This is a continuation of a story that began at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/09/teaser-to-a-novel/
Part 2 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/novels-teaser-part-2/
Part 3 can be found at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/25/novels-teaser-part-3/
A break in the weather has allowed me to do something other than fight amazing amounts of snow, and I am seizing the opportunity to try to get work done on this novel.
PREMISE: The characters “Nig” (American) and “Kaff” (South African) have developed a shorthand that allows them to write letters as swiftly as they think. Nig is finishing a long description of his first 24 hours back in the USA, after a year away. He is out of school and deciding what to do with his life. He wants to form a “commune” holding his friends, including his girlfriend Eve, however she does not entirely approve of the party scene his other friends, especially his best buddy “Durf”, enthusiastically subscribe to.
Nig has the use of his parent’s house for over a fortnight before his mother and stepfather, (the “Fossil”), return from Europe, and his friends nearly destroyed the place with a surprise party on his arrival. All but four friends deserted the party when an intruder alarm was accidentally set off, and at this point Nig is describing the arrival of the police. As he attempts to describe his first 24 hours at home he also describes the constant interruptions he faces as he tries to write. Among the interruptions are the appearances of his older sister Millie, who does not approve of him trashing the house. He arrived home on July 10, and it is now July 16.
I ‘m up early and full of coffee and in the mood to just finish this damn story. I can only write so long before I get restless and lonely and want to head out, but I got your note of the 14th so I need to write you a quick note back before I finish this letter. You’re damn lucky I’ve got one of those prepaid airmail envelopes cos I’m getting so broke I can’t afford airmail.
There. That’s done. You’ll get that letter before this one, even though this one started before that one. So……where was I? O yeah, the police car pulls into the driveway.
I was relieved to see it was Chief Mayberry. Mayberry‘s not his real name; we just call him that cos he‘s like a good small town cop on an American TV show. He’s known some of us since before he was promoted and before we were out of diapers. He’s always been a real good guy, but as soon as kids started smoking pot he was stuck in the position of being the bad guy. I hate it, cos I know he isn’t, but its just how things turned out. Kids who have lived in town all their lives don’t treat him badly, but other kids who are just passing through Weston think he’s the Gestapo. The Lodge Brothers think he taps phones and reports all we do to the CIA. Maybe there are some cops like that, but Mayberry isn’t one of them.
I told him I’d accidentally set off the alarm opening up the house. He nodded and then looked me up and down and said it appeared Scotland had done me good. Then he glanced about, sizing up the situation, and I knew he probably had a pretty good idea of what happened. There’s not much traffic on Sudbury and Concord Roads, so he would have noticed all the cars and motorcycles heading the other way, with all the town’s worst characters all looking as innocent as they could, as they passed him. I could see him taking in the sight of the Cadillac parked in the drive. He would know it belonged to Durf’s father, and would know Durf was there, so I decided not to deny I had company if he asked, but he didn’t ask. Instead we just stood there in the sunset, me talking about Scotland and him about town.
I figure he knows I smoke pot, but I don’t feel comfortable talking about it with him, cos he’d have to arrest me. Instead we somehow wound up talking about booze. The drinking age is lowered to eighteen here, because someone figured if you were old enough to die in Vietnam you ought be old enough to drink. I think I opened the door to that subject by stating the drinking age in Scotland was eighteen, and I really liked the beer in Scottish pubs. He opened the door to that subject by asking me how it was in Scotland. So we were being open, in a guarded sort of way. I was faking it a bit, trying to look open so I wouldn’t look suspicious and he wouldn’t want to go in the house and wouldn’t smell the pot. So I really wasn’t open, but I felt a lot more comfortable with Mayberry than I feel with most cops.
He said the drinking age would probably go back up to twenty-one, cos kids in the USA couldn’t handle it. He’d been to Europe, and said he knew European kids started drinking younger, and somehow handled it better. He didn’t know why American kids were such vandals. He said it wasn’t the kids going to Vietnam who caused problems, but instead it was the students who weren’t going who did, and he said he suspected mixing pot with booze made it hard to learn to drink socially. He said pot made you forgetful, which proved it messed up your memory, which proved pot made it hard to learn, and that meant you were slow to learn to be mature. I knew he was giving me a lecture without actually pointing at me, and I nodded like I agreed though I don’t.
