August 1, 1958, Cohasset to Nantucket
Actually it was August second when we started for Nantucket; 1:45 a.m. to be exact. There was this party at the Mays, see, and there was this Golf Club Dance, and if I hadn’t left, dragging my male behind me, I’m sure the Thaxters would still be saying, “Now wait, don’t go without us, we’ll be along in just a minute.” Being familiar with their “just a minute,” I knew it was time to get aboard.
We went home, changed into shorts, kissed the kids goodbye, and settled down to wait in the cabin for our crew. Ed predicted at 1:15 that they’d be here in fifteen minutes. If he meant by “they,” the Whitcombs, followed by Russ Palmiter and the Remicks, he was right. Dottie said they had come to give us a big send-off. Ray said they had come to get a drink. At that, Ed started up the engines with a roar, pretending he hadn’t heard him.
Just as the Whitcombs were volunteering to take the Thaxters’ place on this annual jaunt, Blake and Jayne leaped aboard.
Jayne and I stayed topside with the boys long enough to have one drink and enjoy the beautiful night, then we sacked in.
August 2, 1958, Nantucket
It’s the usual bedtime story: I couldn’t sleep under way. Heard every lobster buoy we hit, heard Ed give a yell as we were going through the Canal and scrambled from my bunk in alarm; “Happy Days!” he yelled again, and I realized he was identifying his craft to the Coastguard. Heard the boat shudder as if scraping bottom; stuck my head up through the hatch to find out if we were sinking. The fellows waved and said everything was fine. (They had gone aground, not that the Deny Everything team would ever admit it.)
“Have you been drinking all night?” I demanded.
“Not willy,” he said with a glassy smile.
When he says “not willy,” you can be sure he’s willy willy fried. In fact I think I’ll call him Willy whenever he’s in that condition because he doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to my husband. He isn’t sympathetic and understanding and he gets mad back.
Jayne joined us and took movies of Blake, who had now taken over the entire seat so that Ed had to stand up to steer. He was annoyed with Jayne when she tried to rouse his baby. He slapped her hand away and snarled, “Liver poor guy alone!”
Blake drew himself up and began declaiming something about the United States of America and the Constitution.
Ed and Blake were proud of themselves for successfully bringing the boat through the dark night from Cohasset to Nantucket, which we were now approaching. The Captain told Blake at least fifteen times that he was a wonderful help in navigating the tricky waters at Wood’s Hole, “then the minute we were through, boom!” (The boom representing Blake’s head hitting Ed’s lap.) They patted each other on the back and didn’t show a sign of the remorse they should be feeling--or even the hangovers.
After we picked up a mooring the fellows secluded themselves in the main stateroom where I could hear them whispering and giggling like a pair of boys behind the barn. Ed’s whisper is almost as penetrating as his voice and I heard him snigger, “Don’t ever tell anyone, Blake, but I can’t remember a thing about going through Wood’s Hole.”
He later claimed he was only kidding. He also said later (after several hours’ sleep), “Hey Barb, you should have taken movies of Blake’s head in my lap.” I doubt if he recalls a word of my rant when I blew up over the whispered Wood’s-Hole confession, which is just as well, since I overreacted a trifle. Divorce, certainly, but murder?
Ed and Blake were still sleeping and I was taking a shower when Jayne called, “Look who’s here!”
I was still so mad at Ed, the last thing I wanted to see was people; I’m never much good at pulling my face together. It was the Johnsons and the Rogers in Porter’s boat. Jayne told them we’d see them after we played tennis.
Blake and I kissed and made up, and since that awful Willy was no longer occupying Ed’s body, I made up with him, too. He said, as he always does on these occasions, that he forgave me.
Went ashore at 5:30, learned the courts close at 6:00, walked over to Johnson’s boat and had a couple of drinks. Arranged to meet at Harbor House for cocktails after we dressed.
Parting of the ways at Harbor House. Porter was determined to have Scampi at the Opera House, and our group wanted to go to the Ropewalk for the perennial Roast Beef Special. Caught 12:00 launch, sacked in.
