Friday, June 18, 2010
#117 – COURTING
Pretty Terri. The first summer they were there my brother and I took every excuse to walk up to White Wings, which meant going up our long twisting driveway through our pine woods, and then over on the dirt road, Davis Road, where the other big family houses stood – three of them in the family still, though not White Wings. In the bright white room her parents had designed, I showed Terri sleight of hand card tricks, something I had started developing even before boarding school, learning from books I ordered from the Johnson Smith novelties catalog.
I could do full waterfalls, cards in the air from one hand to the other like in a waterfall, just like slick gamblers in the Westerns. With a two-handed pass, I could restore a cut deck, faster than the eye could see, to its previous stacked form. And I could accomplish it with a rare one-hand pass too if no one was looking closely. And I could also flip a card around to the back of my hand while making a throwing gesture, giving the illusion that I had made it disappear. And then I would skim cards across s room to land in a basket or bucket. Suddenly it seemed like I was an expert entertainer in the summer, which seemed as mysterious as why I was a shy introvert in the winter.
That first summer Terri’s family had White Wings was also Gaga's last summer of life, at least sort of life. Mother said Nana was in denial, Gaga was in what she called a vegetable state. He had had a stroke the previous November, and this summer was in the part of White Pines called the Boys’ Wing, where my brother and I would normally have been. He was there with a male nurse, the last sort of person you would expect to see here, a leering former sailor, who would wheel him out each day and set him in the sun on the lawn that led to iron streaked boulders and below them a big blueberry field and eventually the woods that after many mile went up to the top of Cannon Mountain, which had ski trails and cable car, and to the timber line on Mount Lafayette.
Back on the lawn in his wheelchair, Gaga was motionless. His eyes were open but they were blank. He was wrapped up in a way that reminded me of how Peter and I were tucked in on either side of Gaga in a rolling chair in Atlantic City. He had been animated then, telling stories about New York, singing songs, including, to horror when I remembered it now, one that went “That’s why a nigger’s hand is white inside.” (The man of color who was pushing our rolling chair had not reacted.)
Out on the lawn Nana read to him from a collection of O. Henry stories that she said he liked, though I thought he might not know she was there. I wondered if the male nurse had come upon the dog-eared copy of God’s Little Acre that I had hidden in the Boy’s Wing the previous summer when I had learned to masturbate.
This summer Peter and I were busy trying to impress Terri. Often we would call her from the telephone room, where we competed to show which of us was the more clever. Which strangely seemed to be me, though in normal times I had not been the popular twin. At the start of each phone session Terri asked a question for which there was no answer: “How is Mr. Poole?”
Nana observed our eager comings and goings and one morning came up to the guest room where we were staying to give us a jar of something called Mum, to apply to our underarms. She told us that girls did not like the way boys could smell if they didn’t wash enough in summer.