He then told me there’d been a lot of vandalism at the high school since I graduated. I asked “Like what?” He told me the bad news.
There was a student smoking lounge I worked so hard to get legal so we wouldn’t have to sneak cigarettes in the boy’s room all the time. He told me it has been shut down, cos the kids set the couch cushions on fire twice, and the wastepaper baskets caught fire over and over. It would set off the fire alarm, and everyone would go trooping out of the school, so kids started doing it on purpose, when they didn’t want to go to a class because they hadn’t done their homework.
He told me other stuff too. The younger kids, kids I went to school with, wrecked stuff for no reason. I had to shake my head. I said it sounded like kids had forgotten all about Peace, Love, and Understanding. Mayberry laughed when I said that, though I was serious. Then a call came in on his radio about three motorcycles on the Town Common, and he told me to stay out of trouble and drove off.
I went back into the house, and found the fellows were really relieved Mayberry had left. They were acting like I was some sort of hero and had tricked him, but I didn’t really feel like a hero. To be anything less than straight with Mayberry always makes me feel a bit like an eel.
We started to clean up the mess, and it turned out the Lesaumille Brothers hadn’t really ditched me. They‘d just ducked into the pines off the patio, and were peering out from behind the trunks to see how things turned out. They would have been there, if I needed reinforcements. And actually I did need reinforcements, when it came to cleaning up the mess, but with so many helping it didn’t take long to get the place straightened out. We found some air freshener, and even some rug shampoo for where the beer had spilled. The only real damage was to a lampshade, but you hardly notice it unless you walk around behind it.
The three oldest Lasaumille brothers had to work the next day, so only Zooks stayed. I had the urge to go down memory lane, and went up to the attic to get the stuff I boxed up before I went to Scotland. The tenant’s kids had broken the locks and trashed things pretty badly up there, but the lock on my trunk must have defeated them. I opened it with my key, took out my Jimi Hendrix albums, a box full of little pink pills I never got around to selling my Senior Summer, and my party papers.
I used to spread out a big sheet on a table at parties, with a bunch of different colored markers, and all the kids at the party would draw little cartoons and write comments and poems. I figured it would help us remember what a great time we had, cos it always seemed we couldn’t remember the next day. It was fun to unfold the sheets and think back about last summer, but I kept having the feeling something was lost. It was sort of like the paper had yellowed.
The pink pills were a cheap speed I was selling last year that I got to hate. We popped some, which was how I managed to stay up all night despite the jet lag.
We talked all night, but I suppose that counts as my second twenty-four hours back in the States, and the story of my first twenty-four hours is over. I’ll just say I kept having the saddest feeling, all night long, and when the sun came up it was like the pink and golden beauty was very far away, and not pressing in close like it was in 1969. I’d have to say the all-night-talk was one of the most depressing talks ever. It was so depressing I don’t want to talk about it.
It took me all that time to describe my first day back in the States, but stuff keeps happening. There is no way to catch up and describe it all. My brains are only part way through figuring out the last thing when the next thing happens.
I’m trying to get the old gang together and patch up all the problems but
My big sister Millie came in just then, and we had a big fight. It was because I had a coffee cup in the dining room. Also because I had another coffee cup in the living room, another in my bedroom, and a fresh one out here on the patio. Millie was sort of quivering in rage about stupid coffee cups. It’s something she’s been hassling me about for days, and I just can’t take her seriously. The more she quivers the more I can’t believe it. It’s been building up, and I guess it had to erupt, though I can’t think of a stupider volcano.
I told her to just buzz off and let me think. I told her I didn’t see why the crap she had to keep bopping by, anyway. She’s got her own apartment, doesn’t she? I told her that if she doesn’t like me she ought just be a good little girl and just go home.
I guess I knew I was pushing my luck. Millie’s always trying to prove she’s as good as a man, and to have a snotty little brother, four years younger than her, tell her to go home like a good little girl really got her riled. Her eyebrows shot up and her blue eyes bugged out, and then the truth came out.
