Jean-Claude Beauvais, a story
Book 5 - New York Revisited
Chapter 105 Jean-Claude, Jean-Claude, I see a palus.
I woke up. The city had come awake with its day sounds. I moved my leg, a little, but evoked no reaction from Dashiell.
I opened my eyes. Ollie stared at me in the dimness, under the comforter.
“Was there a storm?” I whispered.
“Why are you in here?”
“Louis got up and left.”
“He got up?”
“Yes. He got up, showered and left. I came in here and got in bed with you and Dashiell.”
Dashiell asked, “What’s the matter?”
I said, “Louis got up?”
“Louis got up?” Dashiell repeated, “What does he mean?”
“I don’t know.”
“Ollie. Where did Louis go?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
Ollie turned over and pressed his back against my belly. I raised my arm over him; he pulled my wrist to him, adjusting my arm to his comfort and security.
I heard ‘Twilight Time’ seep through the comforter.
“I hear a piano,” Ollie whispered.
“‘Twilight Time’,” I said.
Dashiell said. “And so, Detective Jean-Claude Holmes and Doctor Olivier Watson, let’s go back to sleep. It’s too early.”
I woke up later, when I thought I heard a knock on the door.
“Come in,” I yelled, pulling the comforter from over my head.
Jacob appeared in the blinding morning light.
“Yes?” I asked, blinking and trying to focus.
“I thought you might want to wake up.”
“What time is it?”
“We’ll be down for breakfast in a half hour. I’ll see what’s going on, then.”
“Your young guests from yesterday are in the lounge with Louis.”
“What on Earth are they doing?”
I squinted, trying to focus on Jacob, in the doorway.
“Louis is showing them his photographs.”
“By the way, thanks for waking me up.”
He closed the door quietly.
“Well, Tiger. It looks like the day started without us. We’ll have to hurry and catch up.”
“Hey, Sherlock and Holmes,” Dashiell moaned, “You guys hurry and catch up. I’ll stay here and look out for submarines.”
“Where are the submarines?” Ollie queried.
“There are no submarines, Ollie. He’s joking; you can’t look for submarines, with your head under a comforter. What he means is, he’s staying in bed and going back to sleep.”
Ollie got the joke and laughed.
“Let’s go, Tiger,” I said, nudging Ollie toward the edge of the bed. “Let’s get cleaned up, have breakfast, and see what Louis… what everyone else is up to.”
Ollie lifted the comforter, tossing it over my back and send a cool breeze Dashiell’s way.
“Easy,” Dashiell moaned.
Sometimes, I could feel pain, hearing Dashiell’s moans.
“I didn’t mean to hurt him,” Ollie said.
“You didn’t hurt him,” I replied. “You gave him some cold air, while he’s trying to go back to sleep.”
“It’s okay. I should get up, anyway. I could use some breakfast.”
“Me, too,” Ollie agreed.
“Well, let’s get cleaned up and have a nice breakfast,” I urged.
Dashiell reached over and tickled Ollie, who squealed and jumped out of bed, inadvertently taking the comforter with him.
“I guess I’m awake, now,” Dashiell said, stretching.
“I guess so,” I added.
“Me, too,” Ollie said, darting to the foot of the bed, to tickle Dashiell’s and my feet.
When we started laughing, he ran for the door; it closed behind him.
“He’s a lot of fun,” Dashiell said.
I sat up. “Almost ten o’clock. I think we slept through the Carnegie Deli stop over.”
“We can go tomorrow,” Dashiell said, “Good sandwiches… especially those heavenly corned beefs and pastramis.”
He stood up, pushed up on his toes and lowered himself, then bent to touch his toes.
“Ah. A ‘good’ stretch after a ‘good’ sleep feels good.”
I looked over at him.
“Good.” I continued his repetitions of ‘good’ with a little smile.
I held the bathroom door for him, making sure he didn’t slid back into the bed. In the past, he has bamboozled me into the shower, and he went back to bed.
I was into the shower after him. We soaped, he sang a few tunes, and we rinsed, dried, and dressed.
Dashiell went downstairs for breakfast and I went to help Ollie catch up for breakfast.
Still no answer.
