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14. Apr 2006, 00:10:20
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Hapworth 16, 1924



Some comment in advance, as plain and bare as I can make it: My name, first, is Buddy Glass, and for a great many years of my life--very possibly all forty-six--I have felt myself installed, elaborately wired, and occasionally, plugged in, for the purpose of shedding some light on the short, reticulate life and times of my late, eldest brother, Seymour Glass, who died, committed suicide, opted to discontinue living, back in 1948, when he was thirty-one.

I intend, right now, probably on this same sheet of paper, to make a start at typing up an exact copy of a letter of Seymour's that, until four hours ago, I had never read before in my life. My mother, Bessie Glass, sent it up by registered mail.

This is Friday. Last Wednesday night, over the phone, I happened to tell Bessie that I had been working for several months on a long short story about a particular party, a very consequential party, that she and Seymour and my father and I all went to one night in 1926. This last fact has some small but, I think, rather marvelous relevance to the letter at hand. Not a nice word, I grant you, "marvelous," but it seems to suit.

No further comment, except to repeat that I mean to type up an exact copy of the letter, word for word, comma for comma. Beginning here, May 28, 1965.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Camp Simon Hapworth
Hapworth Lake
Hapworth, Maine
Hapworth 16, 1924, or quite
in the lap of the gods!!
Dear Bessie, Les, Beatrice, Walter, and Waker:

I will write for us both, I believe, as Buddy is engaged elsewhere for an indefinite period of time. Surely sixty to eighty per cent of the time, to my eternal amusement and sorrow, that magnificent, elusive, comical lad is engaged elsewhere! As you must know in your hearts and bowels, we miss you all like sheer hell. Unfortunately, I am far from above hoping the case is vice versa. This is a matter of quite a little humorous despair to me, though not so humorous. It is entirely disgusting to be forever achieving little actions of the heart or body and then taking recourse to reaction. I am utterly convinced that if A's hat blows off while he is sauntering down the street, it is the charming duty of B to pick it up and hand it to A without examining A's face or combing it for gratitude! My God, let me achieve missing my beloved family without yearning that they quite miss me in return! It requires a less wishy-washy character than the one available to me. My God, however, on the other side of the ledger, it is a pure fact that you are utterly haunting persons in simple retrospect! How we miss every excitable, emotionable face among you! I was born without any great support in the event of continued absence of loved ones. It is a simple, nagging, humorous fact that my independence is skin deep, unlike that of my elusive, younger brother and fellow camper.

While bearing in mind that my loss of you is very acute today, hardly bearable in the last analysis, I am also snatching this stunning opportunity to use my new and entirely trivial mastery of written construction and decent sentence formation as explained and slightly enriched upon in that small book, alternately priceless and sheer crap, which you saw me pouring over to excess during the difficult days prior to our departure to this place. Though this is quite a terrible bore for you, dear Bessie and Les, superb or suitable construction of sentences holds some passing, amusing importance for a young fool like myself! It would be quite a relief to rid my system of fustian this year. It is in danger of destroying my possible future as a young poet, private scholar, and unaffected person. I beg you both, and perhaps Miss Overman, should you drop by at the library or run into her at your leisure, to please run a cold eye over all the fellows and then notify me immediately if you uncover any glaring or merely sloppy errors in fundamental construction, grammar, punctuation, or excellent taste. Should you indeed run into Miss Overman by accident or design, please ask her to be merciless and deadly toward me in this little matter, assuring her amiably that I am sick to death of the wide gap of embarrassing differences, among other things, between my writing and speaking voices! It is rotten and worrisome to have two voices. Also please extend to that gracious, unsung woman my everlasting love and respect. Would to God that you, my acknowledged loved ones, would cease and cut out thinking of her in your minds as a fuddy duddy. She is far from being a fuddy duddy. In her disarming, modest way, that little bit of woman has quite a lot of the simplicity and dear fortitude of an unrecorded heroine of the Civil or Crimean War, perhaps the most moving wars of the last few centuries. My God, please take the slight trouble to remember that this worthy woman and spinster has no comfortable home in the present century! The current century, unfortunately, is a vulgar embarrassment to her from the word go! In her heart of hearts, she would zestfully live out her remaining years as a charming, intimate neighbor of Elizabeth and Jane Bennet, continually being approached by those unequally delicious heroines of "Pride and Prejudice" for sensible and worldly advice. She is not even a librarian at heart, unfortunately. At all events, please offer her any generous specimen of this letter that does not look too personal or vulgar to you, prevailing on her at the same time not to pass too heavy judgment on my penmanship again. Frankly, my penmanship is not worth the wear and tear on her patience, dwindling energies, and very shaky sense of reality. Also frankly, while my penmanship will improve a little as I grow older, looking less and less like the expression of a demented person, it is mostly beyond redemption. My personal instability and too much emotion will ever be plainly marked in every stroke of the pen, quite unfortunately.

Bessie! Les! Fellow children! God Almighty, how I miss you on this pleasant, idle morning! Pale sunshine is streaming through a very pleasing, filthy window as I lie forcibly abed here. Your humorous, excitable, beautiful faces, I can assure you, are suspended before me as perfectly as if they were on delightful strings from the ceiling! We are both in very satisfactory health, Bessie sweetheart. Buddy is eating quite beautifully when the meals are stomachable. While the food itself is not atrocious, it is cooked without a morsel of affection or inspiration, each string bean and simple carrot arriving on the camper's plate quite stripped if its tiny vegetal soul. The food situation could change in a trice, to be sure, if Mr. and Mrs. Nelson, the cooks, man and wife, a very hellish marriage from casual appearances, would only dare to imagine that every boy who comes into their mess hall is their own beloved child, regardless of from whose loins he sprang into this particular appearance. However, if you had the racking opportunity of chatting for a few minutes with these two persons, you would quite know this is like asking for the moon. A nameless inertia hangs over these two, alternating with fits of unreasonable wrath, stripping them of any will or desire to prepare creditable, affectionate food or even to keep the bent silverware on the tables spotless and clean as a whistle. The sight of the forks alone often whips Buddy into a raw fury. He is working on this tendency, but a revolting fork is a revolting fork. Also, past a certain important, touching point, I am far from liberty to tamper with that splendid lad's furies, considering his age and stunning function in life.

On second thought, please do say anything to Miss Overman about my penmanship. It is best for her daily and hourly position to dwell or harp on my rotten penmanship to her heart's content. I am inutterably in that good woman's debt! She has been meticulously trained by the Board of Education. Quite unfortunately, my rotten penmanship, coupled with the subject of the late hours I enjoy keeping, are very often the only grounds for discussion she finds thoroughly comfortable and familiar. I do not yet know where I have failed her in this respect. I suspect I got us off on the wrong foot when I was younger by allowing her think I am a very serious boy simply because I am an omnivorous reader. Unwittingly, I have left her no decent, human notions that ninety-eight per cent of my life, thank God, has nothing to do with the dubious pursuit of knowledge. We sometimes exchange little persiflages at her desk or while we are stepping over to the card catalogues, but they are very false persiflages, quite without decent bowels. It is very burdensome to us both to have regular communication without bowels, human silliness, and the common knowledge, quite delightful and enlivening in my opinion, that everybody seated in the library has a gall bladder and various other, touching organs under their skin. There is much more to the question than this, but I cannot pursue it profitably today. My emotions are too damnably raw today, I fear. Also the precious five of you are innumerable miles from this place and it is always too damned easy to fail to remember how little I can stand useless separations. While this is often a very stimulating and touching place, I personally suspect that certain children in this world, like your magnificent son Buddy as well as myself, are perhaps best suited to enjoying this privilege only in a dire emergency or when they know great discord in their family life. But let me quickly pass on to more general topics. Oh, my God, I am relishing this leisurely communication!

The majority of young campers here, you will be glad to know, could not possibly be nicer or more heartrending from day to day, particularly when they are not thriving with suspicious bliss in cliques that insure popularity or dubious prestige. Few boys, thank God with a bursting heart, that we have run into here are not the very salt of the earth when you can exchange a little conversation with them away from their damn intimates. Unfortunately, here as elsewhere on this touching planet, imitation is the watchword and prestige the highest ambition. It is not my business to worry about the general situation, but I am hardly made of steel. Few of these magnificent, healthy, sometimes remarkably handsome boys will mature. The majority, I will give you my heartbreaking opinion, will merely senesce. Is that a picture to tolerate in one's heart? On the contrary, it is a picture to rip the heart to pieces. The counselors themselves are counselors in name only. Most of them appear slated to go through their entire lives, from birth to dusty death, with picayune, stunted attitudes toward everything in the universe and beyond. This is a cruel and harsh statement, to be sure. It fails to be harsh enough! You think I am a kind fellow at heart, is that not so? God reward me with hailstones and rock, I am not! No single day passes that I do not listen to the heartless indifferences and stupidities passing from the counselors' lips without secretly wishing I could improve matters quite substantially by bashing a few culprits over the head with an excellent shovel or stout club! I would be less heartless, I am hoping, if the young campers themselves were not so damned heartrending and thrilling in their basic nature. Perhaps the most heartrending boy within sound of my ridiculous voice is Griffith Hammersmith. Oh, what a heartrending boy he is! His very name brings the usual fluid to my eyes when I am not exercising decent control over my emotions; I am working daily on this emotional tendency while I am here, but I am doing quite poorly. Would to God that loving parents would wait and see their children at a practical age before they name them Griffith or something else that will by no means ease the little personality's burdens in life. My own first name "Seymour" was quite a gigantic, innocent mistake, for some attractive diminutive-like "Chuck" or even "Tip" or "Connie" might have been more comfortable for adults and teachers wont to address me in casual conversation; so I have some acquaintance with this petty problem. He, young Griffith Hammersmith, is also seven; however I am his senior by a brisk and quite trivial matter of three weeks. In the physical bulk, he is the smallest boy in the entire camp, being smaller, to one's amazement and sadness, than your magnificent son Buddy, despite the gross age difference of two years. His load in this appearance in the world is staggering. Please consider the following crosses the excellent, droll, touching, intelligent lad has to bear. Resign yourselves to ripping your hearts out by the roots!