She said Mother didn’t trust me and had appointed her official guardian of the house, and I had to obey her. I said O, that explains why she has been such a totally embarrassing asshole, every time I tried to sit down with the guys and have a meeting. She said, “Meeting? Is that what you call burning out your brains?” I said Yes, that was what I called it, and I didn’t care what she called it, and I was sick and tired of her prudish attitude.
Millie likes to think she’s real liberated and revolutionary, and it gets her hopping when you call her a prude. Her blue eyes bugged even more, and I thought she was going to throw those stupid coffee cups she was so all-fired concerned about, but instead she stomped the dumb army boots she always wears, and yelled, “I don’t care if you are sick and tired, Mom put me in charge!”
I said I didn’t fucking believe it. How could Mother put her in charge? Mother had never thrown me out of the house for wrecking the marriage of a friend by messing with the friend’s husband. (Millie got thrown out for that when she was eighteen, and it’s pretty much forgiven and forgotten by Mother by now, but the fact is Millie’s never moved back home, and anyway I was just bringing up the past to be mean.) I said she’s one who’s thrown out and I’m not thrown out, and she’s got her own apartment and I don’t, and she doesn’t even live here, so why didn’t she butt out and mind her own fucking business?
Millie got cold as ice then, and her elbows cocked and her hands made fists, and she breathed hissing through her teeth for a bit, and then she said she was going to tell on me to Mom.
I said she’d have a fine old time trying to track Mother down in Scotland. What was she going to do? Call every bloody bed and breakfast place from A to Zed? Anyway, I didn’t care what Mother said. Mother was just the trophy wife of a seventy-year-old fossil. It was the Fossil’s house and not Mother’s, and the Fossil had put me in charge. Was Millie dense or something? I was in charge of the house, and what’s more, I was in charge of the damn car, and she’d better hand over the bloody keys.
Millie didn’t hand over the keys. In fact she has stomped off in her dumb boots and departed with the car. I bet my Mom wouldn’t’ve much liked how she wasted the rubber on those tires, as she left, either. She left twenty yards of rubber down the road.
I also bet my mother wouldn’t like how Millie slams the vacuum about, when she’s making such a production of cleaning. That must be murder on the legs of the furniture. If she threatens to tattle on me I’ll threaten to tattle about that.
Anyway, she’s gone. Good riddance. But I still feel bloody uneasy about the situation. Fighting with her is always hard on my poor stomach. However it shows you how hard it is for me to just sit down and write, or have a meeting with my friends. But I am going to sit here and write. But first I‘m getting another coffee cup. Screw Millie.
Things just aren’t working out. I looked back to where I started writing today, and saw I wrote “patch up all the problems.” I think it’s just too much for me.
I spent my whole time at Dunrobin looking forward to coming home and getting the gang together, but even at Dunrobin I got letters before the postal strike talking about how everything was falling apart. Durf says this one line over and over like it’s some sort of Hindu mantra, “You can’t go home again.” I don’t see why not.
This picture from Dunrobin keeps coming into my head. It is of the pub I used to sneak off to down in Golspie, the Ben Bhraggie. I snuck over there on my eighteenth birthday, and, even though it was against Dunrobin rules, beer wasn’t against the law for me any more, and they served me a beer. It was the first beer I actually liked, really creamy. And I just sat there sipping it and thinking what a neat place that pub was. It was like a living room, but not just for one family, but rather for a whole neighborhood. There was everyone, from grandparents to little kids, coming in and going out the door. The feeling was so much like a home, especially compared to Dunrobin, where ten teachers had to watch over a hundred-fifty kids who basically were unwanted and thrown out of their homes.
And now I come home to Weston and get told it isn’t my home. Why not? I’ve lived here since I was two. I know every tree and every brook. Yet people keep telling me I’ve got to go, like it isn’t my land, like I’m some Cherokee and need to walk some Trail-of-tears to Oklahoma.
There’s nothing even remotely like the Ben Bhraggie in Weston. In Golspie you couldn’t walk a half-mile without passing some place where you were welcome. In Weston you can walk mile after mile and there is never a pub.
All I want is to make this house be a place where my friends are welcome, at least for a couple of weeks until my Mother comes back. Is that such a damn crime?
O shit. Millie’s back with my stepsister Mary. I have asked them very politely if they would mind please waiting until I finish this paragraph. They are standing and watching me.
To be continued.
