Jean-Claude Beauvais, a story
Chapter 121. That’s what Grandpapa would have done
(End of Chapter 120)
“Do you have anything in mind you’d like to see in Queens?”
“No. I’ve just been curious how it would look if I were there.”
The car crossed the bridge and we turned off, into Queens. The car maneuvered to the Shore Parkway and slowly traveled north, while Louis took in Queens borough’s atmospherics. We passed some bars with open doors, where stale beer and raucous noise wafted on to the street. A few blocks away, I smelled bread baking; early mornings at Lake Pennyworth Place flashed in my mind. We stopped at a traffic signal, next to a corner deli. There was no sign, but fresh pickles and sauerkraut were definitely inside. A red and green sign blinked, “Pizza” half way into the next block. As we neared, an exhaust fan blew garlic in the air inviting us to stop. We continued and stopped at the light on the next corner. Tires, in the summer heat, sent us a business card; the sign on the door read, “Closed - Open at 7.”
Louis’ head pivoted as the car moseyed along the streets of Queens. The driver understood we were sightseeing and did not hurry.
We turned on to Astoria and headed to the river. At First, Louis and I walked to the river and sat on a rock, staring at Manhattan, quite obviously in front of Manhattan was Mon Grandpapa, all lit up, like a giant, white, carnival attraction.
We sat there for a while, motionless, in silence. He moved a little closer. The night chill was settling along the bank. I put my arm around him and held him.
He kept staring at the yacht.
“What are you thinking about?”
“Tell me about Dashiell.”
“Dashiell is my brother. I’ll tell you anything you want to know about me, but you should ask Dashiell about Dashiell.”
He sat stone like. I continued. “I can ask you about Ollie, but asking Ollie, about Ollie, would be better. Wouldn’t it?”
“I guess so.” I felt him move, under my arm.
“Go ahead. Ask me about Jean-Claude.”
As he turned to me, my attention turned to his face. His brown eyes begged me to tell him.
Quietly, his dark orbs returned to the black East River. “I don’t know what to ask.”
My belly felt empty and hungry. I wanted to say, “Can I give you an answer, when I don’t know the question?”
I simply held him, a little tighter. After a few minutes, his head fell against me.
I decided to tell him an abbreviated version of the life of Jean-Claude, in the Jacuzzi.
“Let’s go home, get in the Jacuzzi, and I tell you about Jean-Claude.”
He looked up at me. “Can we stay here, a little longer?”
I looked at Louis’ brown straight hair, so close I could smell it. It didn’t smell at all like Ollie’s or Dashiell’s.
At this moment, he seemed so pained.
I wanted to say, “Let’s go,” but he was deriving something important for him, from our soirée and we were sitting in the dark, night dampness, on the East River, in Queens, for him.
He readjusted himself on the rock, causing a readjustment of my arm around him.
“We can go, now.”
“Okay. We’ll go back to Mon Grandpapa, hop in the Jacuzzi, and I’ll tell you all about Jean-Claude.”
Tentatively, he moved, sighed painfully, and after a pause, voiced, softly, an okay.
We walked back to the car, watching our step, in the semi-darkness.
The driver put the top up for the speedy ride back to the 92nd Street pier.
We walked up the stairs and stopped.
I said, “I’ll meet you on the aft deck in a few minutes.”
He was still subdued. “Okay.”
I went into my stateroom, changed, and went down the starboard stairs to the lower deck, where Jacob met and followed me to the aft deck.
I dropped my robe as I passed a chaise, and went straight for the warm bubbles.
Louis arrived and dropped his robe beside mine, showing off his colorful, Coney Island swimsuit. He stepped into the water and sat down beside me. He looked more relaxed. A train sounded in the distance. I looked up to see a long passenger train, rolling silently, from right to left, across the Hells Gate Bridge.
“Did you run into Ollie or Dashiell?”
“Neither did I.”
Jacob arrived at the right moment, with a bucket of ice, glasses, napkins, and wine.
