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/
Part 4 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/novels-teaser-part-4/
Part 5 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/novels-teaser-part-5/
Part 6 can be found at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/novels-teaser-part-6/
Part 7 can be found at: https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/07/novels-teaser-part-7/
Part 8 can be found at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/novels-teaser-part-8/
Part 9 can be found at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/novels-teaser-part-9/
Part 10 can be found at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/9227/
The American “Nig” has returned after a year abroad at a strict school in Scotland, and is writing the South African “Kaff”, using a shorthand the two teenagers devised which allows them to write with the speed of their frenetic thoughts.
Nig has been dismayed by changes that have occurred in the USA while he was away, and at this point is telling Kaff he has decided to make a lot of money selling lyrics for hit songs, and to buy a plot of land he calls “The Party Woods.” He plans to form a commune of his boyhood friends, but needs to convince his friends the scheme is possible.
What Nig is attempting to do is to figure out how to “get the gang together”, but his friends have gone in different directions, and the unity which the gang once shone with seems lost. Nig is attempting to end this divorce by being an amazing psychiatrist who can solve all problems with a single session. He imagines he makes progress in the magical atmosphere of the “Party Woods”, but that out in the world he faces opposition to the unity of a commune..
At this point in Nig’s description he has concluded a discussion with Ham and Franks, who are two brothers who have become ardent communists, and another with his boyhood best-friend Durf, who has lost faith in society and practices a sort of self-centered epicureanism at a commune of his own in the city, and Nig is now returning to his home town to visit his depressed friend “Spook”, who is one of the four Lasaumille brothers.
When I got back to Weston Halsey was still playing the piano, just like when I left, so I dangled the car-keys in front of him and then plopped them down on the stand under the sheet music above the other keys he cares for more than a car’s. He murmured that his girlfriend Ruth had left us some hippy food, so I rushed off to see what it was, and as I left he mentioned Eve had been by to see if I wanted to play tennis.
I didn’t want to. I wanted to eat, even if it was bread alone. Actually it was six different loafs, mostly stuff healthy for horses, but the banana bread was pretty good, even without butter.
Then I wanted to shower, cos I stank. As I showered I considered biking two miles to keep Eve happy by getting beat at tennis, but then I remembered Zooks telling me Spook was unhappy, so for some dumb reason I decided a bummed out buddy was more important than a beautiful girl friend.
My legs were sunburned, so I put on jeans, and the only clean, short-sleeved shirt I had left to wear, which happened to be my nicest one, and my feet’s soles were sore so I actually put on sneakers. So I was unusually clean and over-dressed when I walked over to the Lasaumille’s.
It’s past midnight, so I’d better note the difference with a date on the right side of this page.
Over at the Lasaumilles I
It is now close to dawn but I had to take another pill to keep going, and as I walked back from my stash I got distracted, and did some work on other writing. I’ve got lots of stuff lieing about nearly finished, and even as I work on this letter I keep getting distracted and leaving to work on the songs I want to publish, or the “Party Woods” tale, which is now four piles and four tales. Everything seems nearly perfect, but that is speed for you. You always feel on the verge of perfection. It scares me to death, because I know the crash is coming. But I just took another pill because I want to at least finish this letter before it isn’t July, and is August, which will be a terrible crash I fear, due to what boils down to one word, “Mother.”
I need to describe the Lasaumille’s, cos they seem wicked important to me. Maybe it is cos they are a lot like me. Maybe they won’t seem so interesting to you, but I am an egomaniac, and I like to study them cos I’m vain. Maybe I don’t worship myself in the mirror, but I do like people who remind me of myself, and who deal with what I deal with. Maybe in fact the Lasaumille’s are not quite the same, but I’m fascinated by how they differ. We are in the exact same hassle, but maybe they try something different. I’d try it too, but I had to try what I tried. My way got my results, but I’ll always wonder what might have happened if I tried something else. So of course I’m wicked interested in people who are in my shoes but stepped over the line I didn’t.
