This is the continuation of a rough draft of a novel that began at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/teaser-to-a-novel/
This is just a quick note cos I’m not done a wicked long letter to you. It’s already around twenty pages of onionskin with secret shorthand on both sides, and hell if I know how I’ll afford the airmail postage. And if I can write like that to you then you can do better than a half page to me.
To answer your questions: 1.) Yes, I did your the note of July 13th. Obvious, Aye? How else could I be writing back? So that was a dumb question, but I don’t mind, cos at least I’ll get one answer right. 2.) It arrived in my mailbox yesterday afternoon. 3.) We only get one delivery a day here. I was pretty surprised to get a note back so fast, considering I didn’t mail you my address ‘til the 12th. I did stick it in the out-of-town box before the PO even opened, and they take that mail straight to Boston, but still 36 hours to Africa and then two days back is pretty damn fast, if you ask me. It sure beats going weeks without mail, like when we were stuck at Dunrobin during the postal strike.
4.) I don’t know why you want a copy of “The Party Woods” so bad. It will be a while. I have no time, and anyway at 25 cents a page I can’t afford to copy it. My mother gave me some money for food but between cigarettes and gas it’s going fast. I hardly eat. Luckily I did get a job feeding a neighbor’s horses and mowing their lawn while they are on Cape Cod, but I don’t get paid ‘til they’re back. So you’ll have to be patient
Come on, you bum. Write a longer letter.
Nearly midnight on July 11, 1971
I’m starting this letter even before I mail the last one because I have the feeling this is going to take a while to write. I want to get a letter from you, and if I hadn’t mailed you my address in the last letter I won’t get any.
My brains are pretty fried and I’m having trouble putting my sentences together. I keep staring off into space.
July 12, 1971
It’s a really hot morning. The Fossil’s dining room has a glass ceiling but it’s not eight yet already it is so hot I have the sliding doors wide yet still I sweat onto this paper, though the sun is a molten red ball just beginning to bulge up in purple haze to the east. But maybe it’s even hotter in Africa? I don’t know.
My damn sweat is making this damn pen skip.
I want to tell you
now it’s evening
The guys wanted to go out for breakfast just then, because there wasn’t even coffee in the house, so I did mail my quick note before the Post Office even opened but I couldn’t write this letter. I can’t remember what I was going to say, anyway. We got stoned even before breakfast so I didn’t even have time to get my head together before we were all messed up again. Breakfast was donuts and coffee at a shop, which only got me more wired. It went on like that until finally I had to tell them I needed time to just get over jet-lag and they should drive me back here, so now is the first time I get to just think. I’m exhausted.
I’m pretty annoyed. The car was gone when I looked in the garage. I got all worried and paranoid and finally called the Fossil’s daughter, Mary, and Mary called England, and it turned out my mother gave the car to my sister to use. So I’m stuck out here without wheels. You can’t do anything in Weston without a car. The store in the center is over two miles off.
I got all mad and called England but when my mother picked up the phone I couldn’t say how mad I was. I just asked her how she expected me to register the car if my sister had it. She said she thought she was doing me a favor by having my sister do the job. Just the tone of her voice made me want to reach through the phone line and strangle her. She acts all innocent but I think she’s snide. I asked her how I was suppose to register for the draft without a car and she said I should call my sister for a ride and that she had to hang up the phone because it was very late in England and they were leaving for Scotland in the morning.
I swear she did it just to get back at me for not touring Scotland. Either that or she just doesn’t trust me with my stepfather’s car cos I smashed it up so many times last year. But she never says so. So I can’t tell if it’s her, or just the pot making me paranoid.
Partly I’m just selfish. I wanted that car. My sister already has a motorcycle so I don’t see why she needs it. Sometimes I swear my mother just wants me crippled.
So here I am stuck with no food but a bag of granola and some milk I got earlier when
My old buddy Durf showed up just then. We got stoned and he ate all my granola. That guy gets the worst munchies when he’s stoned.