Jacob put ice in my glass and poured for Louis and me. My palate needed the wine. I assumed Louis’ did, too. He looked brighter, when he put his glass down.
Turning to him, I smiled and said, “So let me tell you about me.” I was feeling quite pleasant.
He, appearing in better spirits, said, “Okay.”
“This is what I remember. Oh, and before I begin, it’s all right to interrupt me and ask questions. Okay?”
He looked like he was feeling awkward, again.
“I was born in Atlantic City, in the state of New Jersey. New Jersey is where we went, on the train. Atlantic City is on the Atlantic Ocean. I was just a little kid, when I lived there.
A loose trolley pole, swung from a trolley car, and killed my father, instantly, as he crossed the street at an intersection.
My mother raised me, for the next year, there, in Atlantic City. An uncle of mine, in Montréal, became very ill. My mother offered to take care of him, while he was sick. My mother and I moved to Montréal, when I was about two years old, and moved in with him. I don’t remember him, except, he smoked a lot, had fuzzy ears, nostrils, and eyebrows, and was skinny.
He died and my mama and I lived in Montréal, where she worked and I went to school. Then, my mama died. I’ll never forget that day. In the hospital waiting room, I sat, watching the doors, open and close, for people walking through. I waited to go see me mother or for her to come out, so we could go home. The priest arrived, took me home, and told me my mama died. A neighbor took care of me for a few days. My Grandpapa and my Aunt Odie arrived and saved me from the orphanage in Canada. They brought me back to Lake Pennyworth Place.
I was ten years old and living in an English speaking country and I only spoke French. Most of the people at Lake Pennyworth Place spoke French. I didn’t realize how out of place I was, until my Grandpapa asked me to read an English newspaper. I remember reading something in the French paper, about a water pipe breaking. He showed me an English paper and I had no idea what was on the page. I was lost.
Grandpapa hired a tutor to teach me English.
During that time, I fell in love with the piano, that’s another story, entirely, and I saw Dashiell in church on Sundays. I never meet him, but I saw him.
After a year of tutoring, I passed the entry test to the local school where I met Dashiell.”
“You said Dashiell’s your brother.”
“He’s my brother, now. He wasn’t my brother, then.”
Louis’s face showed confusion. “How could be?”
“I’ll get to that part.”
I told him about the Hammond Organ, piano lessons, the plane crash, the fires, and the residents of Pennyworth, moving to the hotel.
I did a short explanation of Dashiell’s mother moving the Black Rock and his father new assignment to a ghetto community. I told him what I remembered of Grandpapa’s adoption of Dashiell, making him my adoptive brother.
“Didn’t you and Dashiell argue and fight?”
“Never. We knew we needed each other. We learned quickly to listen to the other. Some things I told Dashiell, he didn’t understand and some things he told me, I didn’t understand, but we didn’t question that those things were important to the other, and respected them.”
“What do you mean?”
“Dashiell never plays the piano. I never draw. Dashiell has little interest in sound, and I have little interest in images. When I began playing music, people thought I was mad and the same was true of Dashiell’s art. Over time, the world has accepted Dashiell and me, as prodigies.”
“What are prodigies?”
This conversation, the short version of Jean-Claude, continued.
I was past where Dashiell, Aunt Gizzie, and I moved to Paris and was explaining the Cathedral Exhibit at the Louvre, when Dashiell arrived from the starboard promenade.
“Ah. Ha. I found you, guys.”
He chucked his towel and robe on the chaise, slipped out of his beach shoes, and approached the Jacuzzi. He stopped, did a heel kick, and landed with a silly, open-mouthed grin. I raised my hands out of the water and loudly clapped, rewarding his élan. Louis was a half beat behind me, but just as elated. For the first time this evening, Louis wore a happy face. Quickly, Dashiell hopped up the stairs and eased his way down into the bubbles, sitting across from Louis and me.
“I love this Jacuzzi.”
The warm bubbles somewhat calmed Dashiell.
“So, what are you, guys, talking about? Queens?”