August 3, 1958, Nantucket
“Up and hydrogen, up and hydrogen!” Ed called, explaining that “up and atom” was a cliché.
We gathered in the cockpit clad in bathing suits and surveyed the water.
”Do you feel any better than you did yesterday morning?” Ed asked Blake
”Do you feel any better than you did yesterday morning?” Ed asked Blake
“Not a bit. In fact, I feel worse.”
Had a swim, had breakfast.
Had a swim, had breakfast.
Played tennis from ten to twelve, called house, everything well. Kathie had seven young charges and figured she’d make around $28.00 for the weekend. Wally and Jan and the kids had spent the night, also Margo Whitcomb. Teddy was being good, little kids likewise. (I suppose they’ll still be known as “the little kids” when they’re eighteen and twenty.)
Sat on Yacht Club terrace, had cheeseburgers for lunch. “Oh, look what I did!” Ed said, noticing the ketchup bottle standing in the middle of a dirty paper plate. “What a slob, putting ketchup on that messy plate. Why do we do those stupid, inconsiderate things!” He picked up the bottle and started wiping it off with a napkin.
“I think I did that,” I said mildly. “The plate was blowing away.”
“Oh!” said Ed. “Oh! Well, that’s perfectly all right!”
Took bus to beach, read and loafed all afternoon. Ed had brought nothing to read, but Jayne solved the problem by tearing off the section of a paperback book she had finished reading. Returned to town, bought Sunday papers, sent Ed in search of a delicatessen to purchase a few needed items. He had to walk miles. Jayne, Blake, and I shared one beer while we waited at the Yacht Club--not to be conservative but because we were broke.
Started up the charcoal stove after we returned to Happpy Days, broiled the four-pound prime rump steak I had brought along. When the steak was just right, the potatoes were still half raw. Jayne tried to convince us that half-raw potatoes were delicious with Riviera Dressing and backed up this claim by consuming one with her steak and making no faces. The rest of us had baked potato for dessert. Called it a day at10:30.
August 4, 1958, Nantucket
Rained early this morning, then cleared into another beautiful day. Played tennis until 11:00. Ed and Blake departed to get gas and ice for the boat, suggesting that Jayne and I go shopping in the interim. Ed gave me thirty dollars, a small fortune.
We met the fellows at the Yacht Club at 12:45, had lunch, went to the beach. Took 5:30 bus back to Nantucket Square, went shopping for groceries. That’s when Ed asked for his thirty dollars. Well, I spent quite a bit of it,” I said, handing him the ten dollars change and explaining about the $34.95 profit I had made.
He said we wouldn’t be able to go out to dinner because of my extravagance unless he could cash a check somewhere.
“Why did you give me the thirty dollars in the first place if you didn’t expect me to spend it? Just showing off in front of the Thaxters, that was it.” I told him he was welcome to take the sweater back if he wanted his old money so much.
By this time Ed remembered that he had been able last year to cash a check at the First National, so he changed from censorious to indulgent, patted my empty little head, and told me I could keep the sweater.
I was below getting a sweater when I heard a noise I couldn’t at first identify. Then Jayne said in a matter-of-fact voice: “Barbara, Ed fell overboard.” The noise, I then realized, was a splash.
Jayne and Blake had rushed out to the cockpit to make sure Ed was all right; I rushed to get the movie camera. I wasn’t on the scene in time to record his first emergence, when he came up spewing water and snapping instructions: “Get the ladder! No! No! Not this side, the other side!” Then he disappeared. He told us later he was so anxious not to be seen by the approaching launch that he considered diving under the boat instead of swimming around it to the ladder. But maybe, he thought, he’d get trapped under there and drown. On the other hand, maybe drowning was preferable to being seen swimming around in his Madras jacket.
He decided to swim as fast as he could around the bow of the boat and launched into an American crawl--but seeing his colorfully clad arms thrusting through the air, he became convinced everyone in the harbor could see them, too. He took a deep breath and dove underwater.
“Out of my way!” I said, colliding with him in the doorway. I stood in the starboard side of the cockpit, adjusted the camera, and waited for the star of the film to make his appearance. Jayne was wildly semaphoring to the launch, which was approaching with a load of passengers. “No, no!” she waved her arms and shook her head. “Next trip!”
