Jean-Claude Beauvais, a story
Book 5 - New York Revisited
Chapter 91. Ollie looked to me for a translation
The boys walked by the dining room windows. Ollie was bouncing. They came in the door bringing bubbles to the dining room. Louis touched his finger to Ollie’s shoulder, immediately stopping Ollie’s bouncing for a second. Crossing the carpet from the starboard door to the table, Ollie resumed bouncing. He was so cute when he bounced. His curly locks flapped with every step. Every day, he more resembled a miniature Dashiell.
They sat down, planted their napkins, and began breakfast. The sweet rolls had apples, a delight to both boys and Dashiell.
“What’s planned for today?” Louis asked, between bites.
Ollie was still cutting his sweet roll.
Louis looked at him, rolled his eyes.
“You know, you can pick that thing up and eat it.”
“I prefer to cut it up with my knife and fork, instead of using my fingers. My fingers don’t get sticky and I can’t make a mess.”
Louis just rolled his eyes again, sighed loudly for a dramatic effect, and bit into his sweet roll.
Louis repeated, “Anything planned for today?”
“Today is a rest day, between fun days,” I said.
Ollie added, “Dashiell’s late.”
“Dashiell’s asleep. He wanted to sleep in.”
“Why can’t I sleep in?” Louis asked.
Without looking from the paper, I answered.
“Because you and Ollie have pillow fights and fool around as soon as you wake up.”
Louis sighed again, but this time, without the extra theatrics.
“Maybe we’ll do something this afternoon.”
We were going to go to the photo shop, to pick up the developed pictures. We were supposed to go to Macy’s for a toy that I owed Ollie and to someplace for Louis, which I forgot where, but I was sure he would remind me, if I asked.
I dropped the paper, stirred my coffee, and looked at Ollie, who was sporting a ‘milk moustache’.
I figuratively did a napkin wipe of my upper lip. Ollie understood and removed his ‘moustache’. It was funny to see, though. I didn’t dare laugh. That would have embarrassed him.
Monsieur Laurent emitted a breathy “Yesss” indicating he found a difficult word in his puzzle du jour.
Breakfast came to an end.
“To the pianos, boys.”
I went to the lounge and checked the calendar. Tomorrow … the science museum on Fifth Avenue, dinner at the Ritz, and take a carriage home.
Louis’ birthday in a couple weeks. He’ll be twelve. Almost a teenager. He’ll need a talk about the birds and the bees. Suddenly, the gravity of that came home to roost. How can I tell him about the birds and bees when I’m not sure about the birds and bees myself? I’ll ask Dashiell to help me. Somehow, we’ll get through the birds and bees. Gez. He doesn’t know any more than I do. We’ll manage somehow.
“Will you listen to my lesson, Jean-Claude?” Louis asked across the top of the piano.
I rose, went to the bench, stood behind him, and listened as he played his exercise.
“Perfect,” I said, clapping him on the back. He turned, looked up at me, and said, “I think Ollie wants to talk to you, but he’s afraid.”
“Nonsense,” I said, “He can talk to me, anytime and not be afraid. He knows that.”
“He may know it, but I still think he’s afraid you’ll be mad at him.”
“What does he think I’ll be so mad about?”
“Should I tell?”
“I guess not.”
“Ollie and I will talk in a little while.”
“Why don’t you go put on your swimming suit, do a couple miles on the treadmill, and toss your smelly self in the Jacuzzi? We’ll meet you in the exercise room or the Jacuzzi, after we talk. Why are you looking at me that way?”
“You’re not going to beat him up, are you?”
“Never.” I tapped him in the chest, very gently, for emphasis.
“I will never hit Dashiell, you, or him. Never.”
Louis’ eyes had tears along his lower eyelids.
“I love you all. All three of you. I could not do anything like that, ever. Never. Ever.”
He stood and hugged me. I hugged him and tried to reassure him.
“Off you go. Let me hear Ollie’s lesson.”
I left the lounge and went into the hallway, between the dining room and the lounge, where Dashiell’s studio, was, along with the boys’ playrooms, and Ollie’s piano room.
“How’s the lesson going? Tiger?”
Ollie looked with red eyes at me in the doorway. With a quivering lip, he tried to smile.
“I’m having trouble, Jean-Claude.”