Well, I actually won the fight. Not that I feel that good about it. To be honest, I feel rotten.
My stepsister Mary is as old as my Mom, which is something that happens when a seventy-year-old fossil marries a forty-four-year-old trophy. But Mary’s a really nice lady, always bright and cheerful, and she did a good job of patching things up between Millie and me.
Millie was putting on airs and treating me like I was a two-years-old, so I felt justified to put on airs right back. I acted all reasonable, like she was the unreasonable one, partly because I knew it would drive Millie wild.
I told Mary that Millie was overly distraught about coffee cups, cos she was anxious to please my mother. I said I would be certain to wash the four cups before my mother returned, yet I feared my sister worried too much that I might forget. The whole time I talked my sister was shooting me these baleful looks, and when I was done she walked over quivering to some burn-holes in the carpet, and jabbed a finger downwards without a word.
I first noticed the burns after the Wrenchheads all ran away, the night the party ended when the alarm went off, and I think the Wrenchheads might be responsible. But I didn’t lie about it. I just said yes, I had noticed the burn-holes, but had noticed them the first night I was back. Then I went on smooth as silk, saying perhaps my sister had not heard that the tenants who rented the place while my parents were gone had some problems with their kids, and the kids had broken into the locked closets and stolen liquor and the police had been called a couple of times. Did it not occur to my sister that there might be an explanation for the burn-holes, other than the assumption that leapt into her head? She really ought not worry so much about my housecleaning skills.
Pretty slick, aye? I’ve always been skilled at half-truths, and I think I perfected it, getting hauled into the headmaster’s study so often at Dunrobin. I’m so good at half-truth I’d go to work writing advertisements on Madison Avenue, if being slick didn’t make me feel like such an eel. But my sister deserved it. She was sort of slumped, but still giving me that baleful look. I could tell she was on the verge of tattling about the marijuana-smoking in the living room, even though she smokes herself, so I figured I’d best keep talking to keep her quiet.
I told Mary I was short-tempered with my sister for taking my stepfather’s car. I informed her I might not have even returned from England, if I had not assumed I would have the use of the car, which the Fossil had assured me I would have. Of course I didn’t call him the Fossil. I called him “your father.“
Anyway, I just stressed how rough it was without a car. How could I look for work? How could I register for the draft? How could I even buy groceries, and eat?
Then Millie snidely said, “And how could you drive around with Eve?”
Millie stepped in it then, cos once you say anything snide you look bad and are at a disadvantage. I stayed silent for a bit, doing my best to look all righteously indignant, and then shook my head with my best attempt at a pitying face. Then I turned to Mary and said, attempting a charming and frank grin, “Yes, driving with Eve too, though my finances would be stressed by the ferry fare. You see, Mary, Eve’s parents want to free Eve and myself from temptation, and have sent Eve to a tennis camp on Martha’s Vineyard for a fortnight.” Mary laughed, and I continued, attempting to look a bit sad, “If I drove any distance out of town it would be likely in the opposite direction, to see my Dad up in New Hampshire.”
Bringing up the subject of my Dad was the clincher. It introduced uneasiness, and awkwardness, and a Stinedu everyone wants to shut up about. My sister slumped, and then looked up with a sort of ashamed glower, and she said she was sorry she had over-reacted. She said she’d only asked Mom for the car because her motorcycle had to go into the shop for repairs. Mom had asked her to make sure I didn’t destroy the place, and she was only trying to do her job, out of gratitude for the loan of the car.
So I not only won the fight, but I got the use of the car, day after tomorrow. Milly and I even hugged. Unfortunately, I feel like an eel.
Crap. Again I can’t sleep. Likely it’s all the coffee. It’s not speed. I stepped on the scale and saw I’m down to 174 already, so I’m staying away from that stuff. But coffee’s the same, I suppose.
I don’t eat enough. My Mom gave me some money for food, but I hardly eat. It doesn’t help that Durf eats everything in sight every time he drops by. He dropped by tonight long enough to drink all my milk and get mad at me for not wanting to go out. We didn’t even get high.
Maybe I should have gone out. With Eve at camp I’m as lonely as hell. I’ve got a sort of knot in the pit of my stomach that won’t quit.
