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Sunday, July 23, 2017

THE CHEF BEGAN SHOUTING OBSCENITIES AT TIM. (28)

June 5, 1963
       Monday morning I did some studying for my written FAA exam, then drove in town to meet Ed’s mother at the airport.  She had little Mickey, Tokay’s puppy, with her.  Mickey is a good name for him, as he isn’t much bigger than a mouse and weighs only five and a half pounds.  He’s a lovable fellow, but he doesn’t feel the way Tokay used to, all yielding and cuddly.  He can’t figure out what to do with his legs, so they wave crablike in the breeze while he tries unsuccessfully to adjust his wiry frame to the contours of your shoulder. His personality is much quieter and shyer than our darling’s was, but perhaps after he’s been with this not-so-quiet family for a spell, it will change.
     Mimi has gone to Boston today to look for a room.  I hope for her sake she will be allowed to have Mickey with her, but if not, we’ll be glad to keep him for the summer.  It will help to fill a tiny bit the unfillable gap left by Tokay.  The children who teased her into running out into the street are not entirely to blame.  I should have trained her to stay closer to the house.
Cohasset, June 17, 1963
     Mother wrote a poem about Tokay.  When Vonnie read it, she burst into tears and ran up to her room.  We are all mourning the loss of our little friend.  The house doesn't seem the same without her buoyant personality.     
                 In Memoriam                         
Here lies Tokay.  Be kind to her, oh sun,
Be gentle to her, earth; protect her, trees.                              
Let there be space in heaven where she may run—           
This little dog who only lived to please!

June 19, 1963
     Tim and Neil will be leaving for Martha’s Vineyard in a few days.  Ed and I are planning to spend the long weekend of the fourth at the Ocean View, bringing Vonnie with us.  We have put the boat up for sale, partly because we want to devote more time to flying and partly because, with our presence needed at home, we wouldn’t get enough use out of it to make it worthwhile.  We cruised with friends only twice last summer and realize we could get along fine, some day when we’re freer, with a boat just big enough for the two of us.
GREAT-GREAT AUNT MELISSA
     Mom asked me to have my picture taken at Bachrach's for her birthday present. Various critics who looked at the proofs thought I looked too sober, so I got drunk and went in for another sitting.  (Just  kidding.)  This time I managed to look, if not exactly cheerful, at least faintly amused.  I don't know why I have such a hard time working up a smile for posterity.  I guess I take after Great-Great Aunt Malissa, who gazes down on us with such gravity whenever we walk through the dining room.

