Jean-Claude Beauvais, a story
Book 5 - New York Revisited
Chapter 92. Pointing to Coney Island
“In English the word for ‘pain’ is spelled almost like the word for ‘piano.’”
Ollie nodded, but I knew he didn’t understand. He was wishing for a hole to crawl into.
Lenny made it all better with an abbreviated conversation.
He looked at me and said, “He’ll find his way.”
He turned to Ollie.
“Yes. Monsieur Lenny.”
I told Lenny the story of the boy who didn’t want to play the piano but wanted to draw and got in trouble for drawing on the back of the shopping list. Lenny knew immediately about whom I was talking.
I told Lenny we are going to the Metropolitan tomorrow and Ollie would see the drawing on the back of the shopping list.
Lenny added, “Someday, you might meet that world famous artist, Ollie.”
Ollie added, “Jean-Claude said he was going to try to arrange a meeting, a private meeting, between the world famous artist and me.”
“I wouldn’t be able to do that, but Jean-Claude knows a lot of people I don’t know and he knows how to make things happen. If he said so, it will happen.”
Ollie smiled, confident of his meeting the artist. Ollie’s world returned to normal.
Lenny left a little later. He said he was going to walk home.
“I live five blocks from here.”
“Good night, Lenny. Thanks for coming.”
“Quite a rowboat, Jean-Claude.”
We’ll get in touch when something’s in the paper. I can’t wait to see what gets published.”
“Me, too. Bye.”
With that he left and walked along the pier toward the gate.
I turned from the window to Dashiell, spread out in a lounger.
“That was fun.”
“What was all the fun you adults were having? I knew something was going on, but I couldn’t make out what in the world it was.”
“Me, too,” Ollie added, with an eager look of inquiry.
I said, “Well, boys….”
In the morning, I woke to the dumpster truck dumping. I listened as the truck went to its next stop. Then it dumped there, too, with a couple extra shakes to make sure the container was empty. The truck pulled away, disappearing in the background of the morning city noise.
“You awake?” I asked.
“With that infernal machine, who could sleep?”
“Today’s your day to talk to Ollie.”
Dashiell, less his daily agony, rose from the bed, showered, and went downstairs.
I went to the boys’ stateroom. As I neared their door, their music grew louder.
The music escaped as I opened the door. Ollie was dancing to some Elvis tune, while Louis played drums.
“Okay. Turn it off, now.”
“Into the showers and come on downstairs for breakfast when you’re cleaned up. Dress casual.”
Breakfast was the usual morning breakfast.
“We are going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, this afternoon. That’s the building with the zillion of steps in front with the two American Flags on Fifth Avenue.”
Everyone was on the same page, so to speak.
“After breakfast, Dashiell, the boys, and I are going out for a little trip. We’ll be back in an hour or so.”
After breakfast and after noting there was nothing in the paper about our interview, Dashiell, the boys, and I left for the Metropolitan.
When the car stopped in front of the museum, we went up the ‘zillion’ steps to the museum entrance on Fifth Avenue.
Once inside, we went to the third floor, Drawings and Prints. We walked up to ‘the’ drawing.
“See that, Ollie?”
I pointed to Dashiell’s drawing.
“If you look carefully, you’ll see, the list from the other side, on the paper.”
“Yes. Somehow it looks kind of familiar.”
“See the name on the bottom right corner?”
“Is that the port or starboard side?”
“I see it, but I can’t read it. I can’t read.”
“Louis. Could you help your brother, please? Read the name to Ollie.”
Louis squinted at the drawing.”
“D-A-S… Dashiell… B-E-A-U-V… Beauvais,” he said almost as a half question.
“Ollie. You want a private interview with the world famous artist?”
“Let’s go, Louis. Come here, look at this.”
Louis and I walked away, leaving Ollie and Dashiell to their devices.
At one point, Ollie and Dashiell shook hands. I saw that as a very positive sign for the four of us, in the Beauvais family.
After a few minutes, Ollie and Dashiell came to us.
“Let’s go home. I think we have some stuff to do,” Dashiell said.
“Good idea,” I said.
Louis, still focused on a drawing by the window, had lost himself in the art.
“Let’s go. Louis.”
We stopped and picked up the photo bags on the way home.
Once across the gangplank, I gave the photo bag to Jacob. “Put them in the dining room, for lunch viewing.”
Louis went to his ‘piano’ room to do his exercises. Ollie went with Dashiell to his studio, his new morning haunt in lieu of piano practice.