The fight with my sister left a bad taste in my mouth. I keep thinking what a liar I am. One great thing about the last fortnight at Dunrobin was that all the graduating guys knew they might not see each other ever again, and dared be honest. That was when I blew everyone away by admitting I was a virgin.
You guys all thought I was such a big stud because, after Eve wrote me that letter about going out with someone, I went out and got Ginger for a girlfriend down in Golspie, and was seen snogging with her. But I never went all the way. I thought I might, which is why I had that Johnny in my wallet, but even then, when I told myself screwing would just be practicing for Eve, it never felt right to pass third. It also never felt right that you guys thought I was so flipping experienced, though I sure didn’t mind it that you guys didn’t hassle me for being a virgin, the way you hassled Pest. But the pretense just seemed a lie, especially when I’d hassle Pest along with everyone else, and I felt more and more like an eel for letting people assume something that wasn’t true, which is why I finally came clean. It felt good to just quit being such a fake.
But now that I’m back in the States and already I’m getting fake. If I’m honest about my sex-life Fred will call me a prude for not being a male slut, and if I’m honest about pot I’ll get arrested by Mayberry, or thrown out of here. You can’t just be yourself.
I started a song tonight about people being like a herd of armadillos. They wear these shells, and if you threaten their tender side they roll up into balls. In the poem they rolled about with no idea where they’re going. I liked the idea but the poem utterly sucks. All my poetry sucks. I thought I’d write better, once I got away from the pressure of Dunrobin, but now I think I’ll call my next bunch of lyrics, “Freedom’s First Result Is Garbage.”
Bugsy and Stephen were by today, and we had a good but sad talk. They just graduated, but were always good students and were on the student council. I told them what Mayberry told me about the school, and they said it was true. The younger kids don’t understand how we had to have sit-down-strikes and be punished, and fight, fight, fight, just to get rid of the dumb rules about haircuts and not wearing blue jeans. Instead those kids take all the freedom for granted, and are making things so crazy that the rules will have to come back. Bugsy said the underclassmen were so bad he felt like an old geezer, grumbling about “Kids nowadays.” Stephen said the student council advised that all the rules be brought back, and the freedoms we fought for and had sit-down-strikes for be called “privileges” you could win, but also could lose. Shit and double shit. Doesn’t that sound exactly like Dunrobin?
I just said it was a crying shame. In 1969 it wasn’t necessary. It was like a light came down from heaven, and people wanted to make the world better, and it was obvious how to do it. Now the light has gone out, and people are groping in the dark. Instead of building a better world they want to tear down what we already have.
That’s what communism is. They want to tear down the rich, and anyone else who stands in their way.
Ham and Franks dropped by really briefly, to see if I wanted to go protest the war at some college. They’ve been talking to a college student who is real big on communism, and wants them to join. (That’s not hard, considering they were already sold.) They could even get some money. Not much, but enough to mimeograph pamphlets and hand them out. The money comes from some anti-war group in Sweden, but Russia funds that Swedish group. The Lodges don’t care where the money comes from though, cos their Dad cut them off and for rich kids they’re damn broke.
I told them they’re nuts. I’ve known too many people who ran away from Poland and Hungary and China, to think communism is some utopia. But the Lodges said Weston sure isn’t any utopia. They said parents think it is, but as soon as you graduate they throw you out, cos utopia doesn’t include the likes of you. I had to agree with that part, and told them my idea about us being like Cherokee being thrown from our homeland out onto a Trail of Tears. Then they said, why get thrown out? Why not throw the parents out? I could only say it didn’t sound much like Peace, Love and Understanding to me.
I can’t figure out all these problems. I wanted to get the gang together and have a commune but it is just too much for my poor brains. I can’t even handle feeding myself and getting groceries. Who am I to talk?
I keep hearing about how Audley Bine tried to start a commune in Weston last winter and how it didn’t work out and how that proves you can’t do it.
I want that light to come back down from heaven. The pot just doesn’t do it any more.
I just got to get out of here.
Doing much better, but man O man did I ever crash bad last night. I felt like I couldn’t take one more second, like I’d scream into my pillow. I couldn’t see any hope at all, and just wanted my brain to shut down, but I couldn’t even get close to sleep, and just lay thrashing on my sheets in the heat. Finally I got up yet again and went to the living room and clamped on the earphones and just blasted Hendrix through my brain in the pitch dark. But even that seemed hopeless, cos Jimi died in his vomit.
