Jean-Claude Beauvais, a story
Book 001 Prologue Born in New Jersey
Chapter 21. One of those times
He chuckled and said, “Good for you, two.”
“When will you be home. Your fans miss you.”
“Okay. I’ll tell them, tonight, at dinner.”
“We were thinking about looking at houses. Do you think we should, or should we leave that to Aunt Gizzie and Aunt Odie.”
“Don’t worry about that now. There’s plenty of time to find a house for you all.”
“Yes, and his nails are clean, too. You may want to tell Aunt Odie, about his nails. She worries, you know.”
He listened to Grandpapa.
“Okay. Bye. Bye.”
He put the phone in the cradle.
“You better not get me in trouble, being ‘cute’ with Grandpapa and Aunt Odie. She does worry all the time about our nails. I bet, when we get home, she walks up to us, and checks our nails.”
“Grandpapa knew I was kidding.”
“Anyway, let’s have dinner, now that we’re cleaned up.”
Dashiell and I were in our dark green dinner jackets, lawn cravats, and black trousers. Aunt Odie would have been proud to see us.
We went into the Dining Room and ordered dinner. I asked for the child’s portion. It was still too much for me to eat, but Dashiell came to my aid.
We didn’t see anyone whom we knew. Dashiell wanted to go take a walk outside, when we were finished. We stopped at the front desk for some money to take with us.
“Dashiell, I promised Grandpapa that we wouldn’t go wandering around town. I had better call him, to let him know we’re going for a walk.”
I sat down in the lobby, in a very comfortable leather couch. As soon as I sat down, I liked the couch. It whispered, “Nice to meet you.”
I picked up a phone, and called Grandpapa.
“Grandpapa. I promised we would not go out wandering around. We want to take a little walk. We have some money, so if we get lost, we’ll take a taxi, back here to the hotel. We’re calling to ask permission to go out for some fresh air.”
“Thank you. See you tomorrow for dinner.”
Grandpapa said to get money and put it in our sox, just in case.
We went to the desk, retrieved a hundred dollars in ten ten dollar bills, and we both put five in our socks, for safe keeping.
Out the front doors we went, free to roam, as we liked, in our dinner jackets and lawn cravats. We were quite the hoity-toity sight, even for the city.
About ten minutes out from the hotel, and we were already getting our fill of the city.
Dashiell mentioned, “We may want to get back to the hotel and rest up for going home, tomorrow.”
“Okay. You want to walk back or ride back?”
“I’ve had enough walking for the day. A ride would be perfect right about now.”
I flagged a passing hack, and we were in front of the Ritz, in a few minutes.
Back in our suite, we found flowers, lots of flowers. The card said, “We miss you. With Love, Your Fan Club.”
“They miss you, Jean-Claude.”
“Or Grandpapa is playing a joke on both of us.”
“Today was a long productive day. If we overlooked anything, I am sure Father Nick will let us do a re-take.”
“I asked him about that… he said to just call ahead.”
After a long sigh, I added, “Terrific. Then we are done, unless we decide to do more.”
Off came the cravats and shoes. After a few minutes, I was in my pajama bottoms, playing Clair de lune for Dashiell. He was sitting on a couch, his head tilted back, listening to my music. I started his nocturnes. He looked over and gave me his warm smile. It pleased me, to please him.
As I finished the last nocturne, I opened my eyes and saw Dashiell was asleep on the couch.
I lowered the keyboard cover, sat on the couch beside him, put my arm over his shoulder, and whispered, “Dashiell.”
I moved him, gently.
“Dashiell, time for bed.”
His eyes opened slowly. “I’m sorry,” he said, “I fell asleep.”
I kissed his floppy hair draped forehead.
He started to sit up. I rose to lift his hand, encouraging him to stand up. He stood up, put his arm around me and we started into the bedroom.
“I got to pee.”
We went to the bathroom; I raised the lid; he peed; we turned to go to bed; I flushed the toilet. We lumbered into the bedroom. Dashiell sat on the edge of the bed and fell over on the bed. I rolled him over… to make room for me.