A) He has a severe speech impediment. It amounts to far more than a      charming lisp, his entire body stumbling at the brink of conversation, so counselors and other adults are not diverted.
B) This little child has to sleep with a rubber sheet on his bed for obvious reasons, similar to our own dear Waker, but quite different in the last analysis. Young Hammersmith's bladder has given up all hope of soliciting any interest or favor.
C) He has had nine (9) different toothbrushes since camp quite opened. He buries or hides them in the woods, like a chap of three or four conceals them beneath the leaves and other crap under his bungalow. This he does without humor or revenge or private relish. There is quite an element of revenge in it, but he is not at liberty to enjoy his revenge to the hilt or get any keen satisfaction out of it, so totally has his spirit been dampened or quite smothered by his relatives. The situation is thoroughly subtle and rotten, I assure you.
He, young Griffith Hammersmith, follows your two eldest sons around quite a bit, often pursuing us into every nook and cranny. He is excellent, touching, intelligent company when he is not being hounded by his past and present. His future, I am fairly sick to death to say, looks abominable. I would bring him home with us after camp is over in a minute, with complete confidence, joy, and abandon, were he an orphan. He has a mother, however, a young divorcee with an exquisite, swanky face slightly ravaged by vanity and self-love and a few silly disappointments in life, though not silly to her, we may be sure. One's heart and pure sensuality go out to her, we have found, even though she does have such a maddening, crappy job as a mother and woman. Last Sunday afternoon, a stunning day, utterly cloudless, she popped by and invited us to join her and Griffith for a spin in their imposing, ritzy Pierce-Arrow, to be followed by a snack at the Elms before returning. We regretfully declined the invitation. Jesus, it was a frigid invitation! I have heard some stunning, frigid invitations in my time, but this one quite took the cake! I am hoping you would have been slightly amused by her utterly false, friendly gesture, Bessie, but I doubt it; you are not old enough, sweetheart! Not too deep in Mrs. Hammersmith's transparent, slightly comical heart, she was keenly disappointed that we are Griffith's best friends at camp, her mind and admirably quick eye instantaneously preferring Richard Mace and Donald Weigmuller, two members of Griffith's own bungalow and more to her taste. The reasons were quite obvious, but I will not go into them in an ordinary, sociable letter to one's family. With the passage of time, I am getting used to this stuff; and your son Buddy, as you have ample reason to know, is no man's fool, despite his charming, tender age on the surface. However, for a young, attractive, bitter, lonely mother with all the municipal advantages of swanky, patrician, facial features, great monetary wealth, unlimited entree, and bejewel fingers to show this kind of social disappointment in full view of her young son, a callow child already cursed with a nervous and lonely bladder, is fairly inexcusable and hopeless. Hopeless is too broad, but I see no solution on the horizon to damnable and subtle matters of this kind. I am working on it, but one must of necessity consider my youth and quite limited experience in this appearance.
At first, as you know, they put us into different bungalows in their folly, advancing on the premise that it is quite sound and broadening to separate brothers and various members of the same family. However, acting upon a casual, comical remark made by your incomparable son Buddy, with which I heartily concurred, we had a damned pleasant chat with Mrs. Happy on the third or fourth ridiculous day, pointing out to her how completely easy it is to forget Buddy’s absurd, budding age and delightfully human need for conversation and lightning riposte, with the lively result that Buddy got permission to move his personal effects as well as his own fine, puny, humorous body in here the following Saturday after inspection. We both continue to find relief, pleasure, and simple justice in this turn of affairs. I am hoping to hell you get to know Mrs. Happy quite intimately when or if you get an opportunity to come up or resourcefully make one. Picture yourselves a gorgeous brunette, perky, quite musical, with a very nice little sense of humor! It requires all one’s power of self-control to keep from taking her one’s arms when she is strolling about on the grass in one of her tasteful frocks. Her appreciation and fairly spontaneous love for your son Buddy is a handsome bonus to me, making tears spring to the eyes when least expected. One of the many thrills of my existence is to see a young, gorgeous girl or woman from sheer instinct recognize this young lad’s worth within a quarter of an hour of casual conversation beside a charming brook that is drying up. Jesus, life has its share of honorable thrills if one but keeps one’s eyes open! She, Mrs. Happy, is also a big fan of yours, Bessie and Les, having seen you many times before the footlight in Gotham, usually at the Riverside, near their residence. She unwittingly shares with you, Bessie, a touching heritage of quite perfect legs, ankles, saucy bosoms, very fresh, cute, hind quarters, and remarkable little feet with quite handsome, small toes. You know yourselves what an unexpected bonus it is to run into a fully grown adult with splendid or even presentable toes in the last analysis; usually, disastrous things happen to the toes after they leave a darling child’s body, you would agree. God bless this gorgeous kid’s heart! It is sometimes impossible to believe that this haunting, peppy beauty is fifteen (15) years my senior! I leave it to your own fine and dear judgment, Bessie and Les, whether to allow the younger children to get wind of this, but if perfect frankness is to pass between parent and child as freely by mail as in loving person, which is the relationship I have striven for during my entire life with increasing slight success, then I must admit, in all joviality, to moments when this cute, ravishing girl, Mrs. Happy, unwittingly rouses all my unlimited sensuality. Considering my absurd age, the situation has its humorous side, to be sure, but merely in simple retrospect, I regret to say. On two or three haunting occasions when I have accepted her kind invitation to stop by at the main bungalow for some cocoa or cold beverage after Aquatics Period, I have looked forward with mounting pleasure to the possibility, all too slight for words, of her opening the door, quite unwittingly, in the raw. This is not a comical tumult of emotions while it is going on, I repeat, but merely in simple retrospect. I have not yet discussed this indelicate matter with Buddy, whose sensuality is beginning to flower at the same tender and quite premature age that mine did, but he has already quite guessed that this lovely creature has me in sensual thrall and he has made several humorous remarks. Oh, my God, it is an honor and privilege to be connected to this arresting young lad and secret genius who will not accept my conversational ruses for the truth! The problem of Mrs. Happy will pass into oblivion as this summer draws to a close, but it would be a great boon, dear Les, if you would recognize that we share your heritage of sensuality, including the telltale ridge of carnality just below your own heavy, sensual, bottom lip, as does our own marvelous, youthful brother, the splendid Walter F. Glass, young Beatrice and Waker Glass, those sterling personages, being comparatively free of the telltale ridge in question. Usually, I think you will agree, I freely trample on the signs to go by in the human face, for they are absolutely unreliable or may be obliterated or altered by Father Time, but I never trample on the ridge below the bottom lip, usually a darker shade of red than the rest of the lips. I will not harp on the subject of karma, knowing and quite sympathizing with your disdain for my absorbing and accidental interest in this subject, but I give you my word of honor that the ridge in question is little more than a karmic responsibility; one meets it, one conquers it, or if one does not conquer it, one enters into honorable contest with it, seeking and giving no quarter. I for one do not look forward to being distracted by the charming lusts of the body, quite day in and day out, for the few, blissful, remaining years allotted to me in this appearance. There is monumental work to be done in this appearance, of particularly undisclosed nature, and I would cheerfully prefer to die an utter dog’s death rather than be distracted at crucial moments by a gorgeous, appealing plane or rolling contour of goodly flesh. My time is too limited, quite to my sadness and amusement. While I intend, to be sure, to work on this sensual problem without ceasing, it would be quite a little windfall if you, dear Les, as my dear father and hearty friend, would be a complete, shameless, open book with regard to your own pressing sensuality when you were our ages. I have had an opportunity of reading one or two books dealing with sensuality, but they are either inflaming or inhumanely written, yielding little fruit for thought. I am not asking to know what sensual acts you performed when you were our ages; I am asking something worse; I am asking to know what imaginary sensual acts gave lively, unmentionable entertainment to your mind. Without the mind, sensuality quite has no organs to call her own! I fervently urge you to be shameless in this manner. We are human boys and would not love or respect you the less, quite the contrary, if you laid bare your earliest and worst sensual thoughts before us; I am certain we would find them very touching and moving. A decent, utterly frank criterion is always splendid, temporary use to a young person. In addition, it is not in your son Buddy’s nature or mine or your son Walter’s to be in the least shocked or disgusted by any sweet, earthly side of humankind. Indeed, all forms of human folly and bestiality touch a very sympathetic chord within our breast!
Ye gods and little fishes! How cheerfully rewarding it is to have a little leisure for communication with one’s family during one’s busy camp life! You can easily fail to suspect how damn much blessed time I have on my hands today to attend to the needs of the heart and mind; full explanation to follow shortly.
Continuing my description, confidential and quite presumptuous, of Mrs. Happy, whom I know you could learn to love or pity, she is at great pains in private not to let her rather rotten married life spoil the happiness and sweet burden of having a baby. She is currently pregnant, though having at least six or seven months to go before the event that she understands so badly takes place. It is an up hill struggle for her all the way. She is verily a poor kid with a tiny, distended stomach and a head full of very touching crap based on confusion, maddening books by doctors who share the same popular, narrow horizons, and the information supplied by a dear friend, with whom she roomed at college, a superb bridge player, I understand, named Virginia. Unfortunately, this whole camp is loaded with heartrending, rotten marriages, but she, Mrs. Happy, is the only pregnant person abroad, to my knowledge. Hence, in the absence of the above Virginia, Mrs. Happy has enrolled my services as a conversationalist, these being the services of a child of seven, mind you! It affords me unlimited worry, also trivial amusement on occasion, I am ashamed to say, that she is practically unconscious that she is freely employing a child my age as an audience; however, she is a shy, tremendous talker; if she were not spilling these sad beans to me. to be sure, she would be spilling them to some other emotional face that came along. One is obliged to take everything she says with innumerable grains of salt. She is really a foreigner, though a cute one, to absolute honesty of conversation. She believes that she is a very affectionate person and that Mr. Happy is an unaffectionate person. It is a very conversational theory, but sheer crap, unfortunately. As God as my judge, Mr. Happy is no prize package, but he is quite definitely an affectionate person. At the other end of the pole, unfortunately, Mrs. Happy is a very tenderhearted, quite unaffectionate person. One burns with impatience toward her delusions when one is not secretly coveting her beauty! She does not even know enough on occasion to pick up a little child like your own Buddy, far from his mother and other loved ones, and give him a decent kiss that will resound through the surrounding forest! She so easily has no human idea of the terrible need for ordinary kissing in this wide, ungenerous world! A flashing, charming smile is quite insufficient. A delicious cup of cocoa, decorated with a thoughtful marshmallow, is no decent substitute for a kiss or hearty embrace where a child of five is concerned. She is in more hot water than she knows, I freely suspect.  If I am powerless to be of slight use to her as conversationalist before the summer is over, this lovely beauty is in future danger of immorality; a quite subtle downfall and degringolade from mere flirtation and girlish conversation is foreseeable. With her unaffection and great depths of ungenerousity, she growing prepared to make delirious, sensual love to an attractive stranger, being too proud and hemmed in by self-love to share her countless charms with a real intimate. I am very alarmed. Unfortunately, my position is utterly false at moments of conversational crisis, being torn between good, sensible, merciless advice and corrupting desire to have her open the door in the raw. If you have a moment dear Les and Bessie, and the younger children as well, pray for an honorable way for me out of this ridiculous and maddening wilderness. Pray quite at your leisure, using your own good, charming words, but stress the point that I cannot achieve an even keel while being torn between quite sound and perfect advice and simple lusts of the body and genitals, despite their youthful size. Please be confident that your prayers will not go down the drain, in my opinion; merely form them in words and they will be absorbed very nicely in the way I mentioned to you at dinner last winter. Should God choose to see me instrumental in this affair, I can be of quite unlimited help to this beautiful, touching kid. The whole root of Mrs. Happy’s and Mr. Happy’s private evil is that they have failed to become one flesh quite to perfection. With daring and a careful explanation of the proper, courageous method required, it can be achieved quite briskly and in a comparative jiffy. I could demonstrate very easily if Desiree Green were here, who is exceptionally daring and open at the mind for a young girl of eight, but I can manage quite nicely without a demonstration also. Do not hesitate to pray for me in this delicate matter! Waker, old man, I particularly appeal to your thrilling, innocent powers of prayer!  Remember that I am not at liberty to excuse myself from keen responsibility because I am a mere boy of seven. If I excuse myself on such flimsy, rotten grounds, then I am a liar or a cowardly fraud and a maker of cheap, normal excuses. Unfortunately, I cannot approach Mr.  Happy, the husband, in this matter. He is not too approachable in this or any matter under the sun. Should the proper time come for approachment, I will practically have to strap him to a convenient chair to get his entire attention. He made ropes in his previous appearance, but not very well, somewhere in Turkey or Greece, but I know not which. He was executed for making a defective rope, resulting in the deaths of some influential climbers; however, it was really incredible stubborness and conceit, joined with neglect, at the root of the matter. As I told you before we left, I am trying like hell to cut down on getting glimpses while we are up here for a pleasant, ordinary summer. Nine times out of ten, it is an utter waste of time anyhow to let them pass freely through the mind, whether or not the person involved would find an open discussion of the matter helpful, quite spooky, or openly distasteful.
This is going to be a very long letter! Stiff upper lip, Les! I humorously give you permission to read only one quarter of the entire communication. Freely attribute the longness of the letter to an unexpected bonus of leisure time, which I shall relate shortly.  Temporarily explained, I wounded my leg quite bad yesterday and am confined to bed for a change, windfall of windfalls! Guess who skillfully got permission to keep me company and attend to my personal needs! Your beloved son Buddy! He should be returning at any moment now!
‘We have received quite a few more demerits since your thrilling call from the LaSalle Hotel, which was an unspeakable pleasure for us, despite the rotten connection. I have also mislaid my handsome, new wristwatch during a recent Aquatics Period; however, everybody is going to dive for it again tomorrow or this afternoon, so have no fear, unless it is too hopelessly saturated. Returning to the subject of the demerits, we got most of them for continuously sloppy bungalow, followed by quite a few more in a neat bunch for not singing at powwow and leaving powwow without permission. So it goes. Jesus, I hope you can freely sense at this distance how much we miss you, dear Bessie and Les and those other three peanuts after my own heart! Would to God a simple letter were less fraught with the burdens of superb written construction! One begins to despair of sounding quite like oneself, your son and brother, and yet quite uphold the excellent and touching demands of splendid construction. This has the ear marks of being one of the future despairs of my life, but I shall give all my consuming attention to it and hope for an honorable, humorous truce.
A thousand thanks for your amusing and delightful letter and the several postcards! We were relieved and overjoyed to hear Detroit and Chicago were not too tough, Les. We were equally delighted to hear that young Mr. Fay was on the same bill in the Windy City; quite juicy news for you, Bessie, if you still have the harmless, social passion for that remarkable chap. I have been meaning to write to that chap out of the blue for a whole year, dating from our rewarding and comical chat together when we shared a taxi during that beautiful downpour; he is a clever and mercifully original fellow and will be widely imitated and stolen from before he is through, mark my words. Close on the heels of kindness, originality is one of the most thrilling things in the world, also the most rare! Kindly give us all the news in your future letters, the more trivial and sweetly unimportant, the more readable. The news about “Bambalina” is excellent and more than arresting! Give it all that you have, I beg you! It is a charming tune. If you do it before camp is over, hastily send us one of the first records, as there is a Victrola in poor condition in Mrs. Happy’s pleasant quarters and I would gladly impose upon our peculiar friendship in such a case. Keep up the good work! Jesus, you are a talented, cute, magnificent couple!
My admiration for you would be measureless were you not even related, be assured. Bessie, we hope to hell you are enjoying magnificent spirits again sweetheart, and are not too discontent with being on the road so quickly again. If you have not got around to doing what you faithfully swore up and down you would do to ease my ridiculous mind, please hurry and do it. It is a cyst, in my unhumorous opinion, and some respectable physician should burn or cut it off post haste. I spoke to a personable physician when we were on the train coming up and he said it is quite painless when they remove it, a gentle lop doing the trick very nicely. Oh, God, the human body is so touching, with its countless blemishes and cysts and despised, touching pimples arriving and departing, on adult bodies, when least expected. It is just one more pressing temptation to take off one’s hat to God during the distracting day; I personally cannot and will not see Him dispense with human cysts, blemishes, and the odd facial pimple or touching boil! I have never seen Him do anything that is not magnificently in the cards!  I pass over this delicate matter and merely send all five of you about 50,000 kisses. Buddy would readily join me in this if he were here. This leads to another delicate matter, I am afraid. Bessie and Les, I soberly address you. Take no offense, but you are both entirely, absolutely, and very painfully wrong about his never missing anybody but me; I refer, of course, to Buddy. You would make me a lot happier, quite frankly spoken, if you didn’t press that kind of painful and erroneous crap on me over the phone again, dear Les. It is very hard to leave the phone on your own two feet when your own beloved and talented father says something that damaging , wrong, and quite stupid. The magnificent person in question does not wear his heart on his damnable sleeve like most people, including you and myself. The very first and last thing you must remember about this small, haunting chap is that he will be in a terrible rush all his life to get the door nicely slammed behind him in any room where there is a striking and handsome supply of good, sharp pencils and plenty of paper. I am quite powerless as well as dubiously inclined to alter his course; it is an old affair, hanging upon innumerable points of honor, be assured! As his beloved parents, you may not humanly be expected to lighten his load, but you must not, I beg you, deliberately throw weights of reproof on his little back.  Beyond these subtle matters, he is privately the most resourceful creation of God I have ever run into, forever striving not to live a second-hand existence on the fervent recommendation of practically everybody one runs into. He will be swiftly and subtly guiding every child in the family long after I am quite burned out and useless or out of the picture. It is disrespectful and inexcusable for a young boy my age to address his lovable father this way, but Buddy is the one thing you don’t know anything about. Let us quickly pass on to more unticklish topics.
A certain United States congressman, a war buddy of Mr. Happy’s, visited the camp last weekend. As he was one of the most unwatchable figures I have watched in many years, It would be wise to skip over his name in this personal letter. A breath of insincerity and personable corruption passed over the camp; the air still stinks to high heaven.  The kowtowing and artificial laughing on Mr. Happy’s part was beyond earthly description. In the privacy of an impromptu meeting on the porch of her bungalow, I asked Mrs. Happy to take careful pains not to allow the congressman and Mr. Happy’s quite sickening responses to him upset her and that marvelous little embryo while all this unamiable crap is going on. She quite concurred. Later in the day, for her sake, I painfully accepted Mr. Happy’s request and command that Buddy and I come to their bungalow after third mess and sing and do few routines for his guest, the congressman in question. I have no right whatever to accept a corrupt invitation for my beloved younger brother; I am quite hoping, secretly, that the Almighty will take me to task, quite harshly, for this criminal presumption; I have no business making snap decisions without consulting this brilliant youth. However, we went into consultation after the invitation was accepted, privately agreeing not to wear our taps when we went over, but this was a very false and self-deceptive relief for us. In the heat of the evening, we consented to do a soft shoe! In all irony, we were in superb form, as Mrs. Happy played her accordion for accompaniment; it is very hard for us not to be in superb form if a gorgeous, untalented creature accompanies us rottenly on the accordion; it touches us to the quick, amusing us quite a bit, too. For all our extreme youth, we remain quite vulnerable, amusing foils where gorgeous, untalented girls are concerned. I am working on it, but it is a fairly severe problem.
Please, please, PLEASE, do not grow impatient and ice cold to this letter because of its gathering length! When you are ready to despair, swiftly recall how much leisure I have on my hands today and how needful I am to have some pleasant communication with the five absent family members of my heart! I am not constructed for continued absences; I have never claimed to be constructed for them. Also, much of my news and general communication promises to be very absorbing, delightful, and emollient. As you damned well know, we never change much in our hearts. However, we are getting slightly tan and looking quite a lot like healthy children and campers. We may need all the damnable health we can get, to be sure. An unengaging incident recently occurred. In addition to the common information that we are children of the esteemed Gallagher & Glass and that we are fairly experienced and skillful entertainers in our own right, thanks to your touching and thrilling example, news has traveled round about the camp that the both of us, your small son Buddy and I, have been notorious, heavy readers from a tender age and in addition have certain abilities, prowesses, knacks, and facilities of very uncertain value and the gravest responsibilities, the latter being warmly attached to us like cement from previous appearances, particularly the last two, tough ones. Your son Buddy is currently taking most of it at the flood. It requires broad shoulders, I can assure you. Consider, if you have a minute, the sheer, juicy novelty and food for gossip and malice of a chap of five who is an experienced reader and writer, daily increasing in fluency by leaps and bounds, and who is also, despite his ridiculous age on the surface, an exciting authority on the human face with all its touching masks, vanities, spurts of pure courage, and frightening deceits! That is the small fellow’s present position. Continue to imagine what would inevitably blossom out if some of this confidential information leaked out and became common fact or rumor among campers and counselors alike. That is quite what has happened. Unfortunately, as he well knows, most of the recent commotion is his own reckless fault. Oh, my God, this is a droll and thrilling companion to have on life’s bumpy road! Here is the entire crappy incident in a nut shell, as follows: Mr. Nelson, a born neophile and enthusiastic talebearer and gossip, is in utter charge of the mess hall, as already related, along with Mrs. Nelson, a termagant, unhappy woman, and inspired trouble maker. When nobody is in the mess hall, it is the only charming place in the camp where one can get any blissful privacy whatsoever. Buddy has had his eye on this haven from the word go. On Tuesday afternoon, a sultry day, he bet Mr. Nelson that he could memorize the book that Mr. Nelson chanced to be reading within the space of twenty minutes to a half hour. If he did it perfectly, then Mr. Nelson in his turn, to show his appreciation for the controversial accomplishment, would let us, the Glass brothers, use the empty, pleasant mess hall in our spare time for reading, writing, language study, and other aching, private needs, such as evacuating our heads of second-hand and third-hand opinions and views that are buzzing around this camp like flies. My God, how I deplore and uncountenance bargains of any kind, be they with responsible adults or adults with no honor! Without my knowledge of this quite terrible fact, this astounding, independent chap went ahead and made this bargain with Mr. Nelson, despite our countless discussions, in the wee hours, on the desirability of keeping our mouths firmly shut on the subject of some of our endowments and peculiarities. Fortunately, the incident was not a total loss or debacle. The book itself chanced to be “Hardwoods of North America” by Foley and Chamberlain, two magnificently modest and quiet men, long admired by me from my reading experience, with very infectious love for trees, especially beech and white oak; they have a charming, unreasonable preference for beech trees! So the exchange of words between Buddy and me was not too unbearably harsh or unpleasant; no tears, thank God, were spent. However, Whitey Pittman, the head counselor, hailing from Baltimore, Md., quite a laughing intimate of Mr. Nelson’s, got wind of the accomplishment when it was completed and freely plucked the opportunity to cash in on it in conversation. In all fairness and fascination, he has a remarkable gift for increasing his own prestige at some child’s expense; an intelligent scavenger and conversational parasite. He is the same person, a fellow twenty-six years of age, no spring chicken to be sure, who said to Buddy in the midst of a throng of strangers: “I thought you were supposed to be such a witty kid.” Is that a conscientious remark to make to little fellow of five? Thank God for the avoidance of shame and embarrassment to the whole family, I had no decent weapon on my person when this revolting, crappy remark was made; however, quite afterwards, I embraced an opportunity to tell Roger Pittman, the full name his hapless parents gave him, that I would kill him or myself, possibly before nightfall, if he spoke to this chap again in that manner, or any other five-year-old chap, in my presence. I believe I could have curbed the criminal urge at the crucial moment, but one must painfully remember that a vein of unstability runs through me quite like some turbulent river; this cannot be overlooked; I have left this troublesome instability uncorrected in my previous two appearances, to my folly and disgust; it will not be corrected by friendly, cheerful prayer. It can only be corrected by dogged effort on my part, thank God; I cannot honorably or intimately pray to some charming, divine weakling to step in and clean my mess up after me; the very prospect turns my stomach.  However, the human tongue could all too easily be the cause of my utter degringolade in this appearance, unless I can get a move on. I have been trying like hell since our arrival to leave a wide margin for human ill-will, fear, jealousy, and gnawing dislike of the commonplace.  Do not read this rash remark out loud to the twins or possibly let it fall on Boo Boo’s ears prematurely, but I admit, with maddening tears coursing down my unstable face, that I do not in my heart hold out unlimited hope for the human tongue as we know it today.
If the above paragraph is too illegible and irksome, try to recall that I am writing at a swift, terrible rate of speed, with admirable penmanship quite out of the question. In another handful of minutes or quarter hours, it will be time for supper; I am writing against time.  In the Midget bungalow, one is required to sleep like a dog for ten, exasperating hours every night, the bungalow being plunged into darkness a nine o’clock sharp. I have approached Mr. Happy in this matter several times, but to no avail. My God, he is a maddening man; if he does not move one to wrath, he moves one to hysterical laughter, an equal waste of time. If you could possibly write a short, amiable, crisp letter, dear Les, if I may address you personally, advising him that if one knows even the very rudiments of sensible breathing, ten hours of sleep is sheer folly and imposition. We share our flashlights, to be sure, but the arrangement remains a striking inconvenience to us, entangling us in bad light and ill humor.
My contempt for myself for showing you merely the black and quite dank side of camp life is immeasurable. In this rotten attitude, I have failed to mention the countless things that are zipping along with smoothness and beauty; despite my gloomy remarks in the above paragraphs, each day has been generously studded with happiness, sensuous pleasure, rejoicing, and fairly explosive laughter. Many sweet animals loom into view when least expected, such as chipmunks, unpoisonous snakes, but no deer. I am taking the dubious liberty, Les, of sending you a few quills from a porcupine, dead but not diseased; they may be a perfect answer to your old problem with the softness and breakability of tooth picks. The general scenery is spellbinding, both underfoot as well as to the sides. To my joy and sheer wonder, your son Buddy has turned out to be utterly and thrillingly nemophilous! It is an unexpected revelation to me to see him shape up in this manner. While I take keen relish in country affairs, too, it is merely up to a point; in my heart of hearts, I am outside my true element when away from cold, heartrending cities of ludicrous size after the manner of New York or London. Buddy, on the other hand, will forever break loose from the connections, it is quite plain to see; we will not be able to restrain him in another mere handful of years. I wish you could see him striking through the dense forest here, when the powers that be are not minding everybody’s business for them, moving with heartrending stealth, like a magnificent, amusing, berserk, Indian messenger. Each night, to our entertainment and equal chagrin, I put untold quantities of iodine on his stubborn, funny body, mutilated from the blackberry thorns and other damnable outgrowths. Our pleasant consumption of possibly a dozen books, excellent as well as mediocre, before departure, on the subject of plants, edible and otherwise, has been a superb boon to us, allowing us to cook many decent meals, under the rose, of steamed pigweed, young nettles, purslane, as well as the last of the tender fiddle heads, using the canteen cup as cooking receptacle and frequently being joined by that heartrending little peanut, Griffith Hammersmith, whose appetite in congenial surroundings is quite stupefying and thrilling. Lest it slip my vacant mind, Buddy asked me to tell you, Bessie sweetheart, to send him some more tablets without lines, also some apple butter and corn meal, as he is practically living on the latter, I daresay, when we are able to prepare pleasant, leisurely meal in peace. Be assured that the corn meal is very nutritive for him; his little body is unusually suited to corn and barley, if the truth be known. He will write to you very soon, given the right opportunity and inclination. My God, he is a busy boy! I have never known him busier, to the best of my recollection. He has written 6 new stories, entirely humorous in places, about an English chap recently returned from some stimulating adventure abroad. It is an indescribable reward to see a person five years of age sit back on his dear, comical, fleshless haunches and dash off an engaging yarn with zest and no little acumen! I give you my word of honor you will hear from this chap one day; no nightfall passes that I do not mentally take off my hat to you for bringing him into the world, your loving, charming agency in this lad’s general birth remains unspeakably moving to me, the picture is even more moving and rewarding when one considers  the abominable glimpse I had at recess period after Christmas vacation, revealing that our intimacy with you, dear Les, if you are still there, in our last appearance, was fairly slight and fraught with discordancy.  Continuing at leisure, as for my own writing, I have completed twenty-five (25) reasonable poems for which I have low regard, followed by 16 poems that have some merit but no enduring generosity, as well as about 10 others that have turned out to be in unconscious, disastrous imitation of William Blake, William Wordsworth, and one or two other dead geniuses whose sudden passing never ceases to cut me like a knife.  With regard to my poetry, the general picture is poor and gnawing. It is my absolute opinion that the only poem of personal, haunting interest to me that I have written so far this summer is one I have not written at all. During your expensive phone call from the LaSalle, you will recall, I mentioned that we and the other campers had spent the entire day at the Wahl Fisheries. On the way there, a lunch of sandwiches, quite filling, was prepared for us at Kallborn Hotel, a well-bred, popular hotel frequented by loving, young couples on their honeymoons. Strolling by the lake with Buddy and Hammersmith, I saw a couple sporting and laughing. Putting two and two together, and suddenly feeling disposed, from head to toe, to feel harmony with these two unknown, young lovers, I wished to write a poem intimating that the one millionth groom at the Kallborn Hotel had just playfully splashed the one millionth bride; I have personally witnessed young lovers doing the same thing at Long Beach and other popular resorts. Bessie dear, it is a little sight you would enjoy, thrill to, and faintly smile at with a portion of your brain and heart; however, there is no demand for this in any immortal poetry I have run into. One is left holding the bag.  Let us pass over this prickly topic. For your private information and possibly Miss Overman’s, but draw the line a bit firmly there as she has no great gift for not repeating a confidence, I regret to say, we are continuing to master Italian and reviewing Spanish after taps. It is a broad, rotten hint, but some new batteries would be a windfall.
Les, it is such a relief and pleasure to dash off a few lines without listening for the damnable strains of the bugle that my ardor is running away with me. If you are tired or frankly bored reading, stop immediately, with my heartfelt permission. I am admittedly taking advantage of your good will, fatherhood, and notorious, humorous patience. Bessie, I know, will kindly give you the gist of any communication that follows, light a cigarette with abandon, drop my damn letter like a hot potato, and go down to the lobby of whatever hotel you are staying at and enjoy yourself with a free conscience and my undying love; a game of pool or pinochle might be refreshing! Continuing at blissful random, we are not too popular with the other campers in the same bungalow as yet, principally Douglas Folsom, Barry Sharfman, Derek Smith, Tom Lantern, Midge Immington, and Red Silverman. Tom Lantern! Is that or is that not an appealing name to got through life with? Unfortunately, this youth seems determined not to turn on any of his lights, so his delightful name is in danger of going down the drain. This opinion is too harsh. My opinions are all too frequently too damn harsh for words. I am working on it, but I have given way to harshness too often this summer to stomach. God speed you, Tom Lantern, with or without your lights turned on! There is one boy on the top floor of this poorly constructed bungalow who is the very salt of the earth; no complaint heaped upon him would be too lavish, be assured. He is often dashing freely down the flimsy stairs in his leisure moments and passing the time of day with your unworthy sons, discussing with a humorous and open heart his friends, acquaintances, and foes in Troy, New York, a large hamlet beyond Albany, and generally finding life and humanity magnificent under the deceptive surfaces. His valiance would break your heart, I trust, or painfully chip into it; an immeasurable amount is required just to say that we are currently being ostracized. His name is John Kolb, 8 ½ years of age, by rights an Intermediate, but there was no room for him in the Intermediates; so we are privileged to have his chivalrous company in this crowded building.
I beg you to write that vacant, good-humored name upon your memory for now and all future time! Unfortunately, anything over five minutes of conversation bores this dauntless, active boy to tears, and one looks up, to one’s touching amusement, to find his winning, kind face gone from the premises! I would give countless years of my life to be of some future help to this lad. He kindly gave me his word of honor, quite blind to the reasons that made me ask him, that he would never swallow whiskey or any other liqueurs on reaching adulthood, but I have damnable, sad doubts that he will keep his word. He has a waiting tendency to drink himself into a soothing stupor; it can be defeated utterly if he uses his entire mind, with a few lights turned on, but I am afraid he is too kind and impatient a boy to use his entire mind for anything. We have his address in Troy, New York. If I am alive when the crucial years arrive, I shall rush to Troy, New York, without a second’s delay and if necessary act in his splendid behalf; it would slightly require drinking the cup that stupefies myself, but you have to understand that we have quite lost our hearts to this boy without a shred of prejudice in his heart. My God, a valorous boy, 8 ½ years of age, is a moving thing! It is too ironical to bear, but I give you my word that valorous people require far more protection than meets the eye. I kiss your noble, unsung feet, John Kolb, native of Troy, brother of an uncruel Hector!
As for other matters, we are mixing admirably when opportunity allows, joining in all the incessant sports and other activities, enjoying many of them to the hilt. It is break for us that we are fairly magnificent, limited athletes; at baseball, perhaps the most heartrending, delicious sport in the Western Hemisphere, even our worst foes would not deny our unassuming prowess. This is credit or conceit to us, being a humorous bonus to us from the last appearance; any game with a ball we achieve easy excellence with a little application; any game without a ball we tend, unfortunately, to stink. Apart from games and activities, we are making a handful of lifelong friends quite by accident. You, however, in the strenuous position of being our beloved parents, Bessie, must try quite hard to look at certain matters straight in the face with utter refusal to flinch as one or two factors loom large, I tell you now, this very moment to please tuck away someplace utterly unmelancholy in your memory against a rainy day, that until the hour we finish our lives there will always be innumerable chaps who get very seething, and thoroughly inimical even when they see our bare faces alone coming over the horizon. Mark you, I am saying our faces alone, independent of our peculiar and often offensive personalities! There would be a fairly humorous side to the matter if I had not watched it happen with sickening dismay too many hundred times in my brief years.
I am hoping, however, that as we continue to improve and refine ourm characters by leaps and bounds, striving each day to reduce general snottiness, surface conceits, and too damn much emotion, coupled with several other qualities quite rotten to the core, we will antagonize and inspire less murder, on sight or repute alone, in the hearts of fellow human beings. I expect good results from these measures, but not thrilling results. I do not honestly see thrilling results in the general picture. However, don’t let this place too large a shadow on your hearts! Joys, consolations, and amusing compensations are manifold! Have you ever personally seen two such maddening, indomitable chaps as your absent sons? In the midst and fury of heat and gathering adversity, do our young lives not remain an unforgettable waltz?  Indeed, perhaps, if you perversely use your imagination, perhaps the only waltz Ludwig von Beethoven ever wrote on his deathbed! I will stand without shame on this presumptuous thought. My God, what thunderous, thrilling liberties it is possible to take with the simple, misunderstood waltz if only man dares! In my whole life, I give you my word, I have never risen from bed in the morning without hearing two splendid taps of the baton in the distance! In addition to distant music, adventure and romance press us hard, absorbing interests and diversions kindly prevail; not once have I seen us unprotected, thank God, against half-heartedness. One has no business spitting on these hopeful blessings. Piled on top of all this good fortune, what else does one find? A capacity to make many wonderful friends in small numbers whom we will love passionately and guard from uninstructive harm until our lives are finished and who, in turn, will love us, too, and never let us down without very great regret, which is a lot better, more guerdoning, more humorous than being let down without any regret at all, be assured. I merely mention some of this painful crap to you, need I say, so that it will be available to your sweet memories either before or after our untimely departures; do not let it get you down in the meantime. Also on the hearty, revitalizing side of the ledger, bear in mind, with good cheer and amusement, that we were quite firmly obliged, as well as often dubiously privileged, to bring our creative genius with us from our previous appearances. One hesitates to suggest what we will do with it, but it is incessantly at our side, though slow as hell in development. It is insuperably strong after taps up here, I find, when one’s ridiculous brains finally lie down and behave themselves and the entire, decent mind is at long last quiet and not racing around in the slightest; in that interlude, one watches it play in the magnificent light I mentioned in you privately last May, Bessie, when we were chatting back and forth affably in the kitchen. I am also watching the same heartening action take place in the mind of that magnificent person and companion you gave me for a brother. When the light mentioned above is insuperably strong, I go to sleep in absolute assurance that we, your son Buddy and I, are every bit as decent, foolish, and human as every single boy or counselor in this camp, quite tenderously and humorously equipped with the same likable, popular, heartbreaking blindness. My God, think of the opportunities and thrusts that lie ahead when no one knows without a shred of doubt how commonplace and normal one is at heart! With just a little steadfast devotion to uncommon beauty and passing rectitudes of the heart, combined with our dead certainty that we are as normal and human as anybody else, and knowing it is not just a question of sticking out our tongues, like other boys, during the first, beautiful snowfall of the year, who can prevent us from doing a little good in this appearance?  Who, indeed, I say, provided we draw on all our resources and move as silently as possible? “Silence! Go forth, but tell no man!” said the splendid Tsaiang Samdup. Quite right, though very difficult and widely abhorred.
While I am quite frankly skimming over on the debit side, I ought to point out , regretfully, that the great percentage of your children, Bessie and Les, if you have not already repaired to the diversions of the lobby, have a fairly terrible capacity for experiencing pain that does not always properly belong to them. Sometimes this very pain has been shirked by a total stranger, perhaps a lazy chap in California or Louisiana, whom we have not even had the pleasure of meeting and exchanging words with. Speaking for your absent son Buddy as well as myself, I see no way to quit experiencing a little pain, here and there, till we have fulfilled our opportunities and obligations in the present, interesting, humorous bodies. Half the pain around, unfortunately, quite belongs to someone else who either shirked it or did not know how to grasp it firmly by the handle! However, when we have fulfilled our opportunities and obligations, dear Bessie and Les, I give you my word that we will depart in good conscience and humor for a change, which we have never entirely done in the past. Again speaking for your beloved son Buddy, who should be back any moment, I also give you my word of honor that one of us will be present at the other chap’s departure for various reasons; it is quite in the cards, to the best of my knowledge. I am not painting a gloomy picture! This will not be tomorrow by a long shot! I personally will live at least as long as a well-preserved telephone pole, a generous matter of thirty (30) years or more, which is surely nothing to snicker at. Your son Buddy has even longer to go, you will freely rejoice to know. In the happy interim, Bessie, please ask Les to read these next remarks when or if he returns from the lobby or any other enjoyable place of his choice, Les, I beg you to be patient with us in your leisure time. Try your utmost not to mind too much and get very blue when we don’t remind you very freely and movingly of other regular boys, perhaps boys from your own childhood. At frequent black moments, swiftly recall in your heart that we are exceedingly regular boys from the word go, merely ceasing to be very regular when something slightly important or crucial comes up. My God, I utterly refuse to wound you with further discussion of this kind, but I cannot honestly erase any of the previous, sweeping, tasteless remarks. I am afraid they must stand. Also, it would not be doing you a true favor if I did erase them. Largely through my own cheap softness and cowardice, you have twice before in previous appearances gently neglected to face up to similar issues; I have no idea if I could stand to see you repeat this pain. Postponed pain is among the most abominable kind to experience.
For quite a pleasant change, here is a cheerful and quite uplifting bit of news to put under your belts. It quite takes my own personal breath away. Either this coming winter or the winter which briskly follows, you, Bessie, Les, Buddy, and the undersigned will all be going to one of the most pregnant and important parties that Buddy and I will ever attend, either in each other’s company or quite alone. At this party, entirely in the night time, we will meet a man, very overweight, who will make us a slightly straightforward business and career offer at his leisure; it will involve our easy, charming prowess as singers and dancers, but this is very far from all it will involve. He, this corpulent man, will not too seriously change the regular, normal course of our childhood and early, amusing youth by this business offer, but I can assure you that the surface upheaval will be quite enormous.  However, that is only half my glimpse. Personally speaking, quite from the full heart, the other half is more after my own heart and comfort.
The other half presents a stunning glimpse of Buddy, at a later date by innumerable years, quite bereft of my dubious, loving company, writing about this very party on a very large, jet-black, very moving, gorgeous typewriter. He is smoking a cigarette, occasionally clasping his hands and placing them on the top of his head in a thoughtful, exhausted manner. His hair is gray; he is older than you are now, Les! The veins in his hands are slightly prominent in the glimpse, so I have not mentioned the matter to him at all, partially considering his youthful prejudice against veins showing in poor adults’ hands. So it goes. You would think this particular glimpse would pierce the casual witness’s heart to the quick, disabling him utterly, so that he could not bring himself to discuss the glimpse in the least with his beloved, broadminded family. This is not exactly the case; it mostly makes me take an exceeding deep breath as a simple, brisk measure against getting dizzy. It is his room that pierces me through more than anything else. It is all his youthful dreams realized to the full! It has one of those beautiful windows in the ceiling that he always, to my absolute knowledge, fervently admired from a splendid reader’s distance! All round about him, in addition, are exquisite shelves to hold his books, equipment, tablets, sharp pencils, ebony, costly typewriter, and other stirring, personal effects. Oh, my God, he will be overjoyed when he sees that room, mark my wo
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Hapworth 16, 1924, deo drugi