I had the piano in the lounge to myself. I practiced. That felt so good. I must have exercised for two hours. Jacob came to me and said, “Lunch will be soon.”
“Thank you, Jacob.”
Dashiell, Louis, and Ollie were in the Jacuzzi, soaking after their morning run up and down First Avenue.
As I cleaned up for lunch, Dashiell came in to do the same. We’ll have dinner at the museum, unless we get an IN-vite to something we can’t refuse.
Dashiell asked, “Did you have something in mind?”
“No. Not really,” I said, “but you know how things sort of change, once we get out and about in the city. We run into this person or that. Never know whom we may bump into.”
“Yeah. Most of those people think of us as being shorter and younger than we are.”
“We’re not that tall or old, yet.”
“I’m not sure they go together, either.”
We laughed and left down the stairs to the dining room.
Everyone was seated, including the boys.
“Are we ready for the Metropolitan Museum?”
Yeses and affirmative nods drifted around the table.
Lunch arrived and then dessert.
I looked over my shoulder; Jacob arrived by my side.
“We won’t be back for dinner. Make reservations at the Ritz for eight at six-thirty.”
“Eight at six-thirty at the Ritz.”
Louis asked, “Could I go back to see that design I was looking at this morning?”
“Of course,” I said.
“Could I see the drawing that you all were talking about yesterday and this morning?”
Ollie said, “I can take you there.” He looked back to me, and added, “If that’s okay?”
I looked at Louis and asked, “You liked that design?”
Oddly, he, who didn’t like museums two days ago, said, “I thought it was very interesting. I really want to look at it some more.”
“You may like the Museum of Design. It’s on Fifth Avenue, in what they call, ‘The Mile of Museums.’”
Our happy little horde of museum rats arrived at the museum. We walked up the steps. This time, Louis didn’t count them. Hopefully, what was inside the museum moved about inside his mind. Ollie was happily rolling along with Dashiell, Louis, and me, babbling away, “Maybe I will meet another world famous artist, today.”
“Maybe,” I replied.
We agreed to meet at five, outside the main entrance on the steps, in the shade.
Suddenly, an attendant approached and asked in French, “May I help you? I was told the boy wants something?”
I stopped with Ollie, who hung on to my hand.
“Ollie?” I asked, “Is something the matter?”
“Are you sure?”
“You have to go to the toilet?”
I looked at the attendant and said, “It appears that everything is okay.”
I related the story of our ‘morning event.’
“Just trying to help, Mister Beauvais.”
“Thank you. I appreciate that.” How did she know my name? Ollie pulled my hand and the curiosity from my head.
We wandered for hours. Ollie had no sense of antiquities. To him, they were ‘old stuff.’
He looked at everything. All the chambers contained visual treasures in his eyes. Our art viewing had only two potty calls and one thirst call.
Five o’clock arrived too soon. We needed another week to see most of the collections.
We went outside and there were the Tissots and Monsieur Laurent. No Dashiell. No Louis. Ollie and I sat on the steps and did some serious people watching. Dashiell and Louis emerged in a hurry.
“We forgot to check the clock. Sorry.”
“We were having a good time, people watching.”
We walked down the steps to the waiting cars, and went home to clean up and change for dinner.
At dinner, the art of the day filled the table conversation. Tastes became apparent, as the tales of the day were recalled.
Dashiell made a point of letting me know that Louis was interested in different designs and the Photography area.
I pointed out that Ollie was interested in the armor collection for people and horses. I took a picture of Ollie on an armored horse, to his delight. He also liked the African masks, totem poles, and thought some of the modern art was funny. He was interested in the musical instruments too. Kettle drums and guitars were big. He really liked a horn, painted red, called a Dung-Chen.
After dinner, we came home and soaked in the Jacuzzi.
Ollie told me, how scary the mummies were, and how weird the armor was.
Louis spoke in glowing terms about the photography.
Jacob arranged for some wine.
After a while, the conversations became more sparse. The sand man was busy spreading his seeds for happy dreams.
“Let’s go to bed,” I said, “tomorrow’s another day.”
“Where are we going, tomorrow?”
Once the boys were in bed, I sat down and asked, “Do you need a story, tonight?”
Ollie said, “I think we have a big pile of stories built-in.”
“I have some storybooks, in case you run out of stories, Ollie.”
“You okay? Louis?”
“The best way to be.”
“Good night, Ollie.”
“Good night, Jean-Claude.”
“Good night, Louis.”
“Good night, Jean-Claude.”
I turned the lamp off and whispered, “I’m going downstairs to play for Dashiell for a while. You boys have a good sleep.”