Bachrach's retouching helps
camouflage stubborn witch
      I spread the proofs on our bed and told Ed to take his pick.  He studied them for several minutes, shifting them this way and that, then: "There's just one thing I can't figure out.  I can't understand how anyone who's such a complete, unmitigated, stubborn witch can look so young and innocent."  (He was annoyed with me because I've been opposing a deal he wants to  make with Tim involving Ted's old MG.)
June 21, 1963
     Recently my instructor was describing the procedure for a short field takeoff, explaining that in order to give myself the advantage of another forty or fifty feet, I should taxi onto the grass strip behind the runway.  Then I was to imagine I was in a field surrounded by tall trees.  To get the plane airborne as quickly as possible, I should start pulling back on the wheel much sooner than usual and climb at a steeper angle but slower than normal airspeed.
      I taxied onto the grassy area and pushed in the throttle.  As I went over the bump between the grass and the asphalt, Bruce gave the wheel a slight tug to minimize the jolt to the  plane.  Misinterpreting this gesture, I thought it was time to get airborne and began pulling firmly back on the wheel while we were going only 40 miles an hour.
     Airplanes don’t like to leave the ground in a hurry in hot weather.  The Colt, as baffled and reluctant as an old horse awakening from a snooze and ordered to “Giddyap,” staggered sluggishly into the air.
     Bruce uttered a startled exclamation.  “Barbara, look where you’re going!”
     The crosswind was drifting us rapidly away from the runway, but I was so addled that I didn’t know what to do about it.
     “Watch out for the windsock—whoops, we just missed it,” said Bruce as he took over the controls.  He lowered the nose to increase our airspeed and turned away from the trees that were racing toward us.  Within seconds he had the situation under control.
     “Okay, Barbara, let’s try it again,” was all he said.
      And he claims teaching dolts like me to fly is as relaxing as sitting at home in his rocking chair.
July 4, 1963, Martha’s Vineyard
     Mickey’s disposition is gentle and loving, but he has a stubborn streak that is surprising in view of his size.  This morning I walked into the Ocean View dining room with Mickey behind me on a leash.  I thought he was trotting docilely along as usual, but I noticed people smiling and pointing, and then Ed said, “Barbara, look at your dog.”
     Turning my head, I discovered that Mickey was on a sit-down strike.  Not enthused about entering a big room filled with strangers, he had thrust out his lower jaw and was coasting along on the hardwood floor on his hindquarters, looking like a dust mop with ears.
     I’m just beginning to recover from my mother-in-law’s latest visit.  I feel guilty about leaving Mrs. White to cope with her while I make my escape.  As patient as Mrs. White usually is, she is a quivering bundle of nerves after two days of Mimi’s nonstop garrulity and questions about our personal life.  I don’t ask her to elaborate on the questions she has to parry because I’m already wearied by the old girl.. 
     The only way I can retain my sanity when she follows me around, chattering about the state of her stomach (acid), or what she had for dinner two weeks ago that gave her heartburn, or when Mickey had his last bowel movement, is to close my ears, think my own thoughts, and murmur interestedly now and then to keep her happy.
     Recently, though, I tuned in on one of Mimi’s monologues and was rewarded.
     “As soon as the bathroom is free,” she was saying, “I’m going to take a shower and wash my hair and have a good scrub for myself I haven’t had a bath since I was here three weeks ago.  Barbara, at these rooming houses there’s only one bathtub to a floor, I don’t like to get into the tub with all those people, they never wash it out, I used to wash it out before and after but I got tired of that so now I just use a pan of water and give myself a sponge bath, then when I come down here I really scrub believe you me . . . “
     This time I was truly sympathetic.  I wouldn’t want to get into a tub with all those people, either.
September 30, 1964 
      Ed has been appointed to the Massachusetts Aeronautic Commission and is pleased with the honor.  On a business trip a few days ago he sat next to a man who'd been piloting a private plane for twenty years.  It was his opinion that flying was the greatest thing in the world, next to love- making.
     "I'd say he wasn't a true enthusiast," I observed.  (The third greatest thing in the world is making my husband laugh.)
June 14, 1964   
     We have rented a cottage near Katama Airport on Martha's Vineyard for the middle two weeks in August.  Ed and I had an unusual day last weekend.  We flew to Katama, a grass field  with four long runways.  We learned that you can taxi your plane  to a parking area a few yards from the ocean, cross a little bridge with your beach towels, sun lotion, and poodle, and voila!  an afternoon at the beach with no need to hire a cab or rent a  car.  All you need is your own airplane and a madcap personality.

Martha’s Vineyard, July 11, 1965
     Our vacation has been marred by bad weather.  At the moment I am sitting in the car with the rain beating down on the roof while Ed checks on Ted’s whaler to see if it is still afloat.  (“I expected to be boating today, not bailing,” he complained as he removed his sneakers and socks and sloshed off toward the dock.)
     Even Miette is tired of getting her feet wet.  After we bought the Sunday papers and returned to the cottage, Ed opened the car door and said, “Okay, Miette, out you go!”  At the sight and sound of all that precipitation, she stopped short, whereupon Ed gave her hindquarters a helpful shove.
     “Hey, Barb, look at this!”
      Miette, still refusing to cooperate with this “out-you-go” business, had not budged her front legs despite the push, and was now doing a front-paw stand on the edge of the seat.
      “Okay, you win, Baby.” Ed said, surrendering to her superior strength and carrying her into the house under his coat.
      Our cottage is a snug haven from the elements.  With its big fireplace and simple furnishings, it is the most charming place we have ever rented.  A stairway outside leads to a sundeck on the roof where I will sit—when and if it stops raining—and watch Ed come in for a landing at Katama Airport.  He can then taxi his plane--when and if it stops raining--to a parking area a few yards from the ocean, cross a little  bridge with beach towels, sun lotion, poodle, and wife, and voila! an afternoon at the beach with no need to hire a cab or rent a  car.  All you need is your own airplane and a flighty personality.
    