Upon bandaging my leg very badly and amusingly, as well as keeping up a cool, falsely competent conversation that could drive one to drink if unsupported by a little self-control, Miss Culgerry sent me back to my bungalow, with an amusing crutch, to wait for the doctor to come from the town of Hapworth, where he lives and has his dubious practice. He, the doctor, arrived shortly after third mess, transporting me back to the infirmary to take eleven (11) stitches in my leg. A disagreeable problem arose in this connection, quite damnable. I was offered a touch of anesthesia, which I politely declined. Quite in the first place, way back on Mr. Happy’s damnable motorcycle, I had snapped the communication of pain between my leg and the brain, sheerly for my own convenience. I had not used the method since the little accident involving my jaw bones and lips last summer. One sometimes despairs that anything peculiar one learns will ever come in handy more than once or even just once, but it surely does, with a little patience; I have even used the clove knot on two occasions since we got here, which I thought would surely go down the drain! When I politely declined the anesthesia, the doctor assumed I was showing off, Mr. Happy, at his side, sharing this maddening opinion. Like a born fool, which I can assure you I am, I foolishly demonstrated that I had snapped the communication of pain utterly. It would have been more foolish and quite offensive to tell them straight to their falsely patient faces that I prefer not to allow myself or any child in the family to give up his or her state of consciousness for flimsy reasons; until I get further word on the subject, the human state of consciousness is dubiously precious to me. After several minutes of heated, rotten debate with Mr. Happy, I exacted the doctor’s consent to sew up the wound while I was pleasantly conscious. This is a ridiculously painful subject to you, dear Bessie, but I can assure you that it is a splendid convenience for me, from time to time, to have a face, humorously speaking, that only a mother could love, with a foul nose and a chin as weak as water. If I had been a fairly handsome boy, with fairly charming features, I am quite convinced they would have made me take the anesthesia. This is nobody’s fault, swiftly be assured; being human beings with personal opinions and brains, we are respondent to any shreds of beauty we can get; I myself am hopelessly respondent to it!
After my leg was sewed up, which Buddy was not permitted to watch, because of his age, or to remain at my side, I was briskly carried backto the bungalow and placed in my bunk. By a stroke of good fortune, all the beds in the infirmary were taken; several boys with high temperatures and myself are being allowed to stay in their own bungalows till they get some empty bed again. I consider the bed situation quite a windfall. This is the first utterly restful, leisurely, fulfilling day I have had, in several ways, since getting off the train, the case being exactly the same for Buddy, his having got permission from Mr. Happy to be absent from all formations throughout the day to attend to my wants. He nearly did not get permission, but Mr. Happy would rather give him permission, in the last analysis, than have to chat with him face to face, being far from completely at his ease in his presence. There is a wealth of humorous, bad blood between those two, partially stemming from Monday inspection. At Monday inspection, which I myself regarded as an inexcusable and insulting imposition on every boy in the place, Mr. Happy came in the bungalow when we were standing at attention and started giving Buddy bloody hell for not making his bed the way he, Mr. Happy, did when he was a doughboy and quite miraculously managed not to lose the whole, damnable war for us. He unleashed several, unnecessary insults at Buddy in my presence. Watching your son Buddy’s face, quite able, I assure you, to fend for itself, I did not step in or interfere with these bullying insults. I have complete confidence in this young lad’s ability to fend for himself at all times, and this moment was no exception. Quite coolly, right away Mr. Happy was bawling him out and embarrassing him in front of his bungalow mates and fellow campers, Buddy did that humorous business with his marvelous, expressive eyes, letting them slip away towards his pretty, black eyebrows, quite lifeless, white, and fairly spooky from the point of view of anyone who has never seen him do it. I doubt if Mr. Happy ever saw anybody do that before in his life. Alarmed and disconcerted, to say the least, he instantaneously went over and inspected Midge Immington’s bunk instead, leaving the immediate vicinity entirely,  ven forgetting to give your self-reliant son any fresh demerits! Oh, my God, he is a resourceful, entertaining chap for five years of age! Gather up your pride, I beg you, and freely lavish it on this little boy! He should be in any minute now and will possibly be very eager to add a few lines of his own. In the interim, please do not ask me to prevail upon him to be nicer to Mr. Happy or to treat Mr. Happy with kid gloves; it is not a question of kid gloves; it is a question of knowing when to use the ingenuity to protect himself and his entire life’s work from passing foes, short of doing them any serious harm.
Good-bye for a short interlude of days or hours! I will have the simple mercy and courtesy to try and finish writing to you; I can assure you, parent and child alike, that you are all too good and worthy to have such a consuming son, but I can’t help it. We miss you far more than words can tell. There you have one of the few, worthwhile opportunities for the human tongue. Bessie, please attend to that little matter already discussed. Also, please, utterly collapse more between performances when you are on the road; among other reasons, which I have no right to discuss quite freely right now, when you are unrested and very tired is when you long most bitterly to quit being on the stage. I beseech you not to rush it. I beseech you to strike only when the iron we discussed at an earlier date is perfectly hot. Otherwise, if you forsake a remarkable career at the chipper age of 28, no matter how many illustrious years you already have under your belt, you will be tampering with fate out of season. In season, to be sure, fate can be dealt stunning blows, but out of season, regrettably, mistakes are usual and costly. Remember our sober and intimate discussion the day the new, beautiful stove arrived, as follows: Except when performing on the stage or engaged in fairly tough stuff during the span of hours I mentioned, please try very hard to breathe through the left nostril exclusively, at other times going back swiftly to the right nostril. To get the breath started in the proper nostril, to review slightly, warmly lock your fist in the opposing armpit, bearing down with friendly pressure, or simply lie down for several minutes on the side of the body opposing the desired nostril. I assure you again that there is no rule against doing all this with quite utter distaste, but try, while the distaste is mounting high, to take your hat off to God, quite mentally, for the magnificent complications of the human body. Should it so difficult to offer a brief, affectionate salute to this unfathomable artist? Is it not highly tempting to take off one’s hat to someone who is both free to move in mysterious ways as well as in perfectly unmysterious ways? Oh, my God, this is some God we have! As I mentioned while we were taking our first pleasure in the new kitchen equipment, this nostril business can be abandoned in a trice at the very instant that one takes utter and complete reliance upon God with regard to breathing, seeing, hearing, and the other maddening functions; however, we are all merely human beings, damnably remiss about this kind of reliance at all undesperate hours and situations of the day. To make up for this neglect, quite touching as well as shoddy, to rely on God utterly we must fall back on embarrassing, sensible devices of our own; however, they are not our own, which is another humorous, wondrous side of the matter; the embarrassing, sensible devices are His, too! This is merely my forward opinion in the matter, but it is far from merely impulsive.
If the rest of my letter seems a little too brisk and impersonal, please excuse it; I am going to devote the remainder of the letter to economy of words and phraseology, quite my weakest point in written construction. If I sound quite cold and brisk, remember it is for my own practice and that I am not feeling cold and brisk where you, parent and child alike, are concerned; far from it! Lest it slip my mind during the curt remainder of the letter, I practically beg you on bended knee, Bessie, to sing in your own abandoned voice when making “Bambalina” with Les! I beg you not to take the safe, customary way and sound like you are sitting in a damn swing, in the center of the stage, bearing a charming parasol aloft; this comes very gently and naturally to somebody like Julia Sanderson, a pleasant performer, to be sure, but you, are at heart a tempestuous, disturbing person, with deep springs of highly likable and touching coarseness and attractive passion! Les, if you are on the premises again, I beg you about something, too. Please strive very hard to do what I asked you do the next time you make a record. Any words or hold notes that freely rhyme with “try” or “my” or “by” are very tricky and dangerous in the circumstance! Rough shoals ahead there! Except when you are singing in public or engaged in heated or angry discussion around the family hearth, your accent, I assure you, is no longer detectable, quite possibly to anybody but myself or Buddy or Boo Boo or some other person with the curse of unsparing ears. Please do not misunderstand these remarks. Personally, I am hopelessly attached to your accent; it is utterly moving. However, this is a question of how your accent sounds to the myriad people with ears that have no time or inclination to listen with unprejudice; audiences in general find French, Irish, Scotch, Southern Dixie, Swedish, Yiddish, and several other accents comfortably diverting and likable in themselves, but a fine, undisguised Australian accent does not seem to lend itself to quite freely to arousing affectionate regard; it is practically fool-proof against for pleasing or diverting for its own sake. This is a sad state of affairs, with general stupidity and snobbery at its backbone, but should be faced at record time! If you can possibly do it without unhappiness, excessive strain, or the feeling that you are slighting or offending the decent, charming Australian people of your childhood, please keep your accent off the record, even though we, your relatives, enjoy it to the very hilt! Are you furious at me? Please don’t get furious at me. My only selfish interest at heart, in this grave matter, is your own, deep, torturous desire for a smash hit finally. With due apologies, I gratefully steer away from this presumptuous subject; I love you, old man.
The following brisk messages are for the twins and Boo Boo. However, kindly ask Boo Boo to read them by herself, absolutely without help from her parents, which she is perfectly capable of doing! That marvelous, black-eyed girl can do it if she tries!
Boo Boo, practice your writing of complete words! I am not interested in the alphabet in itself! Do not fall back on conventional excuses! Do not take any more crafty refuge in your tender age, I beg you! Do not throw it in our face again that Martine Brady or Lotta Davilla or any other child of four of your acquaintance is not required to read and write quite fluently. I am not their mean brother; I am your mean brother. On several occasions, I have given you my word of honor that you are by nature an exhaustive reader, quite like Buddy and myself; if you were not, I would gladly throw my meanness to the wind, with good riddance! For an exhaustive reader, an early start with pen as well as eye is very desirable. On the immediate, credit side, think what untold pleasure you will give your astonishing brother and myself, temporarily in exile, with the occasional postcard! If you but knew how much we admire and relish your handwriting and unimaginable choice of words!  Just print two or three words in your customary fashion on the card and then race to the lobby or give it to a chambermaid of your choice.  Also, my dear, darling, unforgettable Miss Beatrice Glass, please work harder on your manners and etiquette in private as well as public. I am far less concerned about how you behave in public than how you behave when you are absolutely alone in a solitary room; when you accidentally look deep into a lonely mirror, let a girl with stunning tact, as well as flashing, black eyes, reflect!
Walt, we received your message from Bessie. We were delighted to get it, though it was frankly crap from the word go. We are all too damnably prone to take refuge in our tender ages. The age of three is no earthly, damn excuse for not doing the simple things we discussed in the taxi on the way to the train; I laugh hollowly down the years at the trite reports and customs firmly connected with the tender age of three! At the roots, you yourself are perhaps more capable of a healthy, hollow laugh at these prejudiced reports than anybody I ever met! If it is too “damn hot” to practice as reported, then at least wear your tap shoes fairly constantly, such as at meals, on your feet under the table, or while strolling about the room or the lobby of which ever hotel you are staying; however, keep them on your haunting, magical feet for at least 2 hours per day!
Waker, the same request, utterly mean and tyrannical, goes for juggling in this heat! If it is too damn hot for juggling, at least carry some of your favorite juggling objects, those of reasonable size, about with you in your pockets during the stifling day. I know Buddy would join me if you incomparable boys should decide, quite overnight, to quit your chosen careers utterly. However, you have not yet come to that decision; until you do, it is terribly necessary that you do not estrange yourselves from your chosen career for more than 2 or 2 ½ hours in a row! Your tap shoes and juggling objects must be treated like unreasonable, jealous sweethearts that cannot bear any form of estrangement from your person for even 24 hours in a row. Your splendid older brother and I , God knows, are keeping our own hand in at this place, despite countless impediments and embarrassments. If this is bragging, let God have the simple, rudimentary courtesy to chastise me in the severest manner, but it is not dirty bragging; I am merely saying that both you boys can do anything your elder brothers can do; our own instability, I assure you, will match anybody’s on earth!
Boo Boo, I am more than disgusted with myself for just saying one thing to you and having that one thing sound unfavorable and quite ugly. The partial truth is, as follows: Your manners and etiquette are getting more and more marvelous every day. If I slightly harp on one or two discrepancies, it is only because you love pleasant, ritzy things so much and have always preferred myself or Bessie to read you books with well-bred, aristocratic, uncrude children and adults in them, usually English persons with excellent manners on the surface, tasteful clothes and interiors, as well as unassailable high class in every visible respect. Oh, my God, you are a risible, amusing kid! You quite take your older brothers’ hearts by storm! You are one of a precious handful of persons I have met in my time, here and there, who probably have God’s entire permission not to think anything out! It is a charming, magnificent blessing, and I have no intention of spitting in its beautiful face, but you are also stuck with me as your brother; I have no natural course but to assure you that if you grew up and knew in your heart that your excellent, ritzy manners in public were merely skin deep, leaving you free to be quite a dirty pig when alone in a room, with no one watching but yourself, you would be far from pleased; it would quite corrode you, in a subtle manner.
I will tyrannize no one any further! Good-bye to all for the interlude!
We send you our naked hearts!
To my relief and utter amusement, I have another pad of paper that I didn’t know I had, together with the pleasure of realizing that Griffith Hammersmith’s clock, which Buddy kindly borrowed for my convenience, has not been wound up and is recording the time of yesterday or the sultry day before! I will be quite brisk about it, however. As well as yourselves, I assure you, my hand and finger are beginning to rebel against the length of this letter, begun shortly after dawn with only a tray or two of food for interruption, to my delight. My God, I love a decent stretch of leisure! Quite rare, as things go.
Les, while this opportunity is at hand, as well as quite before the damnable bugle blows for third mess and confusion reigns, allow me to make one last request on behalf of your two eldest sons. I will be entirely brisk about it. Should my written construction, as follows, prove to be quite curt, pauciloquent, and too cold or chilly in general impression, merely realize I have already consumed too much of your time; I am now bending over backwards to save you further wear and tear on the nerves. Your road schedule, old man, has not been separated from my ridiculous body since you entrusted it to me. At this very moment in time, I am placing it on the counterpane before me for careful examination. On the 19th of the current month, you and the intoxicating Mrs. Glass, demon of the cinder path and toast of a thousand continents, to give you that cute devil her due, will leave the Cort Theater, long may it flourish, and leave for New York to fill an engagement at the Albee, one reads, in Brooklyn. Would to God we, your son Buddy and I, could be with you and two other, quite unknown bogs had this opportunity to stay off the streets and out of the stifling heat of trains, hotel rooms, and other cramped accommodations all summer. Here, free from bantersome remarks, is my bare request. When you are comfortably settled back in Manhattan, please stop by at the library, customary annex branch, and offer our compliments, as well as our love, to the incomparable Miss Overman. At your leisure, please ask her to get in touch with Mr. Wilfred G. L.  Fraser at the library council for us so that we may take him up on his friendly, spontaneous, possibly rash offer to send us any required reading material while we are away. I utterly dislike to ask Miss Overman, quite a busy person, to go to this trouble, but she has his personal address for the summer; he neglected to give it to us before we left, perhaps from humorous design! If I could avoid asking Miss Overman to step into this breach, I would gladly do so; I am not happy about taking advantage of her leisure time; always friendship in this world is being corrupted by countless strings attached and personal interests, quite a vicious dilemma, despite the pronounced, humorous side. However, perhaps you will briefly remind her that Mr. Fraser, quite in person, offered this uncommon service to us, quite out of the blue, flabbergasting us, I can assure you. He said he would send any requested books personally or on his authority, should he be out of town, no doubt assuming that a friend or trusty relative would defray mailing costs. Without further sparring around, here is a rough list of books for your convenience and Miss Overman’s that we would relish being passed in this dubious direction. Mr. Fraser did not mention how many books he would consent to send to us, so if I have taken too many liberties with the quantity, please ask Miss Overman to step in and cut down the number, using her touching discretion. Tersely put, as follows:
Conversational Italian, by R. J. Abraham. He is a likable, exacting person, our good friend from the old days in Spanish.
Any unbigoted or bigoted books on God or merely religion, as written by persons whose last names begin with any letter after H; to stay on the safe side, please include H, itself, though I have mostly exhausted it.
Any marvelous, very good, merely interesting, or regrettably mediocre poems that are not already too familiar and haunting to us, regardless of the poet’s nationality. There is a decent list of exhausted poems in my drawer in N.Y. incorrectly marked athletic equipment, unless you did finally let the apartment go and put everything in cold storage at the last minute; you quite forgot to tell us in your correspondence and I neglected to ask you in the heat of the delicious phone call from LaSalle.
The complete works again of Count Leo Tolstoy. This will be no inconvenience for Mr. Fraser; this will be an inconvenience for Miss Overman’s cordial sister, also a damned beautiful self-reliant spinster, whom Miss Overman refers to, very touchingly, as her “baby sister,” though past the flush of youth by many years. She, the younger Miss Overman, owns the Count’s complete works and may quite consent to re-lend them to us, knowing by now that we take very passionate and suitable care of books entrusted by friends. Please accentuate, without rubbing any of these sensitive ladies the wrong way, not to send “Resurrection” or “The Kreutzer Sonata” or possibly even “The Cossacks” again, an insensitive, second reading of these masterpieces not being necessary or desired. Do not pass it along, as it is not entirely up their alley, but we particularly wish to remake the acquaintance of Stefan and Dolly Oblonsky, who quite captured our hearts, humanity, and amusement when we last met; these are characters, man and wife, in “Anna Karenina,” magnificent in entirety. To be sure, the young, thoughtful hero of the book is utterly absorbing, too, as well as his sweetheart and future wife, an adorable kid in the last analysis;
however, they are very callow; we are much more in need of the company of a charming, rogue at this place, with straightforward kindness in his heart and bowels.
The Gayatri Prayer, by unknown author, preferably with original, rolling words attached to English translation; utterly beautiful, sublime, and refreshing. Incidentally, here is an important matter for Boo Boo, lest I forget to include it. Boo Boo, my marvelous kid!  Discard entirely the temporary prayer you asked me to give you before going to bed! If it takes your immediate fancy, substitute this new one, which quite gets around your current objections to the word “God.”
There is no excusable law that says you have to use the word if it is currently a stumbling block. Try this, as follows: “I am a young child about to go to sleep, as usual. The word God is currently a thorn in my side, being habitually used and revered, perhaps in superb faith, by two girl friends of mine, young Lotta Davilla and Marjorie Hergberg, whom I consider appreciably mean, as well as liars from the word go. I address the nameless hallmark, preferably without shape or ridiculous attributes, who has always been kind and charming enough to guide my destiny both between and during the splendid, touching use of human bodies. Dear hallmark, give me some decent, reasonable instructions for tomorrow, quite while I am sleeping. It is not necessary that I know what these instructions are, pending development of understanding, but I would be delighted and grateful to have them under my belt nevertheless. I will assume temporarily that these instructions will prove potent, effective, encouraging, and quite intensive, provided I hold my mind quite still and empty, in the manner suggested by my presumptuous, elder brother.” As conclusion, say “Amen” or merely “Good night’” which ever takes your fancy or strikes you as sincere and spontaneous. That is all I was able to think of on the train, but I tucked it away to pass on at my earliest convenience. However, use it only if you find it undistasteful! Tamper with it as freely and ardently as you choose! If it is distasteful or embarrassing, discard it without a particle of regret and wait till I get home and can freely re-consider the issue! Do not think me infallible! I am utterly fallible!
The list for Mr. Fraser now continues at random:
Don Quixote, by Cervantes, both volumes again if it not too much trouble; this man is a genius beyond easy or cheap compare! I am hopeful that Miss Overman will send this personally and not Mr. Fraser personally, as he is quite unable to pass on to us a work of genius without personal comment and maddening evaluation and condescension, I am afraid. In tribute to Cervantes, I would prefer to receive these works in the mail without useless discussion and other needless crap. Raja-Yoga and Bhakti-Yoga, two heartrending, handy, quite tiny volumes, perfect for the pockets of any average, mobile boys our age, by Vivekananda of India. He is one of the most exciting, original, and best equipped giants of this century I have ever run into; my personal sympathy for him will never be outgrown or exhausted as long as I live, mark my words; I would easily give ten years of my life, possibly more, if I could have shaken his hand or at least said a brisk, respectful hello to him on some busy street in Calcutta or elsewhere. He was fully acquainted with the lights I mentioned earlier, far more than I! One hopes that he would have not found me too worldly and sensual a person!  This devilish thought often haunts me when his gigantic name passes through my mind; a very enigmatic and saddening experience; would to God there were a better footing between the unsensual and the sensual persons of this universe. I have no stomach for gaps of that kind; I personally can’t stand it, which is another looming sign of instability.
For first acquaintance or renewed acquaintance, as small-size editions as possible of the following writers of genius or talent:
Charles Dickens, either in blessed entirety or in any touching shape or form. My God, I salute you, Charles Dickens!
George Eliot; however, not in her entirety. Please leave this question to Miss Overman or Mr. Fraser to decide. As Miss Eliot is not too dear to my heart or mind in the last analysis, leaving the question to Miss Overman or Mr. Fraser also gives me a sorely needed chance to be courteous and respectful, as becomes my ridiculous age, without paying a very heavy price for it. This is a fairly disgusting thought, quite bordering on the calculating, but I can’t help it. I am ashamed of it, but I am very worried by my inhumane attitude towards unreliable advice. I am striving very hard to find a course of action in a matter of this kind which is both humane and acceptable.
William Makepeace Thackeray, not in entirety. Please ask Miss Overman to let Mr. Fraser deal with this personally. No harm involved, mindful of the two books by William Makepeace Thackeray I have already read. As in the case of Miss Eliot, he is excellent, but I cannot take my hat off to him in utter gratitude, I find, so this is another good, disgusting chance to fall back on Mr. Fraser’s personal taste. I am now expressing my rotten weaknesses and calculations right in front of my beloved parents and young brothers and sister, I realize, but my hands are tied; also I have no excusable right to appear a stronger person or youth than I really am, which is not damnably strong, by any human token!
Jane Austen, in entirety or in any shape or form, discounting “Pride and Prejudice,” which is already in possession. I will not disturb this incomparable girl’s genius with dubious remarks; I have already hurt Miss Overman’s feelings inexcusably by refusing to discuss this girl, but I lack even the slight decency to regret it very much. Quite in a pinch, I would be willing to meet somebody at Rosings, but I cannot enter into a discussion of a womanly genius this humorous, magnificent, and personal to me; I have made some feeble, human attempts, but nothing at all meritorious.
John Bunyan. If I am getting too curt or terse, please excuse it, but I am racing to a brisk conclusion of this letter. All too frankly, I did not give this man a fair chance when I was younger, finding him too unwilling to give a few personal weaknesses, such as sloth, greed, and many others, the benefit of a few prickly, quite tortuous doubts; I personally have met dozens upon dozens of splendid, touching human beings on the road of life who enjoy sloth to the hilt, yet remain human beings one would turn to in need, as well as excellent, beneficial company for children, such as the slothful, delightful Herb Cowley, fired from one menial, theatrical job after another! Does the slothful Herb Cowley ever fail his friends in need? Are his humor and jolliness not a subtle support to passing strangers? Does John Bunyan think God has some maddening prejudice against taking these things into very pleasant consideration on Judgment Day, which, in my forward opinion, quite regularly occurs between human bodies? Upon re-reading John Bunyan this time, I am aiming to give his natural, touching genius more recognition and admiration, but his general attitude is a permanent thorn in my side, I am afraid. He is too damnably harsh for my taste. Here is where a decent, private re-reading of the touching, splendid Holy Bible comes in very handy, freely preserving one’s sanity on a rainy day, the incomparable Jesus Christ freely suggesting, as follows: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Quite right; I do not find one thing unreasonable there, far from it; however, John Bunyan, a baptized Christian warrior, to be sure, seems to think the noble Jesus Christ said, as follows: “Be ye therefore flawless, even as your Father which is in heaven is flawless!” My God, here is inaccuracy incarnate! Did anybody say anything about being flawless? Perfection is an absolutely different word, magnificently left hanging for the human being’s kind benefit throughout the ages! That is what I call thrilling, sensible leeway. My God, I am fully in favor of a little leeway or the damnable jig is up!  Fortunately, in my own forward opinion, based on the dubious information of the unreliable brain, the jig is never damnable and never up; when it maddeningly appears to be, it is merely time to rally one’s magnificent forces again and review the issue, if necessary, quite up to one’s neck in blood or deceptive, ignorant sorrow, taking plenty of decent time to recall that even our magnificent God’s perfection allows for a touching amount of maddening leeway, such as famines, untimely deaths, on the surface, of young children, lovely women and ladies, valiant, stubborn men, and countless other, quite shocking discrepancies in the opinion of the human brain. However, if I keep this up, I will firmly decline to give this immortal author, John Bunyan, a quite decent re-reading this summer. I swiftly pass on to the next author on the disorderly list.
Warwick Deeping; not too hopeful, but strongly recommended by very nice, chance acquaintance at the main library. While the consequences are often quite hellish, I am absolutely and perhaps permanently against ignoring books recommended from the heart by very nice people and strangers; it is too risky and inhumane; also the consequences are often painful in a fairly charming way.
The Bršnte sisters again; here are ravishing girls! Please bear in mind that Buddy was in the middle of “Villette,” a softly gripping book, when the time drew near to embark for camp; this zealous reader, as you know quite well, brooks no interruptions that are not entirely unavoidable! It may be remembered, as well, that his sensuality is awakening at a very early date; one is at a human loss, at moments, not to reach out to these doomed girls carnally. In the past, I personally never reached out to Charlotte in a carnal matter; however, in retrospect, her attractions are quite a damned pleasant surprise.
Chinese Materia Medica, by Porter Smith; here is an ancient book, quite out of circulation, possibly unsound and annoying; however, I would like to go through it under the rose and, if worthy, give it to your magnificent son Buddy as a little surprise. You can easily have no idea how much unawakened knowledge of weeds and splendid flora this lad has brought with him, principally in his spatulate fingers, from previous appearances; unless it interferes with his life’s work, this unawakened knowledge must not go down the drain! I, his senior by two years, am his earnest, ignorant pupil in these matters! Quite apart from the delicious meals that he has offered Griffith Hammersmith and myself, he is absolutely powerless to pluck an innocent flower without examining and smelling its roots, dampening them with a little saliva to remove the soil; they are crying out to this boy, awaiting the return of his splendid ears! Unfortunately, the paltry number of books on this subject, usually English, are fraught with inaccuracy, wishful folly, and deplorable superstition, with gross exaggeration the reigning hallmark! Let us, his loving family, turn with some hope and good cheer to the wondrous Chinese, freely sharing with the noble Hindus a wide, open mind on the subject of the body, the human breath, and the staggering differences between the left and right sides of the body.
This leaves some refreshing hope to go on, provided the author, Porter Smith, has given the body and soul to the unlimited subject and is not another maddening, pretentious dabbler merely keen on making a pleasant niche for himself in the field, but do not let me castigate this fellow without a handsome, decent trial!
In convenient amounts, suitable for the wear and tear of camp life, please send the following Frenchmen, for practice or pure pleasure, depending on the magnetism of the individual Frenchmen involved. In fairly large amounts, please send books by Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert, Honore de Balzac or merely Honore Balzac, as the latter freely gave himself the aristocratic “de” from a touching, humorous motive, quite unlicensed. The humorous lust for aristocracy in this world is unending! It is not too humorous in the last analysis, in my forward opinion. Some pleasant, rainy day, when you have the stomach for it, examine the bowels of any effective revolution since history began; deep in the heart of every outstanding reformer, if you do not find personal envy, jealousy, hunger for personal aristocracy, in a new, clever disguise, running a very close race with the desire for more food and less poverty, I will gladly answer to God for this entire, cynical attitude. Unfortunately, I see no immediate solution to the situation. In smaller amounts, also in French for practice or pleasure, diverse selections from the works of Guy de Maupassant, Anatole France, Martin Leppert, Eugene Sue. Please ask Miss Overman to ask Mr. Fraser not to insert any biographies of Guy de Maupassant by mistake or design, quite particularly those by Elise Suchard, Robert Kurz, and Leonard Beland Walker, which I have already read with untold pain and sorrow and do not wish Buddy to read with pain and sorrow at such a tender age. As sensualists from the word go, I am afraid, we need every decent, thouroughgoing warning sign we can get on the subject of sensuality, but neither your son Buddy nor I have the slightest intention of dying by the phallus as surely as the sword; we fully intend to come to grips with the subject of sensuality, I give you my word of honor; however, I absolutely decline to accept Guy de Maupassant as a good illustration of abuse of sensuality, though it is very tempting. Had he not abused his male organ, he would have abused something else. I do not trust you, Monsieur de Maupassant! I do not trust you or any other monumental author who thrives, day in, day out, on lowly irony! My inexcusable ill-will freely extends to you as well, Anatole France, great ironist!  My brother and I, as well as myriad human readers, come to you in superb faith and you give us a slap in the face! If that is the best you can do, have the rudimentary courtesy to kill yourselves or kindly burn your magnificent pens!
Please forgive the above, deplorable outburst; it is sorely inexcusable, no apology being quite acceptable, but my attitude towards universal irony and slaps in the face is admittedly harsh; I am working on it, I assure you, but making fairly rotten progress. Let us change to a less hopeless topic, returning to the list. Please ask Miss Overman to send Marcel Proust, as a final Frenchman, in entirety. Buddy has not yet had the onslaught of meeting this uncomfortable, devastating genius of modern times, but is now swiftly approaching readiness, his tender age quite aside; I have already prepared him slightly, in the bowels of the main library, with many magnificent passages, such as the following, from the tantalizing “A l’Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs,” which this remarkable reader has preferred to remember by heart, as follows: “On ne trouve jamais aussi hauts qu’on avait esperes, une cathedrale, une vague dans la tempete, le bond d’un danseur.” In a trice, this lad instantaneously translated every word to perfection except “vague,” which quite means an ocean wave, as well as being captivated by the beauty! If he is old enough to be captivated by the beauty of this incomparable, decadent genius, he should be quite prepared to take the rampant perversion and homosexuality in his stride; there is quite a bit of it going on here anyway, particularly among the Intermediates. I see no earthly point in approaching these matters with false, blind, kid gloves. However, do not, under any human condition, advance the impression to Mr. Fraser that I am offering any Proust book for Buddy’s benefit. Very dangerous shoals ahead!  Considering Buddy’s youthful age, Mr. Fraser is not in the least above using things like this to amuse or greatly interest his friends in casual conversation, having a fairly violent passion for being the center of interest in conversational matters! Such an event, I assure you, would slowly work evil on us, quite undermining all our private, confidential training in behaving as inoffensive, regular boys in quite dangerous, heartless, public places! Although entirely kind at heart, helpful, and educated widely, Mr. Fraser has quite a big mouth, be utterly assured. Vanity plays a small part in this; forfeit of individuality at an early age plays a much larger part. This thoughtful, widely educated man is unscrupulous about using an independent child as conversational highlight, the sad, unrelenting factor being that good people who do not strive hard enough to uncover their own destinies and incessant responsibilities in life content themselves with parasitic occupations, feeding upon other chaps’ lives to the marrow. Mr. Fraser, a damned charming person at frequent intervals, has my sympathy from the word go, but I absolutely decline to allow him to use my junior brother, as well as any other hopeful, secret genius of remarkably tender age, to serve as host fish to Mr.  Fraser! Only harm without measure can come from this crap! At all costs, as long as humanly possible, let this young boy keep his precious shares in the divinely human state of nobodyness!
The list now continues at random.
The complete works, quite in full, of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, with the exception of any books that are not utterly connected with Sherlock Holmes, such as “The White Company.” Oh, here is cause for mental frolic and amusement when I tell you what happened to me in this regard one day quite recently! I was quietly swimming in the lake during Aquatics Period, quite without a thought in my head, merely recalling sympathetically to myself the pleasant passion of Miss Constable, at the main library, for the great Goethe’s works in full. At this quiet moment, a thought occurred to me which raised my eyebrows unmercifully!It was suddenly borne in upon me, utterly beyond dispute, that I love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but do not love the great Goethe! As I darted idly through the water, it became crystal clear that it is far from an established fact that I am even demonstrably fond of the great Goethe, in my heart, while my love for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, via his contributions, is an absolute certainty! I have rarely ever had a more revealing incident in any body of water. I daresay I shall never get any closer to drowning in sheer gratitude for a passing portion of truth. Think for a stunning moment what this means! It means that every man, woman, and child over the age, let us say, of twenty-one or thirty, at the very outside, should never do anything extremely important or crucial in their life without consulting a list of persons in the world, living or dead, whom he loves. Remember, I implore you, that he has no right whatever to include on this list anybody that he merely admires to distraction! If the person or the person’s contributions have not aroused his love and unexplainably happiness or eternal warmth, that person must be ruthlessly severed from the list!  There may be another list for that person, but this list I have in mind is exclusively for love. My God, it could be the finest, most terrible, personal guard against deceit and lies both to oneself and to any friends or acquaintances in casual or heated conversation with oneself!  I have already made quite a number of such lists in my leisure time, for private consultation, embracing many types of people on earth. As a very revealing example of where this can lead, and which I think you will enjoy to the hilt, who would you say casually is the only singer on this list whose voice is represented either on Victrola record or personal appearance? Enrico Caruso? I am quite afraid this is not the case. Excluding family members, whose voices have never failed to charm me, to be sure, the only singer I am prepared to say I love his singing voice, without fear of lying or quite intelligently deceiving myself, is my incomparable friend Mr. Bubbles, of Buck & Bubbles, merely singing to himself in his dressing room next to yours in Cleveland!  This is not to disparage Enrico Caruso or Al Jolson, but facts heartlessly remain facts! I cannot help it! If you make a terrible list of this kind, you are quite stuck with it. For my own part, I give you my word of honor that when I return to New York I will never again leave my room for a moment without a very telling few lines of my lists on my person, saving a simple trip to the living room or the bathrooms.  I do not know where this will all lead to, but if it does not lead to more lies in the world, it is something. The worst it can do is to show that I am a stupid boy, quite without any impeccable taste in the last analysis, but this may not be the exact case, thank God.
Moving rapidly along, kindly send any unflinching book on the World War, in its shameful, exploitative entirety, preferably unwritten by vainglorious or nostalgic veterans or enterprising journalists of slight ability or conscience. I would greatly appreciate anything not containing excellent photographs. The older one gets, the more inclined one is to trample on excellent photographs.
Please send me the following, choice, foul books, perhaps coupled together for convenient packaging, also that they may avoid contaminating any books by men or women of genius, talent, or thrilling, modest scholarship: “Alexander,” by Alfred Erdonna, and “Origins and Speculations,” by Theo Acton Baum. Quite without exerting yourselves or my good friends at the library, please do your utmost top drop these in the earliest mail at your convenience. These are invaluably stupid books that I would like Buddy to have under his belt before entering school next year for the first time in this appearance.  Do not trample too quickly on stupid books! One of the swiftest ways, though very enervating and tortuous, to have a young, utterly competent boy like Buddy avoid shutting his eyes to daily stupidity and foulness in the world is to offer him an excellent, stupid, foul book: Perhaps in utter silence one can then say to him, avoiding emotional sorrow or rank fury in the voice, merely handing over the invaluable books on a silver platter: “Here, young man, are two books both of which are subtle, admirably unemotional, and unnoticeably rotten to the core.  Both are written by distinguished, false scholars, men of condescension, exploitation, and quiet, personal ambition. I have personally finished reading their books with tears of shame and anger.  Without another word, I give you these two godsent models of the feculent curse of intellectuality and smooth education running rampant without talent or penetrating humanity.” I would not say a single, additional syllable to the young man in question. You may quite think this sounds very harsh again. It would be only foolish and humorous to deny it; it is very harsh. On the other side of the ledger, you may not know the dangers of these men. Let us clear the air momentarily by examining them with simple brevity, proceeding with Alfred Erdonna first. A professor at a leading university in England, he has written this biography of Alexander the Great in a leisurely, readable fashion, despite its size, frequently making references to his wife, also a distinguished professor at a leading university, and to his charming dog, Alexander, and his former, old professor, Professor Heeder, who also lived off Alexander the Great for a number of years. Between the two of them, they made an excellent living off Alexander the Great, quite in their spare time, if not in monetary gain certainly in fame and prestige. Despite this, Alfred Erdonna treats Alexander the Great just like another charming dog in his damned possession! I am personally not crazy about Alexander the Great or any incurably, militant person, but how dare Alfred Erdonna finish his book quite giving you the subtle, unfair impression that he, Alfred Erdonna, is superior to Alexander the Great in the last analysis merely because he and his wife, and possibly dog, are in the very cozy position to exploit and patronize Alexander the Great! He is not even in the least bit grateful to Alexander the Great for having existed so that he, Alfred Erdonna, could have the privilege of quite sponging off him in a leisurely, distinguished way. I am not even taking this false, scholarly personage to task because he quite personally dislikes heroes and heroism from the word go, even devoting a chapter to Alexander and Napoleon, in similar capacities, to show what harm and bloodful nonsense heroes have wrought upon the world. The germ of this is very sympathetic to me, in acknowledged frankness, but two things are necessary to write such a daring, unoriginal chapter. Surely it is worth a moment’s casual discussion; I beg you to be patient and blindly affectionate with me till it is over! There is also a third thing necessary.
1.   You are in a much stabler position to dislike heroes and heroism utterly if you yourself are quite equipped to do something heroic. If you are not equipped to do anything heroic, you may still enter the discussion honorably, but with terrible caution and reasonableness, very deliberately and painstakingly turning on every light in your body, also perhaps re-doubling your fervent prayers to God not to go astray in any cheap way.
2.   You must have a model of the human brain handy for general reasons.
If you do not have a model of the human brain handy, a peeled chestnut will do only too damned well! But it is quite necessary to see with your own eyes, in a matter of this kind, involving such matters as heroes and heroism, that the human brain is just a charming, likable, quite dissectable agency, without a shred of reliable ability to understand human history in full or what temporary role, heroic or unheroic, it is time to play with all one’s heart and conscience.
3.   He, Alfred Erdonna, freely acknowledges that Alexander the Great’s personal teacher, when a lad, was Aristotle. Not once, at any decent time, does Alfred Erdonna sadly take Aristotle to task for failing to teach Alexander the Great to avoid becoming great! There is utterly no mention, in any book on this interesting subject I have read, that Aristotle ever even at least begged Alexander to accept the mantle of accidental greatness and refuse, quite like excrement, if you will pardon me briefly, any other kind of greatness whatsoever.