Durf said I ought to get out of Weston because it was no good, and I said maybe so but I needed some time to think about what I was going to do. I wanted some time with Eve and to visit my Dad and so on. He got real pushy about me breaking free from the parent’s nest like he’s done, and said I was pretty pathetic to cling to a jailbait girlfriend from high school who wears braces on her teeth when I could have lots of hot babes in Boston. He makes me feel pretty inexperienced, but I also think he just talks big. I noticed he was driving his Mom’s car cos he doesn’t own one.
We talked practically all night, because we took some speed. I swore I’d stay away from speed after what it did to me last year, but I figured one or two times wouldn’t matter. I found a huge box of cheap crap pills from last year with my stuff in the attic, but I’m going to just sell them all cheap cos I need cash. But I can always tell myself I needed to test them to see if they still work. They do.
In the morning we went over to his Mom’s and she made us a big breakfast. She’s that sort of Mom. I didn’t think I was hungry but I wound up eating a ton, and next thing I knew it was late afternoon and I was waking up on their living room couch. I must have totally zonked out. Embarrassing. There was a little pool of saliva on the leather cushion where my face lay, that I wiped up in a rush, all ashamed, but Durf’s Mom said it was the jet-lag catching up with me, but the speed can’t have helped.
I felt guilty because I was supposed to see Eve around lunchtime, and Durf was pretty scornful about me being guilty. He said no woman can tell him what to do. I said its only the second time I’ve seen Eve and both times I’ve managed to be over six hours late. Eve doesn’t like that. He said who gives a shit what women think. Then his Mom wanted him to take out the trash, and while he was gone I tried to sneak a quick call to Eve, but the line was busy.
When Durf came back he said he wanted me to come into Boston with him when his mother dropped him off at the MBTA station at Riverside. Durf says you don’t need a car in Boston. I said I’d better not go in, and his Mom dropped me off in the center of Weston and I bought a bag of groceries and then walked to Eve’s.
Eve wasn’t too happy with me because it was six-thirty and not lunchtime, but I blamed it all on jet lag. It was the second time I’d visited but her Mom always acts real glad to see me and said all over again how I looked much better with short hair and asked me how much weight I put on at Dunrobin, and then her Dad walked in home from work and said the same things and we had a dinner in the kitchen. It’s odd cos they have a fancy dining room with antique, hand-painted wallpaper but they always eat crammed into that tiny kitchen which was only meant for servants, back when the Brewster‘s owned the place. I like it cos it’s much warmer than my stepfather’s. I can talk better with Eve’s mom than with my own, or even with Eve.
Her brothers were home from college and her two little sisters were glad to see me and treating me like a long-lost favorite uncle, jumping in my lap and wanting me to tell them stories like I used to when I visited back in high school. (I think I told you I used to act like I was visiting to see Eve’s brothers because I was too shy to admit I liked Eve. But now all that secrecy is in the past and I can officially and publicly like her.) Everyone was talking and it was a real nice family scene, except for Eve, who was still mad at me and sort of just sat and sulked. Finally I got her alone for a bit in the yard and told her I was sorry I was late and asked her could I see her tomorrow. She didn’t smile but at least she nodded. Then her little sisters came bombing up and wanted me to push them on the swings. It’s hard to be very romantic at that place. I wound up chucking a Frisbee with her brothers in the twilight. I got all hot and sweaty in the humid night but man O man did I ever need the exercise. Then I was going to walk home but her Dad drove me because of the bag of groceries. Eve came along but you can’t talk much when her Dad is there, though he’s really a good guy. He let it slip out that he’s driving Eve to the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard so she can go to some stupid tennis camp for two weeks, tomorrow. I looked at Eve and my jaw must’ve dropped, and I guess I looked pretty disappointed, for she smiled for some dumb reason. All of a sudden it made sense to me why she was so pissed off I was late, but I wouldn’t have been so late if only I’d known.
I was hoping to get Eve over to my place alone before her parents knew my parents were still in England, but that plot pretty much got exploded by what happened my first night back, but that tale will have to wait until tomorrow. Sleep is catching up to me again, but at least I have groceries.