I opened the door, heard young voices, walked across the boys’ room, and opened the curtains. The kids were sprawled out on chaises in their bathing suits, soaking up the shade in the morning air, discussing who-knows-what.
The chaise loungers all faced the aft end of the boat.
They were entertaining. With so much to say, they had established a vocabulary of hand manipulations, pointing, facial expressions, and body language. As I watched, I thought of a meeting of the Braille Schools from Sweden, Portugal, and France. Nevertheless, they knew what they were talking about, or they thought they knew. I guess that’s all that mattered.
I closed the door quietly and heard Ollie singing softly in the bathroom.
Ollie stood facing me.
“How are you doing, Tiger? Will you be ready for breakfast, soon?”
“I’ll get dressed, as soon as I’m done drying between my toes.”
“I’ll go downstairs. Dashiell is already there. I’ll wait for you, before I have breakfast.”
“I’ll be there in a minute.”
I knew a minute wasn’t reasonable, but for Ollie, a minute was more a relative idea, than a temporal detail.
I went downstairs to the dining room, where Dashiell was reading the paper and working on the last nibble of some kind of apple breakfast sweet. Macaulay poured coffee.
“Thank you, Macaulay.”
“What’s new in the world, Dashiell?”
“de Gaulle wants to be president.”
“You made it to breakfast, but Ollie is a no show.”
“He’ll be here in a minute. I asked him and he said, ‘I’ll be there in a minute.’ He was drying between his toes.”
Dashiell laughed; Ollie walked into the dining room.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
“You said you’d be here in a minute.”
“Well, here I am,” he said, bouncing across the room.
“Yes. You are here,” Dashiell said, suppressing laugh in his voice. “Sit down.”
Jacob pushed Ollie’s chain in and Dashiell pushed the tray of sweet rolls across the table toward Ollie. “Eat one of these apple things. They’re great.”
“Leave one for me,” I added.
Ollie moved the bottom of the newspaper away from my plate and put a sweet roll on my plate.
“Do you think de Gaulle will be president?”
“He’s certainly popular.”
I put the paper down and sipped my coffee.
“Will you read the comics to me, please?”
“Okay. After I finish my sweet roll and coffee.”
I looked through the sections of the paper I had for the comics but I didn’t have them.
“I don’t have the comics. If you can find them, I can read them.”
Jacob handed Ollie the comic section.
Ollie was ready with his comics on his plate.
I finished my coffee and turned to Ollie.
“Okay, Tiger. Let’s see about those comics.”
Ollie beamed at me and passed the comics.
“Because we had breakfast so late, let’s go to the lounge, so Macaulay can prepare the dining room for lunch.”
Ollie, me, and the comics left the dining room. We stopped in Dashiell’s open studio doorway to see what he was doing.
“What are you up to, Dashiell?”
Ollie walked between Dashiell and his canvas to see what he was drawing.
Before Dashiell could say anything, Ollie announced, “I saw him, yesterday.”
“The boy, in the park, with the funny hat.”
“What boy in the park?” I asked.
“Peter Pan,” Dashiell said.
I added, “‘All children, except one, grow up’.”
Ollie head popped from the side of the canvas and asked, “Who didn’t grow up?”
His big eyes aimed straight at me.
“Peter Pan,” I said.
“Who’s he?” Ollie snapped.
“The boy who never grew up,” Dashiell said from behind the large canvas.
Ollie disappeared behind the canvas again.
“Ollie, I said. “You never heard the story of Peter Pan?”
His head popped around the side of the canvas, again.
“No,” he said with the obligatory eyelash flapping.
“You won’t miss hearing about Peter Pan.”
Dashiell asked, “What are you doing, this morning, Jean-Claude?”
“After the comics, some piano exercises… Ollie will probably do his numbers.”
“Let’s go Ollie.”
Ollie and I left Dashiell’s inner sanctum and went into the lounge for our morning rituals, Ollie to his numbers and I to my keyboard exercise.
My morning exercises morphed into a conversation between Swedish, Portuguese, and French children’s voices. The different languages’ sounds and rhythms, added to the overt enthusiasm of youth, intrigued me. I polished my realization and at last, felt complete with my piece. I played it one last time before I transcribed it to paper.
