Wednesday, April 14, 2010


There were houses down near the rushing water that seemed to cling to the high river banks in dangerously unstable ways. And it also seemed that the houses like Aunt Betsy’s up above Littleton’s main street could easily teeter and fall down steep hills. And there was mystery everywhere. People living in trailers. Huge, dark, shuttered factories. Bars with pool tables. Even signs in French for non-English speakers across the nearby Canadian border – this place was in spirit so far from the Anglo white summer towns and so close to unknown worlds. Something as appealing as it was somehow illicit.

A forbidden fruit aspect to Littleton – something far out from the confines of our world. It had been exciting as a child to know that Gaga was so plugged into greater worlds that he had a personal relationship with Littleton’s old police chief. This as exciting as his tales of early mountaineers conquering Franconia Notch. If someone in the family wanted a driver’s license, it was known, Gaga could call the police chief and the license would be issued without a test, no questions asked. When the new cinema porn spread to the mountains at the start of the seventies it was the summer movie house in Bethlehem that showed the films of Russ Meyers and other nearly hard core artists, not Littleton itself. But the turn off for Bethlehem was on the way to Littleton. And Bethlehem, with its status as the White Mountains’ resort for Jews, was in itself another aspect of the foreign and the forbidden.

And it was to Littleton that Lenny, wanted on gun and shop-lifting charges, was removed from the city by Aunt Betsy who took the boy, and his sister to this house up behind the movie theater. The good son Rob was at MIT at this point, so he was too refined to sink into Littleton the way Lenny and Lauryn did – Lenny still an outlaw, perhaps the only person ever to be banned forever from the Profile Golf Club for non-racial reasons. He had barricaded himself there with a girl he had captured and forced to come with him. It was at this that led a judge to send him to the army.

Lauryn was the perfect little girl in the city. The perfect picture of a sweet Victorian girl whom everyone said was so lovely. Then she was taken with her brother up to Littleton , which ended her time in a fancy French school and as a budding ballet dancer. And at that point she had begun to shine brightly in ways outside family experence. She had done something no one else in the family had ever done. She had become an extremely popular, cheerleader and more, high school girl.

One of the things for which I had nostalgia though I had never seen it was American high school life. I had gotten a slight sense of it at debating tournaments. And in the movie Peyton Place I had been deeply moved by the pictures of New Hampshire high school life. Direct experience had been limited to ogling town girls in Plymouth when we were there for a basketball game with the local high school. Especially the flirty and smooth, perfect except for thick ankles, unlikely daughter of our physics and chemistry teacher, a man so steely and grim we called him Grim behind his back.

In Connecticut when home from boarding school in the summer I had lusted after high school girls in tight swim suits at Compo Beach. Especially a dark girl named Yvonne, who was the daughter of our maid’s husband and was involved with swarthy Italian boys. And in the summer I had lusted after sultry young Barbara Serafini who sashayed into Sugar Hill village in sun dresses that made her seem to me like a remote movie star. Her family owned property, including a big old house called the Homestead Inn that was at the turnoff up to the Sunset Hill House. It looked like something out of Currier & Ives, though the Homestead Inn was never mentioned as an acceptable place to stay. Was it the Italian family name? I never actually met Barbara. I could figure no way to bridge the divide.

The boarding school girls in summer were as pretty as the high school girls at Compo Beach. Kitty and Mickie were really prettier. Ruthie and Louisa and Alice and Ann too in certain lights. But they were not quite forbidden fruit. The girls at Compo Beach were more like girls to be masturbated over while reading Erskine Caldwell novels – Darling Jill on a sweltering day holding on to Will by tightening her vagina after he had come, or a very young girl nude from the waste up except for a wispy wrap dancing at a deep South whorehouse. Or, for that matter, the pretty rounded French girl in de Maupesant who saves fellow coach travelers by having sexual intercourse with a Prussian officer, though afterwards the people she saves treat her with contempt. Books held a different kind of reality, maybe more real than any other. Maybe like high school girls in skimpy bathing suits.

One summer night when Lauryn was in her last year of high school I was making a rare visit, staying with Aunt Alice because the Farm House was full and by then there were no other Poole houses, I had helped her deal with her drunken boyfriend. He was a very local boy whose father had a heating business. We walked him to his house, less than a quarter mile away. We pushed him to his door. He bounced back. We pushed him to the door two more times, and finally he went in. And then Lauryn and I were outside on a warm night and suddenly she was up against me and we were kissing. And it was almost real, here with the prettiest girl in the Littleton high school, though I had turned 30 and was about to have one last affair in the city and then head off to what I suspected was the ultimate place of sex and beauty, Bangkok. The next day Lauryn said isn’t it funny that you drink a little and you can’t remember anything about the night? I said yes, true. This seemed to me a good way for both of us to get out of this one. So close to incest, this episode, though I told myself it was not technically incest since Lauryn was adopted.

Lenny had been away in the army. I had not given him a thought, though later I was sure he was never out of Lauryn’s mind.

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