I went to the toilet, turned the lights off, got in bed, and put my arm over Dashiell. He grunted in disapproval. I turned over, away from him. He turned behind me. His arm burrowed under my pillow, beneath my head. His other arm went over me; his hand came to rest in front of my face, on my hands. I kissed his hand. He softly purred and moved his forehead against the back of my head. Once or twice, he pulled me to him, arranging his body for maximum comfort through the night. All was well in this alien land of the Ritz, in spite of the traffic on the street.
The phone rang at six. My eyes popped open. I was eager for Dashiell and me to get home to Lake Pennyworth Place with our treasured art.
I started to wiggle a little to wake Dashiell.
“Time to get up. Today we go home.”
Unexpectedly, Dashiell said, “Thanks to Saint John.”
“You ready to get up?”
Dashiell locked his arms about me and whispered.
“You know I am never ready to get up. I could stay here forever.”
“That would be cool, if we were gods, but,”
feigning a sigh,
“alas, we are mere mortals.”
He let a little laugh escape and he tightened his grip on my frame.
The morning call to eat usually worked.
“Breakfast is calling.”
He unlocked me. I sat up on the side of the bed and stretched, looking out the window.
“Let’s get out of here.”
He slid out from under the comforter.
We were out of the bed, into the bathroom and under the shower in a blink. We dried, and dressed without dallying about. Dashiell called the Norwegians, but there was no answer.
We went to the breakfast room and saw the Norwegians eating breakfast. We made eye contact. A little while later, Gregors came over to our table, sat down, and we organized our trip home. We would take the tapes, drawings in two art portfolios, and a handbag. Everything else could go via Railway Express. The hotel would take care of that for us. Gregors called Lake Pennyworth Place and let them know we were arriving on the 9:20.
A while later, Gregors, Bjorn, Dashiell, and I got into a car, to go to Penn Station for the quick hop home.
We arrived on the 9:20. The snow, about a foot deep, covered everything at Lake Pennyworth Place Station. The train pulled away from the station, leaving us in silence, a beautiful white silence.
Approaching sleigh bells reinforced our joy of “being home.” The sleigh and eight arrived and we flew up the hill to the porte-cochère. Dashiell and I watched from the side of the sleigh as the horses danced in the snow.
Dashiell and I were delighted to see Daniel. We bounded into the office, hugged and kissed Aunt Odie and Aunt Gizzie, went into Grandpapa’s office, and hugged and kissed him, too. He sat us down and wanted to hear about our adventures.
Dashiell started talking about the wonderful images he saw in the chapels. He went on, at length, about how he tried to reveal a spiritual statement reflecting the chapel’s theme, in each of his art creations.
Periodically, Grandpapa would look at me.
Once I said, “I reflected on Dashiell’s presentation and created music to accompany it.”
Grandpapa’s eyebrows popped up.
“Like ‘Pictures at an Exhibition,’ but centered at Saint John the Divine and Dashiell’s drawings and not Saint Petersburg.”
Grandpapa exclaimed, “Brilliant.”
“That’s what we were aiming for. We don’t know if we succeeded, but we had a good time, giving it a try.”
We talked until it was lunchtime. We went to 401 and cleaned up for lunch. We entered the Grand Dining Room, bathed in our fans’ applause.
Dashiell sat down and turned to me.
“My chair feels more agreeable to my bottom.”
“You’ve been busy dropping your bottom in that chair to the point that you are wearing that chair out.”
I thought for a second and added, “Or do you say in English, ‘in?’”
“I don’t know.”
“Wear it out or wear it in… your butt and that chair have a working relationship.”
I laughed, quite delighted with my clever wording.
Dashiell laughed, too
“I suppose you didn’t notice how comfortable your chair is.”
“Honestly, I did, but I won’t admit it, now.”
We both laughed.
Aunt Odie came in and sat down next to Dashiell.
A Red came to our table and poured housewine.
Aunt Odie said, “Welcome home.”
We thanked her and spoke glowingly about how we were delighted to be home and how our bottoms found our chairs, so comfortable.
“Like old shoes.”
She sipped her wine.
“So what did you guys see, when you were in the city?”
“A musical called, ‘South Pacific.’ It was cool.”
“We took a carriage ride in the park.”
“We decided we like the park, but the city streets are very busy. The streets were interesting, but maddeningly busy.”
Dashiell said, “But they were interesting to see.”
“What else did you guys see?”
“Lots of the cathedral.”