“Children, Before A Statue of Peter Pan” was the title before I started transcribing it.
I went to my desk, passing Ollie, still working loudly on his numbers. I don’t know how I could concentrate on my music with his babbling away talking to his numbers and number stick, but when I was working, I was oblivious to most external sounds.
I pulled out a wad of music paper from the file cabinet, sat down at my desk, and looked for my inkbottle. I couldn’t find the brand I usually used. I shook a new bottle of a different brand of ink, a bottle of Quink… catchy name. Dashiell bought this ink, in Marseille and dropped it in the desk drawer. I had never used it before. I carefully opened it, dipped my pen, and drew a few lines. I dipped again and wrote a few words. Not too much drag and it didn’t skip. I tossed the soiled test sheet and addressed a fresh sheet of music paper, beginning with the title on top of the sheet.
I worked steady, until Jacob arrived, announcing lunch would be ready soon.
Ollie came to me.
“Shall we go clean up for lunch?”
“You run ahead of me. I will meet you here in a few minutes.”
I continued to work, completing the piece. I left the final sheet, still wet with ink, and ran up the stairs to clean up for lunch and return to the lounge.
I eased into the lounge where Ollie waited for me.
“I’m not very hungry.”
“I’m not very hungry, but we’ll show up and nibble a little. We’ll be leaving after lunch for the tour boat ride.”
“Will I like it?”
“Did you like the tour bus ride?” I asked. “Remember the bus, where we rode in the upstairs seats with no roof?”
“It was neat.”
“Then you’ll like the boat ride, too.”
“You’ll get to see Mon Grandpapa from the East River. The tour boat goes past Mon Grandpapa a couple times a day, with all the people on it.”
“I’ve seen it,” he said, “but never expected to ride on it.”
“This afternoon, we’ll ride on it,” I said. “Remember to bring your camera.”
“Are the Galegos and Karlsen kids going with us?”
“If their parents say they can go with us, they’ll go; otherwise they won’t go.”
I opened the door to the hallway.
We walked past the opened door to Dashiell’s room.
Ollie ran in to see how Peter Pan was progressing.
“It’s gone,” he said. “This is not it.”
“What does it look like?”
“I don’t know, but it’s not the boy in the park.”
“Okay. Come on. You can ask Dashiell about Peter Pan at lunch.”
I opened the dining room door and Ollie and I went to the table. Immediately, I saw Louis was not here for lunch.
The Tissots and Monsieur Laurent shook their heads.
I looked at Dashiell.
“I have no idea.”
“I have an idea,” I said, getting up from my chair.
“I’ll be back in a minute.”
I went upstairs to the boys’ stateroom and to the aft deck, where everyone was having a fine time passing snapshots around and discussing the pictures.
“Louis, tell them it’s time to go home for lunch and to clean up to go on the boat tour this afternoon.”
“I’m sorry. I forgot about lunchtime.”
“I can tell them it’s time to go home, but I don’t think I can tell them about the boat trip.”
“Okay. Tell them to go home. Then, you get out of your bathing suit, clean up for lunch, get into some casual clothes for this afternoon, and come downstairs for lunch.”
He turned away from me, and making sounds and words, he urged his peers to go home. They were quick on the uptake. Once they understood, they were moving through the stateroom and down the stairs to the gangway.
When the last child left the deck, Louis turned to me and said, “I’m really sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about,” I said, patting his shoulder. “Forgetting the time is simply no big deal.”
I held his stateroom door to open. As he walked inside, I noticed he had soaked up some Sunshine.
“You look like you may have a little sunburn.”
“I don’t feel any sunburn.”
“Anyway, you get ready for lunch. I’ll go downstairs and call the Galegos and Karlsens, about this afternoon’s boat tour.”
When I arrived in the dining room, Dashiell asked, “Where is he?”
“He had a deck party going with his Swedish and Portuguese friends. The friends are on their way home, now, and Louis is cleaning up for lunch and should be here soon.
I called the Karlsens and Galegos from the dining room. Both families were going with us.
As I gave the phone to Jacob, I said, “Tell the car company, we’ll need four cars, for the rest of our stay in New York.”