     Fourth of July weekend we stayed at the Ocean View, flew home Sunday to attend the Thaxters’ fabulous pool party.  We had not planned to go but were talked into it by telephonic cries of “You can’t miss it, this is the first party the Thaxters have had in three years, we won’t let you miss it!”
     To give an idea of the affair’s success, Sally was in the pool with her clothes on by 8:30, three wives were mad at their husbands by 9:30, and at least two couples not married to each other were observed playing games on the unlighted tennis court.
     Ed and I spent the night at the Brewers, since Jan, Walter, and the kids were at our house.  The bathroom adjacent to Betsy’s room, where we slept, has a step down.  This I discovered when I sailed through the air and wound up sitting on the floor with my back against the opposite wall.  I sat there laughing for quite a while until Ed requested that I come to bed, I was keeping him awake.
Monday
     Back in our cottage on the Vineyard, Ed and I read by the fireside until bedtime.  I was reading a funny novel based on the movie “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines,” while he was engrossed in “Everything but the Flak,” a humorous account of the author’s adventures in World War II. 
     “These flyers . . . “ (Ed sighed enviously) “ . . . they were nuts!  I could have been like them if I’d started earlier.  Still could—only you have to be a bachelor.”
     Not caring for the wistfulness in his tone I said with a toss of my head that that could be arranged.
     “It could?”   Then he leaned back in his chair and laughed heartily.  “Ho-ho-ho, I’ve got about as much chance of being a bachelor as yonder poodle has of spreading her ears and flying . . . ” (dots represent brief passage of time during which non-bachelor evaluates wife’s expression) “ . . . and I’m happy that way!”
     Corners of wife’s mouth turn up again.  Husband kisses her on top of head, puts another log on the fire.   
Oak Bluffs, August 15, 1965
       