“No. When we were in Queens, sitting on a rock, looking across the East River at Mon Grandpapa, Louis asked me to tell him about you.”
Dashiell looked up from the bubbly water to me.
He laughed, asking, “About me?”
He turned to Louis.
“What on Earth would you want to know about me?”
Before Louis could answer, he added, “My life is very simple; I’m an artist; I draw.”
Louis carefully watched Dashiell and me interacting.
Dashiell turned to me, “Did you tell him the truth?” He paused and smiled. “I’m your crazy brother?”
Dashiell laughed and I laughed, too.
Reacting to seeing Dashiell and me laugh, he laughed. His brown eyes moved between us, extracting as much information as his mind could process.
I looked at Louis, then Dashiell, and said, “I told him I would tell him all about me.”
“What did you tell him about me?”
“I told him, “Ask Dashiell about Dashiell.”
Dashiell turned back to Louis.
“Well, Louis. Here I am. What do you want to know about me?”
“Before you ask me anything, my life is much simpler than Jean-Claude’s life. I don’t build resorts. I don’t buy ships, train stations, and do spectacular stuff, like Jean-Claude.”
Louis was silent.
“Hey…” Dashiell splashed him, good-naturedly.
“What do you want to know about me? I’ll tell you anything you want to know.”
Louis huddled in the water, silently.
Something was wrong.
Louis stared into the water, slowly shook his head, and said, barely audibly, “This is all wrong.”
Dashiell said, “Lighten up. Louis. Relax. What’s all wrong?”
“I don’t really know.”
I looked at Louis again. This time I saw he was scared.
“Let’s not talk about it, now,” I said.
I looked at Dashiell and simply said, in English, “Fear.”
As I spoke, I slid my arm behind his neck, around his shoulders, and pulled him closer to me. When I touched him, his frame and muscles felt tense, and rather monolithic; not the gentle looseness to which I was accustomed.
I continued, “Let me tell you more about me. There’re still some really good parts, I haven’t told you, yet.”
He tried to smile.
“Dashiell can help me fill-in the stuff I’ve forgotten.”
“Indeed,” Dashiell said, with grin, “I’ll add some of the stuff he won’t tell you. He doesn’t remember it.”
“What stuff wouldn’t he tell me?”
“The stuff that hurts him to remember.”
Dashiell looked at me.
I nodded, “Go ahead.”
“Are you sure, Jean-Claude?”
“Certainly. He should know the real me.”
“Did he tell you about Freddie?”
My diaphragm froze at the sound of the name. Respiration ceased; no air in; no air out.
Louis looked up. “Freddie?”
Turning to me, he added, “No. Who’s Freddie?”
One day, in my suite at Lake Pennyworth Place, I heard the train arriving from the city. I looked out my front window. In the sunlight, someone with fiery red hair was arriving in an open carriage. I looked in my binoculars. I saw the fiery red hair was atop a boy and he was about my age. At last I would have a French boy to talk to about kids stuff. I was excited. I straightened my jacket and bib, and checked my patent leathers. I ran down the Grand Staircase, which was forbidden, but I really wanted to say hello to my weekend friend.
The front doors of the Grand Foyer stood open for the arriving guests. I stood beside Daniel, the doorman, under the porte-cochère and waited for that carriage to arrive.
Daniel asked me, “What brings you out here, this morning?”
“I saw a boy in a carriage, coming from the train station.”
“Oh. You mean, Freddie Wilson. He’s a good boy. His family is English. I believe they’re from somewhere outside London. None of them speak a work of French.”
“I was crushed.”
He waved; I smiled and returned the wave.
“How did you and he talk?”
“Mostly with motions and gestures.”
I invited Freddie to go to the movies.
On the way, in the carriage, I noticed scars on his arms.
Freddie pulled his sleeves up and showed me his scars.
Freddie said something; the driver translated.
“He said he tried to commit suicide last year, but he’s all over that now.”