Sorry this writing is so punchy.–
July 14 2 AM
I’m wide-awake for some dumb reason. I just woke up and it was too hot to sleep. Does it take you long to get used to the heat in Africa? I think I got too used to shivering in Scotland. I really like hot and humid weather, but I can’t sleep. Also I suppose I was usually getting up at this time, back at Dunrobin.
So anyway, I wanted to tell you a funny tale about my first twenty-four hours back in the States.
I had to leave Didcot by train in the dead of night cos my stepfather got me some cheap flight on a rinky-dink airline that left Heathrow at the crack of dawn. I couldn’t sleep during the flight because I was just too excited, but when we got to Boston we were stacked up and just flew circles north of the city for what seemed like forever. Then when we landed they didn’t have one of the new disembarking tunnels and instead I walked down steel steps to the tarmac which felt like it was about a hundred-eighty degrees. I didn’t mind. It seems like forever since I’ve felt real summer heat, so walking into the oven was welcome.
We had to walk over to customs. I wasn’t having any problem but suddenly heard Durf yelling my name. The customs-guy took one look at Durf’s two-foot-long hair and started going through all my stuff like you wouldn’t believe, taking the top off the shaving cream can, and squeezing the toothpaste tube to feel for lumps, and so on. I’m glad I wasn’t trying to sneak any pot through, because he even checked my cigarette package and sniffed the cigarettes. I felt guilty even though I didn’t have anything, and was afraid they were going to take me in some back room and do one of those strip-searches you read about, where they look in your fanny crack, but then I had an idea and put on a fake English accent and yelled to Durf, “Randolph! Could you please ring up my mother like a good chap and inform her I may be delayed?” Durf looked real bewildered but the guy must’ve figured Durf was my butler or chauffeur because he suddenly looked bored and let me through.
I asked Durf how he knew I was coming and he said everyone in Weston knew so I guess Eve must have told someone cos she was the only one I told. I wanted to see her but also wanted to get high and Durf lit up a joint as soon as we walked out of the terminal into the parking lot. He said everyone smokes pot in public now and marijuana will be legal soon, but just then a police car passed and Durf ducked behind a station wagon and acted pretty paranoid. I laughed and said I guessed it wasn’t totally legal yet, and Durf said the pigs were still back in the un-stone ages.
It was good stuff and I liked just walking and grooving and taking the bus and subway and walking some more. I guess I got used to little English cars because I was struck by how huge the cars were and how many there were and how fast everyone went. There were just cars, cars, cars all over the place, in shimmering heat with orange brick and green street-trees, and a couple of times Durf had to grab me to keep me from stepping off into the street and being run over. Maybe I was looking the wrong way for English Traffic, or maybe I was just stoned. I felt like a sort of rube and backwards and square because in 1969 I had the longest hair and most everyone else had short hair but now I had short hair and everyone else had long hair.
Durf was right about people smoking pot on the street because once we got over towards Boston University you could smell it everywhere and sometimes meet eyes with people and you knew they were stoned just like you were. I could have walked forever but was lugging a stupid suitcase, and it made me sweat in the heat, so Durf took me to his place so I could dump my stuff.
He’s got a really neat pad on the second story of a place on Huntington Avenue. Durf said it used to be a real snobby street, but the rich folk all moved out to Wellesley to get away from the students, who are more laid back. The high-class homes are divided up into apartments, and Durf shared a floor with two other guys, who I got introduced to. They were Groover and Porker. Durf’s new nickname is “Starshine” but I still call him “Durf”, and he still calls me “Sticky” instead of “Nig”.