It seems to me everyone should be interested in other people in this way. It bums me out when people aren’t, and instead don’t give a shit. It is like they forget the “Understanding” part of “Truth, Love and Understanding.”
The thing about the Lasaumille’s is that they are big on understanding. There is a Yankee word around here for how they are, and it is “keen.” In Mother’s dictionary “keen” means “sharp,” but when I say the Lasaumille’s are a “keen” family, it means more. “Keen” means “groovy.” “Keen” means “attractive and admirable.” But it’s more than that. If “keen” means “sharp,” then when you say a fellow is a “sharp” dresser you are saying they are an “attractive and admirable” dresser, but “keen” means more than that. In Yankee English “keen” means to be focused like sunlight is focused to a white-hot dot by a magnifying glass.
When you talk to a Lasaumille, the way they keenly look at you can unnerve you, cos they actually do listen. They listen wicked intently. They all shut up and lean towards you. If you’re not used to it, you can forget what you were saying, half way through saying it. It is that unusual, to actually be listened to, with that much attention. And I think that is sort of sad.
Then, when they talk, they make a huge effort to make sure they too are worth listening to. They are. Sure, I poke fun at them, especially when Duke is so grandiose and flamboyant when he talks, and bisects Mother’s lampshade with a sweeping karate-chop sideswipe of emphasis, but his words have meaning. And mine have meaning, most of the time, when I talk to Duke, (unless Millie walks in view,) cos he’s keen to hear. You just feel you matter more, when Lasaumilles listen to you.
I’ve been in and out of a lot of houses in Weston, especially last summer when I spent so much time going from party to party. I’ve met lots of Weston Dads who are brilliant and make millions, but not one is as keen as a Lasaumille.
Last summer I was so gonzo on pills I stopped caring if people figured out I was high, and also I got fed up with my friends just saying “wow” all the time and not much else, when they were high. I decided older people were more interesting, and got interested in Weston Dads. A couple Dads were even trying out pot and LSD with their kids, but it turned out those Dads mostly just said “wow” like a kid would, so I mostly talked with the Dads who were into old-fashioned booze. Booze made them real talkative.
In Weston you can meet Dads who are geniuses, and who have done great things, made millions, hired and fired thousands, and invented stuff which has benefited everyone on earth, but they are just boobs, when it comes to being “keen.” All they want to talk about is themselves. They are wicked interesting, about their own stuff, but can’t get farther, which is probably why their wives ditch them. I figure a woman wants you keen on her, but I can have a keener conversation with a grasshopper, while laying face down on a Weston lawn, than with these bigwig Dads. They struck me as high IQ morons. But the Lasaumille’s strike me as different.
Anyway, I walked over to their house, and as I came around the back of the barn I could see Zeck, Duke and Zooks were all leaning towards Spook, intently discussing something. Spook looked a little like he was backing off, like they were piling on and he was defensive.
I always feel like I’m intruding when I walk in on one of their talks, but they never mind, because intense is just the way they are. All the same, I slowed down as I approached them.
As I walked up I was thinking of how they fit a rule I read about in some essay the Goat forced me to read at Dunrobin. It was how the sons of a king each have a job. The first is the heir, and tends to be intellectual and good at figuring out what strings to pull to make things work. He’s the boss and businessman. The second son is the soldier, and tends to be dashing and athletic. The third son goes to the church, and tends to be spiritual. The fourth son is a free spirit, and tends to be a jester or troubadour.
Zeck is oldest, and he’s real intellectual and quiet like Halsey is, but more focused on business. (I think Zeck is short for “Executive.”) He’s got a real calm about him, and as I walked up his fingers were making a delicate, massaging motion in front of him as he talked. Meanwhile Duke had his arms flung wide apart, and was boisterous like my brother Hurley is. Spook is third-son and is like I would be, but in my family Millie decided women should have the same rights as men, so she’s all gangbusters to be the third-son priest of our family, with all her fem-lib religious rules and regulations about what you can do and can’t do, and that’s fine with me, cos it leaves me free to be the fourth-son free spirit, like Zooks. (I think Zooks is short for Gadzooks, which is what their Dad said when he found out he had a fourth boy.) Zooks had his hands spread out like Duke, but lower, with the palms cupped up more, and his smile was lazier.