My head got all full of ugly images from Wilford Owen’s poetry. The poem about the guy drowning in strangling mustard gas in No Man’s Land came back to me. Hendrix drowning in vomit seemed like that; he was like one of those English captains who jumped up from the trenches and shouted, “charge!” but immediately got mowed down by a machine gun. And I’m like the loyal follower down in the trench having second thoughts about charging.
The Lodge Brothers say the CIA had Hendrix and Janis Joplin put away because they were having too much influence on American youth, so now I can’t even listen to Jimi’s music without thinking sad stuff about how some people hate beauty, and if you stand for beauty you get killed.
I was listening to the beautiful song where Hendrix says a angel came down from heaven and stayed just long enough to rescue him. Durf told me that song is just about some groupie who Hendrix got laid by. Durf thinks I’m full of shit to believe Hendrix really did see angels. It’s all sex, sex, sex with Durf. Nothing beyond the physical. And thinking that low way makes me want to scream, and I really see why Hendrix was so lonely. No one understood what he was trying to say. I feel like if he had only known me, the loneliness might not have killed him. But the poets are too few and too far between, and my crashy mood had me thinking maybe my turn will come, and I’ll be killed by loneliness.
When I’m lonely and crashing it just seems there is nothing good or high in the world; the world is all KGB and CIA agents busily murdering poets, while blissfully oblivious ordinary people stay blinded by busily money-grubbing and selfishly fucking. It’s so low and gross and horrible I really do want an angel to come down from heaven to rescue me.
I felt so horrible I remembered that time John Keats was in agony and groaned something like, “Man cannot have been created for such suffering,” and I was agreeing and giving the Creator quite a talking-to, like a flea daring an elephant to talk back, but all I got was silence.
I remember lying in the dark pressing my eyeballs in, in that way that makes you see swirling light, but the swirling light would never focus into anything. I wanted some angel, but only could think I was screwing up my optic nerves. So I stopped doing it, and got up to go back to bed, and then there was this big flash of pink light that lit up the entire living room. Then it was even darker, and I stood there spooked for a while, before I heard the thunder.
I figured that was good enough to count as a sign from above. It didn’t seem likely I’d get anything any better, at any rate, so I went out on the patio and watched the storm roll in. The cool wind felt really good, after the heat wave, and I liked hearing the rain come marching up through the woods. I felt the first drops on my face and then went in to bed, knowing today would be cooler and drier and I’d feel much better. Having even that little hope was much, much better than I felt before.
The last thing I remember is feeling really comfortable, listening to the thunder muttering away into the purpling dusk in the east. Then the first thing I remember is still feeling really comfortable, and hearing really fast Mozart on the piano. Didn’t need to open my eyes to know my brother Halsey was back from England. What was odd was smelling bacon and eggs. That’s not like Halsey, cos he’s like me and never eats until he has to. Then I heard Millie tell him breakfast was ready. The piano kept on going, and after a while I heard Millie tell him a second time, and then a third time, and a forth, and a fifth.
It made me chuckle in my sleep, cos it’s so typical. Once Halsey gets playing he gets lost. And he can’t walk by a piano without being tempted. He could be walking past the piano on his way to answer the phone, and he’d be tempted to play just a chord or two before he answered the phone, and the phone could just go on ringing and ringing for ten minutes. Maybe there is some reason both piano and procrastination begin with “P.”
He drives some people nuts, but I never mind, cos I like his music more than I like most other things. When I was little we used to have a grand piano, back in my real home, and I used to just go sit under it as Halsey practiced. Halsey liked dramatic, fast stuff like Rachmaninoff, and it was really loud under the piano. I thought sitting there was the best seat in the house.
Just laying in bed with my eyes still shut, I could almost believe I was back in my real home, and my mother had never remarried and we’d never moved here. I just had a nice, warm feeling, to start the day. Of course it panged a bit with nostalgia, cos that house got sold and I can never go back, but my mind got to thinking maybe I could buy the place back, or at least get a place like it.
