A NOTE BEFORE READING: I began sharing weekly excerpts from my novel, The Somebody Who, on June 26th. If you want to begin at the beginning, go here. If you want to read more sooner, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).
When Evelyn heads down the stairs the following morning, she is in a remarkably light mood. Claudia, having arrived two hours ago, is serving Davy his breakfast. Evelyn can hear the routine as she approaches the kitchen.
“But I don’t know what—I don’t know.”
“Just eat, Davy,” is Claudia’s firm reply. “Waffles. You love them!”
“Oh, I do then. I guess. I love them.”
“Yes, you do.”
“I love them, too!” Evelyn comments cheerfully, as she enters the kitchen.
“Evelyn! Just in time!” Claudia quickly replies. “You want waffles? The toaster’s still hot…”
“Bring ‘em on.”
“Good morning,” says Davy to Evelyn. “You’re here now.”
“I am here now. And, as soon as I’ve had some coffee, I’ll be here even more.” She kisses Davy on the forehead—a gesture that makes him smile.
“You’re in a good mood this morning,” Claudia says to Evelyn, her eyebrows raised in a shall-we-talk-later way. “Did you have a date last night?”
Davy, currently negotiating the syrup, is as oblivious as ever.
“I wish,” Evelyn replies to Claudia, as she pours a cup of coffee and looks across the room at her former husband.
“So?” Claudia continues. “Are you going to tell me why you are so happy this morning? Another grandchild on the way? Did you win the lottery?”
“No. Though either of those things would probably make me happy, neither of those things is true. What it is is that last night, I came up with an idea for a project. And it feels settling.”
Evelyn then takes a deep sip of her freshly-poured coffee.
“Is this for me?” Davy asks, holding up the glass of orange juice that has been at his place on the counter for more than five minutes.
“Yes, Davy, that’s yours,” replies Claudia.
While Evelyn feels a little remorse for not being the first to reply, it doesn’t get her. She’s feeling an unusual peace this morning. A peace with her plan.
“So? What is it, Evelyn?” Claudia then asks. “What is your project?”
“Well,” Evelyn begins, with a playfully authoritarian air she has not displayed in a very long time, “I’m not going to tell you.”
“Alright,” says Claudia, crossing her arms and feigning anger. “No waffles for you!”
“I’m not going to tell you,” Evelyn continues, “because until I am well into the project, I cannot be sure I am going to pull it off.”
“Fair enough,” says Claudia, unfolding her arms and crossing to the freezer. “I feel the same way about your breakfast.” She extracts the box of frozen waffles. “Let me get these babies in the toaster.”
“Is this mine?” Davy asks again, holding up his glass of orange juice.
“Yes, sweetheart.” (This time it is Evelyn who answers.) “That is your orange juice. You love orange juice.”
“Okay. I guess I do then.” Davy laughs, oddly. “I love orange juice.”
Davy then downs his entire glass of orange juice in one gulp. And when he is done, he lifts up his tee shirt and pats his extended gut.
“Good,” he says.
When the telephone rings an hour later, Evelyn is well into her caffeine buzz, and Davy, also having had coffee, is sound asleep on the easy chair in the family room. The television is off, which is the position Evelyn prefers, and because the telephone handset happens to be within arm’s reach, she answers it before the machine does.
“Mrs. Bennett?” asks a voice that sounds vaguely familiar.
“Mrs. Bennett. This is Ashley Morgan. I left you a message at the end of last week?”
“Oh, yes. Hello, Ashley. I am sorry I didn’t get back to you yet. You were interested in some of Davy’s art?”
“Yes, for a charity event. It’s on November 10th. A Tuesday.”
“That’s soon!” Evelyn comments.
“Yes, and I’m sorry for the short notice. We’d like to include a few of Dr. Bennett’s pieces in the silent auction. Maybe three or four that could be bid on as a group. I’m thinking about the pen-and-ink drawings of architecture. Do you still have them?”
“I’m pretty sure they’re around here somewhere. I’ll have a look. Of course, they aren’t matted or framed. Is that something you would want me to do, or will the charity cover that expense?”
