Nebraska Center for Writers

THE LEAST YOU NEED TO KNOW
by LEE MARTIN

When I was a boy, my father cleaned up crime scenes. Murders, suicides: after the police had sorted everything out, he was the one the insurance companies called. "It's a hell of a thing," he told me once. "To see what I see. Believe me, Telly. You wouldn't want to know."
I was fifteen then, in 1961, and from time to time one of the hoodlums at my school would press me for details, and I would oblige, inventing Police Gazette stories of pulp and gore. My talent for spinning these lies disgusted me, but in those days, I was strictly Varsity Club--I ran track, practiced debate, sat on the student senate--and I used my father's job to win a hold with a crowd unlike my own. These were the boys who had never abandoned their ducktails and pompadours for the short bristles of crew cuts and flat tops. They were juvenile delinquents, my father said. Their lives, he assured me, would amount to squat.
But that didn't stop me from envying their sneers and slouches, their motorcycle jackets, the very smell of them--Lucky Strikes and Vitalis. It was the scent of back seats and billiard parlors, of dark worlds I dreamed about, but never dared enter. There were limits, I suspected, to how far someone could travel into danger and come back healthy and whole....

Reprinted with permission
from The Least You Need to Know
Copyright © 1996
by Lee Martin
Sarabande Books


THE PRICE IS THE PRICE
by LEE MARTIN

My brother was a man named Leonard Salk, but in 1955 he was known as Buddy Day.
"All of a sudden he thinks he's a Gentile." In the dead hours of the afternoon, when it was only the two of us in the shoe store, my father would remind me what a traitor Lenny was. "Him with his bleached-blond hair and his fancy-schmanzy clothes. Cowboy boots, for Pete's sake. Somewhere in Heaven, your grandfather is cursing him. Your grandfather who sat forty-nine years of his life, curled over a shoe last, pounding leather, making an honest wage. Your grandfather, Julius Salk. A name we should all be proud of. Salk. An honorable name. Like the polio guy."
"Jonas," I said.
"That's right, Mr. Smarty-Pants."
The way my father saw it Jonas Salk had saved the shoe industry when he invented his vaccine. If polio still ran rampant, the fewer people there would be walking. And the fewer people walking--well, there you had it....

Reprinted with permission
from The Least You Need to Know
Copyright © 1996
by Lee Martin
Sarabande Books

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