Millie was in her mobilization-mode. She’s pretty good at prying lazy brothers from chairs and getting them rolling, cos she’s had a lifetime of practice. She popped her head in my bedroom and asked me to if I wanted some breakfast and to go swimming. It wasn’t like I had much choice, though she did ask me if I wanted to go, and didn’t totally boss me about. So I threw on some shorts and wandered out past Halsey, who was still playing the piano, into the sunny dining room, where there were four of her and Halsey’s friends. It was a nice relaxed scene, sort of like the commune scene I’ve been wanting to create in this house with my friends, that has never happened.
Everyone was at least four years older than me, so I just shut up and went with the flow. Mostly I tried to mind my own business and not get involved, but one of the girls was really hard to ignore, cos she had the most spectacular set of knockers I’ve seen in a long, long time.
I’ve always liked the fashion of girls going braless, cos I figure a breast is what a breast is, and it’s best to go with what God gave you. In that way I agree with Millie, and I’ve always thought it’s dumb for girls to do all the weird things with their knockers that they do. Girls with big ones sometimes try to flatten them like they are Orientals in one of those kimono things, probably cos they’re tired of guys looking at their breasts and not their faces. But then flat girls wear these falsies, cos they’re tired of guys NOT looking at their breasts. And then most girls have normal boobs, but a heck of a lot of them hoist them up like sagging is some sort of sin, and knockers are suppose to defy gravity. Lots of girls crank them up so they point at you like a double-barreled shotgun, and then act all indignant and call you a chauvinist pig if you look at both barrels pointed between your eyes. It’s never made a lick of sense to me.
But this one girl didn’t need a bra to hoist both barrels. They just naturally levitated, and she wore a flimsy summer t-shirt that hid nothing. To make matters worse, she must have been at least part Italian, cos she was a tanned brunette, and sort of talked with her hands, only she didn’t need to use her hands, and instead shifted her shoulders and talked with her knockers. Just the way she said “glad to meet you” when Millie introduced me made me feel like I was being unfaithful to Eve. I felt especially bad cos I walked in there barefoot and wearing nothing but my shorts, and her eyes hardly touched mine before sliding down over my chest in a way like a caress.
I’ve forgotten her name, so I guess I’d better make one up, cos she’s part of the tale. I’ll call her “Miss Brunette,” but every time you see those words, “Miss Brunette,” you’ve got to think “Miss Boob-net,” cos that’s always a Freudian slip away on my tongue.
I can’t remember her boy friend’s name either, though I should, cos he’s a friend of Halsey and Millie and I’ve been meeting him on and off for years. He’s just that sort. You can’t remember his name. All I remember is that he always looks like he has a headache, so I’ll call him “Wince,” though at breakfast it was the first time I ever saw him looking like he didn’t have a headache. Miss Brunette must have done it to him, cos she was all he looked at.
After a breakfast at noon I got the keys of my stepfather’s sedan, and followed Millie’s, Halsey’s, and Millie’s boyfriend’s motorcycles over to White’s Pond for a swim. I brought Ruth, the girl Halsey was with, cos she wasn’t in the mood to ride behind him, and also brought Miss Brunette and Wince. No one brought a bathing suit.
Everyone pretended to be casual and not be self conscious about skinny dipping, cos it’s natural and only prudes aren’t casual. Of course, I’m a prude and virgin and am always sneaking peeks and always am a bit worried I might get a hard on. Not that most of them looked all that good naked, but Miss Brunette did. I decided I’d better get away from her and away from where the shallows were warm, so I swum out into the middle of White‘s Pond. The surface is warm out there, but it’s really cold around three feet down, and shrank a certain subject I didn’t want to expand upon. Once that was done I just floated on my back, up in the warmer layer. I noticed I float better than last year, when I was all bones.
I just stretched out my arms with the sky very blue above, and the trees like a green fringe all around the edge, and the sun white and spangling in the droplets in my lashes, and I felt more awake than in weeks, and also happy. It seems a while since I have just felt happy. It was like the light was shining down and it was 1969 again. I had this huge feeling of gratitude but didn’t know who to thank.