I will gladly close the damnable subject here. My nerves are quite raw now; also I have quite forfeited the decent time I was going to give to Theo Acton Baum’s dubious and very dangerous, untalented, coldhearted work of literature. However, to repeat, I will not answer for my peace of mind if Buddy is allowed to enter school and the long, utterly complicated road of formal education until he has had these perilous, conceited, utterly commonplace books under his belt.
Moving quite along at a trot now, humorously speaking, please send me any thoughtful books on human whirling or spinning. You will recall, quite with my undying, humorous sympathy, that at least three of your children, in sheer independence of each other, and utterly untaught, have picked up the delicate custom of spinning the body around with alarming speed, after which regrettably ostentatious experience the person who does the whirling can often, though not always, by any means, arrive at a decision or an impressive answer to a problem, usually quite small. The practice, to be sure, has been invaluable to me on more than one trivial occasion in the library, provided one can find a place unseen by the naked eye. To date, of course, I have discovered a few people spread widely throughout the world who have used this practice with success, even the touching Shakers, to a small extent. Also, there is an impressive rumor that St. Francis of Assisi, a marvelous person, once asked a fellow monk to do a little spinning when they were on an important crossroad with hesitation which direction to take. There, to be sure, you have the Byzantine influence on the Troubadours, but I am far from convinced that the practice can be limited to one corner of this thrilling globe. While I am very shortly going to give up the practice for the rest of my life, leaving more responsibility on another portion of my mind, the fact quite remains that copious information on the subject will be very welcome, as the other children may, for personal reasons, prefer to continue the practice well into maturity, though I doubt it.
To continue and mercifully conclude this list, I would be thankful to read anything in English written by the tolerable Cheng brothers or anybody else passably gifted and heartrendingly ambitious who had the disagreeable luck to do any religious writing in China after the two, towering, incomparable geniuses of Lao-tse and Chuang-tse, not to mention Guatama Buddha! One need not approach Miss Overman or Mr. Fraser with kid gloves on this subject, as I have already broken the ice repeatedly, but delicacy of approach is still quite advisable! Nor Miss Overman nor Mr. Fraser has never been even slightly bitten by the subject of God or essential chaos in the universe, therefore casting quite a cool, dissembling countenance on my consuming interest in such affairs. Their concern, thank God, is far from petty or disaffectionate, the distinguished Edgar Semple having told Mr. Fraser that I have the makings of a splendid American poet, which is quite true in the last analysis. They are quite fearful, one and all, that my consuming admiration of God, straightforward and shapeless, will upset the delightful applecart of my poetry; this is not stupid; there is always a slight, magnificent, utterly worthless risk that I will be a crashing failure from the word go, disappointing all my friends and loved ones, a very sober, rotten possibility that brings the usual fluid to my eyes as I bring the matter into the open. It would be quite a moving, humorous boon, to be sure, if one knew quite well, every single day of one’s splendid current appearance, exactly where one’s everlasting duty lies, obvious and concrete! Quite to my regret and secret delight, my glimpses are ludicrously helpless to aid me in such matters! While there is always a flimsy possibility that one’s beloved,
shapeless God will surprise one out of the blue with a charming, useful command, such as “Seymour Glass, do this,” or “Seymour Glass, my young, foolish son, do that,” I utterly fail to warm up to this possibility. This is quite a gross exaggeration, to be sure. I am utterly warming up to the possibility when I am freely and deliciously pondering it, But I am also utterly and eternally abhorring it, from the very roots of my dubious soul! Vulgarly speaking, the whole possibility of getting charming, personal commands from God, quite shapeless or adorned with an impressive, charming beard, stinks to high heaven of sheer favoritism! let God raise one human being up over another, lavishing handsome favors upon him, and the hour has struck to leave His charming service forever, and quite good riddance! This sounds very harsh, but I am an emotional youth, frankly mortal, with innumerable experiences under my belt of mortal favoritism; I cannot stand the sight of it; Let God favor us all with charming, personal commands or none of us! If You have the stomach to read this letter, dear God, be assured that I am meaning what I say! Do not sprinkle any dubious sugar on my destiny! Do not favor me with charming, personal commands and magnificent short cuts! Do not ask me to join any elite organization of mortals that is not widely open to all and sundry! Recall quite fervently that I have felt equipped to love Your astonishing, noble Son, Jesus Christ, on the acceptable basis that you did not play favorites with Him or give Him carte blanche throughout his appearance! Give me one, single inkling that You gave Him carte blanche and I will regretfully wipe His name from the slim list of those human beings I respect without countless reservations, despite His many and diverse miracles, which were perhaps necessary in the general circumstance but remain a dubious feature, in my forward opinion, as well as a nasty stumbling block for decent, likable atheists, such as Leon Sundheim and Mickey Waters, the former an elevator operator at the Hotel Alamac, the latter a charming drifter without employment. Foolish tears are coursing down my face, to be sure; there is no decent alternative. It is humorous and kindly of you, Your Grace, to allow me to remain absorbed in my own dubious methods, such as industrious absorption with the human heart and brain. My God, you are a hard one to figure out, thank God! I love you more than ever!  Consider my dubious services everlastingly at your disposal!
I am freely resting for a moment, dear Les and Bessie and other loving victims of the above onslaught. Across the empty bungalow, through the view offered by the window above Tom Lantern’s fortunate bunk, the afternoon sun is shining in a very moving manner, provided my brain is not merely shining in a very moving manner. With or without absolute proof, it is sometimes folly not to accept the happiness of which ever is shining.
I will conclude the interrupted list of books for Miss Overman and Mr. Fraser with a few, brisk strokes: Please send anything on the colorful and greedy Medicis, as well as anything on the touching Transcendentalists, quite in our own back yard. Also send copies, preferably without exhibitionistic pencil marks on the page, of both the French edition and Mr. Cotton’s translation of Montaigne’s essays. There is a charming, shallow, delightful Frenchman!  Let one’s hat be doffed to any gifted, charming fellows; my God, they are rare and impressive!
Please send anything interesting on human civilization well before the Greeks, although quite after the list of civilizations in the pocket of my former raincoat with the unfortunate gash in the shoulder, which Walt humorously declined to wear in public.
This is of unspeakable importance. Please send any books on the structure of the human heart that I have not read; a fairly compact list last lay in the top drawer of my chiffonier, either beneath my handkerchiefs or in the vicinity of Buddy’s guns. Unusual, accurate drawings of the heart are always welcome, as any well-meaning, crude likeness of this incomparable organ, the finest of the body, is a pleasure to see; however, drawings are not essential in the last analysis, merely covering the pure, physical characteristics, leaving out the uncharted, best parts entirely! Unfortunately, quite to one’s eternal chagrin, the best parts can only be viewed at very odd, thrilling, unexpected seconds when one’s lights are quite definitely turned on; without a healthy talent for drawing, which I utterly lack, one is at a terrible loss to share the view with one’s intimate and interested acquaintances. This is an unpretty state of affairs, to say the least! The entire view of this magnificent organ, without compare in the human body, should be in the possession of everyone and not merely of dubious young fellows like the undersigned!
Conveniently on the subject of the body, seen or unseen by the naked eye, please send any book devoted exclusively to the formation of callus. It will be very difficult or impossible, so please do not ask Miss Overman or Mr. Fraser to strain. However, if a book on this compelling subject should be found, be assured that it will be consumed eagerly around here, particularly any discussion of callus that unites a broken, human bone while it is healing, its intelligence being quite staggering and delightful, quite knowing when to begin and cease, without intentional assistance from the brain of the injured person.  Here is another magnificent accomplishment that is maddeningly attributed to “Mother Nature.” With all due respect, I have been sick, for many years, of hearing her dubious name.
In February of this memorable year, I had the unspeakable pleasure of chatting back and forth, for a delicious quarter of an hour, with a handsome woman hailing from Czechoslovakia, a figure in somber, costly clothes, yet with interesting, touching, dirty fingernails. The incident occurred in the main library, a month or so after the Honorable Louis Benfrod, in reply to my letter, swiftly and humorously made my dubious presence possible. Professing to be the mother of a young diplomat, which had the comfortable ring of truth to it, she softly introduced the subject of her favorite poet, Otakar Brezina, a Czech, urging me to read him. Perhaps Mr. Fraser can find one of his works for me, in English translation, I am afraid. The possibilities are quite hopeful, as this stunning woman, though very nervous and unbalanced in the last analysis, had a marvelous, lonely spark! Mr.  Brezina has a stunning champion there! God bless ladies with costly, tasteful clothes and touching, dirty fingernails that champion gifted, foreign poets and decorate the library in beautiful, melancholy fashion! My God, this universe is nothing to snicker at!
In conclusion, quite absolutely final, I would greatly appreciate it if you would ask Miss Overman to ask Mrs. Hunter, possibly on the phone if it is convenient, to please track down the January, 1842, issue of Dublin University Magazine, the January, 1866, issue of the Gentleman’s Magazine, and the September, 1866, number of the North British Review, as all these unrecent magazines contain articles about a very dear friend of mine, purely by correspondence, in my last appearance, quite frankly, Sir William Rowan Hamilton! I am very seldom able to do this, which is quite a blessing in disguise, but I can still see his friendly, lonely, sociable face before me, at wide intervals! Do not however, mention any of these personal connections to Miss Overman, I beg you! Her set of automatic revulsions on this subject is perfectly normal; she is invariably taken aback with alarm and disappointmen  on the rare occurrences when I am damn foolish and thoughtless enough to introduce the unpopular subject of appearances. There is also another reason for not going into dubious details with her, as follows: It is, unfortunately, a subject that makes quite a rotten subject for casual, social conversation. Although Miss Overman does not generally use us, your son Buddy and myself, as dubious subjects of conversation to entertain her friends or associates, being an honorable lady and wont to consider other people’s feelings and dubious positions, she is utterly incapable of withholding peculiar or slightly novel information from Mr. Fraser or any other well-dressed, cultured gentleman with distinguished, white hair, being inclined to fall slightly in love with them if they are kind and attentive to her or use conversational persiflage with her, with or without sincerity. This is quite a gentle, humorous fault, to be sure, but it would be very expensive to indulge too freely. Please just ask her to phone Mrs. Hunter and see if the magazines in question can be tracked down without great inconvenience, mentioning no reasons, perhaps requesting in the same breath, quite casually, that she, Miss Overman, pass on to us any delightful light reading that she has enjoyed lately. This stinks to high heaven for rank duplicity, but her taste in light reading is also often delightful, so I regretfully recommend the ruse. I trust your discretion in this and all affairs completely, needless to say, Bessie sweetheart. Also we would appreciate it if you would casually slip Mr. and Mrs. Moon Mullins, and perhaps a few copies of Variety into a convenient envelope when you are done with them. Jesus, what a millstone, bore, and general nuisance I am becoming to your lives! No day passes that I am not mindful of my rotten, demanding traits of character. Also, quite by the way, I think I should warn Miss Overman that Mr. Fraser may well be vexed and quite floored at the number of books requested, though he himself failed to mention the maximum number he would be willing to send us while we were away. Please ask Miss Overman to impress upon him that we are both reading with increased, incredible rapidity every day of our lives and return any very valuable books in a trice, where speed of return is essential and we can get stamps. Difficulties, I am afraid, will be myriad. He, Mr. Fraser, is really a very generous, kind man, with an astonishingly high tolerance for my rotten traits, but there is also a small catch in his generosity, as he likes to see the grateful recipients’ faces in person when he does them a favor of this magnitude. This is entirely human and cannot be expected or uselessly desired to disappear from the earth overnight, but please keep the warning under your belts anyway. In my private, humorous opinion, we will be very damn lucky if Mr. Fraser sends as much as two or three books on the entire list! Oh, my God, there is a maddening, comical thought!
Guess who entered the bungalow with a broad smile on his face! Your son Buddy! Also known as W. G. Glass, the superb author! What an inexpugnable lad he is! He has obviously had a productive day’s work! I wish to God you were here, quite in the flesh, to see his stunning, appealing, slightly tanned face; in more ways than one, dear Bessie and Les, you are paying a very exorbitant price for our frivolous summer’s enjoyments and recreations. Au revoir! Buddy joins me in every sincere wish for your continued health and happy existence in our prolonged absence. We remain, Your loving sons and brothers, Seymour and W. G.  Glass; united forever by spirit and blood and uncharted depths and chambers of the heart.
In my haste to bring this letter to a swift termination, as well as my joy to see your astounding son pop into the bungalow, following an absence of seven and one half hours, I am in danger of overlooking a small cluster of final requests, quite slight, let us hope. As already mentioned, the chances are blackly excellent that Mr. Fraser will fall into a pit of dejection upon receiving a list of books, utterly to his sociable, spontaneous offer to me; however, I may be doing him quite a grave injustice with this thought; in the hopeful event that I am, which I sadly doubt, please ask Miss Overman to remind him that this wil
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In my haste to bring this letter to a swift termination, as well as my joy to see your astounding son pop into the bungalow, following an absence of seven and one half hours, I am in danger of overlooking a small cluster of final requests, quite slight, let us hope. As already mentioned, the chances are blackly excellent that Mr. Fraser will fall into a pit of dejection upon receiving a list of books, utterly to his sociable, spontaneous offer to me; however, I may be doing him quite a grave injustice with this thought; in the hopeful event that I am, which I sadly doubt, please ask Miss Overman to remind him that this will be absolutely our last fling for 6 long months at the very least!  With summer’s glorious end, we will be devoting the remainder of this memorable year to dictionary consultation entirely; we will avoid even poetry during the crucial period in the offing; this freely means that Mr. Fraser will not have the experience, more trouble than rewarding, of seeing our young, exasperating faces in any public library in Gotham for the entire, comfortable period of six, full months! Who will not be quite relieved to hear this, with the heartening exception of perhaps no one! Quite in connection with the 6 months just mentioned, I am freely asking you, as our beloved parents and brothers and sister, to issue a few, crisp, earnest prayers in our behalf. I am personally very hopeful that great layers of unnatural, affected, stilted fustian and rotten, disagreeable words will drop off my young body like flies during the crucial period to come! It is worth every effort, my future sentence construction quite hanging in the balance!
Please do not get annoyed with me, Bessie, however, here is my absolutely last word on the subject of retirement from the stage at an uncommonly early age. I quite beg you again not to do anything out of season. At least wait, quite patiently, till October and then keep your eyes very peeled for retirement opportunities; October could be very clean sailing! Also, lest I forget, Buddy requests that you be sure to send him some of those very big tablets, quite without lines, for his haunting stories. Absolutely do not send him the kind with lines, such as I am using up for this day of pleasant communication, as he despises them. Also, though I have not dared to discuss the matter with him in a frank matter, I think he would enjoy it very much if you sent him middle bunny, having lost big bunny when the porter on the train made the bed in the morning; please, however, do not refer to this matter in your future correspondence, merely placing middle bunny silently in a convenient package, perhaps an empty shoe box or container, and dispatching it in the mail. I know I can leave this or any other matter quite to your discretion, Bessie; my God, you are as admirable as you are lovable! As well as not sending him any more tablets with lines for his stories, also absolutely do not send him any tablets with very flimsy paper, such as onion skin, as he merely drops this kind in the garbage can for general disposal outside the bungalow. This is wasteful, to be sure, but I would appreciate it if you did not ask me to step in a delicate matter of this kind. I am hesitant to say that certain kinds of waste do not offend me; indeed, certain kinds of waste tend to thrill me to the marrow. Also worth keeping in mind, it is this chap’s leonine devotion to his literary implements, I give you my word of honor, that he will eventually cause of his utter release, with honor and happiness, from this enchanting vale of tears, laughter, redeeming human love, affection, and courtesy.
With 50,000 additional kisses from the two looming pests of Bungalow 7
who love you,
Most cordially,
S. G.