“We can take care of it at this end. The charity is really fabulous, by the way. It’s called the Elder Haven Center for Senior Care and Study. They’re on the Upper West Side, and they do great work. They have a day care facility for seniors, and they conduct research on issues affecting seniors. I, uh, volunteer there once a week.” There is a slight pause before Ashley continues, this time with a more emotional tone. “Um… how is Dr. Bennett?”
“Well, I gather from your message that you’re aware of his condition.”
“Yes,” Evelyn confirms.
“Yes, I heard about it from Gus Michaels.”
“Gus Michaels!?! Jeez, I haven’t thought of that name in a while!” Evelyn smiles as she remembers him. Gus and Davy had been colleagues at Sarah Lawrence. Gus was chair of the music department when Davy retired from his senior professorship in the fine arts department. They had a pickup band that played around town, Gus on keyboards and Davy on the sax.
Interrupting her own reminiscence, Evelyn returns to Ashley. “How is Gus, anyway? We haven’t seen him in years. He moved back to Manhattan, didn’t he?”
“Yes, he’s doing really well. Still with the same partner. As he would put it, ‘just two old retired fags, living the Village life.’”
“I’m glad he’s well. I guess I never met his partner.”
“Ben is great. Lots of fun. They’re both well. Happy and healthy.”
“That’s good to hear. Will you please tell Gus hello for me the next time you see him?”
“Absolutely. In fact, I expect them at the charity event. If you would like to come as well, I could probably get you a couple of comps. Of course, Dr. Bennett would be welcome, but I don’t know if—”
The suggestion puts a dart through Evelyn’s chest. “No, Ashley,” she responds, “he doesn’t really socialize anymore. He just doesn’t know how. And I find that when I try to take
him places, he gets very upset. He’s disoriented enough around the house. The unfamiliar is, I think, actually frightening to him.”
“Oh,” is Ashley’s quiet response, “so it’s that far along.” Then, after a pause, she adds, “I am so, so sorry.”
“I am, too.” says Evelyn, looking over at the sleeping form of Davy. “And you said you were a student of his?”
“Yes, I took several of his classes over the years. I love art, and I would have majored in it, but if I had, my parents would have disowned me.”
“So what did you major in?”
“English lit, huh? That’s funny, I was speaking the other day with an English lit major who views herself as unemployable. What advice can I give her?”
“I don’t have a lot of patience for people who think they can’t find work.”
Evelyn smiles at Ashley’s response because she shares Ashley’s sentiment. “Where do you work?” she then asks Davy’s intriguing former student.
“I teach art at a private school. I also paint, and every now and then, I sell a painting, which is really exciting. I’m connected with a gallery in Soho that represents me.”
“That’s wonderful!” Evelyn comments. “And you certainly must be doing well if you can afford to live in Manhattan!”
“I can’t afford not to live in Manhattan. And, oh my God, I just looked at my watch. I’ve got a bunch of kids waiting for me in the art room. I’ve got to run. So, what should we do next regarding the drawings? Could I come up there this weekend to retrieve them? I’ll need a little lead time to have them matted and framed.”
“This weekend sounds fine. That’ll give me a deadline to find them!”
“Excellent. I’ll call toward the end of the week to zero in on a time and confirm your address and directions and stuff. Anyway, I’ve really got to go. Thank you, Mrs. Bennett, so much. Those drawings should bring in a nice donation for the Center.”
“Thank you, Ashley. I’ll look forward to seeing you next weekend.”
It is Davy, awake from his nap and slowly rising from his chair.
“What are you going to do now, sweetheart?” Evelyn asks.
“In there,” he says, pointing quite emphatically toward the kitchen.
“The pants in there?”
Davy then shakes his head in exasperation and pads out of the room.
I guess I just don’t get it, Evelyn thinks, raising her eyebrows. But she really doesn’t mean to feel so flippant. Because she believes—and she has for a while—that Davy’s exasperation is probably every bit as real as her own.
* * *
to be continued on September 25th.
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.