I closed the door and went to the piano to help with the problem.
“Where’s the problem?”
I adjusted the lesson book on the music desk.
“I don’t want to play piano, anymore,” he said, breaking down and crying his heart out. Tears gushed from his big eyes onto his little face.
“Why are you crying?” I asked.
“Because I am afraid you won’t like me anymore and you’ll throw me out, into the ocean on the way home.”
I picked him up in my arms. He wrapped around my neck. I carried him to the fore deck and set him on the lounge, facing the Roosevelt Island lighthouse. I sat down next to him and looked in his big, red eyes.
“I need for you to tell me why you think I wouldn’t like you?”
“I don’t know why. I’m just afraid.”
“Maybe you won’t like me… if I don’t play the piano.”
“Dashiell doesn’t play the piano and I love him.”
“I never thought of that.”
“You know I love Dashiell. Don’t you?”
“You know Dashiell doesn’t play the piano. Don’t you?”
“What makes you think I wouldn’t love you, if you didn’t play the piano? Playing the piano is something to learn, if you want to learn to do that. If you don’t want to learn to do that, so what. There’s lots of other stuff, lots of other fun stuff to do, that’s also a learning thing.”
“If you really want me to, I will continue to learn to play piano.”
“Let me tell you the story of a little boy who had to learn to play the piano, then the organ. He didn’t like to play the piano or the organ, but his mother and father wanted him to learn to play it.
“One day, he was drawing a picture on the back of a shopping list. He got in trouble for wasting the back of the sheet of paper.
“He saved that paper, even though he got in trouble for drawing on it.
“Today, that paper with list on one side and the drawing on the back is hanging in the big museum on Fifth Avenue.”
“The one with the big steps outside and the two American flags?”
“Yes. It’s called the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”
“That little boy became a world famous artist because he decided he didn’t want to play the piano.”
“Would you like to see that drawing?”
“I could arrange for you to meet him, too. If I talk to him, I’m sure he could find time to talk to you for a few minutes.”
“Gez. That would be great. Would you? Please?”
“All I can do is try. Now, you go, clean up, and get in the Jacuzzi. I will go see if we can change our plans and go to the museum. If I can change our plans, I’ll see about arranging a meeting for you and that artist.”
He sprung to his feet, hugged me around my neck.
“You’re a great guy, Jean-Claude”
He planted a kiss on my cheek and vanished going to his stateroom.
I walked into the lounge and picked up the calendar. All was well.
I left the lounge through the hallway to the dining room. Dashiell was working on his late breakfast. I sat down with him. Macaulay was at my side in a flash.
“No thank you… just staying a few seconds.”
“Dashiell. We’re going to the Metropolitan Museum, tomorrow, Okay?”
“Sure. I could go there every day for a month. So much to see and take in.”
“Okay. And I have something else, too.”
“Well. Ollie told me he didn’t want to play piano, anymore.”
“Sounds like me.”
“That’s funny. I see more of you in him, everyday, especially, with that floppy hair of his. Anyway, listen to what I told him.
‘A world famous artist once had to learn to play the piano to make his father and mother happy, but he didn’t want to play piano or organ. One day he drew on the back of a shopping list and got in trouble. That drawing with shopping list on the back is in that big museum on Fifth Avenue. I told him I would show it to him’.”
“You are a pretty cagey fellow, Jean-Claude.”
“I do the best I can, Dashiell.”
He bit into his sweet roll, a strawberry creation, with some sweet cheese in the middle.
“Hmmm. Good. You want a taste?”
“I told Ollie I would ask the artist to talk to him about playing the piano, not playing the piano, and the other opportunities for pursuing your dreams.”
“That artist will be happy to talk to him about pursuing his dreams.”
He took another bit.
“Sure you don’t want the last bit?”
“No. I’m still working on my breakfast.”
“I’m going to the Jacuzzi. You may want to join the boys and me, when you finish here.”
“I’ll be out in a little while, with the paper.”
The telephone rang.
Jacob came to me, dragging the phone in one hand and the cord in the other.
“A Mister Bernstein.”
“Certainly. Do you want formal or informal?
“So it’s all set. Come in your jeans and flip-flops.”
I looked over to Dashiell.
He said, “Lenny is coming to dinner in his jeans and flip-flops.”