They were bragging about how they were changing the rules with their apartment and making it be a commune in a better world, and I was in a real jovial mood and kidded them a bit about stuff, which didn’t go over too well with the guy named Groover. When they said the neighborhood was better with the rich folk gone I laughed and said my mother would call it “seedy,” and I said I knew Porker was a goodhearted guy to put up with getting a nickname like “Porker.“ Porker laughed at that, cos he really was a good guy, but Groover’s eyes got narrow and I could see I ought to shut up, but I was in too good a mood and had foot-in-mouth disease. For example, Durf was going on about all sorts of idealism, such as not bothering with a bunch of useless furniture, and I laughed and said, “which is another way of saying you are broke and can‘t afford any.“ Porker laughed and said I’d hit the nail right on the head, but Groover sort of got stiffened up, so I gave him a nudge and told him I really did like their place.
They had it painted bright colors and fixed up neat. The living room had no furniture and was just wall-to-wall mattresses with waterbeds in the middle and speakers all around the walls. They share everything including, apparently, their girlfriends, but I didn’t see any girlfriends except this one girl named Katy with a sort of hang-dog expression I didn’t want to share. Durf wanted to share some acid but had to charge me seven dollars because it wasn’t his and Groover had to sell it to pay the rent. Only Porker works. They were pretty broke so I bought the pizza, to show I wasn’t selfish and could share and could be included, even though my hair was short.
That’s how it works with Durf. I’ve known him since he was ten and it’s always the same. He’s a glutton, and sharing usually means I pay for half the pizza and only get a slice. I don’t mind it because, just like he never holds back his gluttony, Durf never holds back in other ways, too, including his thinking. His thinking gets way, way out there. I like it because my thinking gets way out there too, and even back in grade school I’d be talking and see I’d I lost everyone with my imagination, and then I’d see Durf nodding and following right along with what I was saying. He’s the only person whose brain can understand mine, except yours. He gets Stinedu, though he doesn’t know the word.
When we first got high back in 1969 he was great to be with because sometimes it was like we were talking in tongues. No one could understand what we were saying but us. Sometimes we’d get out all our poems and I’d read a line or stanza and Durf would know what I was talking about and read a line or stanza from his that fit perfectly, and we’d go back and forth having a conversation no one else could make heads or tails of; to them it just seemed stray lines of poetry. But now I got the sad feeling something has changed over the last year. I can still follow him, and I suppose he could have followed me if he wanted to, but he didn’t want to. I wanted to show some poems I wrote at Dunrobin but he just looked annoyed. I supposed it wasn’t the right time and place, but I was just starting to get off on the acid and it wasn’t making me high. Instead I felt a bummer creeping in.
There was something called a “block party” starting up. It was sort of like there were parties in ten different apartments, and people were walking from place to place, which meant the parties spilled out into the hallways and street. Durf wanted to visit every apartment but I suddenly remembered Eve. Durf got all annoyed and said I should just forget her, and enjoy myself, and I said I’d call her real quick before the acid hit and I got too high. I’d tell her my flight had been delayed and I had no ride out to Weston and would see her in the morning.
When I went to pick up the phone Groover and Porky looked at Durf like they were really anxious, and they made these sort of grunting noises and jutted their chins in my direction over and over, like they were pointing with chins. So of course I hesitated, wondering, “What the hell?” Durf blurted I had to put five dollars into the coffee can to use the phone, looking really mad at them and mad at me, and then he went into a sort of defensive ramble about how reasonable they were.
I guess they have trouble at their commune with paying the phone bill cos there are long-distance calls on the bill that no one made or remembers making, and so they made that rule about outsiders putting five bucks into the coffee can. But I know it isn’t long distance out to Weston so I decided I’d just find a pay phone and make the call for just a dime instead of five dollars, and said so. I had the creepy feeling of a bummer rising up in the pit of my stomach when they got so bent out of shape about me using the phone, and it only got worse when I said I’d use a pay phone. They looked all paranoid, like I was angry with them when I wasn’t, so I did my best to sound cheerful and said I’d be right back.
I wasn’t. The acid was getting to me and I peaked pretty fast and got sort of lost looking for a pay phone booth. I vaguely remember watching goldfish in someone’s apartment, thinking those fish were about the most golden, gigantic, awesome, pulsating friends I’d ever made, though they couldn‘t wink back at me. Then I remember playing these big Congo drums with someone on the street, and thinking it was the most awesome, throbbing music I’d ever been part of.