Jacob nodded and slid into the kitchen as Louis walked along the starboard promenade to the dining room door.
Louis walked in the door and sat down at his place at the table.
Monsieur Laurent asked him, jokingly, “Were you spending some quality time with the girls, upstairs, Louis?”
Louis’ ears, already tinged with a touch of red from the morning Sun, turned a very bright red.
“We were looking at snapshots,” he said, nervously, “I guess I forgot it was time for lunch.”
Noting Louis’ acute anxiety, Monsieur Laurent said, “I am kidding you, Louis. Don’t take it so seriously.”
Louis looked across the table at him and smiled, realizing it was a joke.
Dashiell changed the subject, “Are you ready for the tour, this afternoon?”
“I guess so.”
“How about you, Ollie?”
“Yes. Ready with my camera and film.”
Dashiell discovered Ollie was excited about the afternoon boat tour.
“What are you going to take pictures of, Ollie?”
“Pictures of what we see… and pictures of us on the tour boat… and I want some pictures of our boat, from the tourist boat.”
“You know what Mon Grandpapa looks like. Why do you want pictures of our boat?”
Dashiell nudged my leg under the table. I looked up at him. He nodded at Ollie.
I looked at Ollie, spreading cheese on a piece of bread.
After checking his bread and approving his work, spreading cheese, he set his knife down, looked up at Dashiell, blinked his eyes and said, “I want to see what tourist see, when they look at me, sitting on Mon Grandpapa. I always wonder why they look at me.”
“I don’t think you will find the answer to that question, but you may find the answer to a question you haven’t asked, yet.”
Ollie turned to me, pawed at my wrist, and asked, “What does he mean, Jean-Claude?”
“I didn’t ask the question. Ask Dashiell what he means.”
I watched as Ollie reached for his wine. He looked across the table at Dashiell, sipped a taste of his wine, and returned the glass to the table.
He stared into Dashiell’s eyes.
“What do you mean?”
Dashiell played along with him, reaching for his wine glass, sipping, and returning the glass to its place, theatrically, like Ollie.
“When you see the pictures you took, you’ll know the answer to a question you haven’t asked yet.”
“How can I know the answer to a question I haven’t asked?”
“Make believe you take four soup bowls and put them in the corners in a box. Now you put some water in one soup bowl. Next, you seal the box with tape, so I can’t see inside and cut an opening in the side of the box, so I can reach inside. Tell me to reach inside and tell you if one of the bowls is different. Do you understand, so far?”
“I reach inside the box and say…”
Ollie gazed at him.
“What do I say, when I reach inside the box and feel the bowls, Ollie?”
“That’s easy. You say, ‘there’s water in one bowl.’”
“I answered the question that wasn’t asked.”
Ollie announced, with a frown, “That’s the right answer.”
The question was, ‘is one different’. The correct answer would be a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. ‘There’s water in one bowl,’ is an answer to a question that isn’t asked.”
Ollie turned and looked up at me. “I don’t understand what he means.”
“Let me try to explain it.”
I retrieved my address book from my jacket pocket and a pencil.
“Okay. Ollie. Watch what I put on the paper.”
He looked at the tiny blue-lined blank page as I drew four boxes. In one box, I added a circle. I pushed to address book in front of him for his scrutiny.
“Here’s the question. Is one of the boxes different?”
“This one has a circle.”
“And, Ollie, you’ve given the correct answer to a question…” I paused, as Ollie smiled. Then I continued, “but not the question I asked.”
He looked puzzled.
“What was the question?” I asked.
“What’s different with one of the boxes,” he stated.
“No. The question was, ‘is one different’ and the answer to that question would be ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”
“Oh… well it was the right answer. You said so.”
“Yes. It’s the right answer to a question I didn’t ask.”
Dashiell added, “Tomorrow when you get your pictures back from the photo store, you’ll get the answer, the correct answer to the question that you didn’t ask. You’ll see what I mean when you look at the pictures.”
“Yes. If you don’t see the answer to the question you didn’t ask, you show me the picture and I’ll help you. A deal?”
I was certain Ollie was confused, but tomorrow, with the help of Dashiell and the picture, he might clearly grasp the idea.