She sipped her wine, again.
“You have any crackers at the Ritz?”
“No, but they had money at the desk, no doubt from selling so many crackers.”
Dashiell and Aunt Odie were not amused.
Aunt Odie said, “You know, we have work to do. I mean, find a place to live and learn to live like a family.”
I said, “That second part, ‘to live like a family,’ may be the hard part.
Dashiell asked, “Why?”
I replied, “Well, we have adapted to living here, but this is not the way a family lives. This is not how we will be living, this summer, after we move.”
Neither Dashiell or Aunt Odie said anything.
“Aunt Odie and Aunt Gizzie haven’t lived here like a family. The entire family has had to adapt to living here, as best they could. I lived in a one parent family, which is like a regular family, in a way, but not really, because I had no father.”
I looked at Dashiell.
“You had the most realistic family life of all of us, until they disappeared, and you were, like me, adopted by Grandpapa and the family.”
Dashiell popped me in the arm and, cringed away from me, for an instant, leaning on Aunt Odie, as if I was about to hit him.
He changed the subject.
“You would have been proud of us, when we went out, we checked our fingernails.”
“I am glad some of what I’ve been telling you guys is starting to pay off.”
I added, “We were so hoity-toity, walking down Fifth Avenue, in our dinner jackets, lawn cravats, and berets. People definitely noticed us. I remember telling Dashiell that we are special. That’s the way it is. We were born that way.”
Dashiell added, “We came from the factory that way.”
Aunt Odie laughed… “From the factory, you say?”
“Oh yes, Aunt Odie,” I said. “We were both stamped at the factory. Dashiell’s stamp says ‘Art Prodigy™’ and he says my stamp says, ‘Musical Prodigy™’.”
“Your minds are damaged from the city water.”
Dashiell went on.
“Jean-Claude’s factory stamp is easier to see, than mine. He’s newer than I am.”
Aunt Odie shook her head. “I never know when you, two, are kidding, or when you’re serious.”
“We don’t know, either…”
Grandpapa came in, headed to the table, and sat down.
“What are you talking about?”
“Don’t ask them, Papa…”
“They have city water on the brain.”
He turned from Aunt Odie.
“What are you talking about?”
Dashiell rose to the occasion.
“We were explaining to Aunt Odie, about our factory stamps. She thought we were kidding her.”
Grandpapa turned back to Aunt Odie.
“You know the boys are always very serious. They wouldn’t make a joke out of something as serious as their factory stamps.”
Aunt Odie knew she was outnumbered.
She changed the subject back to family life concerns.
“Then we agree that we are going into uncharted waters, and that none of us know where we are going?”
Dashiell and I nodded, in agreement.
The phone behind Grandpapa’s chair rang. He slid his chair back to pick up the phone.
Aunt Odie went on.
Grandpapa put the phone down and went, muttering, out the door to the Grand Hallway.
“But we understand it is in the interest of everyone, that we get along happily together. Right?”
Again, we nodded.
“Grandpapa’s way is for all of us to say what’s on our minds and not hold it in. That means that if I don’t like something that Gizzie does, I tell her, so she doesn’t irritate or anger me by doing it, again.” Sometimes, she tells me ‘I did such-and-such’ because of whatever…
“Now and then, there comes a time, when for the sake of togetherness, I have to overlook something. That is the price I guess I have to pay to get along. It’s painless. A matter of telling myself to be nice.”
I looked at Dashiell; he looked at me.
I said, “We can do that.”
Dashiell added, “Me, too.”
With those six words, we casually sealed an agreement for lifelong joy with our two aunts.
Five domed plates arrived; four domes removed; one stayed put. A Red turned and filled our wine glasses.
Aunt Gizzie arrived, shortly after lunch arrived and sat next to me, in Grandpapa’s chair. She lifted her dome, to the dismay of a nearby Blue, who retrieved her dome in mid-air. A Red scurried to pour her wine.
With the table service formalities finished, we settled into a happy lunch.
Dashiell leaned forward to speak to Aunt Gizzie.
“You know, Aunt Gizzie, it would be more family like to sit at a round table, big enough for the five of us.”
I said, “I can make that happen for dinner.”