But mostly I kept remembering I should be looking for a pay phone. The sun was just setting when I started, and then it was summer twilight, and then it was nearly dark, and I kept getting lost in the beauty of the sky and then remembering I still hadn’t made the bloody call. I must have looked dejected and spilled my guts or something, because I remember this laughing girl taking me by the hand and leading me to a pay phone and pushing me in. Then I stood there for a while wondering what the heck she did that for. Then I remembered, and squinted up my eyes, and very, very carefully dialed Eve’s number.
Eve answered the phone when I was all prepared to speak with her mother or father, and I practically burst into tears just hearing her voice. She kept going “Hello? Hello?” and I realized I hadn’t said hello, so I did. I felt like I had so much to say, like my heart was in my mouth and breaking, but all I could was say was my flight was delayed and I had no ride out to Weston so I’d stay in town and see her in the morning. She said, “OK” and that was that.
I hung up and just stood in this little, lit booth that felt like it was hanging from a string in black outer space, like an astronaut, listening to a strange knocking noise get louder and louder. Then I saw the face, and realized someone else wanted to use the booth. I stepped out into the dark and dimly remembered I was staying at Durf’s, but had absolutely no idea how to get there.
The parties were still going on, but mostly indoors. I could hear the laughter up the street and down the street and up this side street and down that side street, but no street looked at all familiar. I didn’t know Durf’s street number or phone number, but luckily Durf’s roommates Porker came sauntering along and said I ought go back because Durf was worried about me. Porker was tripping too, and as we walked we forgot our mission and only got as far as the front stoop. He was a goalie for the BU hockey team, and we were having a really interesting talk about reflexes. He was saying how his hand could get out to stop a hundred-mile-an-hour slap-shot even before his eye saw the puck, and I was telling him how I got out of the way of Pest’s speeding car after dark at Dunrobin, even though Pest’s car came from behind and I had no idea why my body moved the way it did. Just then Groover came down looking for Porker and me. Groover was all haughty about us being late for something or another, but then got involved in our talk, and we were yakking like gangbusters about how our reflexes prove we actually have Stinedu super-powers we don’t even know we have, when Durf came down looking for all three of us. Durf was pretty upset for some reason, and got all bossy and commanded us upstairs. So we all walked up.
When we walked into the party it was practically a funeral. It seemed everyone up there was worried sick because something horrible might have happened to me. The girls were practically wailing. The LSD had turned things into a total bummer. Somehow it seemed pretty ridiculous to me, so I pointed out nothing had actually happened to me. Everyone looked sort of blank, so I said it again. “Nothing happened to me. Nothing is wrong. I am all right. In fact I am better than all right. I’m back home in the USA and everything is beautiful!” Everyone burst out laughing, and everyone looked relieved. All the worry and anxiety and paranoia of the bummer burst like a bubble, and I had the good feeling I always used to get when I turned bummed-out people upwards. (When I was in highschool people used to bring other people who were on bad trips to me, because I was so good at uplifting their brains from the dirt to the sky.) But that seemed the only thing like the old days that happened all night.
And so that was my trip on LSD. I certainly didn’t see God or anything. When I think about it, it boiled down to a trip to a phone booth and back. Nothing to write home about, (though maybe to write South Africa about.)
Sorry if I’m boring you, Kaff. I almost feel like ripping this letter up. I’m just sitting here trying to make sense out of wildness, because there is a Stinedu on the tip of my tongue I can’t say.
It’s sort of like the high isn’t as high any more. In 1969 it was all sky-blue-pink and full of hope, but now it has gone sour. Rather than blushing, people seem to have gone a bit gray. But I can’t put my finger on what it is.