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The Uncollected J.D. Salinger



Contents:                                 

1.   A Boy in France                           
(Saturday Evening Post 217, March, 1945)

2.   A Girl I Knew                     
(Good Housekeeping 126, February, 1948)

3.   A Young Girl in 1941 With No Waist At All      
(Mademoiselle 25, May, 1947)

4.   Both Parties Concerned                
(Saturday Evening Post 26, February, 1944)

5.   Elaine                                                              
(Story, March-April, 1945)

6.   Go See Eddie                     
(Kansas Review, December, 1940)

7.   I’m Crazy                        
(Colliers, December, 1945)

8.   Last Day of The Last Furlough            
(Saturday Evening Post, July, 1944)

9.   Once a Week Won’t Kill You            
(Story, November-December, 1944)

10.   Personal Notes of an Infantryman      
(Colliers 110, December 12, 1942)

11.   Slight Rebellion Off Madison         
(The New Yorker, December, 1946)

12.   Soft Boiled Sergeant               
(Saturday Evening Post, April, 1944)

13.   The Hang of It                  
(Colliers, July, 1941)

14.   The Heart of a Broken Story         
(Esquire 16, September, 1941)

15.   The Inverted Forest               
(Cosmopolitan, December, 1947)

16.   The Long Debut of Lois Taggett         
(Story, September-October, 1942)

17.   The Stranger                  
(Colliers, December, 1945)

18.   The Varioni Brothers               
(Saturday Evening Post 216, July, 1943)

19.   The Young Folks               
(Story 16, March-April, 1940)

20.   This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise      
(Esquire 24, October 1945)

21.   Blue Melody                  
(Cosmopolitan, September 1948)

22.   Hapworth 16, 1924               
(The New Yorker, June, 1965)

                                          


« Poslednja izmena: 16. Apr 2006, 13:18:45 od Makishon »
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1. A Boy in France                           
(Saturday Evening Post 217, March, 1945



After he had eaten half a can of pork and egg yolks, the boy laid his head back on the rain-sogged ground, hurtfully wrenched his head out of his helmet, closed his eyes, let his mind empty out from a thousand bungholes, and fell almost instantly asleep.  When he awoke, it was nearly ten o'clock--wartime, crazy time, nobody's time--and the cold, wet, French sky had begun to darken.  He lay there, opening his eyes, till slowly but surely the little war thoughts, those that cold not be disremembered, those that were not potentially and thankfully void, began to trickle back into his mind.  When his mind was filled to its unhappy capacity, one cheerless, nightful trend rose to the top:  Look for a place to sleep.  Get on your feet.  Get your blanket roll.  You can't sleep here.
   The boy raised his dirty, stinking, tired upper body, and from a sitting position, without looking at anything, he got to his feet.  Groggily he bent over, picked up and put on his helmet.  He walked unsteadily back to the blanket truck, and from a stack of muddy blanket rolls he pulled out his own.  Carrying the slight, unwarm bundle under his left arm, he began to walk along the bushy perimeter of the field.  He passed by Hurkin, who was sweatily digging a foxhole, and neither he nor Hurkin glanced with any interest at the other.  He stopped where Eeves was digging in, and he said to Eeves, "You on tonight, Eeves?"
   Eeves looked up and said, "Yeah," and a drop of sweat glistened and disengaged itself from the end of his long Vermont nose.
   The boy said to Eeves, "Wake me up if anything gets hot or anything," and Eeves replied, "How'll I know where you're gonna be at?" and the boy told him, "I'll holler when I get there."
   I won't dig in tonight, the boy thought, walking on.  I won't struggle and dig and chop with that damn little entrenching tool tonight.  I won't get hit.  Don't let me get hit, Somebody.  Tomorrow night I'll dig a swell hole, I swear I will.  But for tonight, for just now, when everything hurts, let me just find someplace to drop.  All of a sudden the boy saw a foxhole, a German one, unmistakably vacated by some Kraut during the afternoon, during the long, rotten afternoon.
   The boy moved his aching legs a little faster, going toward it.  When he got there he looked down into it, and his whole mind and body almost whimpered when he saw some G.I.'s dirty field jacket neatly folded and placed on the bottom of the hole, in the accepted claim.  The boy moved on.
   He saw another Kraut hole.  He hurried awkwardly toward it.  Looking down into it, he saw a gray woolen Kraut blanket, half spread, half bunched on the damp floor of the hole.  it was a terrible blanket on which some German and recently lain and bled and probably died.
   The boy dropped his blanket roll on the ground beside the hole, and then he removed his rifle, his gas mask, his pack and helmet.  Then he stooped beside the hole, dropped the little distance to his knees, reached down into the hole and lifted out the heavy, bloody, unlamented Kraut blanket.  Outside the hole, he rolled the thing into an absurd lump, picked it up and threw it into the dense hedgerow behind the hole.  He looked down into the hole again.  The dirt floor, he saw, was messy with what had permeated two folds of the heavy Kraut blanket.  The boy took his entrenching tool from his pack, stepped into the hole and leadenly began to dig out the bad places.
   When he was finished he stepped out of the hole, undid his blanket roll and laid the blankets out flat, one on top of the other.  As if they were one, he folded the blankets in half the long way, and then he lifted this bed thing, as though it had some sort of spine to it, over to the hole and lowered it carefully out of sight.
   He watched the pebbles of dirt tumble into the folds of his blankets.  Then he picked up his rifle, gas mask and helmet, and laid them carefully on the natural surface of the ground at the head of the hole.
   The boy lifted up the two top folds of his blankets, placed them aside slightly, and then he stepped with his muddy shoes into his bed.  Standing up, he took off his field jacket, bunched it up into a ball, and then he lowered himself into position for the night.  The hole was too short.  He could not stretch out without bending his legs sharply at the knees.  Covering himself with the top folds of his blankets, he laid his filthy head back on his filthier field jacket.  He looked up into the darkening sky and felt a few mean little lumps of dirt trickle into his shirt collar, some lodging there, some continuing down his back.  He did nothing about it.
   Suddenly a red ant bit him nastily, uncompromisingly, on the leg, just above his leggings.  he jammed a hand under the covers to kill the thing, but the movement caught itself short, as the boy hissed in pain, refeeling and remembering where that morning he had lost a whole fingernail.
   Quickly he drew the hurting, throbbing finger up to the line if his eye and examined it in the fading light.  then he placed the whole hand under the folds of the blankets, with the care more like that proffered a sick person than a sore finger, and let himself work the kind of abracadabra familiar to and special for G.I.'s in combat.
   "When I take my hand out of this blanket," he thought, "my nail will be grown back, my hands will be clean.  My body will be clean.  I'll have on clean shorts, clean undershirt, a white shirt.  A blue polka-dot tie.  A gray suit with a stripe, and I'll be home, and I'll bolt the door.  I'll put some coffee on the stove, some records on the phonograph, and I'll bolt the door.  I'll read my books and I'll drink coffee and I'll listen to music, and I'll bolt the door.  I'll open the window, I'll let in a nice, quiet girl--not Frances, not anyone I've ever known--and I'll bolt the door.  I'll ask her to read some Emily Dickinson to me--that one about being chartless--and I'll ask her to read some William Blake to me--that one about the little lamb that made thee--and I'll bolt the door.  She'll have an American voice, and she won't ask me if I have any chewing gum or bonbons, and I'll bolt the door."
   The boy took his hurting hand out of the blankets suddenly, expecting and getting no change, no magic.  Then he unbuttoned the flap of his sweat-stained, mud-crumbly shirt pocket, and took out a soggy lump of newspaper clippings.  He laid the clippings on his chest, took off the top one and brought it up to eye level.  It was a syndicated Broadway column, and he began to read in the dim light:

   "Last night--and step up and touch me, brother--I dropped in at the Waldorf to see Jeanie Powers, the lovely starlet, who is here to attend the premiere of her new picture, The Rockets' Red Glare.  (And don't miss it, folks.  It's grand.)  We asked the corn-fed Iowa beauty, who is in the big town for the first time in her lovely lifetime, what she wanted to do most while she was here.  "Well," said the Beauty to the Beast, "when I was on the train, I decided that all I really wanted in New York was a date with a real, honest-to-goodness G.I.!  And what do you suppose happened?  The very first afternoon I was here, right in the lobby of the Waldorf I bumped square into Bubby Beamis!  He's a major in public relations now, and he's stationed right in New York!  How's that for luck?"  . . .  Well, your correspondent didn't say much.  But lucky Beamis, I thought to my--"

   The boy in the hole crumpled the clipping into a soggy ball, lifted the rest of the clippings from his chest, and dropped them all, on the natural ground to the side of the hole.
   He stared up into the sky again, the French sky, the unmistakably French, not American sky.  And he said aloud to himself, half snickering, half weeping, "Oo la-la!"
   All of a sudden, and hurriedly, the boy took a soiled, unrecent envelope from his pocket.  Quickly he extracted the letter from inside it and began to reread to for the thirty-oddth time:

MANASQUAN, NEW JERSEY,

July 5, 1944


   Dear Babe: Mama thinks you are still in England, but I think you are in France.  Are you in France?  Daddy tells mama that he thinks you are in England still, but I think he thinks you are in France also.  Are you in France?
   The Bensons cane down to the shore early this summer and Jackie is over at the house all the time.  Mama brought your books with us because she thinks you will be home this summer.  Jackie asked if she could borrow the one about the Russian lady and one of the ones you used to keep on your desk.  I gave them to her because she said she would not bend the pages or anything.  Mama told her she smokes too much, and she is going to quit.  She got poisoned from sunburn before we came down.  She likes you a lot.  She may go in the Wacks.
   I saw Frances on my bike before we left home.  I yelled at her, but she did not hear me.  She is very stuck up and Jackie is not.  Jackie’s hair is prettier also.
   There are more girls than boys on the beach this year.  You never see any boys.  The girls play cards a lot and put a lot of sun tan oil on each others back and lay in the sun., but go in the water more than they used to.  Virginia Hope and Barbara Geezer had a fight about something and don’t sit next to each other on the beach anymore.  Lester Brogan was killed in the army where the Japs are.  Mrs. Brogan does not come to the beach anymore except on Sundays with Mr. Brogan.  Mr. Brogan just sits on the beach with Mrs. Brogan, and he does not go in the water, and you know what a good swimmer he is.  I remember when you and Lester took me out to the float once.  I go out to the float myself now.  Diana Schults married a soldier that was at sea Girt and she went back to California with him for a week, but he is gone now and she is back.  Diana lays on the beach by herself.
   Before we left home, Mr. Ollinger died.  Brother Teemers went into the store to get Mr. Ollinger to fix his bike and Mr. Ollinger was dead behind the counter.  Brother Teemers ran crying all the way to the court house and Mr. Teemers was busy talking to the jury and everything.  Brother Teemers ran right in anyway and yelled Daddy Daddy Mr. Ollinger is dead.
   I cleaned out your car for you before we left for the shore.  There was a lot of maps behind the front seat from your trip to Canada.  I put them in your desk.  There was also a girls comb.  I think it was Frances.  I put it in your desk also.  Are you in France?

Love,

MATILDA

P.S.:  Can I go to Canada with you next time you go?  I won't talk much and I'll light your cigarettes for you without really smoking them.

Sincerely yours,

MATILDA

I miss you.  Please come home soon.

Love and kisses,

MATILDA



   The boy in the hole carefully put the letter back inside the dirty, worn envelope, and put the envelope back into his shirt pocket.
   Then he raised himself slightly in the hole and shouted, "Hey, Eeves!  I'm over here!"
   And across the field Eeves saw him and nodded back.
   The boy sank back into the hole and said aloud to nobody, "Please come home soon."  Then he fell crumbily, bent-leggedly, asleep.


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2. A Girl I Knew                  
(Good Housekeeping 126, February, 1948)

       At the end of my freshman year of college, back in 1936, I flunked five out of five subjects. Flunking three out of five would have made me eligible to report for an invitation to attend some other college in the fall. But men in this three-out-of-five category sometimes had to wait outside the Dean’s office as long as two hours. Men in my group - some of whom had big dates in New York that same night - weren’t kept waiting a minute. It went one, two, three, the way most men in my group like things to go.
      The particular college I had been attending apparently does not simply mail people’s grades home, but prefers to shoot them out of some kind of gun. When I got home to New York, even the butler looked tipped off and hostile. It was a bad night altogether. My father informed me quietly that my formal education was formally over. In a way, I felt like asking for a crack at summer school or something. But I didn’t. For one reason, my mother was in the room, and she kept saying that she just knew I should have gone to see my faculty adviser more regularly, that that was what he was there for. This was the kind of talk that made me want to go straight to the Rainbow Room with a friend. At any rate, one thing leading to another, when the familiar moment came to me to advance one of my fragile promises really to apply myself this time, I let it go by unused.
   Although my father announced the same night that he was going to put me directly into his business, I felt confident that nothing wholly unattractive would happen for at least a week or so. I knew it would take a certain amount of deep, constructive brooding on my father’s part to figure out a way of getting me into the firm in broad daylight - I happened to give both his partners the willies on sight.
   I was taken a little aback, four or five evenings later, when my father suddenly asked me at dinner how I would like to go to Europe to learn a couple of languages the firm could use. First to Vienna and then maybe to Paris, he said unelaborately.
   I replied in the effect that the idea sounded all right to me. I was breaking off anyway with a certain girl on Seventy-Fourth Street. And I very clearly associated Vienna with gondolas. Gondolas didn’t seem like too bad a setup.



   A few weeks later, in July of 1936, I sailed for Europe. My passport photograph, it might be worth mentioning, looked exactly like me. At eighteen. I was six feet two, weighed 119 pounds with my clothes on, and was a chain smoker. I think that if Goethe’s Werther and all his sorrows had been placed on the promenade deck of the S.S. Rex beside me and all my sorrows, he would have looked by comparison, like a rather low comedian.
   The ship docked at Naples, and from there I took a train to Vienna. I almost got off the train at Venice, when I found out just who had the gondolas, but two people in my compartment got off instead - I had been waiting too long for a chance to put my feet up, gondolas or no gondolas.
   Naturally, certain when-you-get-to-Vienna rules had been laid down before my ship sailed from New York. Rules about taking at least three hours of language lessons daily; rules about not getting too friendly with people who take advantage of other, particularly younger, people; rules about not spending money like a drunken sailor; rules about the wearing of clothes in which a person wouldn’t catch pneumonia; and so on. But after a month or so in Vienna I had most of that taken care of: I was taking three hours of German lesson every day - from a rather exceptional young lady I had met in the lounge of the Grand Hotel. I had found, in one of the far-outlying districts, a place that was cheaper than the Grand Hotel - the trolleys didn’t run to my place after ten at night, but the taxis did. I was dressing warm - I had bought myself three pure-wool Tyrolean hats. I was meeting nice people - I had lent three hundred shillings to a very distinguished-looking guy in the bar of the Bristol Hotel. In short, I was in a position to cut my letter home down to the bone.
   I spent a little more than five months in Vienna. I danced. I went ice skating and skiing. For strenuous exercise, I argued with an Englishman. I watched operations at two hospitals and had myself psychoanalyzed by a young Hungarian woman who smoked cigars. My German lessons never failed to hold my unflagging interest. I seemed to move, with all the luck of the undeserving, from gemutlichkeit to gemutlichkeit. But I mention these only to keep the Baedeker straight.
   Probably for every man there is at least one city that sooner or later turns into a girl. How well or how badly the man actually knew the girl doesn’t necessarily affect the transformation. She was there, and she was the whole city, and that’s that.
   Leah was the daughter in the Viennese-Jewish family who lived in the apartment below mine - that is, below the family I was boarding with. She was sixteen, and beautiful in an immediate yet perfectly slow way. She had very dark hair that fell away from the most exquisite pair of ears I have ever seen. She had immense eyes that always seemed in danger of capsizing in their own innocence. Her hands were very pale brown, with slender, actionless fingers. When she sat down, she did the only sensible thing with her beautiful hands there was to be done: she placed them on her lap and left them there. In brief, she was probably the first appreciable thing of beauty I had seen that struck me as wholly legitimate.

   For about four months I saw her two or three evenings a week, for an hour or so at a time. But never outside the apartment house in which we lived. We never went dancing; we never went to a concert; we never even went for a walk. I found out soon after we met that Leah’s father had promised her in marriage to some young Pole. Maybe this fact had something to do with my not quite palpable, but curiously steady disinclination to give our acquaintanceship the run of the city. Maybe I just worried too much about things. Maybe I consistently hesitated to risk letting the thing we had together deteriorate into a romance. I don’t know any more. I used to know, but I lost the knowledge a long time ago. A man can’t go along indefinitely carrying around in his pocket a key that doesn’t fit anything.
   I met Leah a nice way.
   I had a phonograph and two American phonograph records in my room. The two American records were a gift from my landlady - one of those rare, drop-it-and-run gifts that leave the recipient dizzy with gratitude. On one of the records Dorothy Lamour sang Moonlight and Shadows, and on the other Connie Boswell sang Where Are You? Both girls got pretty scratched up, hanging around my room, as they had to go to work whenever I heard my landlady’s step outside my door.
   One evening I was in my sitting room, writing a long letter to a girl in Pennsylvania, suggesting that she quit school and come to Europe to marry me - a not infrequent suggestion of mine in those days. My phonograph was not playing. But suddenly the words to Miss Boswell’s song floated, just slightly damaged, through my open window:
   “Where are you?
   Where have you gone wissout me?
   I sought you cared about me.
   Where are you?”
   Thoroughly excited, I sprang to my feet, then rushed to my window and leaned out.
   The apartment below mine had the only balcony of the house. I saw a girl standing on it, completely submerged in the pool of autumn twilight. She wasn’t doing a thing that I could see, except standing there leaning on the balcony railing, holding the universe together. The way the profile of her face and body refracted in the soupy twilight made me feel a little drunk. When a few seconds had throbbed by, I said hello to her. She then looked up at me, and though she seemed decorously startled, something told me she wasn’t too surprised  that I had heard her doing the Boswell number. This didn’t matter, of course. I asked her, in murderous German, if I might join her on the balcony. The request obviously rattled her. She replied, in English, that she didn’t think her “fahzzer” would like me to come down to see her. At this point, my opinion of girls’ fathers, which had been low for years, struck bottom. But nevertheless I managed a drab little nod of understanding.
   It turned out all right, though. Leah seemed to think it would be perfectly all right if she came up to see me. Entirely stupefied with gratitude, I nodded, then closed my window and began to wander hurriedly through my room, rapidly pushing things under other things with my foot.
I don’t really remember our first evening in my sitting room. All our evenings were pretty much the same. I can’t honestly separate one from another; not anymore, anyway.
   Leah’s knock on my door was always poetry - high, beautifully wavering, absolutely perpendicular poetry. Her knock started out speaking of her own innocence an beauty, and accidentally ended speaking of the innocence and beauty of all very young girls. I was always half-eaten away by the respect and happiness when I opened the door for Leah.
   We would solemnly shake hands at my sitting-room door. Then Leah would walk, self-consciously but beautifully, to my window seat, sit down, and wait for our conversation to begin.
   Her English, like my German, was nearly all holes. Yet invariably I spoke her language and she mine, although any other arrangement at all might have made for a less perforated means of communication.
   “Uh. Wie geht es Ihnen?” I’d start out. (How are you?) I never used the familiar form in addressing Leah.
   “I am very well, sank you very much,” Leah would reply, never failing to blush. It didn’t help much to look at her indirectly; she blushed anyway.
   “Schon hinaus, nicht wahr?” I’d ask, rain or shine. (Nice out, isn’t it?)
   “Yes,” she’d answer, rain or shine.
   “Uh. Waren Sie heute in der Kino?” was a favorite question of mine. (Did you go to the movies today?) Five days a week Leah worked in her father’s cosmetics plant.
   “No. I was today working by my fahzzer.”
   “Oh, dass ist recht! Uh. Ist es schon dort?” (Oh, that’s right. Is it nice there?)
   “No. It is a very big fabric, with very many people running around about.”
   “Oh. Dass ist schlecht.” (That’s bad.)
   “Uh. Wollen Sie haben ein Tasse von Kaffee mit mir haben?” (Will you have a cup of coffee with me?)
   “I was already eating.”
   “Ja, aber Haben Sie ein Tasse anyway.” (Yes, but have a cup anyway.”
   “Sank you.”
   At this point I would remove my note paper, shoe trees, laundry, and other unclassifiable articles from the small table I used as a desk and a catchall. Then I would plug in my electric percolator, often commenting sagely, “Kaffee ist gut.” (Coffee is good.)
   We usually drank two cups of coffee apiece, passing each other the cream and sugar with all the drollery of fellow pallbearers distributing white gloves among themselves. Often Leah brought along some kuchen or torte, wrapped rather inefficiently - perhaps surreptitiously - in waxed paper. This offering she would deposit quickly and insecurely in my left hand as she entered my sitting room. It was all I could do to swallow the pastry Leah brought. First, I was never at all hungry while she was around; second, there seemed to be something unnecessarily, however vaguely, destructive about eating anything that came from where she lived.

We usually didn’t talk while we drank our coffee. When we had finished, we picked up our conversation where we had left it - on it’s back, more often than not.
   “Uh. Ist die Fenster - uh - Sind Sie sehr kalt dort?” I would ask solicitously. (Is the window - uh - Are you very cold there?)
   “No! I feel very warmly, sank you.”
   “Dass ist gut. Uh. Wie geht’s Ihre Eltern?” (That’s good. How are your parents?) I inquired regularly after the health of her parents.
   “They are very well, sank you very much.” Her parents were always enjoying perfect health, even when her mother had pleurisy for two weeks.
   Sometimes Leah introduced a subject for conversation. It was always the same subject, but probably she felt she handled it so well in English that repetition was little or no drawback. She often inquired, “How was your hour today morning?”
   “My German lesson? Oh. Uh. Sehr gut. Ja. Sehr gut.” (Very good. Yes. Very good.)
   “What were you learning?”
   “What did I learn? Uh. Die, uh wuddayacallit. Die starke verbs. Sehr interessant.” (The strong verbs. Very interesting.)

I could fill several pages with Leah’s and my terrible conversation. But I don’t see much point to it. We just never said anything to each other. Over a period of four months, we must have talked for thirty or thirty-five evenings without saying a word. In the long shadow of this small, obscure record, I’ve acquired a dogma that if I should go to Hell, I’ll be given a little inside room - one that is neither hot nor cold, but extremely drafty - in which all my conversations with Leah will be played back to me, over an amplification system confiscated from Yankee Stadium.
   One evening I named for Leah, without the slightest provocation, all the Presidents of the United States, in as close order as possible: Lincoln, Grant, Taft, and so on.
   Another evening I explained American football to her. For at least an hour and a half. In German.
   On another evening I felt called on to draw her a map of New York. She certainly didn’t ask me to. And Lord knows I never feel like drawing maps for anybody, much less have any aptitude for it. But I drew it - the U.S Marines couldn’t have stopped me. I distinctly remember putting Lexington Avenue where Madison should have been - and leaving it that way.
   Another time I read a new play I was writing, called He Was No Fool. It was about a cool, handsome, casually athletic young man - very much my own type - who had been called from Oxford to pull Scotland Yard out of an embarrassing situation:
   One Lady Farnsworth, who was a witty dipsomaniac, was being mailed one of her abducted husband’s fingers every Tuesday. I read the play to Leah in one sitting, laboriously editing out all the sexy parts - which, of course, ruined the play. When I had finished reading, I hoarsely explained to Leah that the play was “Nicht fertig yet.” (Not finished yet.) Leah seemed to understand perfectly. Moreover, she seemed to convey to me a certain confidence that perfection would somehow overtake the final draft of whatever the thing was I had just read to her…She sat so well on a window seat.

   I found out entirely by accident that Leah had a fiancé. It wasn’t the kind of information that stood a chance of coming up in our conversation.
   On a Sunday afternoon, about a month after Leah and I had become acquainted, I saw her standing in the crowded lobby of the Schwedenkino, a popular movie house in Vienna. It was the first time I had seen her either off the balcony or outside my sitting room. There was something fantastic and extremely heady about seeing her standing in the pedestrian lobby of the Schwedenkino, and I readily gave up my place in the box-office queue to go to speak to her. But as I charged across the lobby toward her over a number of innocent feet, I saw that she was neither alone nor with a girl friend or someone old enough to be her father.
   She was visibly flustered to see me, but managed to make introductions. Her escort, who was wearing his hat down over one of his ears, clicked his heels and crushed my hand. I smiled patronizingly at him - he didn’t look like much competition, grip of steel or no grip of steel; he looked too much like a foreigner.
   For a few minutes the three of us chatted unintelligibly. Then I excused myself and got back on the end of the line. During the showing of the film, I went up the aisle several times, carrying myself as erectly and dangerously as possible; but I didn’t see either of them. The film itself was one of the worst I’d seen.
   The next evening, when Leah and I had coffee in my sitting room, she stated, blushing, that the young man I had seen her with in the lobby of the Schwedenkino was her fiancé.
   “My fahzzer is wedding us when I have seventeen years,” Leah said, looking at a doorknob.
   I merely nodded. There a certain foul blows, notably in love and soccer, that are not immediately followed by audible protest. I cleared my throat. “Uh. Wie heisst er, again?” (What’s his name, again?)
   Leah pronounced once more - not quite phonetically enough for me - a violently long name, which seemed to me predestined to belong  to somebody who wore his hat down over one ear. I poured more coffee for both of us. Then, suddenly, I stood up and went to my German-English dictionary. When I had consulted it, I sat down again and asked Leah, “Lieben Sie Ehe?” (Do you love marriage?)
   She answered slowly, without looking at me, “I don’t know.”
   I nodded. Her answer seemed the quintessence of logic to me. We sat for a long moment without looking at each other. When I looked at Leah again, her beauty seemed too great for the size of the room. The only way to make room for it was to speak of it. “Sie sind sehr schon. Weissen Sie dass?” I almost shouted at her.
   But she blushed so hard I quickly dropped the subject - I had nothing to follow up with, anyway.
   That evening, for the first and last time, something more physical than a handshake happened to our relationship. About nine-thirty, Leah jumped up from the window seat, saying it was becoming very late, and rushed to get downstairs. At the same time, I rushed to escort her out of the apartment to the staircase, and we squeezed together through the narrow doorway of my sitting room - facing each other. It nearly killed us.


