lay of the Land
(2006)

Canada
(2012)

CREDITS

COVER DESIGN BY ALLISON SALTZMAN

COVER PHOTOGRAPH © BY ROB LYBECK

COPYRIGHT

LET ME BE FRANK WITH YOU
. Copyright © 2014 by Richard Ford. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins e-books.

FIRST EDITION

ISBN 978-0-06-169206-2

EPub Edition NOVEMBER 2014 ISBN 9780062341631

14 15 16 17 18   
OV
/
RRD
   10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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BOOK: Let Me Be Frank With You
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