“A deal,” Ollie said, reaching across the table to shake hands, with Dashiell, sealing the deal.
Ollie finished his bread and cheese and his wine. He ate his dessert of grapefruit sections.
Louis and Dashiell had a cream-colored pudding with red swirls, topped with whipped cream and a green candied cherry.
I leaned back and asked Jacob, “We’ll need thirteen tickets to the Bronx Zoo. Can you handle that?”
“They’ll be here by dinner.”
“Thank you, Jacob.”
I pushed away from the table and we rose.
“Be sure to go to the toilet. Cameras and film, sunglasses, sun lotion, and anything else you may want to take with you.”
“We’ll meet in ten minutes, in the lounge.”
Dashiell and I went to our stateroom to retrieve our tourist accessories.
As Dashiell signed his autograph in the toilet, he yelled, “You ought to bring your fancy 3-D camera today and take pictures of the city. It may be a while before we return to the city.”
I went to my closet and retrieved the brown leather View-Master case.
“Good idea,” I said, handing the camera case to him as he came out of the bathroom. “Memories of New York, with family and friends, in 3-D, sound wonderful.”
“You’re the artist in the family and… furthermore, it’s your idea and I agree with your excellent 3-D pictures idea.”
“Okay,” he said, resigned to his picture-taking fate.
“If we need more film, we can pick it up anywhere near any of the tourist traps.”
When I returned from the bathroom, he sat on the foot of the bed, aiming the camera across the river towards Astonia.
“If you don’t want to do the camera thing, I’ll do it. I just thought it would be nice to have ‘your’ pictures, too. Most of the pictures we have are mine.”
“I don’t mind. It’ll be interesting to see the whole world framed in the viewfinder.”
“If it gets burdensome, just hand me the camera.”
Armed with sunglasses and camera, we went downstairs to the lounge. Ollie was there with his sunglasses and camera. Louis was still upstairs. I went to the table and picked up the calendar. I ran my finger to the next event.
“Our next adventure, after today, will be the Bronx Zoo, on Tuesday.”
Louis arrived, looking quite happy.
The seven of us walked to the cars.
The Karlsens and Galegos were ready for tourist-time, in two adjacent cars, close enough to the kids to talk between themselves, in Portuguese and Swedish, which still didn’t make any sense to me, but didn’t hinder their conversing.
Our boys piled into the car besides the Karlsens, broadening the flavor of the yelling back and forth between the cars to include two French voices.
The Tissots sat in the fourth car, with Monsieur Laurent in the front seat.
The four convertibles headed south along the East River Drive to Forty-Second Street. The motorcade turned west and traveled along Forty-Second Street through the heart of the city. Traffic slowed around Times Square. The four identical large convertibles drew pedestrian’s attention when we stopped for a traffic signal across from the library. Some people stopped and took pictures of us. Ollie stood up and took pictures of people, taking pictures of him.
Dashiell recorded the moment in 3-D.
“I want to see it, when it comes back,” I said.
“Do they make regular pictures of these 3-D images?”
“For a price, they’ll make a statue.”
He laughed, “Anything for a price.”
Victor stood up in the car beside us at the light and waved at the pavement picture-takers.
Half-a-dozen cameras went to faces, aimed, and recorded Victor’s image standing up and waving from the car. Victor’s image was a hit with the Portuguese and French delegations, too. At the next traffic stop, Ella stood and waved. Again, fascinated tourists took her picture to the delight of the others. The next traffic stop was the French boys turn. Ollie and Louis stood up at the signal by the Port Authority Terminal on Eighth Avenue. A passing bus of tourist slowed to take their picture, as they waved like miniature Olympic athletes, quite full of themselves.
The traffic signal changed; the boys sat down again. Their newfound notoriety immediately vanished amid four cars of laughter.
At Twelfth Avenue, we turned into the parking lot. The cars stopped and deposited us, before the gate to the boarding area.
We lined up. I handed out the tickets, repeatedly saying, “Don’t lose your ticket.”
We marched, helter-skelter, through the gate, waving our tickets and onto the boat. Jacob had acquired the third and fourth rows of seats on the outside deck.
The boat began to move, exciting Louis, Victor, and Ricardo, but not the others.