I sat and played the nocturnes. By the third, he was sitting next to me, his head on my shoulder. I loved him so.
After the last nocturne, I stopped and we climbed the stairs to the stateroom.
As I opened the door, he grabbed my hand and led me to the bed. He sat down and pulled me down to sitting on his knee.
“Aren’t I a little big for this?”
“You’re never too big for me to take a moment and tell you how much I think you are a really wonderful person.”
“What is this all about?”
“You’ve brought the boys here. You could have dumped them in a camp or somewhere for the summer. You were a good guy and brought them to see America. That’s something other kids can only dream of.”
“I want to do the best I can for them, Dashiell. You know that.”
“You bring the Tissots and Joe with us. Again something other staff people can only dream about.”
“I want them to have a good time too. It must be a pain to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner, over and over, again. To drive people to all kinds of odd places for no particular reason except they pay you to drive them. That must be terribly boring. They need a break from the usual, too.”
“Indeed, Jean-Claude, you are a marvelous person and I love you more than ever. Thank you for being my brother.”
“I love you too, Dashiell,” I said, “and I want to get up because your boney leg is cutting off the circulation in my legs.”
He reached over, grabbed my head, and planted a big kiss on me. I returned the kiss.
“I love you, too, Dashiell. Really, I do.”
We were in bed shortly after our expressions of love.
“By the way, did you get to the sculpture collection, today?”
“No. Did you?”
“We’ll have to make sure we get to the sculpture, the next time we go. I want to see if the boys are interested.”
“Good night, Jean-Claude.”
“Good night, Dashiell.”
I closed my eyes and felt his pulse; the warmth of his hand; his breath on my neck. He was a part of me.
I moved a little to see if Dashiell was awake.
“No” came as my answer.
“You’re going to sleep in?”
I slid out of bed and into the shower. After dressing, I went to the boys’ room. They were awake and playing with their stuff.
“Into the showers, boys,” I said, “meet you in the dining room.”
Louis asked, “Casual?”
I walked downstairs and went into the lounge to check the calendar.
Nothing on the calendar for today and for tomorrow, ‘Coney Island until we drop’.
I turned and went through the hallway to the dining room.
I mentioned to Jacob that Dashiell was sleeping in and would be down later for a late breakfast. He nodded, disappeared into the kitchen, and returned to his station by the door.
The boys passed by the starboard side windows and door. They entered through the aft deck door. Ollie’s bouncing gait, synchronized his golden locks, phosphorescent in the morning sun. Ollie came in first. Louis put a finger on Ollie’s shoulder, from behind, temporarily halting Ollie’s toe bouncing. A few more steps across the dining room toward the table, Ollie’s bounce had resumed.
“Did you have a good sleep, last night?” I asked, peering into the newspaper.
“Yes,” Ollie said, cutting his sweet roll.
“Yes, Louis said, adding, “Can we go back to the museum, again?”
“Yes. Look on the calendar in the lounge and you’ll see we’re scheduled to return, but I don’t remember on what day.”
I was wandering through the paper’s sports section when Ollie pulled on my arm.
I dropped the paper a little and turned to him, beside me.
“Jean-Claude. Would you teach me to count?”
Louis said, matter-of-factly, “He can count to ten.”
“I want to be able to count like an adult,” Ollie said, “to bazillion.”
“You can count to ten? Ollie?” I asked.
“Yes. But I can’t count the rest of the way. I need help to count more.”
“I will teach you to count. You’ll be surprised how easy it is.”
I looked over to Louis, “Won’t he?”
“I guess so.”
“Ollie. Do you know what a number stick is?”
“Well. We’ll go out this morning, after I do my piano exercise, and get a number stick. Maybe we’ll get one or two other things, too. Then we can have fun counting. Okay?”
Louis went to his piano and did his exercise.
Ollie stayed with me, in the lounge, as I exercised.
Afterward, he and I went out to Varsity books, downtown, and bought a “Learning to Count” in French, with a pop-out number stick in the back, gauged to the examples in the book. We stopped at Woolworths and picked up a little blackboard and a box of chalk.
By the time we were home, Dashiell was awake and in the Jacuzzi with Louis, talking about the rides and the beach at Coney Island.
“We’re going to be in the lounge, working on our numbers.”
“Numbers?” Dashiell repeated.
Louis told Dashiell, “Ollie wants to learn to count.”
“We bought a book about counting and adding and subtracting. Ollie and I are going to go play counting and all that fun stuff. Ollie is going to learn to count way past ‘bazillion’.”
Louis leaned towards Dashiell.