“We could eat in the studio. There, we would be away from all the distractions that go on, here, in the Grand Dining Room and we would all eat together, the same thing, family style.”
“Good idea. Let’s try it for a while.”
Aunt Gizzie turned to Aunt Odie.
“Did you hear that, Odie?”
“No. What are you guys talking about?”
“Jean-Claude mentioned that it might be good to eat in the studio, at the round table, away from all the distractions of the Grand Dining Room and to eat family style food, like serving dishes and that kind of stuff. What do you think?”
Aunt Odie said, “Why not. If we’re going to be a family, we should start acting like one at the table, too. What do you think, Dashiell?”
Between bites, Dashiell added, “Sounds good to me.”
Aunt Gizzie said, “I’ll pass this by Grandpapa.”
I ate some cheese and bread.
Aunt Gizzie asked, “When are you, guys, going to show the world your tribute to Saint John the Divine’s cathedral?”
“At this time, the music is only on tape and in my head. Dashiell’s drawings are all rough. He will have to finish each of them. He is already talking about paint and canvas.”
“Then it will be a while before the world will see and hear your work?”
My dessert, one of Mister Allison’s delightful creations, a strawberry something, arrived. I am helpless, facing his wondrous bakery art. My first bite… heavenly.
I turned to Aunt Gizzie.
“I’ll begin writing my music in the next day or so, with the aid of the tape player and pictures of Dashiell’s drawings. We will have to get the photographer to photograph the drawings, so I can see what I am trying to say in my music. The music and drawings are keyed to the same index, in Dashiell’s portfolio.”
Aunt Gizzie sipped her wine.
“What does that mean, when you say ‘they are keyed to the same index’?”
I answered, between nibbles.
“Dashiell has his drawings numbered. He also has a list with the numbers and titles of his works, in his portfolio, and I have a carbon copy of that list, in my first box of tapes. Each drawing has a number. Each music tape has a number. The list has the number and a short description of the original art. This way, we are all together and not all mixed up. It is really easy to get mixed up, with something this big.”
Aunt Gizzie nodded, as she worked on Mister Allison’s strawberry creation.
As she finished, she mentioned, “The Ministry of Culture, Minister André Malraux, called. He saw, in the paper, you, two, were working on a project and he wanted to know how it was coming along. He said Mis’ess Malraux, Pierre-Gauthier, and Vincent send their best wishes.”
“Do you have his number?”
“In the office. He left a few of them. When you’re ready, I’ll call him; then Dashiell, you, and he can talk.”
“Terrific.” I turned to Dashiell and asked, “Did you hear that?”
Dashiell looked up from the last of his dessert, “Hear what?”
“Pierre-Gauthier’s papa, Minister Malraux called to find out how we were doing with our project. Mis’ess Malraux, Pierre-Gauthier, and Vincent sent their best wishes.”
Dashiell recalled, “We had a fun afternoon in the lake. I miss them now.”
As an afterthought he added, “I miss summer, too.”
Aunt Gizzie said, “Summer will be here before you know it.”
I said, “This coming summer scares me, now.”
Dashiell said, “Me, too.”
Aunt Odie said, “Changes are not to be feared. Changes are opportunities to open doors.”
Aunt Gizzie nodded.
They had both heard this before. Probably, something Grandpapa had told them.
I looked in Dashiell’s eyes.
“We ought to remember that: ‘Changes are not to be feared. Changes are opportunities.’”
Aunt Gizzie looked at her watch.
“Oh my, I have to get back to work.”
I asked her as she left.
“Connect us to Minister André Malraux, please.”
“You got it, Jean-Claude. Just stay there a few minutes and the phone will ring with him on the other end, in Paris.”
We spoke to Monsieur Malraux, but Pierre-Gauthier and Vincent were not home. He wanted to see and hear our work. Dashiell spoke to him, in French, without any difficulty. I was so proud of him. When I spoke to the Minister, he assured me that Dashiell’s French was far superior to his very French-accented English. I felt my chest puff up.
When we hung up the phone, we went to the studio. My tapes were there, beside my desk. Dashiell’s portfolio sat on the table, in his loft.
I looked at the boxes of tapes.
“Dashiell,” I said, startled, “I don’t have a tape player.”
Dashiell shot back, “Call Aunt Gizzie. She’ll arrange someone to get you a tape player, P-R-O-N-T-O.”