No sign of Ed. I became concerned because it was getting dark and I was afraid the movies wouldn’t be very good. I walked over to the ladder and peered into the water. At that moment Ed’s head popped up. “I was never so embarrassed in all my—“ Spotting the camera he ducked under again.
I returned to my starboard post and waited patiently. Naturally he was feeling camera-shy at the moment, but someday we’d all have a good laugh over the movies. The launch had started to turn away when Ed scrambled over the side of the boat and dropped flat on the floor. He executed this feat with such alacrity that even if the people on the launch had been staring directly at him, they’d have seen only a blur.
When Ed crashed to the floor on all fours, I at first thought he had tripped and fallen. But no, he was taking cover. He scuttled past me like a crab, scuttled into the deckhouse where Blake was just recovering from his paroxysm. He raised his head, laughing and gasping, and what meets his eyes but his friend Ed, frantically crawling through the doorway, sputtering: “Clear the way! I’m coming through!”
“Absolutely the worst blunder any skipper can make!” he groaned, peeling off his dripping Madras jacket. “Completely unforgivable! We’ll never be able to come to Nantucket again!”
“If you could have seen your face!” Blake gasped. “When you were going through the air, arms flailing, in a sitting position—“
“Did you actually see it happen?” I asked.
“I was never so astounded,” Blake said. “I happened to be looking through the Venetian blinds as Ed went by with the flag. All of a sudden I see him leaning backwards, then making a wild grab for the boat, and then-- oh, the expression on your face!”
We three dry ones howled with laughter; Ed said he hoped we were having fun. My husband
is a man who believes in keeping his dignity when all about him are losing theirs.
“And then when I saw you coming through enemy lines!” roared Blake.
The situation seemed to call for another drink--if we missed the last trip after dinner, we could hire the commercial launch. Went ashore around 8:30, peeking at the launch boy to see whether his manner would betray any awareness of our recent strange goings-on. Either he had missed the performance or he was a very tactful young man.
Went to the Mad Hatter (a singularly appropriate choice), were told we could be served after a short wait. Looked at a menu, decided it was too expensive and walked up to the Harbor House Cafe, which specializes in Italian food. Very good.
August 5, 1958, Nantucket
Got up at eight, breakfasted, made a picnic lunch. Played tennis for half an hour, took taxi to beach--bus had broken down. The driver managed to squeeze thirteen into his cab, and when we started pouring out through his doors at the beach, we must have looked like the clowns in a Barnum & Bailey circus act.
Ed had forgotten his trunks, was provided with a pair by the bathhouse management. Then he
forgot to bring the ticket for the beach chairs and had to walk back to the bathhouse for that. I asked the beach boy if he had found Ed’s half-book in the sand yesterday. Yes, it was over there in that gray jeep if I wanted to get it.
Ed’s final lapse for the day was to put the key to our locker in his trunks instead of turning it in at the desk, as requested by signs posted everywhere. He went swimming and lost it. The management charged him a dollar but would have much preferred the key, as “it is difficult to replace these old keys.”
Played tennis from five to six, then back to Happy Days. Saw Marilyn and Porter Johnson arriving on Mari-port, decided we wouldn’t seek them out as we wanted our last evening in Nantucket to be quiet and conservative. We would arise clear-eyed and well rested early in the morning, be home in plenty of time for tennis at the golf club.
Cost of transportation to Nobadeer’s? One dollar a person, or $8.00 round trip. We checked another taxi service further up the street, just to be sure the first one wasn’t over charging us. Same story, one dollar per person.
“Seems like a lot of money just for transportation,” I murmured to Ed. “Um,” he said, which I took to mean that he saw things the same way I did—we’d be out of our minds if we spent eight dollars so frivolously. So I say what I’m thinking to the Thaxters.
“But Barb, remember it’s only four dollars a couple,” Jayne pointed out.
My Scotch ancestors were telling me not to give in gracefully. “I couldn’t enjoy my dinner, knowing we paid that much just to get there and back,” I said.