Just as I came up to them they seemed to talk Spook into whatever they were trying to talk him into. He began to walk away, but kept looking over his shoulder with a funny sort of smile, like he couldn’t believe he was actually doing it. His feet were moving really reluctantly, sort of like they were held up by strings like the legs of a marionette, but his smile was really delighted, framed by scraggly curls of black hair parted in the middle. Each time he paused and looked over his shoulders his brothers would all nod, and Spook’s eyebrows would half-moon a bit higher and his smile would get even bigger.
As soon as Spook vanished behind the lilacs around the corner of the barn his brothers all turned to each other heaving big sighs of relief and shaking their heads and scornfully remarking on what a big baby Spook was. That isn’t as bad as it sounds, cos those guys are always calling each other “a big baby,” or saying “don’t be such a baby.” They really stress the first syllable of the word “baby,” and use “baby” so much that you sort of get the feeling their tongues are in their cheeks, and “baby” is some sort of private joke between the four of them.
They only talked about Spook for around twenty seconds before dropping the subject in a real business-like way, sort of in the way you finish the pledge of allegiance and get on with whatever is next. Zeck and Duke started going over money matters in a really meticulous way, with Zooks looking on deferentially. I stayed pretty quiet myself, cause the Lasaumille’s are real serious, when it comes to money. They pretty much know how every penny of their paycheck is going to be spent before they get it, and it’s real unusual for them to loan anyone money like Spook did with Durf, cos usually the money is already allotted to something or another. Even if they have five hundred in their pocket they will tell you they haven’t a cent, and they aren’t really lying, cos it’s all allotted.
I’m more generous, and always feel guilty if I have money in my pocket and someone else doesn’t, I suspect cos I didn’t get taught to allot it the way they do. It’s just the way they were brought up, cos I guess their Mom and Dad were really poor back as kids in the Great Depression. Their Dad was so strict their Mom got fed up with it, and ditched him for some free spirit on a motorcycle, but with four sons she got serious about money again real fast, especially cos inflation shrunk the Dad’s alimony, and he was in no mood to raise it for her. Their family got poor at the same time mine did, which was no fun in a town like Weston, where rich folk were moving in and poor folk were getting squeezed like watermelon seeds. But where Mother always tried to “spare us the worry” about money, their Mom drummed dents in their skulls about squeezing thumbprints into each penny. I would never even think of asking them for a loan. But one thing I do know: When I’m generous and they borrow from me, they will pay me back on the exact day they promised me to. It’s a big thing with those guys; a real matter of honor.
Anyway they started going over their plans in really meticulous detail, including exactly how much the gas would cost and how many miles they were driving. As I listened I thought I had things figured out, but then figured I didn’t. Things got real complicated real fast.
First they were talking about getting a coil for Spook’s car for $19.99 when he came back with the twenty. So I figured Spook must be facing his skinflint Mom and begging for a loan. But then they were talking about whether there would be time to put the coil in, when they got back with the suits they were going to rent from a place down the street from the auto-parts junkyard where they’d buy the coil, or whether they should put the coil in after they got back from visiting their Dad, before their Mom’s wedding, or whether there would be time to put it in after the wedding and still get Spook to work on time.
Usually I mind my own business, but the question, “Your Mom’s getting married?” escaped my lips. They all smiled wryly at me, and then Zooks put his hands on his hips and exaggerated an indignant expression, and said, “Yes, and it’s all your fucking fault!” I must have looked pretty baffled, cos they all laughed harder, and then Zooks nudged me and went on, “If you’d kept better control of that mother of yours, and she hadn’t married a lawyer, our mother wouldn’t have copied her.” I sort of wondered aloud, “You’re Mom’s marrying a fossil?” And they laughed again, and then Duke said, “Oh, ours is not as old as yours; we call him ‘the Padlock,’ so you don’t have to worry about us stealing the nickname, ‘Fossil;’ but he’s an old lawyer all right. It is Huffer’s Dad.”