I had a feeling like the feeling you get from that Keats poem about how good you feel getting out into the country after being “long in city pent.” Then I started to wonder if you have to suffer before you can groove over how lucky you are. Maybe you have to suffer a prison like Dunrobin before you can appreciate being free. It seems dumb to me, because you shouldn’t have to be miserable to see what is gorgeous. You ought to be able to skip the misery. I’m sure Major Ridgeway wouldn’t agree; he’d say you have to endure a grueling row across the Atlantic to appreciate anything. And I know Indians used to eat Jack-in-the-pulpit root and endure agony, cos it was a purifying ordeal, but to me it all seems like hitting your thumb with a hammer because it feels so good when you stop. People ought to be able to just appreciate the light shining down without needing a whole lot of darkness.
After a while Halsey came swimming out with Ruth. Nobody can figure out whether she’s his girlfriend or not. Sometimes she rides behind him on his motorcycle, but today she came with me in the Fossil’s sedan. They are both too spaced out to bother formalize anything, but their eyes were very clear and in the present as they swam up to me, which is unusual with them, because they both usually have eyes that are somewhere at least a hundred miles away. My sister soon followed with her new boyfriend, both blue-eyed blonds with the water making blue eyes bluer. Then Miss Brunette came out with Wince, with his headache still gone. The only one missing was Eve. At Dunrobin I always used to dream of luring Eve into some summertime, Hippy swim, and here I was, right where I dreamed of, without her.
They started talking about the color of the water, which I hadn’t noticed. It was a bit breezy, and the water wasn’t at all like a mirror. It was broken into all these dabs of color, and they were talking about how the dabs were mostly green like trees, towards the shore, and mixed more and more with blue sky as they got closer to us, until right near us they were all blue mixed with a sort of sandy, sunlit lime-hue of the sandy depths. Once they pointed the colors out it sort of made me drunk, like the beauty might make me pass out. Instead of water it was like I was swimming in dabs of light.
I felt like I felt last summer, when I hung out with older people, towards the end. My friends sometimes just seem too young. They make all sorts of problems, mostly about stuff they could deal with better if they had a paycheck, but these people had jobs and didn’t worry about that stuff. My friends just don’t seem mature, sometimes. They make it all be dark, and can’t see the light shining down.
I sure could see the light shining down out on White’s Pond today. Even though we didn’t all know each other all that well, I had the feeling we were very close. We were like a lost tribe, outside civilization, free from jobs and clothing and land and gravity. All the dumb rules, like putting five dollars in the coffee can to use the phone at Durf’s commune, were gone.
What I liked most was the purity. I get tired of Durf always pushing me to be free in his free-love way, where you have to seduce every girl you meet. Here I was naked and with others but not thinking like that. I felt free from that pressure, which seems like chains to me, even if it seems like freedom to Durf. The only thing even like that heaviness was a sort of nervous feeling I got when Wince swam closer to Miss Brunette, and she swam away from him closer to me. But that was probably my immaturity. These people were more mature than me.
I never felt tired, but we sort of treaded water back to the shallows, and got out. I felt a bit nervous again, cos Miss Brunette didn’t seem to be looking at my face much. Not that I could be sure, cos I wasn’t looking at her face all that much either. Anyway, I put my shorts back on, which was as dressed as I ever got until afternoon.
My sister had brought sandwiches, so we ate late lunch even as the shadows got longer and the beautiful day threatened to not be endless. I had the feeling I’d been on drugs even though I hadn’t. It was what they call a natural high, but the high was wearing off, but I didn’t want to come down.
Then Ruth asked me if I still wrote songs, and I said yes, and she pushed me into singing, so I sung the one I wrote at Dunrobin that you liked, about how sunrises cannot be sold. They clapped when I was done, which pleased me more than I would have thought it would. The clapping made a strange shiver go down my back, cos the echoes of six sets of hands clapping echoed back from various banks of trees across the pond, and it sounded like a lot more than six sets of hands were clapping. It was like an invisible crowd was standing all around the pond.
It put me in an odd mood. When we drove back here, and Halsey went back to the piano and got lost in Beethoven, I started to think about people like Beethoven, and to wonder if I might be one of them.
Some people just get lost in all the darkness, and forget to see the light shining down. They need to be reminded, cos if you build your life in darkness you are a mole, and not a mountain man.
They need to be reminded, and maybe that is what I was born to be: A reminder.
Continued at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/novels-teaser-part-5/