“All right,” Jayne said, “let’s eat somewhere else.” So the whole thing is her fault. If she’d been stubborn instead of letting me have my way about the lousy eight dollars, we’d have gone to Nobadeer’s, had a quiet, conservative evening and no problems.
This remark hurt my feelings, so naturally I had to hurt his. This required a rather long speech because he has a much thicker skin that I do and cannot be annihilated with a few well-chosen words. I reminded him of all the unpaid bills piling up on my desk. I reminded him of our present financial standing. I declared bitterly that his way of improving said standing was to reduce my allowance and turn over to me every month a few thousand bills he couldn’t pay. Sure, I said, let’s take a taxi or hire a plane, take it out of Barbara’s allowance.
Blake and Jayne joined us and reported that the officers recommended The Skipper. We walked to The Skipper but were half an hour too late, it closed at 9:00 p.m.
We wandered aimlessly around wondering what to do next. Plainly I had wrecked our last evening with my penny-pinching. I felt so unwanted I told Ed I might just disappear altogether; he needn’t think Jayne had a monopoly on that act of hers. I demanded money, just in case, and with reluctance, Ed parted with two quarters--hardly enough to paint the town but at least it would cover launch fare back to the boat.
“That’s the most intelligent comment you’ve made all evening,” I said. My heart was in the right place, but my foot wasn’t. Whether it was my phrasing that rubbed Jayne the wrong way or Blake’s query: “Is there a chance in the world of your keeping your mouth shut long enough for me to get a word in edgewise?” we’ll never know. At any rate, the waitress was just arriving with coffee when Jayne said, “Excuse me, I’m going to the Ladies Room.”
Ed was looking perplexed. “If Jayne was going to the Ladies Room, why did she go out the front door?”
“Oh my God!” Blake groaned. “The disappearing act!”
We had ordered a round of drinks that couldn’t be abandoned under any circumstances. The waitress brought our check after we finished them, and we were figuring out the tip when a voice said, “Blake!” We looked up, and there was Miss Houdini in the flesh, standing outside the screen door. Blake thought she wanted him to come outside, and anything Jayne wanted him to do at the moment was something he would avoid, even if he were dying for a breath of air.
She stood there a moment longer looking like the poor little match girl, and I said, “Maybe the door’s locked, the place is closing.” Then I said, “Oh-oh, she’s gone again.”
The hostess opened the door and called to Blake. We saw her point meaningfully the other way.
Ed and I prepared to leave. “What will I tell the lady if she comes back here?” asked the hostess, as unruffled as if our Keystone Comedy was an everyday event.
“Tell her we’ll meet her at the launch.”
We found Blake but he had not found Jayne. He and Ed were walking ahead of me when I turned around and spotted her wheeling around a corner. “There she is! Quick, follow me!”
I sprinted after Jayne and when I caught up with her, threw my arms around her--partly in affection, partly to keep her from escaping again.
“All I want to do is find the launch,” she said firmly. “I’ve been walking up and down, up and down, trying to find the right street.”
“It’s back this way,” I said, not really knowing but wanting to steer her toward the boys.
“Oh, I don’t think so,” she said, but came along anyway.
We stopped for a moment at the “Mating Corner,” across from the Opera House. “Oh, there’s the Johnsons!” Jayne cried. “They’ll take us back to the boat!”
The eight of us straggled down the street. Marilyn was chattering to Ed about their adventures of the last two days, but I didn’t hear much of her story because I was trying to maintain my position between them. Marilyn kept leaning to starboard and it was either get squeezed or lose my place. I chose squeezing, not inclined to let an attractive woman separate me and my husband while I had a usable elbow. I was quite breathless by the time we arrived at the Mari-port, which was tied up at a dock.
[Ed began dating Marilyn in 1974, a couple of years after we broke up and the Porters divorced. I didn’t care because by that time I’d met Jack.]
Everyone climbed aboard except Jayne and Blake; they were having a discussion by the gangway, a few yards away. Jayne told me later he didn’t say any of the right things such as: “I’m sorry I was so mean” and “You’re right, you’re right, you’re right.”
Whatever he was saying, it didn’t strike a harmonious chord and Jayne decided it was time to take another walk.