“You’re a pretty cagey fellow. Dashiell,” I said.
As we laughed, I left to go upstairs to change.
The water was warm and bubbly. I was happy to be with the boys. Ollie and Louis were their usual selves. Somehow, another impending disaster was avoided.
“I changed the calendar. We are going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, tomorrow.”
“Will I meet the famous artist, who stopped playing the piano to become a famous artist?”
“I was just in the dining room on the phone. Yes. He will be there. He said he will talk to you, privately.”
Louis seeing something afoot, said, “You are going to see a famous artist?”
Ollie, Mister Cool, said, “Yes. Jean-Claude set up a private talk with an artist who stopped playing the piano and got in trouble for drawing on a shopping list. The shopping list is in the museum we are going to tomorrow. We will see it, for real. And I will get to talk to the artist, too, for real.”
“Wow,” Louis said.
It was time to stop this conversation before too many details needed to be filled in.
“This afternoon, boys, we are going to take a little shopping trip to the record store to buy Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and a 45 rpm record player. You will have to buy a short pile of other records to play on your new record player.”
Ollie let out a squeal. Louis rolled his eyes and looked away.
“And Louis, you and I will go to the music store and buy a few easy pop tunes on sheet music, and some easy Bach pieces, so you have a sense of playing something besides the lesson exercises.”
Louis let out an ‘Où La La La,’ clapping simultaneously, splashing water on Ollie, who splashed him back.
“That’s enough. Now,” I said, trying to sound stern. The boys knew very well when I meant it and when I didn’t. The splashing subsided.
Dashiell arrived, with the newspaper tucked under his arm. He slid into the water, and asked, “How’s everyone doing?”
“Fine,” Ollie said.
Louis said, “I’m going to the music store to buy some sheet music this afternoon.”
Not missing a beat, Ollie added, “and I am going to the record store to buy Frankie Lymon’s “Why Do Fools Fall in Love” and Elvis’ “Love Me Tender.”
“Well,” Dashiell said, “Looks like everyone will be tired out by dinner time. You know what that means.”
Ollie’s eyes zeroed in on Dashiell. Louis asked, “What does that mean?”
Dashiell said slowly and mysteriously, “The means,” with a long pause, “I get,” and another pause, “to eat all the desserts.” When he said ‘desserts’ he splashed them. A community splashing party followed with the required hooting and howling and laughing. We had at last learned to have a good time over nothing at all except having a good time as a bunch of kids, young and old.
I peeked at Jacob as we splashed. He was laughing too. I never saw Jacob laugh before. It was a good morning, for sure.
We all heard a horn, a boat horn, and looked to the port side, where it was originating. There was that boat again. The one that came close the other day.
“Ahoy,” the guy yelled. “How you doing?”
We couldn’t act like dummies now that we were all sitting in the Jacuzzi, after splashing and all.
I yelled back, “Fine. How are you?”
“Fine. Thanks. I’m Jerry Franklin from the New York Times. I don’t mean to intrude but I’m the Harbor and River Editor. I saw you’re yacht the other day and wanted to interview whoever owns the yacht. That’s quite a yacht. That’s a French flag. Isn’t it?”
I stood up, toweled off quickly, and yelled, “I guess you want to talk to me and yes, that is the French flag.”
“You speak perfect English, for a Frenchman.”
“Thank you. You’re welcome to tie up and come aboard for lunch. Do you have a photographer with you?”
“Thanks for the invite. I don’t have a photographer. I’ll tie up and be there in a few minutes.”
Jacob left and returned, after having made accommodations for our arriving guest.”
I turned and told Jacob, “Two or three extra settings for lunch.”
Jacob went in the dining room door. He returned shortly to his usual position.
“When he comes aboard, show him the phone and tell him to call for a photographer.”
Dashiell said, “Looks like we’re having guests for lunch.”
The boys liked gawking at new guests, even if they only spoke English.
“We will be the tour for a little while. Then we can resume being tourists. The Tissots and Monsieur Laurent won’t be the target of the interview, nor will the boys, especially since none of them speak English.”
“Hey Dashiell,” I said, “As a matter of fact, I’ll call Lenny and tell him about this interviewer and photographers from the paper, and ask him if he would mind if I invite them for dinner, when Lenny joins us. Lenny can speak French with the boys, the Tissots and Monsieur Laurent. They can talk about music and stuff and you and I can talk to the interviewer about the boat, the Atlantic crossing, the resort, whatever, all in English. It will be a big joke on the paper.”