The party was winding down but they kept passing around a pot pipe, trying to stay high. There was a lot of uproarious laughing, but all I could notice was the high wasn’t as high. People told their stories, and people laughed, but there wasn’t the linkage between the stories. The separate stories weren’t part of a big understanding, but rather were individual lines running at tangents. Then, when someone left the room, people would be a bit critical of what they’d just said. Then, when the person came back, they looked like they knew people had talked about them behind their back, and also the people who had done the talking felt guilty for backbiting. Guilt, guilt, guilt, and there were ripples of discomfort in the air. That’s what I kept noticing: That discomfort. It wasn’t like that in 1969. In 1969 there would never be discomfort about dumb stuff like paying for a phone call, or a pizza, or a tab of acid.
Some people were leaving, while others fell asleep on the wall-to-wall mattress,
but I decided to do something about an earlier discomfort. There was some confusion about who was supposed to do the dishes next. It didn’t look like there was a clean dish left in the entire apartment, but everyone was sure it wasn’t their turn. So I decided to just do them. Doing dumb chores is a good therapy when you’re crashing from LSD, and anyway, I always have insomnia after tripping. You’ve already been in dreamland, so you don’t need to return.
It was hard to begin because there was no room left in the sink or counters, but I put stuff on the floor to make room in the sink and to find the dish rack. Then I got washing. After a while that girl Katy with the hangdog expression came wandering in and helped me by drying and putting dishes away.
Katy didn’t say anything much. She just helped clean up, wearing that sort of stupid, flaccid smile some girls think guys like. Maybe some guys do, cos they think the smile means the girl is agreeing with what they say, and therefore she must be understanding, when she could just be a mushroom with a smile for all I know. Katy’s smile made me nervous, so I just made small talk like I thought you’re suppose to make with someone you don’t know.
I talked about the weather, and how Boston heat is better than Dunrobin drizzle, and how neat it is that in Boston you can just walk into a stranger’s house at a block party and watch their giant, gorgeous goldfish. That was fine for a while, but then I noticed Katy started brushing against me, or standing with her thigh pressed against mine, or touching my fingers as she took a dish I was putting into the rack.
I was sort of embarrassed and warm but in no mood to experiment with any of Fred’s free-love business, especially as I was going to meet Eve in a couple of hours, so I said nothing and just kept washing.
All of a sudden Katy looked really hurt, and walked off. I guess I offended her by not getting the hint. But I did get the hint, and was only trying to hint back, but somehow hinting hurt. I felt bad about it, and puzzled, cos being friendly somehow made me an enemy. Who would ever dream dishwashing could be so dangerous? I was trying to think what I could say to make things better, but suddenly my eyes felt like they had lead lids. So I went to that wall-to-wall mattress, lay down, and just swooned.
In a blink it was broad daylight and hot as all get out. I sat up and looked around and noticed everyone was a bit grouchy. No one thanked me for doing the dishes. I’d say they were even offended, in some odd way. It was like they resented owing me anything. I just wanted to get the hell out, because I was too tired to figure out the politics of sharing at that crazy commune. Also I was out of cigarettes and needed some before dealing with politics. Who can stand politics first thing in the morning, anyway?
Durf kept glowered at me, like I was criticizing his commune, even though I said nothing. I just shrugged everyone’s antics off as a hangover, and was just going to take the MBTA out and hitchhike from Riverside to Weston, but Durf suddenly said his brother was coming by to give us a ride. I didn’t like how he said “us” because I wanted to see Eve alone, but I kept my mouth shut. I didn’t want to be rude about getting a ride.
His brother came by in his Dad’s Cadillac and broke ninety a couple of times, heading west on the Pike. I think we might have set the record for fastest ride out to Weston. They dropped off my suitcase here, and dropped me off back at the center, and then I walked to see Eve. I didn’t have to tell Durf to buzz off; he seemed to know he wasn’t wanted, (and he didn’t seem too pleased about it.)
Eve must’ve seen me coming, and met me even before I knocked at the door. She steered me away from the house. I got the feeling she didn’t want to share me with her family, and that was nice. Sharing is nice a lot of the time, but it has its limits.
(To be continued)