Ollie, who sat next to me through most tourist events, asked me, “Why is the boat shaking?”
“The motor is vibrating.”
“Is it okay?”
“Yes. If it wasn’t okay, the mayor wouldn’t let them run the boat.”
He resettled himself in his seat with one leg curled under him. Not happy with his leg arrangement, he knelt on his seat and looked at me to see if I was going to correct him. He knew I didn’t like him putting his feet on his chair at home. Because I didn’t say anything, he understood the tour boat was an exception.
Ollie stayed beside me for the entire ride around Manhattan. Louis migrated into the middle of the Karlsen and Galego kids.
As the boat turned to start its tour south on the Hudson, the PA announcer said all the safety stuff, which none of the kids understood. She went on to describe innumerable ships, loading and unloading. She spoke of the Grace Line pier and the Holland-American Lines pier, and The France Ocean liner, Île de France. The PA announcer read a paragraph from the paper about the enormous ship.
“At about 11.00 p.m. on July 25, 1956, the Île de France was on one of her voyages from New York to Le Havre. At the same time the Swedish liner Stockholm collided with the Italian liner Andrea Doria. The French liner received a distress call from the stricken vessel, but hesitated somewhat before telling the Andrea Doria that she turned her bow and speeded towards the given position. When the Île de France arrived at the scene, she could hardly see anything. The French liner’s captain came up with the idea to lighten his entire ship to see better himself, and to help the Italian liner’s passengers. He could now see what was the matter; the Andrea Doria was listing heavily to starboard, and the Stockholm – who seemed to remain afloat – had a totally crushed bow. Since the Stockholm did not seem to be a very safe place to be, the latter ship’s lifeboats shipped the remaining Andrea Doria’s passengers to the Île de France. At 06.15 a.m., the French ship prepared to sail back to New York and land her new passengers. The Île de France made a wide circle around the Andrea Doria and blasted her whistle whilst hoisting the French flag thrice in order to honor the doomed liner.”
We, adults, felt the gravitas from the Île de France, because we had read in newspapers, heard on radio, and watched on television, accounts of her harrowing sea rescue.
We passed Penn Station and the tunnel, but I didn’t hear or see anything about Penn Station and the tunnel to Jersey, the south, and the west.
I remember seeing the steel company in Hoboken.
The PA banter continued non-stop.
We approached the south end of the island and started to turn to port. The Statue of Liberty was on our starboard side, exciting the kids.
The tall-masted ships stirred all our young mariners’ passions. I had forgotten they were there. The tall-masted ships became a must-be-added-to-the-calendar event.
We passed the massive Brooklyn Bridge. Ollie took pictures of the passing Brooklyn Navy Yard on the port side. Louis, seeing Ollie impressed by the great gray ships, made a point of not looking at the warships and looked ahead to Williamsburg Bridge.
The PA voice droned, “At one time, the Williamsburg Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world, with two levels of street traffic, trolleys, and subway lines.”
I passed the information to Louis, in French.
“Louis,” I called across the aisle. As I spoke, Louis crossed the center aisle, to stand next to me, holding onto a handle at the back of my seat.
“The voice on the PA said, this bridge, called the the Williamsburg Bridge, was the longest suspension bridge in the world with two levels of street traffic, trolleys, and subway lines. The trolleys are discontinued.”
“What are trolleys?” he asked.
“Trolleys are electric train cars with the rails imbedded in the street.”
“What happened to the trolleys?”
“People switched to the subways, because they’re faster.”
“The trolleys were slow?”
“Not as fast as subways. Trolleys had to stop at traffic lights, the same as automobiles and busses. The subways go fast and don’t stop, except at stations, for passengers.”
“We could go to the Trolley Museum, if you like. Remind me, when we get home to add the Trolley Museum to our calendar, in the lounge.”
Louis watched as a subway train crossed the bridge, overhead. Ollie took a picture of event.
Louis turned to me.
“Who is Monsieur Williamsburg?”
“I don’t know who Monsieur Williamsburg was. The bridge connects the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, on the starboard side, to Manhattan, on the port side.”
Louis returned to the other side of the aisle with the kids saw a large sailboat approach the East River from Newtown Creek.