“Good one. I’m game.”
I got out of the water, quickly called Lenny, who was delighted to play a little joke on the newspaper, and got back in the water before the reporter finished tying his boat to the pier.
He did manage to tie up.
Jacob said, “A Mister Jerry Franklin.”
I stood up, got out of the Jacuzzi, donned my terrycloth robe, and shook Jerry Franklin’s hand, saying, “Nice to meet you.”
“I’m Jerry Franklin, from the New York Times.” He showed his identification. He was who he said he was.
“I’m Jean-Claude Beauvais, from Marseille, France. Nice to meet you.”
“How do you spell that?”
I pointed to Dashiell, “This is my brother, Dashiell, and my little boys, Louis and Ollie, with a golden mop on his head like Dashiell. Spelled, ‘D-A-S-H-I-E-L-L, L-O-U-I-S, and O-L-L-I-E.”
“I’ve never seen a private yacht this big before.”
“A hundred and sixty feet, I am told.”
“After lunch, I’ll take you on a tour of the place. It’s quite nice.”
“Dashiell, could you after lunch take to boys on their errands? Ollie has to go to a record store and Louis has to go to a music store. They both know what they want.”
“I’d be happy to.”
Jacob announced, “Lunch in a half hour.”
“Thank you, Jacob.”
“Well, Jerry. May I call you Jerry?”
“Call me Jean-Claude, if you like.
“You brought the ship here, from France?”
“Yes. The boys wanted to see America, so we decided we would come here and do some classic sightseeing. We’ve only been here a few days. I have a calendar in the lounge. I’ll show it to you. If I missed anything, we can add it. I don’t want the boys to go home thinking they missed something.”
“We are going to change for lunch.”
I turned to Jacob.
“Jacob. Show Mister Jerry to the washroom, and then to the dining room.”
“We’ll join you in a few minutes for lunch.”
The boys climbed out of the Jacuzzi, followed by Dashiell.
“Boys, casual dress for the afternoon and this evening.”
The boys, Dashiell, and I went upstairs to change for lunch.
Dashiell hurried downstairs to the dining room to handle introductions between the Tissots, Monsieur Laurent, and Jerry.
I went to the boys’ room. They were well on their way to being finished.
“Downstairs, when you’re finished.”
I closed the door and went downstairs.
“Everyone has met each other?” I said, in English to Jerry and in French to the Tissots and Monsieur Laurent.
I explained to the Tissots and Monsieur Laurent that Jerry was a reporter from the New York Times and that a photographer would arrive shortly.
“Your photographer will be here shortly?”
“Yes. She should be here, already.”
I looked over my shoulder to Jacob.
He left to see if there was a problem.
He returned and whispered, “The photographer was stopped by security at the gate on First Avenue. I told the guard to allow the photographer in. As he said that, two people walked past the windows on the starboard side of the dining room, toward the door.
The seaman opened the door and in came the photographer.
As she entered, the men and boys rose to greet her. Jerry said, “This is the photographer for the New York Times and my wife, Sally Franklin.”
The usual “Hellos” and “Nice to meet you” followed.
The dining room staff had set our guests at the end of the table with Dashiell and me next to them. The rest of the table was the usual arrangement. A brilliant touch.
The interview proceeded as expected with the usual questions, which Dashiell and I had been answering for years. Points of our past seemed to amaze the Franklins. The Cathedral Exhibit, Saint Thomas’ Church, Riverside, being on the radio and TV at Lake Pennyworth Place, Minister André Malraux, Louis Armstrong, the Duke, the Louvre, Aix, and finally we put down roots in Marseille. Someone in the city knew we were here. Last night at the Ed Sullivan Show, he surprised me by introducing me, to the audience. I had no idea anyone knew we were here, except for a few people in Marseille. I made a point of not mentioning the ‘name of the evening.’
After lunch, we walked around the outside of the lower deck for a while as I answered more questions. Sally went and took a few pictures of the yacht from the river. Captain Collard ordered the party flags to be displayed. The Captain knew when to preen Mon Grandpapa’s feathers. I didn’t know that until I saw the pictures later.