“When I heard that, I leaned over to him and hugged him. I thought I had problems in my life. My life was so easy, compared to his life.”
Louis looked into my eyes. “I’m sorry.” I knew he saw the wetness in my eyes.
“That night, Freddie and I spent hours, together, sitting on the balcony, watching the grass move in the summer breezes. We couldn’t and didn’t speak. We had a silent bond. I wanted to talk to him. I was sure he wanted to talk to me, but that was not to be. When the clock struck nine, that was bedtime, he and I silently hugged, and he left to go to his bedroom.”
“That night, I put on Grandpapa’s jacket and thought a lot about what could have made Freddie want to do such a thing, until I fell asleep.”
The next day was Sunday. Freddie, Grandpapa, and I went to church and came home. After lunch, we went swimming. Freddie had lots of freckles, from his nose to his toes.
After swimming, he showered. When he dressed, he changed his clothes with mine. He had to leave to go to his parents. I showered and dressed in his clothes.
We met later, when his family boarded the carriage to go back to the city. His eyes were red. We hugged, and he left.
Louis patted my shoulder, seeing my tears forming.
“Jean-Claude. Why are you crying?”
“To talk about it, to remember it, hurts.”
“I had no idea…”
Dashiell intervened and said, “Jean-Claude and I talked about this.”
“We learned in school people remember the good stuff and try to forget the bad stuff.”
Louis said, “But I thought your life was all wine and roses and honey.”
I said. “It looks that way, but that’s not my real life. I keep the sad parts stashed away.”
Louis’ face drooped. “I am sorry.”
“No. There’s nothing to be sorry about. You and Ollie have brought tons of joy and happiness to Dashiell and me.”
He looked a little brighter.
“Let me finish telling you about Freddie.”
“That’s okay. I don’t want you to hurt anymore.”
Dashiell interrupted, “Let him finish the whole thing, so you know why it affects him so much.”
Louis quietly said, “Okay.”
I continued, “When I look into where I hide my sadness, my tears sometimes fall.”
I sipped some cool iced wine.
“I didn’t hear anything more about Freddie, until New Year’s Eve of that year. That afternoon, in the afternoon mail, a letter, with no return address, arrived for me. My aunt put it on my desk in my room.”
“Did he learn French?”
“No, but he found an English to French Dictionary and wrote to me using the best words he could find in it.”
“I will always remember his letter, word for word.”
“Cher John Claude Boovay,
Aller par fenetre.
Très merci votre connaissance.
Direr ne pas un.
Votre ami, éternellement,
“I thought about it, wondering exactly what he was telling me. Then, I realized he was going out the window of his apartment in the city. Again, I wonder what could provoke him to do such a terrible thing. He was such a kind and gentle person.”
“I decided to call Freddie and try and talk him out of doing it, in my awful English. I asked my aunt, who ran the switchboard, to call him, and connect me when she got him on the phone. I waited, and waited. I put on Freddie’s Eton, bib, and britches and sat on the balcony in Freddie’s chair, waiting for the return call.”
“My aunt came into my suite, and out to the balcony. When I saw her face and knew I was too late… She said nothing. She held me close to her. I knew what had happened.”
“After the end of the New Year’s Day party, most of the Grand Ball Room was emptied. I was going to go to bed. I left the table and headed for the door, to the Grand Hallway as Grandpapa and Grandmamma danced the last dance. As I neared the fireplace, I felt the heat on my face and legs. I looked at the fiery logs as Freddie’s words, “tell no one,” echoed in my head.”
“I pulled the letter from beneath Freddie’s bib, looked at it, one last time, and slipped it between the searing logs. Instantly, it vaporized into nothing.”
“I protected Freddie’s last wish, to tell no one.”
“I went to bed wearing Freddie’s jacket, with Grandpapa’s jacket over me. I overslept the next morning. When I went downstairs, I saw police in the office. My aunt told me they were there to talk to me. I met them and they wanted to letter. I showed them where I put the letter.”