   When it came time for me to go to Paris to master a second European language, Leah was in Warsaw visiting her fiancé’s family. I didn’t get to say good-bye to her, but I left a note for her, the next-to-last draft of which I still have:

“Wien
“December 6, 1936
“Liebe Leah,
      “Ich muss fahren nach Paris nun, und
so ich sage auf wiedersehen. Es war sehr
nett zu kennen Sie. Ich werde schreiben
zu Sie wenn ich bin in Paris. Hoffentlich
Sie sind haben eine gute Ziet in Warsaw
mit die familie von ihre fiancé. Hoffent-
lich wird die Ehe gehen gut. Ich werde
Sie schicken das Buch ich habe ges-
prochen iiber, ‘Gegangen mit der Wind.’
Mit beste Grussen.
“Ihre Freund
“John”

Taking this note out of Jack-the-Ripper German, it reads:

“Vienna
“December 6, 1936
“Dear Leah
     “I must go to Paris now, and so I say
good-bye. It was very nice to know you.
I hope you’re having a good time in War-
saw with your fiance’s family. I hope the
marriage goes all right. I will send you
that book I was talking about, Gone with
the Wind. With best greetings,
“Your friend,
“John”

But I never did write to Leah from Paris. I never wrote to her again at all. I didn’t send a copy of Gone with the Wind. I was very busy in those days.
Late in 1937, when I was back in college in America, a round, flat package was forwarded to me from New York. A letter was attached to the package:

“Vienna
“October 14, 1937
“Dear John,
   “I have many times thought of you and
wondered what is become of you. I my-
self am now married and am living in
Vienna with my husband. He sends you
his great regards. If you can recall, you
and he made each other’s acquaintance in
the hall of the Schweden Cinema.
   “My parents are still living at 18 Stiefel
Street, and often I visit them, because I
am living in the near. Your landlady, Mrs.
Schlosser, has died in the summer with
cancer. She requested me to send you
these gramophone records, which you for-
got to take when you departed, but I did
not know your address for a long time.
I have now made the acquaintance of an
English girl named Ursula Hummer, who
has given to me your address
   “My husband and I would be extremely
pleased to hear from you frequently
   “With very best greetings,
“Your friend,
“Leah”

Her married name and new address were not given.
   I carried the letter with me for months, opening and reading it in bars, between halves of basketball games, in Government classes, and in my room, until finally it began to get stained, from my wallet, the color of cordovan, and I had to put it away somewhere.

   About the same hour Hitler’s troops were marching into Vienna, I was on reconnaissance for geology 1-b, searching perfunctorily, in New Jersey, for a limestone deposit. But during the weeks and months that followed the German takeover of Vienna, I often thought of Leah. Sometimes just thinking of her wasn’t enough. When, for example, I had examined the most recent newspaper photographs of Viennese Jewesses on their hands and knees scrubbing the sidewalks, I quickly stepped across my dormitory room, opened a desk drawer, slipped an automatic into my pocket, then dropped noiselessly from my window to the street, where a long-range monoplane, equipped with a silent engine, awaited my gallant, foolhardy, hawklike whim. I’m not the type that just sits around.
   In late summer of 1940, at a party in New York, I met a girl who not only had known Leah in Vienna, but had gone all through school with her. I pulled up a chair, but the girl was determined to tell me about some man in Philadelphia, who looked exactly like Gary Cooper. She said I had a weak chin. She said she hated mink. She said that Leah had either got out of Vienna or hadn’t got out of Vienna.
   During the war in Europe, I had an Intelligence job with a regiment of an infantry division. My work called for a lot of conversation with civilians and Wehrmacht prisoners. Among the latter, sometimes there were Austrians. One feldwebel, a Viennese, whom I secretly suspected of wearing lederhosen under his field-gray uniform, gave me a little hope: but it turned out he had known not Leah, but some girl with the same last name as Leah’s. Another Wiener, an unteroffizier, standing at strict attention, told me what terrible things had been done to the Jews in Vienna. As I had rarely, if ever, seen a man with a face quite so noble and full of vicarious suffering as this unteroffizier’s was, just for the devil of it I had him roll up his left sleeve. Close to his armpit he had the tattooed blood-type marks of an old SS man. I stopped asking personal questions after a while.
   A few months after the war in Europe had ended, I took some military papers to Vienna. In a jeep with another man, I left Nurnburg on a hot October morning and got into Vienna the next, even hotter, morning. In the Russian Zone we were detained five hours while two guards made passionate love to our wrist watches. It was midafternoon by the time we entered the American Zone of Vienna, in which Stiefelstrasse, my old street, was located.
   I talked to the Tabak-Trafik vendor on the corner of Stiefelstrasse, to the pharmacist in the near-by Apotheke, to a neighborhood woman, who jumped at least an inch when I addressed her, and to a man who insisted that he used to see me on the trolley car in 1936. Two of these people told me that Leah was dead. The pharmacist suggested that I go to see a Dr. Weinstein, who had just come back from Vienna from Buchenwald, and gave me his address. I then got back into the jeep, and we cruised through the streets toward G-2 Headquarters. My jeep partner tooted his horn at the girls in the streets and told me at great length what he thought of Army dentists.
   When we had delivered the official papers, I got back into the jeep alone and went to see Dr. Weinstein.
   
It was twilight when I drove back to Stiefelstrasse. I parked the jeep and entered my old house. It had been turned into living quarters for field-grade officers. A red-haired staff sergeant was sitting at an Army desk on the first landing, cleaning his fingernails. He looked up, and, as I didn’t outrank him, gave that long Army look that holds no interest or curiosity at all. Ordinarily I would have returned it.
   “What’s the chances of my going up to the second floor just for a minute?” I asked. “I used to live here before the war.”
   “This here’s officers’ quarters, Mac,” he said.
   “I know. I’ll only be a minute.”
   “Can’t do it. Sorry.” He went on scraping the insides of his fingernails with the big blade of his pocket knife.
   “I’ll only be a minute,” I said again.
   He put down his knife, patiently. “Look, Mac. I don’t wanna sound like a bum. But I ain’t lettin nobody go upstairs unless they belong there. I don’t give a damn if it’s Eisenhower himself. I got my - “ He was interrupted by the sudden ringing of a telephone on his desk. He picked up the phone, keeping an eye on me, and said, “Yessir, Colonel, sir. This is him on the phone….Yessir….Yessir….I got Corporal Santini puttin’ ‘em on the ice right now, right this minute. They’ll be good and cold….Well, I figured we’d put the orchestra right out on the balcony, like. Account of there’s only three of ‘em….Yessir….Well, I spoke to Major Foltz, and he said the ladies could put their coats and stuff in his room….Yessir. Right, sir. Ya wanna hurry up, now. Ya don’t wanna miss any of that moonlight….Ha,ha,ha!….Yessir. G’bye, sir.” The staff sergeant hung up, looking stimulated.
   “Look,” I said, distracting him, “I’ll only be a minute.”
   He looked at me. “What’s the big deal, anyhow, up there?”
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3. A Young Girl in 1941 With No Waist At All      
(Mademoiselle 25, May, 1947)

The young man in the seat behind Barbara at the jai alai games had leaned forward finally and asked  if she were ill and if she would like to be escorted back to the ship. Barbara had looked up at him, had looked at his looks, and said yes, she thought she would, thank you, that she did have kind of a headache, and that it was certainly was awfully nice of him. Then they had stood up together and left the stadium, returning to the ship by taxi and tender. But before she had gone into her cabin on B deck, Barbara had said nervously to the young man : “Hey. I could just take an aspirin or something. I could meet you on the deck where the shuffleboard  stuff is. You know who you look like? You look like a boy who was in a lot of West Pointy pictures with Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler and-when I was little. Never see him anymore. Listen. I could just take an aspirin. Unless you have something else-“ The young man had interrupted her, saying, in so many words, that he had nothing else to do. Then Barbara had walked quickly forward to her cabin. She was wearing a red-and-blue striped evening gown, and her figure was very young and sassy. There were several years to go before her figure stopped being sassy and just became a very pretty figure.
   The young man-his name was Ray Kinsella, and he was a member of the ship’s Junior Entertainment Committee-waited for Barbara at the railing on the portside of the promenade deck. Nearly all the passengers were ashore and, in the stillness and moonlight, it was a powerful place to be. The only sound in the night came from the Havana harbor water slucking gently against the sides of the ship. Through the moon mist the Kungsholm could be seen, anchored sleepy and rich, just a few hundred feet aft. Farther shoreward a few small boats corked about.
   “I’m back,” said Barbara.
   The young man, Ray, turned. “Oh. You changed your dress.”
   “Don’t you like white?”-quickly.
   “Sure. It’s fine,” said Ray. She was looking at him a little nearsightedly, and he guessed she probably wore glasses when she was home. He looked at his wrist watch now. “Listen. A tender’s going to leave in a minute. Would you like to go ashore again and horse around a little? I mean do you feel all right?”
   “I took an aspirin. Unless you have something else to do,” said Barbara. “I don’t want to stay on the ship very much.”
   “Let’s hurry, then,” said Ray, and took her arm.
   Barbara had to run to keep up with him. “Golly,” she said, “how tall are you anyway?”
   “Six-four. Hurry a little.”
   The tender bobbed only slightly in the calm water. Ray slipped his hands under Barbara’s arms, eased her down to the tender pilot and then jumped into the boat himself. The little action disordered a single lock of his dark hair and hiked up the back of his dinner jacket. He pulled down his jacket, and a pocket comb immediately found its way to his hand; he passed it just once, brought up in the rear by the careful flat of his other hand, through his hair. Then he looked around. Besides Barbara and himself and the pilot there were only three people in the tender. One of them he identified as a A-deck stewardess-she probably had a shore date with one of the crew. The other two people, a couple in their late forties, were familiar-faced passengers whom Ray didn’t know by name-they were regulars at the horse-racing game each afternoon, he knew though. He lost interest at that point and steadied Barbara as the little craft shoved off.
   The wife, however, was beginning to look interested in Barbara and Ray. She was a beautifully, a perfectly, gray-haired woman in a long sleeved evening gown with Thurber dogs in the pattern. She was wearing a pear-shaped diamond ring and a diamond bracelet. Just on sight no one very sensible would have laid bets on her background. She might, years ago, have walked very erectly across a Broadway stage, with an ostrich fan, singing A Pretty Girl Is Like A Melody, or something similarly ostrich fan-ish. She might have been an ambassador’s daughter or a fireman’s daughter. She might have been her husband’s secretary for years. As only second-class beauty can be identified, there is no way of telling.
   She spoke to Barbara and Ray suddenly.
   “Isn’t it a heavenly night?”
   “It certainly is,” Ray said.
   “Don’t you just feel wonderful?” the woman asked Barbara.
   “I do now. I didn’t before,” Barbara answered politely.
   “Oh,” said the woman, smiling, “I just feel wonderful.” She slipped her arm through her husband’s. Then for the first time she noticed the stewardess from A deck, who was standing beside the pilot. She called to her: “Don’t you just feel marvelous tonight?”
   The stewardess turned. “I beg your pardon?” Her tone was that of an off-duty snob.
   “I said don’t you feel just wonderful. Isn’t it a heavenly night?”
   “Oh,” said the stewardess, smiling briefly, “I guess so.”
“Oh, it is,” said the woman emphatically. “One would never know it was nearly December.” She visibly squeezed her husband’s hand and addressed him in the same ecstatic tones she had been using. “You do feel marvelous, don’t you darling?”
Sure do,” said her husband and winked at Barbara and Ray. He wore a wine-colored dinner jacket that was cut very full, letting him look huge rather than overweight.
The woman turned and looked out over the water. “Heavenly,” she said softly. She touched her husbands sleeve. “Darling, look at those sweet little boats.”
“Where?”
“There. Over there.”
“Oh yeah. Nice.”
The woman spoke suddenly to Barbara. “I’m Diane Woodruff and this is my husband Fielding.”
Barbara and Ray in turn introduced themselves
“Of course!” said Mrs. Woodruff to Ray. “You’re the boy who runs all the tournaments. Lovely.” She again looked out over the water. “Those poor little boats. They all belong in bathtubs.” She looked at Barbara and Ray. “Where are you both going? Why don’t you come along with us? Of course! You must. Say you will. Please do.”
“Well, I-it’s very nice of you,” answered Ray. “I don’t know what Barbara had-“
“I’d love to,” said Barbara. “Where are you going? I mean, I’ve never been to Havana before.”
“Everywhere!” said Mrs. Woodruff roundly. “Well, isn’t this just perfect?” She leaned forward and called again to the stewardess. “Dear, wouldn’t you like to join us? Please do.”
“I’m sorry. I hafta meet somebody. Thanks just the same, though.”
“What a pity. Fielding, darling, you look like a college boy, so young. It’s indecent.”
“Me? An old punk like me?”
“Where are you from dear?” Mrs. Woodruff asked Barbara.
“Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. It’s near Pittsburgh.”
“Oh, how nice. And you?”
“Salt Lake City,” said Ray.
“We’re from San Francisco. Isn’t it wonderful? Do you think we’ll be in the war soon, Mr. Walters? My husband doesn’t think so.”
“Kinsella,” corrected Ray. “I don’t know. I go in the Army anyway when the cruise is over.”
Mrs. Woodruff put a hand to her mouth. . “Oh!” she said. “Oh, I’m so sorry!”
“Oh, It won’t be too bad,” Ray explained.” I have a commission in the artillery from R.O.T.C. I’ll have my own battery and all. I mean  I won’t have to take anybody’s guff.”
As the tender bumped gently into port, Ray put his arm around Barbara’s waist to steady her.
“She has no waist at all,” said Mrs. Woodruff and looked gently at Ray. “How perfect it must be for you to be out on a night like this with somebody who has absolutely no waist at all.”

Ray, who had recommended it, led the way into Viva Havana. It was chiefly a tourist spot, but with money and highhandedness behind it. There was nothing inside except the waiters. The owner was Irish, the menu was French, the headwaiter was Swiss, the orchestra was mostly Brooklyn, the chorus girls were former citizens of Shubert’s alley, and Scotch sold better than any other drink.
The jai alai games over, the crowd from the ship had already arrived at Viva Havana and were distributed sunburntly around the vast, noisy room. Ray immediately noticed the young lady whom he and the other Junior Committeemen had intimately voted Miss Latex Bathing Suit of 1941. She was swaying, half in and half out of her partner’s arms, near the orchestra stand, talking to the leader, probably asking him to play Stardust. Ray also spotted the governor-elect - the ship’s celebrity - on his way to the game room, wearing a white dinner jacket, not his usual man-of-the-people skimpy black suit. The Masterson Twins, Ray also noticed, were at a table with - in the parlance of the ship’s employees - the Chicago Catch and the Cleveland Outfumbler, was just unquestionably tight.
Mr. Woodruff attended to the ordering when they were all seated. Then he and Mrs. Woodruff pried their way to the dance floor.
“Would you like to dance?” Ray asked Barbara.
“Not right away. I don’t know how to rumba. I need something very slow, anyway. Look at Mrs. Woodruff. She’s very good.”
“She’s not bad,” conceded Ray.
Barbara said excitedly, “Isn’t she nice? Isn’t she beautiful? She’s so - so I don’t know what. Golly!”
“She certainly talks a lot,” Ray said, stirring his highball.
“You must meet a lot of people, going on these cruises all the time,” Barbara said.
“This is only the second time. I just quit college. Yale. I was going in the army anyway, so I figured I might as well have a little fun.” He lit a cigarette. “What do you do?” he asked.
“I used to work. I don’t do anything now. I didn’t go to college.”
I haven’t seen your mother anywheres around tonight,” said the Yale man.
“The lady traveling with me?” said Barbara. “She isn’t my mother.”
“She isn’t?”
“No. My mother’s dead. She’s my mother-in-law-to-be.”
“Oh.”
Barbara reached forward for the centerpiece matchbox. She struck a match, blew it out, struck another, blew it out and drew back her hands to her lap. “I was sick for a while,” she said, “and my fiancé wanted me to go away for a rest. Mrs. Odenhearn said she’d take me on a cruise or something. So we went.”
“Well!” said Ray, who was watching Miss Latex Bathing Suit of 1941 perform on the dance floor.
“It’s like being with a girl my own age, almost,” Barbara said. “She’s very nice. She was a great athlete when she was young.”
“She seems very nice. Drink your drink, why don’t you?”
Barbara picked up her drink and sipped a sixteenth of an inch of it. “I can dance to what they’re playing now,” she said
“Fine.”
They stood up and worked their way to the dance floor.
Barbara danced rigidly and without any perceptible feeling for rhythm. In her nervousness she got Ray’s arm into a peculiar position, locked it just enough to give him trouble leading her.
“I’m an awful dancer.”
“You certainly are not,” said Ray.
“My brother tried to teach me when I was little.”
“Oh?”
“He’s about your size. He used to play football in high school. Only he hurt his knee and had to stop. He could’ve had a scholarship to almost any college if he hadn’t hurt himself.”
The floor was so crowded that it mattered relatively little how poorly they danced together. Ray suddenly noticed how blond, how corn yellow, Barbara’s hair was. “What’s your fiancé like?” he asked.
“Carl? Oh, he’s very nice . He sounds lovely over the telephone. He’s very - very considerate about stuff.”
“What stuff?”
“Oh…stuff. I don’t know. I don’t understand boys. I never know what their talking about.”
Ray suddenly lowered his head and kissed Barbara on the forehead. It tasted sweet and left him feeling unsteady.
“Why did you do that?” Barbara said, not looking up at him.
“I don’t know. Are you sore?”
“It’s so warm in here,” Barbara said. “Golly.”
“How old are you, Barbara?”
“Eighteen. How old are you?”
“Well, actually I’m twenty-two.”
They went on dancing.
“My father had a cerebral hemorrhage and died last summer,” Barbara said.
“Oh! That’s tough.”
“I live with my aunt. She’s a teacher at Coopersburg High. Did you ever read Green Light by Lloyd C. Douglas?”
“I don’t get much time for books. Why? Is it good?”
“I didn’t read it. My aunt wants me to read it. I’m stepping all over your feet.”
“No, you’re not.”
“My aunt’s very nice,” Barbara said.
You know,” said Ray, “it’s very hard to follow your conversation sometimes.”
She didn’t answer, and for a moment he was afraid he had offended her. He felt a slight panic rise in his head at the thought: he still tasted her forehead on his lips. But, below his chin, Barbara’s voice spoke up again.
“My brother had a car accident just before I left.”
It was a great relief to hear.


The Woodruffs were already seated at the table. Their shot glasses of bourbon were empty and their chasers barely sipped. “I waved to you,” Mrs. Woodruff lightly accused Barbara. “You didn’t even wave back.”
“Why, I certainly did wave back to you,” Barbara said.
“Did you watch us rumba?” asked Mrs. Woodruff. “Weren’t we marvelous? Fielding’s a Latin at heart. We’re both Latins. I’m going to the powder room …Barbara?”
“Not just now. I’m watching a drunken man,” Barbara said.
As Mrs. Woodruff left the table, almost simultaneously her husband leaned forward and addressed the two young people.
“I’m trying to keep something from her. Our son’s going to join the Army while we’re gone, I think. He wants to be a flier. It would kill Mrs. Woodruff if she knew.” Mr. Woodruff then sat back, sighed heavily and catching the waiter’s eye, he signaled for another round of drinks. Then he stood up, used his handkerchief forcibly and wandered away from the table. Barbara watched him until he disappeared: then she turned and spoke to Ray:
“Do you like clams and oysters and stuff?”
Ray started slightly. “Well, yes. Sort of.”
“I don’t like any kinds of shell food,” Barbara said nervously. “Do you know what I heard today? I heard the ship may not make any more cruises till after the war.”
“It’s just a rumor,” said Ray casually. “Don’t look so sad about it. You and what’s-his-name - Carl - can take this same cruise after the war,” Ray said, watching her.
“He’s going in the Navy.”
“After the war, I said.”
“I know,” said Barbara, nodding, “but - everything’s so funny. I feel so funny.” She stopped short, unable or unwilling to express herself.
Ray moved a little closer to her. “You have nice hands, Barbara,” he said.
She removed them from the table. “They’re terrible now. I couldn’t get the right polish.”
“They’re not terrible.’ Ray picked up one of her hands - and immediately let go of it. He stood up and drew Mrs. Woodruff’s chair for her.
Mrs. Woodruff smiled, lit a cigarette and looked alertly at them both. “I want you both to leave very shortly,” she said smiling. “This place isn’t at all right for you.”
“Why?” asked Barbara, with wide eyes.
“Really. This is the sort of place to go when the very best things are over and there’s mostly money left. We don’t even belong here - Fielding and I. Please. Take a lovely walk somewhere.” Mrs. Woodruff appealed to Ray. “Mr. Walters,” she said, “aren’t there any not-to-well-organized clambakes or hayrides tonight?”
“Kinsella,” corrected Ray, rather curtly. “Afraid not.”
“I’ve never been to a clambake or a hayride,” Barbara said.
“Oh! Oh, what bad news! They’re so nice. Oh, how I hate 1941.”
Mr. Woodruff sat down. “What’s that, dear?” he asked.
I said I hate 1941,” said his wife peculiarly. And without moving she broke into tears, smiling at all of them. “I do,” she said. “I detest it. It’s full of armies waiting to fill up with boys, and girls and mothers waiting to live in mailboxes and smirking old headwaiters who don’t have to go anywhere. I detest it. It’s a rotten year.”
“We’re not even in the war yet, dear,” said Mr. Woodruff. Then he said: “Boys have always had to go to war. I went. Your brothers went.”
“It’s not the same. It’s not rotten in the same way. Time isn’t any good anymore. You and Paul and Freddy left relatively nice things behind you. Dear God. Bobby won’t even go on a date if he hasn’t any money. It’s entirely different. It’s entirely rotten.”
“Well,” said Ray awkwardly. He looked at his wrist watch: then at Barbara. “Like to take in a few sights?” he asked her.
“I don’t know,” said Barbara, still staring at Mrs. Woodruff. Mr. Woodruff leaned forward toward his wife. “Like to play a little roulette, honey?”
“Yes. Yes, of course, darling.” Mrs. Woodruff looked up. “Oh, are you leaving, children?” she asked.

It was a little after four in the morning. At one o’clock the portside deck steward had set up some of his deck chairs to accommodate the nondissipating crowd who would, a few hours later, use the post-breakfast sunshine
There are many things you can do in a deck chair: eat hot hors d'oeuvres when a man passes with them on a tray, read a magazine or a book, show snapshots of your grandchildren, knit, worry about money, worry about a man, worry about a woman, get seasick, watch the girls on their way to the swimming pool, watch for flying fish…But two people in the deck chairs, drawn however closely together, can’t kiss each other vary comfortably. Either the arms of a deck chair are too high or the persons involved are seated too deeply.
   Ray was seated on Barbara’s left. His right arm, resting on the hard wood of her chair, was sore from pressure.
   Both of their voices had struck four.
   “How’re you feeling now?” Ray asked.
   “Me? I feel fine.”
   “No, I mean do you still feel a little tight? Maybe we shouldn’t have gone to that last place.”
   “Me? I wasn’t tight.” Barbara thought a minute, then asked: “Were you?”
   “Heck no, I never get tight.” This inaccurate piece of intelligence seemed automatically to renew Ray’s visa to advance over the unguarded frontier of Barbara’s deck chair.
   After two hours of kissing, Barbara’s lips were a little chapped, but still tender and earnest and interested. Ray could not have remembered, even if he had tried, when he had been comparably affected by another girl’s kiss. As he kissed her again now, he was reupset by the sweetness, the generously qualified and requalified innocence of her kiss.
   When the kiss ended - he could never unconditionally concede to the ending of one of Barbara’s kisses - he drew back a very little and began to speak with a hoarseness unnatural even to the hours and the highballs and cigarettes consumed. “Barbara. No kidding. We’ll do it, huh? We’ll get married, huh?”
   Barbara, beside him in the dark, was still.
   “No, really,” Ray begged, as though he had been contradicted. “We’ll be damn happy. Even if we get in the war I’ll probably never be sent overseas or anything. I’m lucky that way. We’d - we’d have a swell time.” He searched her still face in the moonlight. “Wouldn’t we?”
   “I don’t know,” said Barbara.
   “Sure you know! Sure you know! I mean, hell. We’re right for each other.”
   “I keep even forgetting your name,” Barbara said practically. “Golly. We hardly know each other.”
   “Listen. We know each other a lot better than most people that know each other for months!” Ray informed recklessly.
   “I don’t know. I wouldn’t know what to tell Mrs. Odenhearn.”
   “His mother? Just tell her the truth, is all!” was Ray’s advice.
   Barbara made no reply. She bit nervously at the cuticle of her thumb. Finally she spoke. “Do you think I’m dumb?”
   “Do I what? Do I think you’re dumb? I certainly don’t!”
   “I’m considered dumb,” said Barbara slowly. “I am a little dumb. I guess.”
   “Now stop that talk. I mean, stop it. You’re not dumb. You’re - smart. Who said you’re dumb? That guy Carl?”
   Barbara was vague about it. “Oh, not exactly. Girls, more. Girls I went to school with and go around with.”
   “They’re crazy.”
   “How am I smart?” Barbara wanted to know. “You said I was smart.”
   “Well, you - you just are, that’s all!” said Ray. “Please.” And equipped only for the most primary kind of eloquence, he leaned over and kissed her at great length - persuasively, he hoped.
   At last Barbara gently interrupted him by removing her lips from his. Her face in the moonlight was troubled, but slackly, with her mouth slightly open, without consciousness of being watched.
   “I wish I weren’t dumb,” she said to the night.
   Ray was impatient - but careful.
   “Barbara. I told you. You’re not dumb.. Please. You’re not at all dumb. You’re very -  intelligent.” He looked at her very possessively, jealously. “What are you thinking about?” he demanded. “That Carl guy?”
   She shook her head.
   “Barbara. Listen. We’ll be happy as anything. No kidding. I know we haven’t known each other very long. That’s probably what you’re thinking about. But this is a lousy time. I mean with the Army and all, and everybody upside down. In other words, if two people love each other they oughtta stick together.” He searched her face, less desperately, bolstered by what he considered to be his sudden insight and eloquence. “Don’t you think so?” he asked moderately.
   “I don’t know,” said Barbara and began to cry.
   She cried painfully, with double-edged gulps from the diaphragm. Alarmed by the violence of her sorrow and by being a witness to it, but impatient with the sorrow itself, Ray was a poor pacifier. Barbara finally emerged from the private accident entirely on her own.
   I’m all right,” she said. “I think I better go to bed.” She stood up unsteadily.
   Ray jumped up and took her arm.
   I’ll see you in the morning, won’t I?” he asked. “You’re playing off the finals in the doubles tournament, aren’t you? The deck tennis tournament?”
   “Yes,” said Barbara. “Well, good night.”
   “Don’t say it like that,” said Ray, reprovingly.
   “I don’t know how I said it,” said Barbara.
   “Well. I mean, heck. You said it as though you didn’t even know me or anything. Gosh, I’ve asked you to marry me about twenty times.”
   “I told you I was dumb,” Barbara explained simply.
   “I wish you’d stop saying that.”
   “Good night,” said Barbara. “Thank you for a lovely time. Really.” She extended her hand.

