Tuesday, August 1, 2017


October 2, 1959
     For the first time in months and months I am alone in the house. Timmy will be home before long, but even an hour to myself is unique to the point of being precious. Kathryn is baby-sitting for Mrs. Tosi, and Mother and Vaughan are on their way to Vermont to visit Aunt Alma. There’s no one around to ask questions or tell me something’s wrong with the garbage disposal. Even the telephone is silent; all I can hear is the distant cacophony of gulls circling above the cove, the rustle of waves unfurling on the beach, and under my nose, the scratch of pen on paper. Soothing, undemanding sounds . . .
     A few days ago Kathryn complained that the cap for the bottom of the flour bin was missing. Taking a poll of the family, I tracked down the flour bin cap snatcher, Timothy. “It’s upstairs on my desk,” he said. “I’ll bring it right down.”
     “May I ask what you were doing with it?” Ed asked with a certain wary curiosity.
     “Oh, I was just doing an experiment with some flour and a candle. You take a coffee can and punch a hole in it and put a rubber tube through the hole. Then you put a dish of flour inside the can and a candle next to it. You light the candle, put the top on the can, and blow through the tube.”
     “And then they cart you off to the bughouse?” I said.
     “No, you get this beautiful explosion,” Timmy explained, quite pleased with himself.
     Ed looked at me and said numbly, “He could have blown up the whole house.” I thought he was exaggerating, but he said even a small amount of flour under compression is a dangerous concoction.
     I suppose someday when Tim is a famous nuclear physicist, we’ll look back on this incident and laugh, if we’re still in one piece.
October 14, 1960
     When I was shopping at Tedeschi’s yesterday, a voice came over the loudspeaker asking the owner of a black Ford convertible (I had Ed’s car, so I pricked up my ears), license number H666, to come to the courtesy desk.
     “Maybe it’s something pleasant,” I thought, “like `Because you’re our one millionth customer, we are giving you a new Thunderbird, this full-length mink coat, and a trip to Paris!’”
     Au contraire. The man at the courtesy desk told me I had parked my car in such a way that the car beside it was blocked. An agitated woman was waiting for me in the parking lot. Her car had just been painted, and she hoped I could back out successfully, although she doubted it because our fenders were practically touching, and how I had managed to park so close without scraping her fender she couldn’t imagine.
     I moved the Ford to the tune of gasps, squeals, and prayers emanating from this bundle of nerves and returned to the store. I was looking for the family-sized packages of English muffins when a man tapped me on the shoulder and said I had made off with his cart. Perhaps I’d prefer mine, which I had left yonder at the end of the aisle.
     To round out the day, Ed was mean to me. He was preparing to finish a repair job he’d begun on the bathroom light last weekend. “Of course you saved that little nut I left in the globe,” he said.
     I said, “You mean that tiny weeny roundish thing?”
     “You didn’t throw it away!”
     I allowed as how I might have. I remembered hearing something drop when I picked up the globe to wash it. It was possible I might have tossed out whatever it was.
     “Oh, this urge to clean,” Ed said. “How am I going to fix the damn thing now, tell me that! You women and your urge to clean!”
     He stomped out of the kitchen and I yelled after him, “What do you mean, urge to clean, I have no urge to clean and it’s a good thing I don’t or I couldn’t live in this house, why didn’t you fix that light six months ago when I first asked you to, boy, I wonder how many women could stand living in a house where things don’t get fixed for years!”
     After I’d simmered down a bit I remembered it was his birthday and he was going to take me out to dinner. I decided to forgive him as soon as I could without losing face.
     I was reading the paper when I heard him come down and stand behind me in a way I could tell was repentant. He didn’t say anything, so I didn’t say anything, not wanting to lose face. Then he started upstairs. Mustering a pleasant tone of voice, I called, “How’s it going?”
     “Oh, fine!” he said, sounding startled.
     When he came down again he said with a grin, “Guess what! I’m smarter than I thought I was. When I took that fixture apart last weekend, I remember I said to myself, `If I leave this nut where the nut I married can get her hands on it, she’ll throw it away.’ So I screwed it into the rim, and there it was when I looked for it.”
     Ed had insisted I shouldn’t get anything for his birthday because we couldn’t afford it, but I wanted him to have something to open, even if it was made of plastic and cost a dollar and a half.
     I gave him his present and told him we were going to play twenty questions.
     Ed put down his paper and took up the challenge.
     “One, is it something for the boat?”
     “Aha!” said he. “You never thought I’d get there that fast, did you!”
     After several more questions he established that it was something you would use in an emergency, not necessarily at night, and although it felt like a cranberry scoop, it was not a cranberry scoop. (I had told him not to feel it, but the closer he got to the twentieth question, the more he cheated.)
     I gave him a hint. “What is the biggest emergency we could possibly have on the boat?”
     “We’re sinking.”
     “An inflatable life preserver!” he said.
     “Cranberry scoop was closer.”
     In the end he gave up and tore off the wrappings.
     Oh, for heaven’s sake!” he said. “I thought it was something expensive!”
     “You toild me not to get something expensive!”
       “I didn’t know you’d take me up on it. Well, it’s a very nice bailer.”

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