“If you look in my closet at home, at the end of the bar, you’ll see a small Eton and britches hanging next to a large pinstriped suit jacket. The Eton and britches belonged to Freddie and the suit jacket was Grandpapa’s. Freddie’s bib is in my drawers, somewhere.”
Mister Wilson arrived with the detectives.
“I remember telling him Freddie and I could never spoke. We laughed. We felt each other’s pain. Our hearts spoke.”
I paused to keep what little control I had over my emotion.
“I will never, ever, forget my dear friend, Freddie.”
Dashiell added, “If you look, when we get home, you’ll see he’s telling you the truth; Freddie’s stuff and Grandpapa’s jacket are still in his closet at the end of his closet.”
Louis looked into the bubbles and said, “I am so sorry.”
I turned to Louis and said, “It’s better to really know me, than to nurture unfounded ideas in your mind.”
Discomfort emanated from Louis’ slight frame, as he uttered, “I guess so,” finishing with a breathy sigh.
“Let me tell you how Dashiell and I became brothers. Okay?”
Louis looked in better spirits.
I turned to Dashiell.
Louis looked at Dashiell.
Dashiell said, “Go ahead.”
Louis looked back at me, wondering what was afoot.
“Don’t ask. Louis. Soon enough, you’ll know more than you want to know.”
Louis’ mouth closed as his giant brown eyes stared at me.
“When I went to church, I met Dashiell. He was the pastor’s son. When we first met, he spoke no French and I spoke no English. Time and my English tutoring slowly fixed my no English problem and eventually opened the door to my going to regular school. One day I was looking for my piano teacher who was the organist at the church. I heard an organ in the basement, so I went downstairs to find my teacher. I found Dashiell was practicing on an organ in the basement. I could speak a little in English. Dashiell and I became friends when we found that my piano teacher was his organ teacher. I invited him to come out to Lake Pennyworth Place for a visit.”
“Dashiell and I got along very well, from the beginning. Grandpapa was a large supporter of the church, and of the city. Grandpapa bought the big bells in the church tower, and other church stuff, too. The pastor and Grandpapa were on a first name basis and they worked together for the church and for the city. One afternoon, Dashiell was on his way home from the grocery store, with milk in his bicycle basket, for his mother. When he was half a block from home, he looked up and a giant plane flew overhead. He watched as it just missed his house, next to the church and crashed into the church’s roof, destroying the church.”
“The fire burned most the city block.”
Louis looked at Dashiell. “Did your family survive?”
“Yes,” Dashiell answered. “Everyone was safe. My father was in city hall on the other side of town, and my mother was at the hairdressers, downtown. The only people hurt, were the people in the plane. They all died.”
I continued, “Grandpapa invited the people whose homes had burned down, to live at the hotel, free, until their homes were rebuilt. Grandpapa sent the hotel limousines, to the fire, for them.”
Louis looked at me, smiled, and said, “He was a lot like you.”
“I try to be a lot like him, a good person.”
Dashiell added, “Now, Louis. Jean-Claude is about to tell you what we don’t talk about.”
“What you don’t talk about?”
“Listen to Jean-Claude. He can explain this better than I can.”
“Dashiell, being about my age, and the only other kid at the resort, lived in my suite.”
I looked over to Dashiell.
“Go ahead, Jean-Claude. Lay it all out, so he knows everything.”
Dashiell’s father was busy most of the time for weeks, in Pennyworth, trying to get things taken care of, after the big fire. The church had services at the Lake Pennyworth Place. I remember the big horse-drawn sleds bringing people from town for Sunday services and taking them home in the snow.
In the meantime, we bought a Hammond Organ, for the church services. I played it at night in the Grand Ballroom for dancing, which was eventually on radio and later on television.”
“You played the organ? Not Dashiell?”
“Yes, but that’s another story, for another time.”
“And…” he added, “you were on television when you were a kid?”