I felt all mixed up, cos Huffer was a buddy of Hurley, and Huffer’s Mom and Dad always seemed as tight as crossed fingers to me. But you can’t leave Weston long these days without missing some soap opera. I definitely missed this one.
Just then Spook came scooting around the corner of the house looking just about as guilty as a guy can look. He said, “I hear the Padlock’s Porsche coming! They’re back.” Everyone cocked their ears for around half a second, and I couldn’t hear anything, but they got all efficient, and Zeke said, “Did you get the twenty?” as Zooks said, “Don’t be such a baby.” Spook held out the twenty and Zeke plucked it from his fingers, tucked it neatly into his shirt pocket, and nodded to Duke. The two older brothers ambled away, but then Duke stopped, turned back, spread his arms wide, and said, “What’s the big deal? You know you’ll put it back. Don’t be such a baby about it.” Then they sauntered around the corner of the barn and vanished behind a lilac bush just as I heard a humming engine downshift lowly on the road, and the gravel in the driveway crackle.
Spook kept right on looking guilty, and told Zooks his Mom would know for sure something was up, cos he couldn’t help look guilty when he was guilty, and she could read his face like a book. Zooks told him to stop being such a baby and to think of something else, but Spook said he couldn’t. Zooks then said they should get his mind on something else by taking the old coil out of his junker, but Spook said his fingers were all shakey. He held out his hand flat, and it really was jittery. So I told him to come with me on a walk to the Party Woods, and Spook looked at me for a long time, sort of hugging himself like he was shivering, and then nervously nodded. Zooks gave me a nod and a wink, and pinched his thumb and forefinger together in the AOK sign.
As we walked out into the woods I got the story. It turns out that back before their Mom hooked the Padlock, she used to be on the prowl for some Midas-Manny like him, but hadn‘t found a moneybags fossil yet. She’d go out with guys who seemed nice, but turned out to want to just get laid, and not much else. They didn’t want to wheel and deal their way through a Weston Mom’s money-grubbing romance, which Weston Moms call a “long term relationship.” Instead they were interested in a really, really short term relationship, which their Mom wasn’t interested in. Or that’s what they said she said, and when you’re talking about another kid’s Mom it isn‘t polite to doubt them, out loud. In the back of my dirty mind I wondered if she ever made exceptions to the rule, but that just stayed a Stinedu.
I reckon most of her dates were pretty good sports about not getting laid, but some were real assholes, I guess. Spook and Zooks told me their Mom felt she should always have taxi fare home. So, even when she spent every penny in her purse, she always had a twenty hidden under a flap of her handbag.
She had five handbags. Somehow the Lasaumille boys got to snooping in her closet when she wasn’t home, and figured out she had five twenties hidden under five flaps. The boys never dared borrow the twenty under the flaps of the white, black, red, or gold-fish-scale handbags, cos they got used pretty often, depending on the Mom’s tweedy outfit, but the flashy, rainbow, polka dot, “Mod” handbag pretty much went out of style the day after she bought it. So Zeck and Duke had always felt free to borrow the twenty in that one, cos they wouldn’t endanger their Mom by doing so. And they always replaced it. Zooks never needed to borrow it cos he was still in school and mooching at home was allowed. But Spook needed it a lot of times but never borrowed it cos he’s the priest of the family and it is immoral to steal from your Mom, even if it is really a loan.
But now Spook had gone and done it, and I can’t tell you how miserable it made him. I don’t know if you’ve got the Puritan streak in South Africa, Kaf, but here in New England it gets pretty heavy. Spook was walking like he had lead weights in his face.
