[Here's the conclusion of B.N.'s story]
May G-d Bless And Keep You Always
Inez stood for an instant in the kitchen door, dressed only in Julian’s black silk robe. Claude was already up drinking coffee and there was someone named Patrick involved in preparing a very elaborate—something.
“Nutmeg?” he said cheerfully over his shoulder.
“In the cabinet over the stove.” Claude said not looking up from the paper. Claude cleared a place for Inez.
“He believes breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” Claude said to Inez.
“It is.” Patrick responded brightly, as he spun around cradling a bowl while whisking away the contents. He looked just like Tin Tin in the cartoon. Claude had moved into middle age somewhat gracefully she thought—perhaps not as gracefully as Julian but he seemed less strident, calmer. For years he had often struck her as facile and easily stirred—reading some new pop psych idea and applying it all over the room—the chairs, the door, the sink—everything would have a ridiculous reason something he read and just applied freely—this was honest, that was not—Robert Bly—beating a drum, half naked, or buck, inner children, howling men, sweat lodges, howling at the moon, nursing old wounds—facile—as useless as applying a band aid to the spurting jagged stump of the torn off limb. The question that pushed to the front of Inez' mind was why was he still here, living in the back of the house. But by all rights why not ask her why she was still in Flatbush, living over Mrs. Mermelstein.
At the exact moment Inez poured her mug full of coffee, Patrick started listing all the violations he had endured; immediately it was proving to be very tedious. With singsong authority he was explaining his issues in the work place; Inez doubted he had the need to work, or even a particular aptitude for anything. He may well have been merely showing up everyday to attend to the issues. The right to marry whom he chose, which Inez thought a remote possibility given what she was seeing—but she was not a morning person. He talked with strain, like he was pitching words over a fence. Long story short, he struggled, at a summer camp in the Berkshires and again at boarding school in Vermont. “It was painful very painful.” Oh God, Inez thought. Where’s Patrick, weren’t you watching him? Was the gate up? He just toddled out to stand out in the wide dangerous world—a four-lane highway. Had he never even seen a photograph of let’s say Babi Yar, Rwanda? Did he not also jump out of his skin when a jet passed overhead?
Her head was shot through with painful hoofs stamping—wild beasts. He looked at Inez for a response—which she had none, save to turn to Claude. “Tylenol?” she said flatly. “Hall medicine cabinet. I’ll get it,” he said.
Patrick kept talking. Enough, she thought, please, little one—shut the fuck up. Had she just said that, or just thought it. She was not sure. She looked at him to try to read a response—his eyes radiated the self-importance of a nocturnal creature that had just stepped into the night and had the whole jungle to himself—aroused glandular eyes—black and gold—shining.
He’s high. Inez thought.
She gulped the pills, chasing them with coffee. As they were standing side by side next to the kitchen counter Inez could not help but assess the age difference between Patrick and Claude. It was vast, decades. It made her feel grim and sad. In the never ending conversation that her mother had about this country, the city, and all the flaws of the American people, the goyim mostly, the neighbors sometimes, she had once turned to Inez when they were out walking and a man who had been feeding pigeons approached them. At that moment as he passed them on the sidewalk her mother added an item to the list: In America nobody seemed to notice that there was nothing in this life sadder than an old faygale. Her mother always used age as the great equalizer. Actually, Inez could think of a few things but for the first time in her life Inez had reason to recall the statement.
“So where’s Julian already?” Patrick asked smoothing the pocket of his light green pants. “Breakfast is done and I need to be pushing off. Tell him I left the shirt in the closet—it didn’t work for me. I’ll call him—have fun, gotta give her credit she keeps trying.”
When the door closed behind him, Claude turned to Inez and said, “You can tell Julian the coast is clear he can come out now. I am sorry. I better go check on Miranda.” He made “the reefer” sign with his fingers to his lips.
Her face went hot with hurt. No, Nathan was not the last blow.
In her room Miranda played on email
Ya ya sistas & bros—made it to Dad’s. Bored crazy. Aunt’s wedding—love my dress, shows da girls in their best light—ha ha. Gotta find something/somebody to do here. Hpe there are gr8 guys at the wedding—for real
I’m hot you’re not
Lov ya all.
She hit send. The machine made a whoosh sound.