The Woodruffs were the only passengers on the last tender from shore to ship. Mrs. Woodruff was in her stockinged feet, having given her shoes to the taxi driver for his lovely driving. They were now ascending the narrow, steep ladder which stretched flimsily between the tender platform and the B deck port door. Mrs. Woodruff preceded her husband, several times swinging precariously around to see if her husband was obeying the rules she had imposed on them both.
“You’re holding the thing. The rope,” she accused, looking down now at her husband.
“Not,” denied Mr. Woodruff indignantly. His bow tie was undone. The collar of his dinner jacket was half turned up in the back.
“I distinctly said no one was to hold on to the rope,” pronounced Mrs. Woodruff. Wavering she took another step.
Mr. Woodruff stared back at her, his face teetering between confusion and abysmal melancholy. Abruptly, he turned his back on his wife and sat down where he was. He was almost precisely at the middle of the ladder. The drop to the water was at least thirty feet.
“Fielding! Fielding, you come up here instantly!”
For answer, Mr. Woodruff placed his chin on his hands.
Mrs. Woodruff weaved dangerously, then she lifted her skirts and successful, if inexplicably, made the descent to the rung just above her husband’s seat. She embraced him with a half Nelson which nearly capsized them both. “Oh, my baby,” she said. “Are you angry with me?”
“You said I was using the rope,” said Mr. Woodruff, his voice breaking slightly.
“But, baby mouse, you were!”
“Was not,” said Mr. Woodruff.
Mrs. Woodruff kissed the top of her husband’s head, where the hair was thinnest. “Of course you weren’t,” she said She locked her hands ecstatically around Mr. Woodruff’s throat. “Do you love me mouse?” she asked, practically cutting off his respiration. His reply was unintelligible. “Too tight?” asked Mrs. Woodruff. She relaxed her hold, looked out over the shimmering water and answered her own question. “Of course you love me. It would be unforgivable of you not to love me. Sweet boy, please don’t fall; put both feet on the rung. How did you get so tight dear? I wonder why our marriage has been such a joy. We’re so stinking rich. We should have, by all the rules, drifted continents apart. You do love me so much it’s almost unbearable, don’t you? Sweet, put both feet on the rung, like a good boy. Isn’t it nice here? We’re defying Magellan’s law. Darling, put your arms around me - no, don’t move! You can’t where you’re sitting. I’ll make believe your arms are around me. What did you think of that little boy and that little girl? Barbara and Eddie. They were - unequipped. Didn’t you think? She was lovely. He was full of baloney. I do hope she behaves sensibly. Oh, this crazy year. It’s a devil. I pray the child uses her head. Dear God, make all the children use their heads now - You’re making the years so horrible now, dear God.” Mrs. Woodruff poked her husband in the back. “Fielding, you pray, too.”
“Pray what?”
“Pray that the children use their heads now.”
“What children?”
“All of them darling. Bobby. Our little gorgeous Bobby. The Freemont girls with their candy ears. Betty and Donald Mercer. The Croft children. All of them. Especially that little girl who was with us tonight. Barbara. I can’t get her out of my mind. Pray, darling boy.”
“All right.”
“Oh, you’re so sweet.” Mrs. Woodruff stroked the back of her husband’s neck. Suddenly, but slowly, she said: “ ‘I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the roes, and by the hinds of the field, That ye stir not up, nor awaken love, Until it please.’ “
Mr. Woodruff had heard her.
“What’s ‘at from?” he asked.
“The Song of songs. The Bible. Darling, don’t turn around. I’m so afraid you’ll fall.”
“You know everything,” said Mr. Woodruff solemnly. “You know everything.”
“Oh, you sweet! Pray a little for the children, my sweet boy. Oh, what a detestable year!”



“Barbara? Is that you dear?”
“Yes, it is , Mrs. Odenhearn.”
“You can turn on the light, dear. I’m awake.”
“I can undress in the dark. Really.”
Of course you can’t. Turn them on dear.” Mrs. Odenhearn had been a deadly serious tennis player in her day, had even once opposed Helen Wills in an exhibition match. She still had two rackets restrung annually, in New York, by a “perfect little man” who happened to be six feet tall. Even now, in bed at 4:45 A.M., a “Yours, partner!” quality rang in her voice.
“I’m wide awake,” she announced. “Been awake for hours. They’ve been so many drunken people passing the cabin. Absolutely no consideration for others. Turn on the light, dear.”
Barbara turned on the lights. Mrs. Odenhearn, to shield herself from the glare, put thumb and forefinger to her eyes, then dropped her hand away and smiled strongly. Her hair was in curlers, and Barbara didn’t look at her very directly.
“There’s a different class of people, these days,” Mrs. Odenhearn observed. “This ship really used to be quite nice. Did you have a nice time, dear?”
“Yes, I did, thank you. It’s too bad you didn’t go. Is your foot any better?”
Mrs. Odenhearn, with mock seriousness, raised an index finger and wagged it at Barbara. “Now listen to me, young lady. If we lose our match today it’s not going to be on my account. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. So there!”
Barbara smiled and slid her suitcase out from under the unoccupied twin bed - her bed. She placed it on the bed and began to look for something in it.
Mrs. Odenhearn was thinking.
“I saw Mrs. Helger and Mrs. Ebers in the lounge after you left tonight.”
“Oh?” said Barbara.
“They’re out for our blood tomorrow, I don’t mind telling you. You must play just a little closer to the net when I’m serving, dear.”
“I’ll try to,” Barbara said, and went on looking through her suitcase, turning over soft things.
“Hurry to bed, dear. Hippity Hop,” said Mrs. Odenhearn.
“I can’t find my - oh, here they are.” Barbara withdrew a pair of pajamas.
“Peter Rabbit,” said Mrs. Odenhearn warmly.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Carl used to love Peter when he was a child.” Mrs. Odenhearn raised her voice an octave or so: “ ‘Mummy, wead me Peatie Wabbit,’ he used to say. Over and over again. I just wish I had a penny for every time that child had to have Peter read to him.”
Barbara smiled again and started for the adjoining bathroom with her pajamas under her arm. She was briefly arrested by Mrs. Odenhearn’s raised voice.
“Someday you’ll be reading Peter to your little boy.”
Barbara didn’t have to smile, as she was already in the bathroom. She closed the door. When she came out in her pajamas a moment later, Mrs. Odenhearn, who didn’t inhale, was smoking a cigarette through her holder - one of the kind advertised to be a denicotinizer. She was also in the act of reaching for her ship’s library novel, which stood on the night table.
“All ready for bed, dear? I just thought I’d read one little chapter of my book. It may just make me sleepy. So many, many things running through my poor old head.”
Barbara smiled and got into bed.
“Will the light bother you, dear?”
“Not at all. I’m awfully tired.” Barbara turned over on her side, away from the light and Mrs. Odenhearn. “Good night,” she said.
“Sleep tight, dear…Oh, I think I’ll try to sleep too! It’s a very silly book, anyway. Honestly, I never read charming books anymore. The authors nowadays seem to try to write about unattractive things. I think if I could read just one more book by Sarah Milford Pease I’d be happy. She’s dead, poor soul, though. Cancer.” Mrs. Odenhearn snapped off the table light.
Barbara lay several minutes in the darkness. She knew she ought to wait until next week or next month or next - something. But her heart was nearly pounding her out of bed. “Mrs. Odenhearn.” The name was out. It stood upright in the darkness.
“Yes, dear?”
“I don’t want to get married.”
“What’s that?”
“I don’t want to get married.”
Mrs. Odenhearn sat up in bed. She fished competently for the table light switch. Barbara shut her eyes before the room could be lighted and prayed without words and without thoughts. She felt Mrs. Odenhearn speak to the back of her head.
“You’re very tired. You don’t mean what you’re saying, dear.”
The word “dear” whisked into position - upright in the darkness beside Mrs. Odenhearn’s name.
“I just don’t want to get married to anybody yet.”
“Well! This is certainly very - unusual - Barbara. Carl loves you a great, great deal, dear.”
“I’m sorry. Honestly.”
There was a very brief silence. Mrs. Odenhearn shattered it. “You must do,” she said suddenly, “what you think right, dear. I’m sure that if Carl were here he’d be a very, very hurt boy. On the other hand-“
Barbara listened. It amounted to an interruption, she listened so intently.
“On the other hand,” said Mrs. Odenhearn, “it’s always the best way to rectify a mistake before it’s made. If you’ve given this matter a great, great deal of thought I’m sure Carl will be the last to blame you, dear.”
The ship’s library novel, upset by Mrs. Odenhearn’s vigorous elbow, fell from the night table to the floor. Barbara heard her pick it up.
“You sleep now, dear. We’ll see when the sun’s shining beautifully how we feel about things. I want you to think of me as you would of your own mother if she were alive. I want so to help you understand your own mind,” said Mrs. Odenhearn, and added: “Of course, I know that one can’t alter children’s minds so easily these days, once they’re made up. And I do know you have a great, great character.”
When Barbara heard the light snap off, she opened her eyes. She got out of bed and went into the bathroom. She came out almost at once, wearing a robe and slippers, and spoke to Mrs. Odenhearn in the darkness.
“I’m just going on the deck for a little while.”
“What do you have on?”
“My robe and slippers. It’s all right. Everyone’s asleep.”
Mrs. Odenhearn flicked on the table light again. She looked at Barbara acutely, neither approving nor disapproving. Her look said, “All right. It’s over. I can hardly contain myself, I’m so happy. You’re on your own for the rest of the cruise. Just don’t disgrace or embarrass me.” Barbara read the look faultlessly.
“Good-by.”
“Don’t catch cold, dear.”
Barbara shut the door behind her and began to walk through the silent, lighted passages. She climbed the steps to A deck and walked through the concert lounge, using the aisle a cleaning squad  had left between the stacked bodies of easy chairs. In less than four months’ time there would be no easy chairs in the concert lounge. Instead, more than three hundred enlisted men would be arranged wakefully on their backs across the floor.
High above on the promenade deck, for nearly an hour Barbara stood at the portside rail. Despite her cotton pajamas and rayon robe there was no danger of her catching cold. The fragile hour was a carrier of many things, but Barbara was now exclusively susceptible to the difficult counterpoint sounding just past the last minutes of her girlhood.
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4. Both Parties Concerned                
(Saturday Evening Post 26, February, 1944)


There really isn't much to tell--I mean it wasn't serious or anything, but it was kind of funny at that. I mean because it looked there for a while as though everybody at the plant and Ruthie's mother and all was going to have the laugh on us. They had all kept saying I and Ruthie were too young to get married. Ruthie, she was seventeen, and I was twenty, nearly. That's pretty young, all right, but not if you know what you're doing. I mean not if everything's Jake between she and you. I mean both parties concerned.
Well, like I was saying, Ruthie and I, we never really split up. Not really split up. Not that Ruthie's mother wasn't wishing we did. Mrs. Cropper, she wanted Ruthie to go to college instead of getting married. Ruthie got out of high school when she was fifteen only, and they wouldn't take her at where she wanted to go to till she was eighteen. She wanted to be a doctor. I used to kid her, "Calling Doctor Kildare!" I'd say to her. I got a good sense of humor. Ruthie, she don't. She's more inclined to be serious like.
Well, I really don't know how it all started, but it really got hot one night last month at Jake's Place. Ruthie, she and I were out there. That joint is really class this year. Not so much neon. More bulbs. More parking space. Class. Know what I mean? Ruthie don't like Jake's much.
Well, this night I was telling you about, Jake's was jam-packed when we got there, and we had to wait around for about an hour till we got a table. Ruthie was all for not waiting. No patience. Then finally when we did get a table, she says she don't want a beer. So she just sits there, lighting matches, blowing the out. Driving me nuts.
"What's the matter?" I asked her finally. It got on my nerves after a while.
"Nothing's the matter," Ruthie says. She stops lighting matches, starts looking around the joint, as though she was keeping an eye peeled for somebody special.
"Something's the matter," I said. I know her like a book. I mean I know her like a book.
"Nothing's the matter," she says. "Stop worrying about me. Everything's swell. I'm the happiest girl in the world."
"Cut it out," I said. She was being cynical like. "I just asked you a question, that's all."
"Oh, pardon me," Ruthie said. "And you want an answer. Certainly. Pardon me." She was being very cynical like. I don't like that. It don't bother me, but I don't like it.
I knew what was eating her. I know her inside out, her every mood like. "Okay," I said. "You're sore because we went out tonight. Ruthie, for cryin' out loud, a guy has a right to go out once in a while, doesn't he?"
"Once in a while!" Ruthie says. "I love that. Once in a while. Like seven nights a week, huh, Billy?"
"It hasn't been seven nights a week," I said. And it hadn't! We hadn't come out the night before. I mean we had a beer at Gordon's, but we came right home and all.
"No?" Ruthie said. "Okay. Let's drop it. Let's not discuss it."
I asked her, very quiet like, what was I supposed to do. Sit around home like a dope every night? Stare at the walls? Listen to the baby bawl its head off? I asked her, very quiet like, what she wanted me to do.
"Please don't shout," she says. "I don't want you to do anything."
"Listen," I said. "I'm paying that crazy Widger dame eighteen bucks just to take care of the kid for a couple hours a night. I did it just so you could take it easy. I thought you'd be tickled to death. You used to like to go out once in while," I said to her.
Then Ruthie says she didn't want me to hire Mrs. Widger in the first place. She said she didn't like her. She said she hated her, in fact. She said she didn't like to see Mrs. Widger even hold the baby. I told her that Mrs. Widger has had plenty of babies on her own, and I guessed she knew pretty good how to hold a kid. Ruthie said when we go out at night Widger just sits in the living room, reading magazines; that she never goes near the baby. I said what did she want her to do-get in the crib with the kid? Ruthie said she didn't want to talk about it any more.
"Ruthie," I said, "what are you trying to do? Make me look like a rat?"
Ruthie, she says, "I'm not trying to make you look like a rat. You're not a rat."
"Thanks. Thanks a lot," I said. I can be cynic like too.
She says, "You're my husband, Billy." She was leaning over the table, crying like-but, holy mackerel, it wasn't my fault!
"You married me," she says, "because you said you loved me. You're supposed to love our baby, too, and take care of it. We're supposed to think about things sometimes, not just go chasing around."
I asked her, very calm like, who said I didn't love the baby.
"Please don't shout," she says. "I'll scream if you shout," she says. "Nobody said you didn't love it, Billy. But you love it when it's convenient for you or something. When it's having its bath or when it plays with your necktie."
I told her I loved it all the time. And I do! It's a nice kid, a real nice kid.
She says, "Then why aren't we home?"
I told her then. I mean I wasn't afraid to tell her. I told her. "Because," I said, "I wanna have a couple of beers. I want some life. You don't work on a fuselage all day. You don't know what it's like." I mean I told her.
Then she tried to make funny like. "You mean," she says, "I don't slave over a hot fuselage all day?"
I told her it was pretty hot. Then she started lighting matches again, like a kid. I asked her if she didn't get what I meant at all. She said she got what I meant all right, and she said she got what her mother meant, too, when her mother said we were too young to get married. She said she got what a lot of things meant now.
That really got me. I admit it. I'm willing to admit it. Nothing really gets me except when she brings up her mother. I asked Ruthie, very quiet like, what she was talking about. I said, "Just because a guy wants to go out once in a while." Ruthie said if I ever said "once in a while" again, I'd never see her again. She's always taking things the way I don't mean them. I told her that. She said, "C'mon. We're here. Let's dance."
I followed her out to the floor, but just as we got there the orchestra got sneaky on us. They started playing Moonlight Becomes You. It's old now, but it's a swell song. I mean it isn't a bad song. We used to hear it once in a while on the radio in the car or the one at home. Once in a while Ruthie used to sing the words. But it wasn't so hot, hearing it at Jake's that night. It was embarrassing. And they must have played eighty-five choruses of it. I mean they kept playing it. Ruthie danced about ten miles away from me, and we didn't look at each other much. Finally they stopped. Then Ruthie broke away from me like. She walks back to the table, but she don't sit down. She just picks up her coat and beats it. She was crying.
[b][/b] :ballbounce:
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5. Elaine                                                              
(Story, March-April, 1945)




On an exquisite Saturday afternoon in June, an assistant watch repairer named Dennis Cooney temporarily distracted the audience at an indoor flea circus just off Forty-third and Broadway by dropping dead. He was survived by his wife, Evelyn Cooney, and a daughter, Elaine, aged six, who had won two Beautiful Child contests; the first at the age of three, the second at the age of five, being defeated when she was four by a Miss Zelda "Bunny" Krakauer, of Staten Island. Cooney left his wife little insurance: enough for her to import her widowed mother, a Mrs. Hoover, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where the aging woman had supported herself by working as a cashier in a cafeteria. The money was enough for the three to live in relative comfort in the Bronx. The superintendent of the apartment house in which Mrs. Cooney and her mother and daughter proceeded to live w as a Mr. Freedlander. A few years before Freedlander had been "super" of the house where they finally “got" Bloomy Bloomberg. Freedlander informed Mrs. Cooney that Bloomy didn't look any deader than Mrs. Cooney, or anybody. Freedlander made it clear to Mrs. Cooney that Bloomy never called Freedlander anything but Mort, and Freedlander never called Bloomy anything but Bloomy.
"I remember readin' all about it," remarked Mrs. Cooney enthusiastically. "I mean I remember readin' all about it."
Freedlander nodded approvingly. "Yeah, it was quite a case." He looked around his tenant's living room. "Where's Mrs. Boyle?" he asked. "I haven't seen her around lately."
"Who?"
"Mrs.-  your mother."
"Oh. Mrs. Hoover. My mother's name is Hoover. I oughtta know. I was my name once !" Mrs. Cooney laughed immoderately.
Freedlander laughed with her. "What'd I call her?" he asked. "Boyle didn't I? We had a Mrs. Boyle in this apartment last. That's why. Hoover. Hoover's her name, eh? I get it."
''She's out," said Mrs. Cooney.
"Oh," said Freedlander.
"It's really awful. I mean she stays out for hours and hours. I keep thinking of her getting run over by a truck or something at her age."
''Yeah," Freedlander commented, sympathetically. ''Cigarette ?"

At the age of seven, little Elaine Cooney was sent to Public School 332 in the Bronx, where she was tested in accordance with the newest, most scientific methods, and consequently placed in Class 1-A-4, which included a group of forty-four pupils referred to among the faculty as the "slower" children. Every day Mrs. Cooney or her mother, Mrs. Hoover, brought the child to and from school. Usually it was Mrs. Hoover who made the delivery in the morning, and Mrs. Cooney would pick up her daughter in the afternoon. Mrs. Cooney went to the movies at least four times a week, frequently attending the late evening show, in which case she slept late mornings. Sometimes, owing to some unforeseen emergency, Mrs. Cooney was unable to call for her daughter. Under this not uncommon circumstance, the child was forced to wait as long as an hour by the second exit door from the corner, marked Girls, until her grandmother plodded irritably into view. On the way to and from school, the conversation between Elaine and her grandmother never achieved an exceptionally high degree of camaraderie between generations.
''Don't lose your lunch box again."
"What, Grandma?"
"Don't lose your lunch box again."
"Do I have peanut butter ?"
''Do you have what?"
"Peanut butter."
''I don't know. Your mother fixed your lunch. Pull up your pants."
It was always a conversation both varicose and unloved, like Mrs. Hoover’s legs. The child didn't seem to mind. She seemed to be a happy child. She smiled a great deal. She laughed constantly at things that were not funny. She didn't seem to mind the bilious pastel and tasteless print dresses in which her mother dressed her. She didn't seem to live in the unhappy child's world. But when she was in the fourth grade her teacher, Miss Elmendorf, a tall, fine young woman with very bad legs and ankles, spoke of her to the principal. "Miss Callahan? I wonder if you can spare a minute."
"Indeed I can !" said Miss Callahan. ‘’Come in, dear !"
Young Miss Elmendorf dosed the door behind her. "That Cooney child I was telling you about-"
"Cooney. Cooney. Yes ! That very pretty child," said Miss Callahan, enthusiastically. ''Sit down, dear."
"Thank you . . . I think we'll have to drop her back a class, Miss Callahan. The work is much too difficult for her. She can't spell, she can't do arithmetic. Her oral reading is positively painful to listen to."
"Well !" said Miss Callahan. "Ding, dong, dell !"
"She's a sweet child," said Miss Elmendorf. "And certainly the most exquisite thing I've ever seen in my life. She looks like Rapunzel."
"Who ?" said Miss Callahan sharply.
"Rapunzel," said Miss Elmendorf.
"Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your golden hair. Remember the fairy prince who climbed to the castle tower by Rapunzel's hair ?"
"Oh, yes," said Miss Callahan shortly. She picked up a pencil with her thin,  genderless fingers. Miss Elmendorf was already sorry she had brought up that unfamiliar business about Rapunzel.
"I think," said Miss Elmendorf, "she'd find it less difficult if we dropped her to a lower class."
"Well, then ! In a lower class she goes, she goes, she goes !" sang out Miss Callahan, getting up like a man.
Miss Callahan had spoken, but Miss Elmendorf, dining alone at Bickford's Cafeteria that evening, decided that she couldn't just drop this child, this Rapunzel, into a lower class without a word to her or anything. Miss Elmendorf wanted to be disenchanted before she did any dropping. So she kept Elaine in the following, afternoon, hoping to be disenchanted.
"Elaine, dear," she said to her, "I'm going to let you report to 4-A-4 tomorrow instead of your own class. We'll just try it for a while. I don't think the work will be so hard for us. Do you
understand, dear? Stand still."
"I'm in 4-B-4," said Elaine. What was Miss Ellumdorf talking about?
"Yes, dear; I know. But we're going to try 4-A-4 for a while. It won't be quite so hard for us. We'll get a much better foundation, so that when the new term starts 4-B-4 will be ever so much easier for us."
"I'm in 4-B-4," Elaine said. "I'm in 4-B-4."
      The child is stupid, thought Miss Elmendorf. She's stupid. She's not bright. She's wearing the most horrid little green dress I ever saw. I look in those tremendous blue eyes, and there's nothing there, absolutely nothing. But this is the Rapunzel in my class. This is the beauty. This is the most glorious, slim-ankled, golden-haired, red-lipped, lovely-nosed, beautiful-skinned child I have ever seen in my life.
      "We'll just try it for a while, shall we, Elaine?" Miss Elmendorf said, hopelessly. "We'll just see how we like it, shall we? Stand still, dear."
      "Yes, Miss Ellumdorf," chanted the child nasally.

It took Elaine nine and a half years to be graduated from the eighth grade. She had entered grammar school when she was seven, and she was graduated when she was sixteen.
     At her graduation she wore lipstick, as did only one other child: an Italian girl named Theresa Torrini, who was eighteen and the mother of an illegitimate child by a taxi driver named Hugo Munster. At graduation, Phyllis Jackson, aged twelve, delivered the valedictory; Mildred Horgand, also twelve, played "Elegie" and "Somebody Else Is Taking My Place" on her violin; Lindsay Feurstein, just turned thirteen, recited "Gunga Din" and "I Wandered Lonely As a Cloud"; Thelma Ackerman, thirteen-and-a-half, tap-danced with maximum intricacy, and gave her impressions of Eddie Cantor and Red Skelton. And there were others whose names featured prominently in the mimeographed programs: Piano Selections-Babs Wasserman; Bird Calls Dolores Strovak; What America Means to Me-an original essay, by Mary Frances Leland. None of the latter group was over thirteen, and Dolores Strovak, who knew and could repeat the calls of thirty-six different birds, was only eleven.
   These individual accomplishments were followed by a pageant, entitled "The Blood of Democracy," which included in its cast the entire graduating class.
     Elaine Cooney enacted the part of the Statue of Liberty. Hers was the only nonspeaking part in the pageant. She was required simply to stand with her arm raised for nearly fifty minutes, supporting a torch made of solid lead, painted bronze-a piece of property conceived and wrought by Marjorie Briganza’s brother, Felix, a young pill. Elaine never dropped the heavy thing. She never relaxed under the weight of solid lead and, something heavier, unsung responsibility. Neither seemed to weigh heavily upon her. Nor did she once furtively scratch her golden head, which was adorned with a light, tight cardboard crown. It didn't even seem to itch.
     Twice during the pageant of "The Blood of Democraq," Elaine's left foot, unbelievably small for a girl of her height, was tramped upon with all the ruthlessness of accident by both Estelle Lipschutz and Marjorie Briganza. At neither time did Elaine even wince. She lost a little color, temporarily.
     After the graduation exercises Elaine went with her mother, her grandmother, and Mr. Freedlander (the "super"), to see a film her mother had particularly wanted to see all week, at the neighborhood movie. Elaine seemed to find the occasion unbearably festive, the fourth-rate feature picture exceptionally engrossing, happy-making. The Mickey Mouse cartoon made her laugh so hard that her almost-violet, great eyes wept ecstatic tears, and Mrs. Hoover had to slap and half-punch her on her lovely back to shock her out of hysteria, reminding her irritably that it was only a picture, and there wasn't any sense crying about it. During the entire show Mr. Freedlander pressed his leg against Elaine's. She made no attempt to move her leg away from his. She simply was unaware of the imposed intimacy. She was sixteen years old and mature enough physically to like or dislike leg pressure from a man in the dark, but she was totally unqualified to accommodate sex and Mickey Mouse simultaneously. There was room for Mickey; no more.