I nodded and continued, “Dashiell’s mother left and went to Black Rock, the next city on the way to New York. After that, the bishop ordered Dashiell’s father go to a church in a ghetto. Father Wilson, with his religious connections, and Grandpapa, with his money and political connections, got the state to let Grandpapa adopt him. That’s how Dashiell became my brother.”
“You, two, are like Ollie and me.”
“Yes,” I said, nodding. “Very much like Ollie and you.”
“No more wine. It must be time to go to bed.”
Dashiell said, “Roosevelt Island, tomorrow.”
Louis said, “Ollie’ll like that.”
I said, “Maybe, we, older folks, will like it, too.”
Dashiell nodded, “Yep.”
“Have you learned enough about me, for today?”
“Yes, but I still want to hear how you got to build a hotel, in Marseille.”
“And I will be happy to tell you, too. It’s really very simple, after you hear how it happened.”
Dashiell nodded as he sat up in the Jacuzzi. We dried, put on our robes and beach shoes, and went up the starboard stairs. I followed Louis to his stateroom. I wanted to say ‘Good Night” to Ollie and tuck both boys in bed.
Ollie wasn’t there.
I sent Louis to the shower.
On my way downstairs, Jacob told me, “Ollie’s in the lounge, asleep.”
My little Tiger as sound asleep in a chaise. Jacob put a blanket over him.
I sat down on the chaise and coaxed him up, to go to bed.
After putting the boys in bed, I left, turning the lights out, as I opened the door to the hallway. The drapes did not open.
Tonight, no one would watch the lights across the river in Queens. I hoped when Louis was alone with himself, he felt inside our family, and not outside, alone, and adrift.
I opened the door to my suite; Dashiell yelled from the deck, “I’m out here.”
I washed up, put on my pajamas, and went out on the deck in my slippers.
“No mosquitoes, tonight?”
Dashiell, in his pajama bottoms, laughed.
“It’s a mosquito holiday.”
“There’s wine on the table.”
“I’m full. If I drink any more, I’ll be to and from the toilet, all night.”
I sat down in a chaise and stretched out.
“I thought you’d be in bed.”
“I want to let our last few nights here soak in, so I can remember the atmospherics, when we’re home.”
“I won’t forget the dumpster trucks, in the morning. Every morning, like an alarm clock I can’t switch off, they wake me up.”
“I hardly ever hear them.”
“I guess so.”
“On second thought, I think I’ll have a little piece of ice.”
I went to the bucket, grabbed a piece of ice, dropped it in a glass, returned to the chaise, sat down, and remained seated, looking out across the East River, towards the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse, as its beam shone across the dark, misty water.
Dashiell asked, “Well, Louis wanted to know about me. Did he ever tell you why he wanted to know about me or what he wanted to know about me?”
“No. I changed the subject to “ask me about Jean-Claude.” I told him I was born in Atlantic City and about my father and the trolley pole.”
“I have no idea what he was interested in about you.”
Dashiell sat in silence.
“And tonight, in the Jacuzzi, he was confused, perhaps even embarrassed, when you confronted him.”
“Remember I asked him, “Is there a problem, Louis?” and he said, “This is all wrong?”
I saw fear on his face and said “fear” to you.
Dashiell eyes turned from watching the hypnotic, rotating light to me. “What could he fear?”
“I wish I knew. I think the three of us should sit down and get to the bottom of this.”
“Remember, when we were kids, the only thing we weren’t scared of, was each other.”
“Could be the same for him.”
“What about Ollie?”
“I don’t know what he thinks. He’s usually quite forward about what’s on his mind. He’ll tell you what he thinks, if you ask him, and he’ll tell you he doesn’t know, just as fast.”
“When do you want to have our family talk?”
“After the picnic, tomorrow?”
“You ready for bed?”
“Let’s stay out a little longer. I still have a sip or two in my glass.”
He left the remains of my ice in the glass, beside my chaise, and went to sit on the side of Dashiell’s chaise.
He started to move over to make room for me.
“No. Don’t move. I just want to be closer to you.”
“We’ll be really close in a few minutes.”