Sally was busy clicking away, in all directions. She had a new electronic device, called a flash unit that provided a flash for the camera, without replacing the flashbulbs, for each exposure.
“Where can I get one of those flash machines?”
“The bigger photography stores have them, but they’re expensive.”
We started at the top of the yacht and worked our way down to the motor room. After the tour was over, I invited them to relax a while in the lounge. I played for them. I didn’t do anything unusual, but just played some pleasant music. She was all over me with the camera. She seemed to like close ups of my face when my eyes were closed, playing.
Dashiell, arrived, carrying a box, labeled RCA Victor, and the boys, trotted along behind him, carrying their respective goody bags.
“Off you go, Ollie.”
“Dashiell. Could you set that up for him so he doesn’t fry himself?”
Dashiell, with the RCA Victor box in one arm and Ollie pulling on his other arm, left to go where Ollie decided to put his new 45rpm phonograph.
“Louis. Let me see.”
Louis showed me his sheet music booty.
“Excellent. Ollie’s piano and piano room just became your piano room and piano. Enjoy.”
Louis did a double heel kick, which I didn’t know he knew how to do, and disappeared into the hallway.
All the time this was going on, the camera was clicking away. Dashiell and the boys noticed the flashbulb that didn’t need replacing, but didn’t question.
Jerry asked, “How do Louis and Ollie like America?”
“They have only seen a little bit, like I said before. We are going to those places on the calendar. In a month, come back and ask them then.”
“Pick a day near the bottom of the calendar and write ‘Jerry’ on that day. I’ll know what that means. Give a call to make sure nothing has changed. Life in my world is apt to change. I have many outside forces to contend with, as gracefully as practicable.”
Jerry wrote on the calendar.
Jacob came to me and whispered, “A Mister Daniel is at the gate.”
“Let him in. Please be especially nice to him. He’s an old friend.”
“I shall. Sir.”
Jerry asked, “Should we leave?”
“No. Not at all. You and your wife are part of our family, today. Please stay.”
I played, “Shine On, Harvest Moon,” in a honky-tonk style to amuse myself. After a couple verses, Jacob opened the door, escorting Daniel and his wife into the lounge.
“Daniel raised his hand and said, “Don’t stop.” He grabbed his wife’s hand and started dancing to the rag tune. Jerry and Sally joined in. Ragtime seemed to put their feet to dancing so I played a few more rag tunes, until they looked tired. Reminiscences of Lake Pennyworth Place took shape in my mind as I listened to the shuffle of feet on the floor.
I finished. They applauded. I went to shake hands with Daniel and to meet his wife. I introduced Jerry and Sally and we sat down at the big table. The calendar sat looking at me in the middle of the table. I saw “Jerry – NYT’.
Sally and Rita, Daniel’s wife, were talking about the yacht. Rita said, “This is like camping out in a really neat castle.”
Sally added, “And it moves around when you want it to.”
“Don’t like the weather,” Jerry said, “Off to Panama, or Prince Edward Island.”
While they were making small talk, Daniel said, “This is not a boat. This is a kingdom.”
“If you had the time, I’d take you to Marseille. Give you a good taste of the Atlantic, besides Atlantic Haddock.”
“Can you and Rita stay for dinner?”
He looked at her, inquiring.
“Well… we’re not dressed for anything,” he said.
“Excellent. Neither am I. As a matter of fact, another friend of mine is coming over for dinner and he is arriving in flip-flops and jeans.”
I looked over my shoulder at Jacob, who returned an acknowledging nod and left, through the door to the dining room, returning shortly thereafter to his spot by the door.
“Perhaps, Jacob, we could have something to drink?”
Jacob again disappeared and returned with Macaulay in tow.
I said, “A bottle of 1910 Coteaux-Aix-En-Provence.”
Macaulay left and returned with set-ups.
“If you don’t like this stuff, Macaulay can get just about anything you like. If it’s not on board, someone will go retrieve it.”
The 1910 went over well. I took Daniel and Rita through the same grand tour. When I started on the top of the wheelhouse, I felt this might be the last time I was going to do this. Leaving the motor room, I would have to talk to Jacob about arranging tours, in the future. I really disliked doing this.
Jacob announced, “Dinner time is approaching.”
I pointed to the bathroom door.
“You can clean up in there, if you like.”