“If you don’t go up that gangway,” Blake said, “you may never set foot in my house again, ever, ever, never, never, ever.”
What red-blooded American wife could fail to meet a challenge like that?
“What did you say?” Jayne asked.
“I said., `if you don’t go up that gangway—“
Meanwhile I was chatting politely on the boat with Porter’s sister-in-law, unaware of the drama going on up on the dock. Suddenly Blake called, “Come on, Barbara, we’re going.”
“Going?” I asked.
“Yes, going,” said Blake, grabbing my arm and hoisting me up on the deck. “Well--uh--goodbye, it was very nice meeting you,” I called over my shoulder, but Blake hustled me away before I could learn whether the sentiment was mutual.
“Where’s Ed?” I asked uneasily.
“I sent him after Jayne,” Blake said. And there he was, halfway up the street, loping out of sight.
“Ed!” I yelled.
“Yes?” he yelled, not slowing down a jot.
“You come right back here!”
Blake was so afraid Ed might obey orders that he covered my mouth with his hand. “Shh, don’t say that,” he said urgently. “I made him go, see, because I figured maybe there’d be more chance of his finding her than if I went.”
“Oh,” I said dubiously through his fingers. He removed his hand from my mouth.
“He should have gone immediately,” Blake went on, “but he wouldn’t leave you there on the boat. He kept saying, `I won’t go until we get Barbara’ and I said `To hell with Barbara, get Jayne, you darn fool,’ and then I saw he really wouldn’t go unless I went back for you, see?”
“The poor guy didn’t have a chance,” Blake continued. “I said to him, `Ed, are you a friend of mine or not?’ When I put it that way, what could he do?”
I began to laugh because it was funny to think of Ed being pulled in two different directions by two determined personalities: Blake insisting, “Get going!” and I insisting, “Come back here!”
Blake and I walked up to the Mating Corner and stood around awhile. Finally I said, “Maybe he’s found her and they’re on the Johnsons’ boat waiting for us.”
We walked back to the dock but the Mari-port was gone.
We returned to the Mating Corner, which I was beginning to think of as the Waiting Corner. After awhile Blake said, “Let’s go to the launch and see if they’re there.”
“They might even be out on the boat,” I said. “We could take the launch out and see.”
“Have you got any money?” asked Blake. “All I have is fifteen cents.”
“All I have is fifty cents Ed gave me.”
Jayne and Ed were not waiting at the launch and as the fare was .50 each after 10:00 p.m., we didn’t have enough money to go out to the boat.
“Never again,” Blake said, “will I ever go anywhere without money!”
We were on our way back to the Waiting Corner when Blake stopped. “I wonder if the fellow at the launch service would cash a check.”
Back we went, but the man said sorry, he didn’t have a cent in the till. However, he gave us the names of a couple of places that might oblige.
“I guess he really was an ex-Senator, all right, but he was on the bum.”
Blake waxed persuasive, as only he can do.
“Well,” the man said hesitantly, “do you have any identification?”
“None at all,” said Blake. “Just this D.A. card.”
The man looked at the card, unimpressed.
“Tell you what,” said Blake. “Suppose I call the Cohasset Police Station and have whoever answers identify me. Would that be satisfactory?”
“I guess that would be all right.”
Blake put the call through, the Cohasset officer identified him for the manager, and eureka! We were fifteen dollars richer! Now we made the rounds of all the bars that were still open, looking for Jayne and Ed, I should add. The Upper Deck, the Opera House, etc. One of the bars had a sign posted that said the last launch left at 1:30, so if the missing pair hadn’t turned up by then, we would have to abandon the search and hope they were on the boat.
At 1:25 we caught the launch. Blake was feeling so wealthy with his hard-won cash that he tipped the young man a dollar. There were lights burning on the Happy Days and a waiting husband. He had the temerity to ask where we had been all this time.
August 6, 1958, Nantucket to Cohasset
The four of us had a last swim, left for home at 9:30. A perfect day again--and from what we’ve heard, our five days were the first all summer to be consecutively warm and sunny. Arrived Cohasset 6:00 p.m.