“That’s when I am most relaxed.”
We sat there until the wine was gone in his glass.
“Good stuff,” he said, setting the glass on the table, beside the chaise.
I stood up, extended my hand to him, and pulled him up to his feet.
We went inside.
I slipped off my slippers and sat on the opened bed. The pillows looked too inviting; I laid down and waited for Dashiell, atop the cool bed linen.
Dashiell went into the bathroom, went to the toilet, brushed his teeth, and returned, closing the bathroom door behind him.
He walked to the other side of the bed, and slid under the comforter.
He reached over me and pulled me closer, until we were firmly united.
His mildly mint scented hand sat close to my nose. I felt his finger brush my lips.
“Good night. Jean-Claude.”
I felt his warm lips kiss my shoulder.
“Good night, Dashiell.”
I kissed the back of his hand. No mint.
I touched one of his knuckles with my tongue, searching for the mint.
“What are you doing?”
“Your hand smells like mint. I was looking for it.”
“Go to sleep, Jean-Claude. Good night.”
He kissed the back of my neck. I felt his breath on my back.
“Good night, Dashiell.”
I pulled his forearm and hand closed to my face and kissed his open hand. Bingo.
My minty zing quickly dissipated.
Outside, the Upper East Side’s nocturnal accordionist began an invocation to a million dreamers, one of whom was I.
In the morning, I woke to nearby birds, yelling loudly.
I moved. Dashiell was still asleep.
I got up, straightened the comforter over Dashiell, and went to the window to see what caused the ruckus.
I went outside, where, to starboard, the sound was much louder. At the railing, I saw a handful of black birds fussing over a colorful bread wrapper, with some bread inside.
I watched for a while, until the Sun began to feel hot on my back. When I turned to go inside, I saw some staff and the boys along the side of the ship also watching.
As I turned the shower on, I realized the boys were already dressed. I wondered what they did in the morning, before I woke up. Boys’ stuff, no doubt.
I dressed quietly and went to see how the boys were doing. When I arrived, both sat in the shade on their deck. Ollie looked into his camera, pointed at Louis, who was making inappropriate gestures for posterity.
When I opened the door to their deck, their private entertainment ceased.
I said, “I’ll want a copy of that one. Ollie.” Instantly, their faces reddened. “I’ll show it to you, twenty years from now and you’ll deny ever taking it.”
They laughed. We were off to a good start. I hoped this would be a nice day.
We went down to the dining room, where the Tissots and Monsieur Laurent were already working on the morning paper, coffee, and sweet rolls.
We exchanged “Good Mornings.”
The boys sat down. I retrieved the papers. As I sat down, the phone rang.
Jacob came to me with the phone.
“Yes. I think we’ll all be there. Seven.”
“Sure. What do you want?”
“Are you sure? Avant-garde music makes demands on the listener. Most people like the same old stuff… the same old stuff they’ve heard, a thousand times before, played the same old way as they’ve heard it, a thousand times before.”
“Okay. I have something no one’s heard before, except my family, ready to go.”
“I don’t have one for it, yet.”
“Okay. Call it “A Family Album”. That will do, for now.”
“No. I’m not brave. You are.”
“A picnic over at the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse. Ollie loves lighthouses and had a propensity for naval things, so a stop at the lighthouse he sees every night is a must, before we go home.”
“Yes. He saw that one.”
“Of course, I did. “Ollie and the Tadpoles - A Concert Piece for Piano. ””
“About ten minutes.”
“That will run about twenty to twenty-five minutes. It starts as four individual pieces. The major theme, which changes as parts are withdrawn or added, culminates in the grand choral finale.”
“Because the four parts are people, the finale is choral to reflect the humanity of the parts.”
“Today or tomorrow.”
“Let me ask you again. Lenny. You really want avant-garde stuff?”
“Okay. I hope you and everyone else enjoys it.”
“Of course, you won’t forget it.”
“When I put it on paper, I’ll send you a copy.”
“I tell them.”
“Okay. Bye. Bye.”