Claude knocked at the door holding a sleeve of cookies two paper cups and a jug of milk. He sat at the bottom of the unmade bed. “Cookies for Breakfast?” Miranda flopped back against the bed. “They’re your favorite,” he says twinkling a cookie between his fingers. She felt for an instant outside herself—like she was outside her window and not actually in the room. She noticed she gets this feeling whenever she smokes that stuff that Emily bought from that guy on West 86th. It made her watch herself at a distance. Then, she feels like she is in an old TV sitcom, canned laughter, applause— Claude wanted her to just start pouring her heart out and then they’ll hug. Yup the whole tedious story right there on the tip of her tongue—like her mother wasn’t on the phone to her father, like her father just happened to forget to tell Claude—Miranda here forever. Mom is getting treatments so she may not die. She burst out laughing—“where’s the remote.” Laughter filled the room—like fistfuls of gold confetti.
“Oh by the way, I will play private chauffer to your SAT.” Claude said as he playfully tossed a stuffed toy rabbit from the dresser to Miranda.
The wedding was in the gardens of a former estate, a gray stone mansion up on a hill that overlooked the water. Julian walked Cleo down the aisles. At the reception the settings were ludicrous when they only meant to be witty. There was a long white tent stretched out on a lush green lawn. The reception felt subdued and dreamy—women gliding by with pastel pink and green drinks. Handsome waiters bearing trays of champagne. The tablecloths were trimmed in gold trim to match the guests. Miranda bounced and skipped on the sweeping lawn next to the elegant white tent. She was holding a glass of champagne and laughing a loud dirty laugh. Each time Inez looked she was gripping her father’s elbow and then reaching for a greedy grab at trays as they passed. When Inez stood next to them, Miranda leaned over and hugged Inez across the chest and placed her hard candy mouth right next to Inez’s ear.
Inside the tent Julian sipped the wine and watched dust sparkle in a diminishing patch of sunlight on the lawn. Maybe it was the wine. These small sips gave him time to reflect—sometimes he could catch a glimpse of himself, as he was, as he thought he was—either way they were nothing like who he had expected to become—all the photographs in his mind—untaken. Great art and artifacts had passed through his hands. Relics surely people had died for and some that had rescued others. Once he held in his hand a tiny Ruben, its sale saved a whole Jewish Family. Another time, he found behind the frame of minor Flemish painter a stash of letters—yes, lives were lived in his “transactions”
He was older this night, last week and a year ago, than his father had been when he died. What had this age given him anyway? Not new worlds—Not love, even that was a bawdy, freakish parade float of money or politics. He refilled the glass and his thoughts loosened a bit more—what we believe today we may not believe tomorrow or the day after. Surely, somewhere, he thought someone is on the brink of a very large truth, a new reality. In the bright light of the future a new truth will be spoken —one without hurts or wounds. He could hear sounds falling out of the darkness—the rustling of some beast crouching at the door. Pointless. Nobody knows. What makes anyone love her and not her, or him and not him? The truth for now is that we don’t want to know either.
With relief he thought that soon Claude would be stepping off the ferry onto the little island where the trees were knotted and stunted by the sea air. Tonight there would be parties with sangria and bluefish salad. Miranda would come crashing through the door—all that spun confection. He would let her into the world, just not yet. Cleo and her new husband would rise and fall to each other.
He listened to the music. Horses horses, imagined hoofs on the cobblestones—Fear? No, just footfalls.
In the back of the imposing gray Mansion there was a large bluestone terrace looking out over the water. Inez rounded a corner and went through an archway of pink fairy roses, a bower with the last bits of daylight breaking through. It stretched like a hallway and lush flowers hung like strings of beads, bits of costume jewelry.
What had the child said to her?
“You’re all up in the Kool-Aid and don’t even know the flavor. Don’t think my father is going to sleep with you. You’re not his type.” That’s what she said, leaking irony from both corners of her red mouth. All the coarse bravado, the carnal insight slashed Inez across her face like a straight razor.
Yet in this moment there were still the tender night noises, and the vista. Actually the view was maybe the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. The water so wide and dark, she knows she can’t cross over. The boats, sails waving like the banners of ancient tribes. Inez loosened her shoes and freed her feet to rub her toes out and hung the green silk scarf over the back of a chair. She waited, for the sea change, a hundred little crayon colored sailboats drifting past. How the boys gravitated toward her now, held in that orbit. Would there be many or few? Who could know? Which would stay, if any? Poor girl, little mouse, will be all alone. Inez waited; soon night would darken the world into an unrecognizable form. Tonight meteors, not planes streaking past would hiss and sputter as they hit the water.