     Life in this quiet little island town has been anything but quiet.  It all began when the chef at the Ocean View became irked with Timmy and started chasing him around the kitchen with a meat cleaver. 
     “Listen, Henry, I couldn’t pick up the eggs because the toast wasn’t ready, there were three people ahead of me on the toaster, you know we’re not supposed to pick up the eggs until—“
     Disregarding the presence of young ladies in the kitchen, the chef began shouting obscenities at Tim, surpassing all previous records for foul language.  When Tim said, “You can’t talk to me like that,” Henry grabbed the meat cleaver.
     Gene said later that the screams of the waitresses and the ranting of the chef could be heard not only in the dining room but half-way to Edgartown.
     Getting understandably nervous with this weapon hanging over his head, Tim backed toward the counter, picked up another meat cleaver, and said, “One step further and I’ll . . . .”
     “Now, now, let’s not lose our heads,” Neil Porta interjected.  Neil is responsible for the smooth and efficient running of the dining room, a task that requires the utmost tact when the chef is as nutty as a fruitcake.
     “Help, help!” Henry yelled.  “He’s gone crazy, he’s going to murder me!”
     “Maybe you’d better leave,” Neil muttered to Timmy.
     Tim dropped the meat cleaver and made a dash for the swinging doors, colliding with his employer, who was rushing to investigate the uproar.  Fortunately, our boy was vindicated by a dozen witnesses who assured the boss that Henry was not exaggerating about the chase with the meat cleaver, he just had the facts backwards.
     Gene decided he would have to fire the chef, but he didn’t want to let him go until he found someone to replace him.  This could take two or three days, so he had to pretend to fire Timmy in order to pacify Henry.
     Indignant about this injustice, Timmy was going to bring charges against the chef but was discouraged by the police chief, who said Henry would only bring counter-charges.  “You shouldn’t have picked up the meat cleaver.  Next time let him hit you, then bring charges.”
     That boy never thinks ahead.
     Meanwhile, back in the kitchen the chef was indulging his taste for four-letter words and temper tantrums that had the waitresses alternately blushing or in tears.  If there’s one thing Gene likes less than a homicidal chef, it’s five hysterical females.  Begging the girls to calm down, he said he would fire Henry and take over the cooking himself.
     Henry reacted to his dismissal with his usual lack of grace and printable language.  Swearing vengeance, he marched down to the police station and announced that he was filing charges against:  that *$;)%^#+* Porta bastard for breach of contract; that *$^;%#*=% Malley bastard for assault and battery; and that thief Tim Porta for stealing a bottle of whiskey from his room.  The police threw him out bodily.
     This was Wednesday.  Late yesterday afternoon I returned to the cottage after a walk to the market, and as I unlocked the door, the phone rang.
     “You just caught me,” I said to Ed.  He was telling me he wouldn’t be able to fly over that night because of the fog, when Moppet started barking.  Looking through the window I saw a seedy-looking individual rounding the bend on the lane leading to the cottage.
     “Hold the line,” I said to Ed.  “I want to lock the door.  There’s a man coming, and I don’t like his looks.”
     I latched the screen door and ran to the window.  The man had swung around and was heading back toward the road,  waving his arm irritably in Moppet’s direction as if to say, “Okay, okay, stop your yapping, I’m leaving.”
     Ed insisted that first of all I call the police and secondly spend the night at the hotel.
     I was unable to furnish much of a description to the officer who arrived shortly afterward.  My glimpse through the pine trees had been very brief.  I thought the fellow was of average height and build and perhaps wearing chinos.  It seemed to me that he lurched around as if he were drunk.  The back of his head I would know anywhere—it was balding with a fringe of straight black hair.
      I walked over to the hotel and asked Gene what the chef looked like.
     “He’s a short, fat Lebonese type,” he said.  “No, he doesn’t drink.”
      Hey, wait a minute, there’s an inconsistency here!  Time out while I call Grace and ask her how come Henry had a whiskey bottle in his room if he doesn’t drink.
     Report from Grace:  They thought he didn’t drink, and as far as they knew he didn’t drink on the job, but they had since heard that he was no teetotaler.
     To wind up this bottled-in-James-Bond suspense story, Ted was so disturbed when he heard about my poodle-shy caller, he brought a revolver to the cottage the next night.  He tried to show me how to load it, but I was not an apt pupil, not wanting to touch either the gun or the clip.  So he left it on my bureau with a bullet in the chamber and the safety on.
     “To shoot, all you do is point like I’m pointing my finger, and pull the trigger.  Only listen, Mom, I might pop in some night looking for the car or something, so just make sure who you’re shootin’!”
     Well, of course I’m too smart to shoot anyone.  What I’d do is wait until the intruder assaulted me, then walk down to the station to file charges.  
 Martha’s Vineyard, September 9, 1965
     Last weekend, resisting the temptation to stay home and get into trouble at Sal’s cocktail party, Ed and I flew to the Vineyard.  We spent three days at the Ocean View, ended up feeling wonderfully healthy and un-hung over.  The weather was sunny but cool—cool enough so that a hot bath felt delicious after our final swim of the afternoon.  Luxuriating in the tub Saturday night, Ed said, “Well, I can’t stay here forever.  At the count of three I’m getting out.  One . . . two . . . three . . . four-five-six-seven-eight!”
     His next problem involved a decision about our dwindling supply of Vodka.  Mindful that the next day was Sunday, he wondered whether we should buy a pint on our way to the Dune’s Restaurant or wait until after dinner and risk finding the liquor store closed.  Still undecided as we walked out to the car, Ed proposed that we leave it up to God:  if the liquor store was closed by the time we finished dinner, it would be sort of a sign.
     Mulling this over, I said, “I think we ought to get the Vodka before dinner.”
     “God has spoken,” was Ed’s hushed and reverent response.  I have just heard from his emissary.”

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