I passed the telephone to Jacob who returned it to its cradle.
I looked up from my half-filled cup of coffee, to Louis.
He looked terrorized.
“What’s the matter?”
“You’re so brave.”
“Brave? What in the world are you talking about?”
“You’re going to play something no one has heard before in front of a bunch of people.”
“No. That’s what I do. I compose and play music.”
With eyes brighter than I had noticed before, he asked, “What about the hotel, the dig, the ship? All that stuff?”
“They are all, accidents.”
“The hotel is an accident?”
“All of those things are accidental. I never intended to build a hotel, or dig in the sand for artifacts, or buy a ship and travel around the oceans. I was at the right place at the right time, and those things happened.”
Dashiell walked in.
We returned his “Good Morning.”
He sat down and Macaulay poured his coffee.
“Delicious coffee aroma.”
Macaulay smiled. He added a touch of cream and a teaspoon of sugar, stirred, and left to refill the carafe.
“What are you, guys, talking about? I saw when I walked in, you were seriously into something.” He sipped his coffee, expelled an “Ah”, and added, “You know I don’t want to miss anything.”
Louis, not taking his eyes from me, said, “Jean-Claude said building the hotel was an accident.”
Dashiell replied, “It was.”
Louis head spun to Dashiell.
“It couldn’t be.”
Louis shook his head, adamantly.
“Do you want to hear what happened, or do you want to make believe you know what you don’t know?”
Hurray for Dashiell. He disarmed Louis, successfully.
Louis knew he had been brash, and Dashiell called him on it.
Louis, with a slight attitude, said, “I’m listening.”
Dashiell explained, “One day, at the breakfast table, Jean-Claude told Aunt Gizzie how he wished he could build a hotel in honor of Grandpapa.”
Aunt Gizzie asked him repeatedly, “Are you sure you want to do that?”
“Jean-Claude didn’t know how serious Aunt Gizzie was. Jean-Claude didn’t know what Aunt Gizzie knew.”
Louis bit on the bait. “What was that?”
“Grandpapa has set aside money in case someone wanted to build another hotel. Aunt Gizzie had a letter from Grandpapa, with no name on the envelope. She was given it, and told to give to Jean-Claude or Dashiell, if either of them ever decided they wanted to build a hotel.”
“What was in the envelope?”
“Aunt Gizzie didn’t give him the envelope right away. She wanted him to think about it. The next morning, she handed him the envelope at the breakfast table, after asking him, one last time, if building a hotel was something he wanted to do.”
Ollie played in the marmalade on his bread
Louis, more anxiously asked, “What was in the envelope?”
I said, “Just the name of Grandpapa’s lawyers in New York and their telephone number.”
“Did you call them?”
“I had visions of playing to a ballroom of happy dancers. I missed playing for the dancers in the Grand Ballroom at Lake Pennyworth Place.”
Louis added, “And the television and radio audiences, too.”
“I never saw them, so I never missed them.”
Dashiell said, “To make a long story, short, he called, and that was the beginning of the Marseille resort.” He tapped his coffee cup, for more coffee.
Macaulay arrived with the freshly filled carafe and poured coffee for everyone at the table.
“You see, it was completely an accident. I had no idea that Aunt Gizzie would take what I said, seriously. I was making idle breakfast talk, and a couple days later, a bunch of attorneys, from Aix, were at the house, telling me about money.”
“We rode around looking for a place to build a hotel and found a road between Marseille and Cassis on the Mediterranean. We would stop and walk toward the sea. All we found was cliffs. We rode on and stopped, repeatedly, until we stopped and looked and there was this lovely beach.”
“We returned to find out who owned the land. The city owned it all the way to Cassis and no one wanted it. It was too far from the city and too rocky to farm.”
“My lawyers, in Aix, assured me, I could afford it. I remembered my grandpapa bought all of Lake Pennyworth Place, because the price of the land was cheap. I did the same. . I told myself, “That’s what Grandpapa would have done.””