Lucky Zooks was there. He was laughing and pointing out the joke of it all. He was saying that what a Puritan Mom should do is give sons everything she could, even if it was a sacrifice, and even if one son happened to be a bum and a big baby like Spook, but their Mom got it all backwards. She pretty much wanted to charge for the milk from her tits when they were born. She was always saying money mattered, and you had to watch every penny and only put your money into worthwhile things, but what did she put her money into? She didn’t put a penny into her sons, but put a twenty into each handbag.
I can’t say it the way Zooks did. He said it with a real fondness for his Mom, like he was saying, “That is just the way Mom is,” but I didn’t feel as fond as Zooks sounded. I felt all political about money-grubbing Weston Moms, and even madder about what the hell the Dads did that made the Moms care more for money than a living, breathing son like Spook.
I kept my mouth shut, cos Lausamilles talk about this stuff more deeply than me. It pays to shut up and listen. But also I was shutting up cos I was really happy to be walking with those two. It doesn’t matter how deep in a discussion they are; when they walk they are wicked aware of the woods. They can be talking about life and death, and if a nocturnal flying squirrel yawns in a hollow tree by the trail, both dart their eyes toward that tree.
They have totally different ways of walking. It takes Spook two steps to match one of Zooks’ strides. Spook trots as Zooks slouches. Both usually swing their arms by their sides in the way you do when you’re trucking along, but at the slightest excuse both of Spook’s hands spring forward, like a chipmunk’s, while Zooks’ hands slouch back into imaginary pockets. However you’d know they were brothers, cos they have eyes that dart left and right and see the stuff you’d miss, without them. It is like they are the Indians, and you are the city slicker.
I was so damn happy to be back in the woods with these two guys I felt like I might cry. They are cool beyond cool and keen beyond keen. Their Mom is nuts to invest more into pocket books.
Just ahead was this place we call a vibe-place. A vibe-place is a spot where many things happen. I don’t know why things chose to happen in a particular place, but they do.
This particular vibe-place was the exact spot where, two winters ago, Zooks said he heard a tree fall far away, and we should turn left, and climb an outcropping of stone, which led us to the discovery of the snapped-off spruce-tree, which we turned into “Pillowland”, our headquarters, in the Party Woods. It is also the exact spot where the neck of Timid’s guitar landed, when he smashed it falling from the outcropping during the fourth party. However, before we even dreamed about starting our commune out there, it was where we once got really shocked.
You see, as we grew up we weren’t the only people out in those woods. There were also these Weston Moms, on horses.
O, you may brag about all the risks of your South African jungles, the Lions and Leopards, Crocs and Black Mambas, but none can compare with being a kid trotting barefoot, in nothing but a bathing suit, in Weston Woods, and coming face to face with a Weston Mom, high on her horse, wearing twelve layers of tweed. Just the way she looks down her nose could freeze lava, and also you somehow feel naked and guilty of rape, even if you are only eleven years old and don‘t care a hoot about ravishing maidens.
I’m now eighteen, and Durf makes me feel pretty guilty about still being a virgin, but even if I decided I wanted to ravish left and right, I haven’t a clue how you ‘d handle a Weston Mom. It would be hard enough getting her off the high horse, and even harder getting through all that tweed.
And if I can’t handle it now, at eighteen, I guess you can understand why, when I was younger, I’d run and hide, if I heard the sound of approaching hoofs in Weston woods.
The Lasaumilles were better than me, when it came to hearing hoofs, and it just so happened that one time, when we were around fifteen years old, we had just started into the woods, and both Spook and Zooks suddenly looked over their shoulders, and both said, “Hoofs.” We then hurried because we didn’t want the tweedy woman to catch up, but then both Spook and Zooks screeched to a halt, cos they heard other hoofs ahead, coming towards us, and then we didn’t want to go further, either. Instead we darted to the side and hid among the rubble under the stone outcropping, and got to see what happens when tweed meets tweed, in Weston.