The summer following her graduation from elementary school Elaine chiefly spent attending the movies with her mother, and listening to afternoon dramatic serials on the little, faulty-toned radio in their living room. She had no girl friends of her own age, and she knew no boys. Boys whistled at her, boys wrote clean or dirty notes to her, boys said "Hiya, beautiful" to her in hallways, in drugstores, on street corners; but she didn't go out with any of them, or even know any of them. If they asked her to go for a walk; or to a movie, she said she couldn't, that her mother wouldn't let her. This was not true. The question had never even come up at home. Elaine was not unwilling to go out with boys, but she was unwilling to be confused by unfamiliar, evadable issues.
     So Elaine went through July and August of the summer of her graduation from elementary school, living in a Hollywood- and radio-promoted world peopled pled with star newspaper reporters, crackerjack young city editors, young brain surgeons, intrepid young detectives, all of whom crusaded or operated or detected brilliantly when they were not being sidetracked by their own incorrigible charm. Everybody in Elaine's world combed his hair beautifully, or had it tousled attractively by an expensive makeup man. All of her men spoke in deep, trained voices that sometimes swooped pleasantly through a sixteen-year-old girl's legs. On and on Elaine and her mother drove on foot, from one soap opera to the next, from one movie house to the next. They presented a strange picture, walking together on hot Bronx streets. Mrs. Cooney, and sometimes Mrs. Hoover, ever looking like centuries of literary Nurses, Elaine ever looking like centuries of Juliets and Ophelias and Helens. The troll-like servants and the beautiful mistress. Bound for a rendezvous with Romeo, with Hamlet, with Paris . . . bound for a rendezvous with the Warner Brothers, with Republic, with M.G.M., with Monogram, with R.K.O.... there were thousands of Bronx people who saw them on their way. There was never one to cry out, to wonder, to intercept....
Early in September, shortly before high schools opened, there was an irregularity in the program. One of the ushers at the neighborhood R.K.O. theater, a slight, pale, blond boy who carried a white comb in his hip pocket and was constantly running it through his hair, invited Elaine to the beach over Sunday, and his invitation was accepted. The invitation was made while Elaine's mother, who chronically suffered with head colts, saw ht before seating herself to retire to the ladies' room to administer nose drops. Elaine waited in the front lobby of the theater, examining the release photographs of scenes from next week's film. The usher, whose name was Teddy Schmidt, spoke to her. "Hey. Your name's Elaine, ain't it?"
     "Yeah! How'dja know?" Elaine asked.
     "I heard ya mother call ya around a million times," said Schmidt. "Listen. I mean wuddaya doin' Sunday ? You wanna go to the beach? This friend of mine, Frank Vitrelli, he has this Pontiac convert. I and he and his girl friend, were all driving out to the beach, Sunday. You wanna come ? I mean you wanna come?"
     "I don't know," said the recent graduate of P.S. 332, watching him, liking his wavy, effeminate hair.
     "It'll be fun. I mean you'll have a good time. This friend of mine, Frank Vitrelli, is a panic. I mean you'll get a good sunburn and all. How 'bout it.
"I hafta ask my mother," Elaine said.
         "Swell !" said Teddy Schmidt. "Swell !  I'll pick ya up at nine, Sunday morning. Where d'ya live?"
''Four fifty-two Sansom," Elaine sing-songed.
"Swell ! Be downstairs !"
     Mrs. Cooney, snuffing back nose drops, interrupted the conversation. Teddy Schmidt's white, white hands tore her tickets in two, and Elaine followed her mother into the familiar darkness.
     When the names of the personnel responsible for the film flashed on the screen, Elaine whispered to her mother, "Mama."
     "What?" said Mrs. Cooney, watching the screen.
     "Can I go to the beach on Sunday?"
     "What beach ?"
     "The beach. The usher wants me to go. He's going and I can go with him."
     "I don't know. We'll see."
     A man's figure appeared on the screen, and Elaine gave it her immediate interest biting her fingernails. The film progressed for ten minutes, then suddenly Mrs. Cooney addressed her daughter. "You don't have no bathing suit."
     "What ?" said Elaine, watching the screen.
     "You don't have no bathing suit."
     "I can get one, can't I ?" Elaine asked.
     Mrs. Cooney nodded in the dark, and the subject was closed indefinitely. The screen was becoming involved with a condition which promised the Cooneys a sudden lurch of romance.

The following Saturday night, when Elaine ant her mother were walking home from another film at another theater, Mrs. Cooney gave her daughter certain motherly advice.
     "Don't let nobody get wise with ya tomorrow."
     "What?" Elaine said.
     "Don't let nobody get wise with ya tomorrow. In this man's car or anything. Don't let nobody get funny."
     Elaine walked with her beautiful mouth slightly open, listening to her mother.
     "Just watch your P's and Q's," Mrs. Cooney advised.
     "What?" said Elaine.
     "Watch your P's and Q's tomorrow," Mrs. Cooney said, and added somewhat more vehemently, "I hope ya grandma's picked up the papers after her in the livin' room. I'm sick an' tired of pickin' up after her. Pickin' up, pickin' up, pickin’ up."
     At ten minutes before nine the next morning, Elaine stood in front of the house, with a Kresge dime-store valise containing a cheap royal-blue bathing suit, a thin, easily tearable bathing cap, and a face towel. She set down the valise at her small feet, and waited. It was a stunning, bright day, with special little breezes doing justice to Elaine's hair. At least three cars with men in them passed by her slowly, tooting their horns. One man went so far as to draw up to the curb, reach over and open his front door. "Going my way, kid ?"
     "No. This boy's coming for me," Elaine explained.
     The man shook his head. "He's not coming," he said. "I got a hot tip."
     Elaine was suspicious. "How do you know?" she wanted to know.
     The man stared at her. "What's your name, kid?" he asked.
     "Elaine. Elaine Coooo-ney."
     But just at that moment Teddy Schmidt's party pulled up behind the masher's car. Elaine recognized Teddy in the back of the car, and smiled. The masher drove off.
     It was twenty minutes to eleven. Teddy got out of the back of the car. "Sorry I'm late!" he said, without a jot of regret in his voice. "Frank couldn't find the keys!" It was a great joke. He ushered the young girl into the back of the car, and got in beside her. The two people in the front were turned around and staring.
     "Elaine, meet Monny Monahan. Monny, meet Elaine. Elaine, meet Frank," introduced Teddy.
     Frank Vitrelli acknowledged his introduction by issuing a long, low whistle.
     "Hello, kid," Monny said to Elaine, staring.
     "Hello," said Elaine.
     "Drive on, McGinsberg," ordered Teddy. Frank Vitrelli shifted gears, and the car moved off. "How ya been, Elaine?" Teddy inquired, affecting a casualness for the information of Frank and Monny.
     "O.K.," said Elaine, sitting straight in her seat.
     "Not bad lookin', eh, Monny?" Teddy asked Monny, who was still staring.
     "What do you do, kid?" Monny asked Elaine. "You go to school?"
     "I graduated."
     "From high school ?"
     "No, from 8-B. I'm going to high school next week. George Washington High."
     "That's co-ed, isn't it?" Monny said.
     "No. Boys and girls," Elaine informed her.

         When the gorgeous sun was descending that day, Frank Vitrelli suddenly sprang to his feet, brushing off sand from his hairy legs. "Well," he announced, "I don't care what others want to do, but as for me, give me liberty or give me paddle tennis." He reached down, and with only the slightest exertion of his powerful arm, yanked Monny Monahan to her feet.
   "Let's play doubles," Monny suggested. "You play paddle tennis, Elaine?"
"What?" said Elaine.
“You play paddle tennis?"
Elaine shook her head.
     "Well, c'mon along, anyway," Monny said to her, glancing at Teddy Schmidt. "It's fun to watch."
     "Naa, we'll stay here," said Teddy casually.
     Frank Vitrelli abruptly made a little fullback-like movement, lunging his huge shoulders at the lower quarters of Monny Monahan, and in an instant Monny was sitting on his shoulders. She made a painful little grimace, replaced it with a smile, and said, "Oh, you!" to Frank Vitrelli. The latter turned around for the benefit of the others, with his hands so placed and gripped on Monny's thighs to show off best his deltoid muscles. Then, sharply, he twisted about, as though to ward off a sudden and formidable opponent, and galloped off, with his burden bouncing high and painfully on his shoulders.
     "He's a panic," commented Teddy.
     "He's strong," Elaine observed, basically.
     Teddy shook his head. ''Muscle-bound," he said briefly. "See him in the water ?"
     "No."
     "Muscle-bound.- I mean he's all muscle-bound." Teddy changed the subject.
"Listen. This sand is killing my feet. I mean it's shady under the boardwalk. Let's take a walk."
     "Okay," said Elaine, and they both stood up.
     For the first time Elaine noticed that the beach was fast becoming deserted. There were a few city die-hards like the Schmidt-Vitrelli party, but it seemed as though all the "regulars" had suddenly folded a single, great, green-and-orange umbrella, and plodded across the scorched sand toward the parking lots. Standing up, Elaine was almost instantly involved in a private, terrible panic. She had never been to a beach before, but she had seen hordes of Coney Islanders in newsreel shots taken annually on the Fourth of July or Labor Day, and the occasion of being on a crowded beach all day had not estranged her violently from the dimensions of her own world. But now - the sudden vast, lonely expanse of a deserted public beach at dusk came as a terrible visitation upon her. The beach itself, which before had been only a fair-sized manifestation of tiny handfuls of hot sand which could slip with petty ecstasy through the fingers, was now a great monster sprawled across infinity, prejudiced personally against Elaine, ready to swallow her up - or cast her, with an ogreish laugh, into the sea. And with the sudden exodus of the beach people, Teddy Schmidt took on a new meaning for her. He was no longer Teddy Schmidt, pretty, wavy-haired, male; he was Teddy Schmidt, not her mother, not her grandmother, not movie star, not a voice on the radio, not-
       "What's the matter?" Teddy demanded, but softly. Elaine had snatched her hand away from his as they walked, as though it had been charged with high voltage. She did not answer him. As they walked along, everything he said was unintelligible to her. There was only her heart clomping. There was only a frightened prayer that the beach and ocean change into a Bronx street, with tooting horns and clanking trolleys and jostling clothed people. She listened only for the beach to move, to spring, to swallow up.
The sand and air under the board walk was cool and clammy, and there were smells of sea things and picnic. But it was dark and, abruptly, retreatful for Elaine, and the farther she walked under the boardwalk with Teddy, the more intelligible his conversation became, the less her heart clomped.
"Too cold here?" Teddy asked, in a peculiar voice.
"No !" Elaine almost shouted. Like a child with its head under blankets, afraid to look at the panic-making silhouettes of objects in the room, she wanted to stay under the boardwalk until the transition to her own familiar world could be made instantaneously.
   "Let's sit down," Teddy said, at the right moment. His mediocre heart had begun to pound excitedly, because with the eternal rake's despicable but seldom faulty intuition, he knew it was going to be easy ... so easy....
     At that moment, on the paddle tennis courts Monny Monahan walked up to net and said to Frank Vitrelli, "Let's go back, huh? My feet hurt."
     "One more set."
     "I don't like that guy there with that kid."
     "What guy?" Vitrelli said, turning to look at the players in the next court.
     "No. I mean Schmidt."
     "Teddy ? Oh, he's a good guy. C'mon. You serve," said Vitrelli, and jogged back to his own base line.
     Monny served, - hating Vitrelli, but aware that he made sixty-five dollars a week, aware of the great potential security of him.

When she came in from that first night under the boardwalk with Teddy Schmidt, Elaine was required to relate very few details of the day. Her mother was washing her hair, her soapy
head bent over the hand bowl in the bathroom. Her grandmother was asleep.
"That you, Elaine?"
     "Yes, Mama." Elaine walked into the bathroom, and watched her mother wash her hair.
     "Have a good time?"
     "Yes."
     "The suit shrink?" her mother wanted
"I don't know," Elaine said.
     "You eat anything?"
     "We had hot dogs. With relish."
     "That's nice," said her mother.
     Elaine stood there. She was almost ready to say something.
     "Anybody get wise with you ?" her mother asked suddenly.
     "No," Elaine said.
     "That's good. Hand me the towel, dolly."
     Elaine handed her a towel.
     "Go look and see in the papers what's at the Capitol. Maybe we'll go in the morning."
     "I can't," Elaine said. "Teddy doesn't work in the mornings. He's going to learn me how to play bridge.''
     "Oh, that's nice! You can play with me and your Uncle Mort and your grandmother when you know how. See once what's playing for me, though, like a dolly."
     A month later-two weeks before her seventeenth birthday-Elaine was married to Teddy Schmidt. The marriage was performed at the Schmidts' home, and was attended by Teddy's large family and several of his friends. Mrs. Cooney, Mrs. Hoover, and Mr. Freedlander represented Elaine. It was a cold, rainy October day, with threat of intenser chills and more rain in the late afternoon. Elaine wore a cheap, thin "traveling" suit and a dreary gladioli corsage which Teddy's sister, Bertha Louise, had selected for her. But no Grade-B Hollywood film had ever seemed to make Elaine as happy as she looked on her wedding day. No last-reel film kiss would have stirred her heart so tenderly, if objectively she could have witnessed herself raising her own lips to meet the thin, effeminate mouth of her new husband.
     Teddy was nervous throughout the ceremony, and at the wedding table following the ceremony he was irritable with his bride. Elaine was too happy to cut the wedding cake effectually, and he had to take the knife away from her. He was thoroughly disgusted with her
incompetence.
     Teddy's mother and Mrs. Cooney began to argue with guarded politeness concerning the virility of a certain popular male movie star, Mrs. Schmidt questioning it, Mrs. Cooney swearing by it. It took them very little time to drop their guards, to raise their voices; and when Mr. Freedlander had responded to Mrs. Cooney's request to "stay out of it," Mrs. Cooney thoughtfully, effectively, struck her daughter's mother-in-law full in the mouth with her open hand. Teddy's mother screamed and rushed forward, but met with the interference of Frank Vitrelli. Freedlander grabbed Mrs. Cooney. The groom stayed in the background, frightened, avoiding active participation by pretending to comfort his bride. Elaine wept like a small child, all the happiness wrenched away from her, like a broken film in a projector. Monny Monahan came up to Teddy. "Get her out of here," she told Teddy.
Teddy nodded nervously, and looked around, as though selection of a proper exit was questionable. But he stood there, panicky.
     "Get her out, you dope"' Monny Monahan grated at him.
     Teddy grabbed his wife's arm roughly. "C'mon," he said.
     "No !" said Elaine. ''Mama !" She broke away from Teddy, and rushed over to her mother, who was being pacified somewhat inadequately by Mr. Freedlander and Mrs. Hoover.
     "Mama," Elaine begged. "Me and Teddy are goin'."
     "I'll kill her," threatened Mrs. Cooney, ferociously.
     "Mama. Mama. Me and Teddy are goin'," Elaine said.
     "Go ahead, kid," Freedlander advised. "Your mother don't feel so good. Have a good time. Don't do nothing I wouldn't do."
     "Mama," begged Elaine.
     Mrs. Cooney suddenly looked up at her daughter. And something strange happened. A great tenderness crossed Mrs. Cooney's face, and she took her daughter's beautiful face between her two hands and drew it down to her own. "Good-by, dolly," she said, and fervently kissed Elaine on the mouth several times.
     "Good-by, Grandma," Elaine said to Mrs. Hoover.
     Mrs. Hoover gathered her granddaughter in her arms, and sobbed over her. Teddy prodded his wife to make the embrace short. The newlyweds started to leave the house. But there was a change of plans.
     "Elaine!" Mrs. Cooney suddenly called, shrilly.
     Elaine turned, her big eyes wide. Her husband swung around, too, with his mouth open.
     "You ain't goin' nowhere," said Mrs. Cooney. And the entire gathering of wedding guests snapped their attention her way; even the sobbing of the groom's mother was abruptly suspended.
"What, Mama?" said the bride.
     "You come back, you beautiful," ordered Mrs. Cooney, crying. "You ain't goin' nowhere with that sissy boy."
     "Listen," Teddy started to bluster, "we're leaving right-"
     "Keep quiet, you," commanded Mrs. Cooney, and turned to Mrs. Hoover. "C'mon, Ma."
     Mrs. Hoover stood up painfully, but readily, on her swollen legs. She followed her daughter across the room toward her granddaughter.
     Teddy's lower jaw trembled violently. "Listen," he told his mother-in-law, nervously, as the latter put her arm around the bride's waist, "she's my wife, see. I mean she's my wife. If she don't come with me, I can get it annulled, the marriage."
     "Good. C'mon, dolly," said Mrs. Cooney, and led the way out.
     "G'by, Teddy," Elaine said in a friendly way, over her shoulder.
     "Listen," began Teddy again, trying to imply imminent danger to the Cooney party.
Let ‘em go! shrieked his mother. “Let the riffraff go!”
When they were outside in the street, Mrs. Cooney dismissed Freedlander with a minimum of tact. "You go ahead, Mort," she said. And Freedlander, looking hurt, went ahead.
Bride, mother, and grandmother moved up the street. They turned the corner in silence, moved half way up the next block, then Mrs. Cooney made a little announcement which seemed to please all three.
     "We'll go to a movie. A nice movie," she said.
     They walked on.
     "Henry Fonda's playing at the Troc,” commented Mrs. Hoover, who didn't like to walk too far.
     "Let Elaine say where she wants to go," snapped Mrs. Cooney.
     Elaine was looking down at her gladioli corsage. "Gee," she said. “They're
all dying. They were so beautiful." She looked up. "Who's at the Troc, Grandma?"
     "Henry Fonda."
     "Ooh, I like him," said Elaine, skipping ecstatically.
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6. Go See   Eddiie
(Kansas Review, December, 1940


              Helen's bedroom was always straightened while she bathed so that when
she came out of the bathroom her dressing table was free of last night's cream jars and soiled tissues, and there were glimpses in her mirror of flat bedspreads and patted chair cushions.  When it was sunny, as it was now, there were bright warm blotches to bring out the pastels chosen from the decorator's little book.
She was brushing  her thick red hair when Elsie, the maid,  came in. 
"Mr.  Bobby's here, ma'am," said Elsie.
        "Bobby?"  asked Helen, "I though he was in Chicago.  Hand me my robe, Elsie.  Then show him in."
        Arranging her royal-blue robe to cover her long bare legs, Helen went on brushing her hair.  then abruptly a tall sandy-haired man in a polo coat brushed behind and past her, snapping his index finger  against the back of her neck.  He walked directly to the chaise-lounge on the other side of the room and stretched himself out, coat  and all.  Helen could see him in the mirror.
"Hello, you," she said.  "Hey.  that thing was straightened.  I thought you were in Chicago."
        "Got back last night,"  Bobby said, yawning.  "God, I'm tired."
        "Successful?" asked Helen.  "Didn't you  go to hear some girl sing or something?"
        "Uh,"  Bobby affirmed.
        "Was she any good, the girl?"
        "Lot of breast-work.  No voice."
        Helen sat down her brush, got up, and seated herself in the peach-colored straight chair at Bobby's feet.  From her robe pocket she took an Emory board and proceeded to apply it to her long, flesh-pink nails.  "What else do you  know?"  she inquired.
        "Not much ,"  Said Bobby.  He sat up with a grunt, took a  package of cigarettes from his
overcoat.  pocket, stuck them back, then stood up and removed the overcoat. He tossed the heavy thing on Helen's bed, scattering a colony of sunbeams.  Helen continued filing her nails.  Bobby sat on the edge of the chaise-lounge, lighted a cigarette, and leaned forward. The sun was on them both,  lashing her milky skin, and doing nothing for Bobby but showing up his dandruff and the pockets under his eyes.
        "How would you like a job?"  Bobby asked.
        "A job?"  Helen said, filing.  "What kind of job?"
        "Eddie Jackson's going into rehearsals with a new show.  I saw him last night.  Y'oughtta see how gray that guy's getting.  I said to him, have you got a spot for my sister?  He said maybe, and I told him that you might be around." 
        "It's a good thing you said might,"  Helen said, looking up at him. "What kind of a spot?  Third from the left or something?"
        "I  didn't ask him what kind of spot.  But it's better than nothing, isn't it?"
        Helen didn't answer him, went on attending to her nails.
        "Why don't you want the job?"
        "I didn't say I didn't want one."
        "Well then what's the matter with seeing Jackson?"
        "I don't want any more chorus work.  Besides, I hate Eddie Jackson's guts." 
        "Yeah," said Bobby.  He got up and went to the door. "Elsie!" he called. "Bring me a cup of coffee!"  Then he sat down again.
        "I want you to see Eddie,"  he told her
        "I don't want to see Eddie."
"I want you to see him.  Put that god damn file a minute."
        She went on filing.
        "I want you to go up there this afternoon, hear?"
        "I'm not going up there this afternoon," Helen told him, crossing her legs.  "Who do you think you're ordering around?"
        Bobby's hand was half fist when he knocked the Emory board from her fingers.  She neither looked at him nor picked up the Emory board from the  carpet.  She just got up  and went back to her dressing table to resume brushing her hair, her thick red hair.  Bobby followed to stand behind her, to look for her eyes in the mirror.
        "I want you to see Eddie this afternoon.  Hear me, Helen?"
        Helen brushed her hair.   "And what'll you do if I don't go up there, tough guy?"
        He picked that up.  "Would you like me to tell you?  Would you like me to tell you what I'll do if you don't go up there?"
        "Yes, I'd like you to tell me what you'll do if I don't go up there," Helen mimicked.
        "Don't do that.  I'll push that glamour kisser of yours.  So help me, " Bobby warned.  " I want you to go up there.  I want you to see Eddie and I want you to take that god damn job."
        "No, I want you to tell me what you'll do if I don't go up there," Helen said in her natural
voice.
        "I'll tell you what I'll do,"  Bobby said, watching her eyes in the mirror.  "I'll ring up your
greasy boy  friend's wife and tell her what's what."
        Helen horse-laughed. "Go ahead!" she told him.  "Go right ahead, wise guy!  She knows all about it."
        Bobby said, "She knows, eh?"
        "Yes, she knows! And don't cal Phil greasy!  you wish you were half as good looking as he is!"
        "He's a greaser.  A greasy lousy cheat,"  Bobby pronounced.  "Two for a lousy dime.  That's your boy friend."
        "Coming from you that's good."
        "Have you ever seen his wife?"  Bobby asked.
        "Yes-I've-seen-his-wife.  What about her?"
        "Have you ever seen her face?"
        "Nothing's so marvelous about it.  She hasn't go a glamour kisser like yours.  It's just a nice
face.  Why the hell don't you leave her dumb husband alone?"
        "None of your business why!"  Snapped Helen.
        The fingers of his right hand suddenly dug into the hollow of her shoulder.  She yelled out in pain, turned, and from an awkward position but with all her might, slammed his hand with the flat of her hairbrush.  He sucked in his breath, pivoted swiftly so that his back was both to Helen and to Elsie, the maid, who had come in with his coffee.  Elsie set the tray on the window seat next to the chair where Helen had filed her nails, then slipped out of the room.
        Bobby sat down, and with the use of his other hand, sipped his coffee black.  Helen, at the dressing table, had begun to place her hair.  She wore it in a heavy old-fashioned bun.
        He had long finished his coffee when the last hairpin was in its place. Then she went over to where he sat smoking and looked out the window.  Drawing the lapels of her robe closer to her breast, she sat down with a little oop sound of unbalance on the floor at his feet. She placed a hand on his ankle, stroked it, and addressed him in a different voice.
        "Bobby, I'm sorry .  But you made me loose my temper, darling.  Did I hurt your hand?"
        "Never mind my hand," he said, keeping it ion his pocket.
        "Bobby, I love Phil.  On  my word of honor.  I don't want you to think I'm playing around, trying to hurt people?"
        Bobby made no reply.
        "My word of honor, Bob.  You don't know Phil.  He's really a grand person." 
        Bobby looked at her.  "You and your grand persons.  You know more god damn grand persons.  The guy from Cleveland.  What the hell was his name?  Bothwell.  Harry Bothwell.  And how 'bout that blond kid used to sing at Bill Cassidy's?  Two of the goddamndest grandest
persons you ever met."  He looked out the window again.  "Oh for Christsake, Helen," he said finally.
        "Bob," said Helen, "you know how old I was.  I was terribly young.  You know that.  But Bob, this is the real thing.  Honestly.  I know it is.  I've never felt this was before.  Bob, you don't really in your heart think I'm taking all this from Phil just for the hell of it?"
        Bobby looked at her again, lifted his eyebrows, thinned his lips. "You know what I hear in Chicago?" he asked her.
        "What, Bob?"  Helen asked gently, the tips of her fingers rubbing his ankle.
        "I heard two guys talking.  You don't know 'em.  They were talking about you.  You and this horsy-set guy, Hanson Carpenter.  they crummied the thing inside and out." He paused.  "You with him, too, Helen?"
        "That's a goddamn lie, Bob," Helen told him softly.  "Bob, I hardly know Hanson Carpenter well enough to say hello to him."
        "Maybe so!  But it's a wonderful thing for a brother to have to listen to, isn't it?  Everybody in town gives me the horse-laugh when they see me comin' around the corner!"
        "Bobby.  If you believe that slop it's your own damn fault.  What do you care what they say?  You're bigger than they are.  You don't have to pay any attention to their dirty minds."
        "I didn't say I believed it.  I said it was what I heard.  That's bad enough, isn't it?"
        "Well, it's not so," Helen told him. "Toss me a cigarette there, hmm?"
        He flipped the package of cigarettes into her lap; then the matches. She lighted up, inhaled, and removed a piece of tobacco from her tongue with the tips of her fingers.
        "You used to be such a swell kid,"  Bobby stated briefly.
        "Oh!  And I ain't no more?"  Helen little-girl'd.
        He was silent.
       "Listen, Helen.  I'll tell ya.  I had lunch the other day, before I went to Chicago, with Phil's wife."
        "Yeah?"
        "She's a swell kid.  Class,"  Bobby told her.
        "Class, huh?" said Helen.
        "Yeah.  Listen go see Eddie this afternoon.  It can't do any harm.  Go see him."
        Helen smoked.  "I hate Eddie Jackson.  he always makes a play for me."
        "Listen," said Bobby, standing up. "You know how to turn on the ice when you want to."  He stood over her.  "I have to go.  I haven't gone to the office yet."
        "Helen stood up and watched him put on his polo coat.
        "Go see Eddie,"  Bobby said, putting on his pigskin gloves.  "hear me?" He buttoned his
overcoat.  "I'll give you a ring soon."
        Helen chided, "Oh, you'll give me a ring soon! When?  the Fourth of July?"
        "No, soon. I've been busy as hell lately.  Where's my hat? oh, I didn't have one."
        She walked with him to the front door, stood in the doorway until the elevator came. Then she shut the door and walked quickly back to her room.  She went to the telephone and dialed swiftly but precisely.
        "Hello?" she said into the mouthpiece.  "Let me speak to Mr.  Stone, please.  This is Miss Mason."  In a moment his voice came through. "Phil?" she said.  "Listen.  My brother Bobby was just here.  And do you know why?  Because that adorable little Vassarfaced wife of yours told him about you and I.  Yes!  Listen, Phil.  Listen to me.  I don't like it.  I don't care if you had anything to do with it or not.  I don't like it.  I don't care.  No, I can't.  I have a previous engagement.  I can't tonight either.  You can call me tomorrow, Phil.  No.  I said no, Phil. Goodbye."
        She set down the receiver, crossed her legs, and bit thoughtfully at the cuticle of her thumb.  then she turned and yelled loudly:  "Elsie!"
        Elsie moused into the room.
        "Take away Mr. Bobby's tray."
        When Elsie was out of the room, Helen dialed again.
        "Hanson?"  she said.  "This is me.  Us.  We.  You dog."

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