A ferry in a slip on the port side provided interim interest for our young mariners. Shortly afterward, they spotted and announced the United Nations building, on the port side, simultaneously, in French, Swedish, and Portuguese.
Roosevelt Island came into view. We passed the skeletal remains of the abandoned smallpox hospital, which always reminded me of movie news I saw of Saint Petersburg after the war.
The 59th Street Bridge,” the PA announced, “has an elevator which takes cars and people to Roosevelt Island.”
Roosevelt Island was a pastoral wonderland on the starboard side, compared to the high-rise, angular buildings, in Manhattan, on the port side.
Ollie spotted the lighthouse.
“Jean-Claude. Jean-Claude. There it is,” Ollie squealed.
In my other ear, Madame Tissot was directing Monsieur Tissot’s attention to the lighthouse.
The lighthouse, as seen from our tour boat, became the foreground to a none-too-glamorous river view of Astoria. From Mon Grandpapa, the gray stone lighthouse stood erect, a bastion-like centerpiece, in a verdant city park.
Ollie stood beside me, looking at the lighthouse, in silence. Suddenly, he realized he had his camera with him.
Ollie took a couple pictures of the lighthouse. After each, he murmured, “Yeah,” apparently, pleased with his snapshot.
“If you like, we can visit the lighthouse, some day.”
“Yes. Very yes.”
He turned to me and delivered his impassioned plea, “Pleeeese...”
“You remind me, okay?”
Louis might remind me about visiting the Trolley Museum, but I had no doubt Ollie would remind me about visiting the lighthouse.
On the port side, my beautiful Mon Grandpapa, showed her Tricolor and courtesy flag at the end of the 92nd Street pier.
Mon Grandpapa’s horn blew, “Toot. Toot. Toot. Toot. Toot.”
Our entire party stood and waved.
I yelled to Dashiell, “I can’t see Captain Colander, but I know he’s looking with his glasses.”
Ollie took snapshots of Mon Grandpapa. Dashiell snapped pictures of the Karlsens and Galegos.
Dashiell added, “I bet Jacob is waving a glass of 1910.”
Monsieur Laurent said loud enough for me to hear, “I could use a little refreshment about now, too.”
I turned to him.
“Do they have refreshments on board?”
“I haven’t seen anyone with anything, refreshing.”
“Look at the aft of Mon Grandpapa and we’ll be there in the Jacuzzi bubbles, with a glass of something cool and refreshing, shortly.”
“Ah…” Monsieur Laurent gushed, “My kind of world.”
We motored past Mon Grandpapa, turning slightly to port, into the Harlem River.
We passed numerous bridges and Yankee Stadium. Dashiell and I recognized the stadium, but the boys didn’t.
“Ollie. Remember we went to a baseball game, the night before last?” I asked.
“Yes. They had a souvenir shop and I bought a hat and shirt.”
I pointed to the complex. “There’s Yankee Stadium, where we saw the baseball game.” Ollie aimed and snapped a picture of the sprawling stadium and parking lots.
“And where you left your hot dog in the souvenir shop. I bet someone was surprised when they looked at the shirts and found your hot dog.”
As we passed Randall’s Island, the PA droned on about the buildings, an Idiot Asylum, a homeopathic hospital, an Inebriate Asylum, a rest home for Civil War veterans, and a House of Refuge for juvenile delinquents.
At the words, ‘House of Refuge for juvenile delinquents’, Dashiell’s and my eyes met.
We said nothing, but felt a bonding to all children in shelters.
For a while, there were railroad cars parked along the starboard bank and apartments to port.
Ollie took a few pictures of a long coal drag train rolling south beside the Bronx riverbank.
The array of different bridges intrigued me. At a distance, close by, and underneath, they were all remarkable mathematical adventures.
As we passed under the University Heights Bridge, I thought about interesting Ollie in the structure. I looked down from the bridge, passing overhead, to Ollie ‘sitting’ on my lap. He was ‘sleeping’.
While I mused about bridges, he slipped my jacket around him, and slid his arm around me, between my jacket and shirt. Immediately, Grandpapa and my ride from Toronto came to mind.