“Good idea, Dashiell.”
I picked up the phone.
I yelled to Dashiell.
“Aunt Gizzie is sending a sound man from the radio station.”
I played a few minutes. The afternoon Sun was streaming in the open curtains before the outside double doors to the balcony.
In came Benny, the soundman from the radio station.
“Well, I was in the city and made a set of tapes. They’re over there in those boxes. I need a way to play them.
Benny opened one of the boxes. He looked in one of the tape wrappers, inside.
“They’re all the same size?”
“How well do you want to hear them?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, you can hear them, like a table top radio, or you can hear them better, like a console radio, or you can hear them in Hi-Fi? Hi-Fi is as close to the same sound as the original as you can get.”
“I would want the Hi-Fi, yes, a good Hi-Fi.”
“Not the cheapest. Not the most expensive, but something in the middle that is serviceable.”
“Gotcha. I’ll have it in here tomorrow, or Sunday. Okay?”
“Excellent. When everything is ready, I’m ready.”
He was out the door as quickly as he came in.
I returned to playing this tune, that was stuck and still floating in my head, after a couple days. Veronica made it sound much better. When I least expected it, it started to roll around in my head. I played the tune and worked on it, making changes as they erupted, cascaded, or spilled out of my head and on to the keyboard. Satisfied with my work, I went to my desk, to write it, ‘Melody in F’. I finished writing. I took the manuscript to the piano and played it, adding a few notes to the paper, as I played. Satisfied, I signed and dated it.
“What are you doing up there, Dashiell?”
“Come and see.”
I bounded up the stairs. Dashiell had drawn a nude on a bed.
“You don’t know, do you?”
“If I knew, would I ask?”
“Is that what I look like?”
I guess I look like everyone else then, don’t I?”
“Not at all, if you know what to look for. Look in the corner at the title.”
I looked at the title, “A Person of Beauty,” next to his signature. “How can I tell it is I?”
“Trust me. It’s you and no one else.”
“I trust you, but you better pull that sheet over me, so I don’t catch a cold.”
“To me, you are very beautiful,” adding a little smile.
I hugged him.
“You are beautiful, to me, too, but really, I am just a plain kid.”
His smile widened.
“Not to me. To me, you are a magnificent, beautiful person. The rest of the world can never know who that person in the drawing is, or even if it’s a male or female. I know unequivocally, it is you.”
I squeezed him and gave him a kiss on his nose. He always liked that.
With that, we laughed.
I turned and looked at the drawing again. “Is that really I?”
“I never saw ‘me,’ like that before.”
“That’s the ‘you,’ I see all the time.”
“I would like to draw you, but I can’t draw a straight line.”
“And I can’t sing a tune on key.”
“Which makes us the perfect duo.”
I left his studio and went to look out the balcony doors. I felt something unusual inside me.
I sat in the fluffy couch. Its familiar embrace soothed me.
The hurting, deep inside me, returned… something was wrong. There was something very wrong.
“Dashiell. You have a few minutes?”
“I have a problem.”
Dashiell came bounding down the stairs and did a butt bomb into the fluffy couch, landing beside me with a bounce and devilish grin.
I immediately wrapped my arm around him.
He looked in my eyes.
“What’s the matter?”
“I don’t know. Something is terribly wrong.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Something inside me is really stressed. Something has happened, but I have no idea what it is. Please stay with me for a while, until it passes.”
He turned on the couch and laid his head on my lap.
He looked up.
“You have any clue to what this is all about?”
“None. But something is very wrong.”
Dashiell said, “Come in."
A Red popped his head in the door, excused himself, saying, “Sorry. Wrong door.”
We didn’t think anything about that, until a minute or so later.
“No. There is something wrong. Something’s terribly wrong.”
“I got a feeling, too. Let’s go look around.”
We left the studio, walked through the Grand Ballroom, and into the Grand Hallway. There was a lot of commotion, a lot of non-guests, by the office door.
Dashiell and I went to investigate. I heard Aunt Gizzie crying. Dashiell and I looked at each other. I quietly said to him, “There is something wrong.”
He replied, “You bet there is.”
We pushed our way through the crowd.
Aunt Gizzie extended her arms, in tears.