Of course we knew one Mom was Zapper and Needles Kirk’s Mom, and the other was the Mom of Sissy, who was a girl-next-door who Needles was crazy about. What we didn’t know was why the two ladies just stopped their horses, about thirty yards from each other. The horses looked fidgety and embarrassed, but the women just glared. Then one made this weird noise, sort of a strangled gargling, and spurred her horse forward, and the other let lose a scream, and they went by each other whaling away with their riding crops at each others faces. It was really freaky to see, and sure didn’t encourage us to ravish anyone any time soon.
That was before 1969, so we were real hush-hush about what we had seen. You didn’t want to get any grown-up pissed off at you, especially if you were poor. But I did hear Mother naively talking over coffee with a friend, not long afterwards, about how the horse trails should have their low-hanging branches cut back, because she knew two neighbors who got nasty welts on their faces while riding. And of course I went straight to Spook to tell him what the grown-ups thought caused the welts, cos Spook was the only one I knew whom I could be honest with, about that stuff. But we never knew what it was all about until Needles Kirk got honest in 1969, and told us it had turned out he wasn’t the only one interested in the girl-next-door. His Dad was also interested, only he wasn’t interested in Sissy; it was Sissy’s Mom he got interested in. So that was how the women got to warring, but it was pretty hard on Needles. I reckon it’s rough on a kid when he can’t even get a crush on the girl-next-door, without his Mom blowing a fuse, and he doesn’t know why.
Needles eventually figured things out, but had to be a sort of detective to learn the truth. We all had to be detectives to find out the truth, cos in Weston the grown-ups were utter hypocrites. They were always laying down the laws they broke.
At least the teachers at Dunrobin went with us, on their crazy, macho Major Ridgeway expeditions. When they told us it was so all-fired good to get exhausted by being stoic, they themselves got exhausted. They at least practiced what they preached, but Weston parents were total wimps, when it came to being tough and obeying all the Puritan morality they hammered us with. It was like they sent us on expeditions while they stayed home and ate cherries. They were liars, but we weren’t allowed to say so. I don’t know who they thought they were fooling, doing stuff like swapping wives on the sly, cos everyone was whispering about what they did like crazy, behind their backs, but I just felt gagged about saying what they did, out loud, until 1969 came around. What they did stayed a Stinedu.
Anyway, I remembered that scene with the two Moms on horseback when we got to that vibe-place part of the trail, cos it somehow seemed the same subject as Spook’s Mom putting more into five purses than into four sons. It’s just an example of how whacko Weston Mom’s are, and I was trying to work things around to how Spook shouldn’t feel so bad about borrowing twenty from his Mom’s purse. But Spook was being Spook, and that means he gets all stubborn about the bad trip he is on. The more you try to talk him out of it, the more he digs in his heels, until you feel like he is against happiness, and feel like ripping out your hair. In fact sometimes I do just stomp about and pretend to rip out my hair, cos that actually makes Spook smile, just a little.
We usually turn off the trail at that outcropping of stone and take our own secret path that slants up the side of the outcropping. It’s a bit of a clamber, but a shorter way to our campsite, and we like it cos no horsey person is going to take that trail.
There’s also a neat place to sit at the top, looking out through the tops of the skinny maples that grow below. It seems the center of the vibe-place, and is sort of an outcropping jutting from the outcropping, a bare knoll of granite where the cliff is steepest. I thought that would be a good place to talk, cos we’ve had great talks there before; and also because it is hard to be down when you’re above it all.
The edge isn’t like the Grand Canyon or anything, it’s just an outcropping of Yankee granite, but has got big cracks that divide it up into separate bulges, and most people would walk away from the edge to avoid those crevices, but Spook and Zooks just hopped along the edge, jumping from outcropping to outcropping cos it’s the shortest way. As I followed I had that happiness surge up in me again, cos back when I was so strung out at Dunrobin last winter I used to wish and wish and wish I could just get away for five minutes, and climb that cliff with Zooks and Spook, and now I was finally back home and actually doing it.
TO BE CONTINUED at https://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/novels-teaser-part-12/