I pressed my head against the top of his fluffy hair. Unlike Grandpapa and his cigar scent, Ollie smelled of bubble gum.
“He’s so sweet when he’s sleeping,” Dashiell said, in English.
“All the time… Dashiell,” I answered, in French. “My Tiger’s having an Ollie nap.”
Dashiell snapped a picture of Ollie asleep, wrapped in my jacket. Afterward, he smiled, “A little cat nap.”
We passed Columbia University and approached the Hudson River.
As the bow edged into the outgoing tide in the Hudson, the boat swung to port and motored south with Manhattan to port and New Jersey to starboard.
Ollie stirred as the angle of the sunlight shifted into his face, warming him, under my jacket. He rubbed his eyes.
“Louis,” I called across the aisle.
He turned to me.
“Ollie is awake. Would you please wet a handkerchief and bring it to me, so I can rinse his face?”
Dashiell pulled out his handkerchief and offered it, in front of me, to Louis, in the aisle.
“The rest room is downstairs,” Madame Tissot added.
Louis said “Thank you” to all involved, and left, searching for the restroom.
He returned with the dampened handkerchief.
Ollie looked up at Louis, squinting with the Sun in his eyes, “Thank you, Louis.”
“You’re welcome, little brother.”
I wiped Ollie’s sleepy face, refreshing him for the afternoon ride, down the Hudson, to 42nd Street.
Ollie stood up and stretched on his toes.
Louis yelled across the aisle, “You have any film left I could take a few pictures with, Ollie?”
Ollie picked up the camera case and held it out to Louis, by the straps, with a smile and the warning, “Don’t drop it.”
Louis said, Thanks”, slipped the straps over his head, and rejoined the foreign delegation across the aisle.
“What did I miss, while I was asleep?”
“A lot of bridges.”
“They all look the same.”
“They were all different.”
He looked across the aisle, apparently toying with the idea of immersing himself in the foreign delegation. He expelled a little sigh.
“What’s over there?”
He pointed across the Hudson at the trees lining the riverbank, in Jersey.
“Palisades Park in New Jersey.”
“What is a palisade?”
“The park… see how it looks like it is all trees, well behind the trees, are stone cliffs. The cliffs give the park its name.”
As I explained the Palisades to him, he sat down, looked, and listened.
“In the winter, when you look over there and the trees don’t have leaves, you can see the stone cliffs. They look like a giant stone fence, on the riverbank.”
He kept looking at me, as if he expected me to say something more.
“A palus,” I said, “is the old Latin word for a fence made from poles stuck in the ground.”
“Poles stuck in the ground?”
“Yes. Let me show you how it works.”
He was interested now for ‘Show and Tell’ time.
“Give me your hand.”
I took his hand, palm upward.
“Curl your fingers, so they point up.”
He started to bend his fingers into a fist.
“No. Not your thumb.”
I clinched his four fingers and bent them at his knuckles.
“Bend them at your knuckles.”
“Perfect. Now hold them and I’ll show you how a palisade fence works and what it looks like.”
I placed my boat tour guide on top of his palm, against his upturned fingers.
“Now wiggle your fingers.”
As his fingers moved, I explained, “Your fingers are a little fence, a little palisade. In the old days, the soldiers used logs stuck in the Earth… each pole was called a palus, and a line of them was called a palisade. The stone wall behind the trees, over there, resembles a palisade, a fence made from stone, resembling logs stuck in the ground.”
As my explanation stopped, he didn’t ask any more palisade questions.
Suddenly, Ollie started jumping up and down, squealing, “Jean-Claude. Jean-Claude. Look.”
Still jumping, he pointed. “A lighthouse. A little red lighthouse.”
Louis spoke to his peers about Ollie’s attraction to lighthouses. They may or may not have understood, but they did share some of Ollie’s enthusiasm for the little red lighthouse.
I asked the parents, “I think we should visit the lighthouses.”
They translated. All heads nodded their approval.
Dashiell took 3-D pictures of Ollie, posing on the tour boat, in front of the lighthouse.
As the boat went under the George Washington Bridge, Ollie pointed to the Jersey riverbank.
“Jean-Claude, Jean-Claude, I see a palus.”