“Dashiell. Dashiell. Come here, sweetie,”
“Jean-Claude, sweetie, come here.”
The crowd parted, making way for us. We were bewildered as to why she was crying. We hugged her; our recourse to all tears.
Without a word, all questions became answered. Men came out of Grandpapa’s office, carrying a stretcher, covered in cloth. We knew what we saw, and would learn what that meant.
Aunt Odie joined us, in tears.
In the next couple of days, events moved quickly; time moved very slowly. Tuesday, Grandpapa took his place next to Grandmamma, my papa and mama. I looked at the snow covering the expanse allotted to Aunt Odie, Aunt Gizzie, Dashiell, me and others. I wondered which spot was meant for my burial… Dashiell’s burial.
I wondered if Dashiell noticed and wondered. I didn’t ask him. It didn’t seem appropriate.
Grandpapa would have so liked to have everyone have a glass of wine and a good song to celebrate his departing. I started singing “La Marseillaise” at the graveside. Grandpapa would have liked that. I sang it for him. So did everyone else there, including Dashiell, who learned to sing it, in his charming out-of-tune way, for Grandpapa, to please him for Christmas.
I will never forget Dashiell singing by the grave.
Formez vos bataillons
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons”
I cried so.
Dashiell was singing so out-of-tune and all I could do was wail along with him, equally out-of-tune. I hung on him and he on me. We supported each other, so we didn’t fall in on top of the coffin.
They started throwing the dirt on top of Grandpapa. I just wailed… Dashiell wailed.
Aunt Gizzie and Aunt Odie wanted to take us away, but I wanted to stay and watch it all. Dashiell wasn’t budging, either. So we stood there, in the cold, overcast, January, morning air, letting it all out. Aunt Odie and Aunt Gizzie waited in the car, with Bjorn and Gregors. We leaned on each other, sniffled, wailed, and whimpered. When the last dirt dropped on the mound, we shared a handkerchief, wiping our teary faces, turned, walked to the car in silence, and got in the back seat. Nothing was said on the way home, making the ride memorable for its road noise. My face burned. My eyes burned. I looked at Dashiell. He was in the same shape.
When we arrived at the porte-cochère, Bjorn opened the door, Dashiell and I got out, and helped Aunt Gizzie, Aunt Odie, and Uncle Maurice Denois out of the car.
Dashiell and I went into the studio and called for lunch.
Dashiell said, “Come in."
In came Aunt Gizzie, to lunch with us.
Her face reflected the sadness of the day. The three of us ate, but said very little.
Aunt Gizzie simply said, “We have a lot to do.”
She looked at both Dashiell and me, and continued.
“… a lot to do, together. I have a few things to take care of, right after lunch. When I am done that, we will have to start working together as a family, like we had planned.”
She patted Dashiell and me on the hand, in reassurance.
“I’ll give you a call about three and we’ll take a little ride. Get some fresh air. We have a lot to do. Okay, boys?”
Dashiell and I, in chorus, said, “Yes, Aunt Gizzie.”
“You can drop the ‘Aunt.’ Call me Gizzie.”
She left, pushing the service cart out the door, with the dishes on it.
Dashiell and I looked at each other.
“Toughen up. We will survive without a problem.”
Dashiell said, “I hope so.”
I leaned over, wrapped my arm around his neck, put my forehead against his forehead.
“I am certain. No doubt whatsoever. This is the change that makes way for new opportunities. Changes are on the way right now… cascading down the waterfall and the river is heading our way. Get ready. There will be lots of new stuff. All we have to do is pick out what looks best and adapt to it.”
Dashiell wasn’t convinced.
“Dashiell-Aristide, you have adapted to me. I have adapted to you. The rest is easy.”
I feigned a laugh.
It worked. He laughed.
We were on our way into new horizons.
I went to Veronica, intoning ‘La Marseillaise.’
Dashiell and I sang, as only he and I could sing.
Formez vos bataillons
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons”
When we finished, I asked him to stay near me.
“I need you near me now.”
“Are you alright?”
“Yes. I’ll get over it.”
I played ‘Clair de lune’. He gently rubbed my shoulders and neck.
Sometimes, a little touch means so much. This was one of those times.
(continued in Book 002, next Chapter 22 - Index)