“I have to collect my brother and the boys, and hose them down before dinner. The dining room is through that door, at the other end of the hallway, just in case you forgot.”
I pulled Louis from the piano. He and I went upstairs to his stateroom, where Ollie and Dashiell were having a fine time. Dashiell was reading the labels on the records and Ollie was dancing.
“Time to clean up for dinner.”
Dashiell finished the tune and turned the machine off. Ollie went in the bathroom with Louis.
“Dress up?” Louis asked.
“No. Casual. Very Casual.”
“I can do that,” Louis replied.
Ollie’s “Me too” and the sound of splashing water against the sink squeezed through the open bathroom door.
Louis, before closing the door, turned, and rolled his eyes.
“Enough of that,” I said.
I washed up. Dashiell was already in the dining room.
I retrieved the boys and went downstairs to the dining room.
As we were passing the gangway on the starboard side, I heard, “Hey there.”
Lenny had arrived.
The boys went ahead to the dining room. I waited for Lenny to join me and we walked together to the dining room.
“Nice boat,” he said in French.
I introduced him to the Tissots and Monsieur Laurent. They recognized him from the Ed Sullivan Show, but they did not know who he was. Daniel, recognized him, but didn’t say a word. Rita and the Franklins had no idea who he was… aside from my friend, Lenny, in jeans and flip-flops. Of course, the boys knew him from the Ed Sullivan Show, but they couldn’t communicate to the Anglophones. Dashiell, Lenny, and I were all set to lay out a good joke.
Louis and Ollie knew something was going on. They had no idea what, but they suspected something was afoot.
I told the boys, in French, “Stay cool.”
They responded, “Certainly.”
Dashiell looked across the table at Ollie and smiled.
Lenny asked in French, “Do they know?”
“They suspect something is going on. That’s all.”
Lenny asked Madame Tissot, “Did you like the Ed Sullivan Show?”
Madame Tissot went on at length about what she liked.
“It reminded me of a show I saw when I was a little girl in Aix. That was quite a few years ago.”
Lenny said, “Not that many. I am certain.”
The Francophones laughed.
Dinner went along and finished with a nice dessert, but not too sweet.
I mentioned to Jerry the dessert was not too sweet.”
Ollie asked, “Tout d’suite?”
“Eat your dessert. Ollie.”
Ollie’s eyes fell into his dessert plate. He knew he shouldn’t be talking when the adults were talking ‘adult stuff’ that he didn’t understand.
After dinner, we walked around the deck a few times and gathered on the foredeck, in the lounge chairs.
As the Sun lowered, the mosquitoes arrived for dinner. We went into the lounge. I sat to play. I played a few tunes. Everyone was dancing, except Dashiell and Lenny. I looked over to Lenny and made a motion to the piano. He went to the bench and played a handful of tunes from ‘West Side Story.’ No one seemed to recognize the maestro was playing his music for this private audience. Lenny, Dashiell, Daniel, and I knew, but we weren’t telling.
Sally popped a few more pictures and about eight-thirty, Jerry and Sally left.
I reminded Jerry, “You are on the calendar. Don’t forget us.”
“I won’t. Have a good night.”
“You, too. Hope you had a nice time.”
Lenny played as I waved outside the lounge as they left the gangplank for their boat, tied to the pier, behind Mon Grandpapa.
Lenny played a bunch of show tunes for another ten minutes.
Lenny finally finished, rose, and pointed to the bench, looking at me. I sat and played some gentle ‘stuff.’
Daniel and Rita took that as an opportunity to leave gracefully.
Daniel shook Lenny’s hand, as he left. “Thank you, Maestro. A most pleasant evening.”
Lenny said in English, “I’m glad you enjoyed
Those six words concluded an understanding between them.
Of our dinner party, only Lenny remained.
Lenny sat in a lounger next to Ollie. He looked over and said, “What’s new?”
I stopped playing, went to Ollie’s lounger, sat on the edge, and said, “Do you know what Ollie told me today, Lenny?”
He said, “I don’t want to play the piano anymore.”
Lenny looked at Ollie, “Is that true?”
Ollie just looked at the giant man and nodded, with fear splashed across his little face.
Lenny looked at me and said, “Looks like it’s a lot of pain-o and not any piano.”
Ollie looked to me for a translation.