“Ollie says that, when it’s a big number.”
“You two have a good time. You’re turning into he perfect role model, Jean-Claude.”
“Thank you.” He and I laughed as Ollie and I left through the dining room.
As we passed the kitchen door in the hallway, I asked Ollie, “You thirsty?”
I looked to Jacob and raised two fingers. Jacob nodded, in affirmation.
Ollie and I settled at the big table in the lounge. Jacob brought a tray with a pitcher of iced water and four glasses.
“The extras are in case…”
“Thank you, Jacob.”
Ollie and I worked on one through one hundred.
He sipped some water. The crystal pitcher looked bigger than Ollie.
“That was painless, wasn’t it?”
“Learning to count to one hundred.”
“Yes. I never knew it was that easy.”
“Numbers are easy, once you understand them.”
“Lunch in a few minutes,” Jacob said.
“Tomorrow we are going out, in the morning, so we won’t have a counting lesson tomorrow, but the next day, we will do the next lesson. You will learn to count to… way, way, way, big numbers, past bazillion.”
“Really? Like adults can count?”
“Yes. Just like adults can count, and...”
“and… there’s more?”
“This weekend, you will learn how adding one number to another number works.”
Ollie and I went to our staterooms to clean up. He came to my stateroom, sat on the foot of the bed, and waited for me to finish washing, in the bathroom. I came out of the bathroom and was surprised to see him, his back to me, sitting on the bed, looking out the windows, south, towards the Roosevelt Island lighthouse.
The bathroom door closed with an obvious snap of the latch.
I proceeded to dress for breakfast.
At one point, he asked me, “Does it light up at night?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “We can look at it, tonight. Okay?”
I finished dressing and we went downstairs for lunch.
We sat down.
Louis and Dashiell came in a few minutes later. They sat down, talking about Coney Island.
Ollie saw a pause in the conversation and injected, “I am going to learn adding one number to another number. I will also be able to count to big numbers like a bazillion.”
Louis looked up at me from his bread.
“He can’t learn that. He’s too young.”
I smiled at Louis.
“We’ll see. You know, Louis, Ollie is very intelligent.”
Ollie beamed with confidence, written in bold letters across his little face.
Louis just rolled his eyes.
Dashiell added insult to injury.
“He really is, you know. He can do all that navigation stuff.”
Louis was silent, after that.
Our end of the table was rather quiet for the rest of lunch. Dessert arrived. Ollie liked rice pudding. Louis endured it. He was a more ‘big time sticky-sweets’ connoisseur.
“What are you doing this afternoon?” Dashiell asked.
“I hadn’t thought about it, to tell the truth,” I said.
He looked at Louis and Ollie, but they made no response.
He looked over to Monsieur Laurent and the Tissots.
Still no response.
I took the opportunity to invite our little museum rats to the Museum Mile, on Fifth Avenue.
“In that case, we can go to a couple places that are just interesting to visit. They’re nearby and don’t require a lot of walking to tire us out.”
“First we will go someplace where everyone speaks French. Then we will go someplace where no one speaks French, but no one needs to say much, anyway. After that, we’ll come home and we can soak in the Jacuzzi and talk about what we have seen. Bring your cameras. You’ll find this quite unusual. We’ll leave in fifteen minutes. If you don’t want to go, tell me, so we aren’t waiting for you in the cars.”
Everyone wanted to go.
First stop was the French Institute on 60th Street. What a marvelous place for Francophones lost in a sea of Anglophones.
Outside the banner read, “Institute Français” which raised everyone’s anxieties.
Inside we looked at the displays. We particularly enjoyed the Marseille display. The institute was primarily for teaching the French language, but we enjoyed the ‘other’ French stuff. We spent the rest of the useable day there.
We left, dropped our film at the photo store, and went home early.
The Tissots and Monsieur Laurent went to the lounge to relax. Louis, Ollie, Dashiell, and I gathered in the Jacuzzi. Ollie and Louis, intrigued by the art in the Sheller, talked about the art. Dashiell was agog from the art in the Sheller, today.
Ollie spoke to Dashiell about a piece of art the two of them remembered. I had no idea about which piece of art, when they spoke of the detail. I just put my head back and listened as they rambled on about their fascination with that particular piece. It was particularly interesting, since Ollie posited monosyllabic words and Dashiell understood exactly what he meant, in polysyllabic thoughts.
I raised my head to see what Louis was doing, since I didn’t hear him in the conversation about the art. He, too, had his head tilted back, with his eyes closed, apparently listening, too. I put my head back on the pad, and listened to the two artists’ conversing.
I almost fell asleep. The water was warm and so relaxing. I looked to see if I had missed anything. Ollie and Dashiell were talking away, ignoring the floating body in the Jacuzzi, Louis floating on his back. I laughed. Somehow that struck me as funny.
“You ought to try it,” he said.
I thought about it for a second and passed on the idea.
“Maybe some other day.”
Jacob announced, “Dinner in a half hour.”
In the shower, Dashiell told me about the art in the Sheller. I, however well informed by that time, still had no idea what it was they were talking about.
We dressed for dinner. Dashiell went to the dining room and I went to collect the boys for dinner.
The three of us entered the dining room. Monsieur Laurent and the Tissots were there, opening their picture packs from the Metropolitan Museum.
The boys went immediately to the table to open their pictures. Picture looking and sharing caused dinner to be late. I announced, “We will open our picture packs anyplace except at the dinner table. Where do you want to open them?”
The consensus was the lounge.
“Tomorrow is Coney Island Day. We will leave about nine and return when we get home.”
I looked over my shoulder, “No lunch or dinner at home tomorrow.”
After dinner, Ollie and I walked the deck for a while.
We walked around three or four times, saying nothing. The silence gave way to an Ollie question, “Why don’t you smoke?”
“Me?” I asked, wondering where this was going.
“Yes. Why don’t you smoke?”
“Well, when I was a little boy, a little taller than you, I was on the way home from school in Montréal, Québec. I walked home with four other boys, Jean-Renault, we called him JR, Robert, Roger, and Christophe. Roger was older than the rest of us and he smoked. He offered us a cigarette on the last day of school, to celebrate, I guess. I remember the box the cigarettes were in… a pretty, reddish-salmon colored box. The name of the cigarettes was… yes, ‘du Maurier’. The last day of school was a festive day. I, thinking of myself as a brave and almost adult person, took the cigarette; put the filter end in my mouth; he struck a match to light it; the cigarette didn’t light.
He said, “Suck on it like a straw.”
“I sucked on the cigarette and he tried again to light it. It lit.
“Now suck on it and inhale the smoke. That’s all there is to it. It’s fun.”
“I inhaled, once, and thought I was going to die from coughing and feeling like I was going to throw up my insides. I never again considered smoking. I tried it and it was something my body screamed, ‘Do Not Do That’.”
“What did Jean-Renault, Robert, Roger, and Christophe do?”
“When they saw what happened to me, they ran home to get away from the ‘scene of the crime.’”
Christophe’s mama heard JR and Christophe talking about me smoking.
She called my mama and told her about what happened.
My mama came upstairs to my bedroom, where I was on the bed, feeling so sick, I thought I was going to die.
“Hi. Jean-Claude. You’re not feeling well?”
“No. Mama. I feel very sick in my belly.”
“My poor baby puppy,” she said, looking out my bedroom window at some birds fussing in the tree outside.
She waited a few seconds, turned, and asked me, “You want a cigarette?”
“I threw up in my bed.”
She never said another word to me about smoking. She didn’t have to. I had learned that smoking was not for me.
We walked the loop around the lower deck a few more times and settled in the lounge. I played some Elvis tunes. Ollie wiggled and sang to them as best he could.
Macaulay came in with two dishes of ice cream, a welcomed intermission. He returned with two glasses and a pitcher of ice water.
As we worked on the ice cream, Dashiell and Louis came in and sat down with us.
“No thanks. We had some.”
Louis asked, “What is Coney Island? They have a statue there or something?”
Ollie listened to the conversation, and followed the exchanges with his ears and eyes, between tastes of ice cream and sips of water. I watched his eyes. Like the Moon, sometimes, they appeared much bigger than at other times.
Dashiell said, “It’s a park, with a lot of fun things to do.”
“Lots of things to do for kids, or adults?”
“There’s stuff for you, kids, to do and there’s stuff for us, adults, to do. Most of the stuff, adults and kids, do together.”
Louis nodded towards Ollie.
“For him and adults, too?”
“This sounds weird,” Louis said.
Time for me to step into action.
“Louis, could you please bring me that big ‘New York City’ book with all the pictures in it?”
He went to the shelf, retrieved the big book, and returned with it.
“Here it is.”
He slid it to me across the table to me and sat down in the chair in front of him.
I thumbed through the index and found ‘Coney Island’.
“Come here. Louis.”
He got up, with a mild theatric sigh, walked around the table, and stopped behind me.
“Look at this.”
I kept my finger pointing to ‘Coney Island’.