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 the book in its entirety, head over to Amazon and purchase a copy. (There’s a button on the left that will take you there).
“Aw, my room,” Joy says nostalgically, as she wheels her suitcase into her former bedroom and Evelyn follows.
“Pretty much as you left it,” Evelyn offers.
“No kidding,” Joy replies, adopting a teasing tone.
“What’s that about? Why isn’t this some archival library, like the others?”
“It’s birth order, sweetheart,” her mother explains. “As it turned out, I only needed two storage rooms, and so you and Adam have been spared.”
“Hmm,” Joy says, clearly tired, clearly fading, “birth order.”
Evelyn helps her lift her rolling suitcase onto the table along the wall. She senses Joy’s exhaustion and also envies it. She wonders if this is a moment when she might be overstepping her bounds.
“Is there anything you need, Joy?”
“No. Um, unless you’ve moved the bathroom. There are towels in there?”
“We put in a fresh set today. They’re the only ones in there.”
“And, um,” Joy’s sense of this being an awkward moment reaches Evelyn. “I have an alarm clock. So?”
“You don’t want me to tuck you in?” Evelyn asks, hoping her facetiousness is clear.
“Do you remember what you used to say, Joy, when I asked if I could tuck you in?”
Joy laughs. “How could I not?” She shakes her head, embarrassed, while pulling clothes out of her suitcase and putting them in available bureau drawers. “I used to say, ‘Mother, you don’t tuck me in; you tuck the sheets in.’”
“Right!” Evelyn agrees, clapping her hands as she had at the train station.
Now retrieving a pair of shoes from the bottom of her suitcase and placing them near the closet, Joy asks, “What kept you from slapping my smart-ass self?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, how cocky!” Then, Joy repeats the line, with a childish smart-aleck tone: “You don’t tuck me in; you tuck the sheets in.”
“Joy,” her mother replies, lovingly, “you weren’t being a smart-ass.”
Evelyn then kisses her daughter’s forehead and looks her in the eye: “You were being logical.”
An hour later, Evelyn retrieves Davy from the family room. With no protest on his part, she is able to lead him upstairs, help him into his pajamas, and direct him to his side of their bed. Once that is accomplished, she checks in on Joy. Her daughter—so perfectly independent now at the tender age of thirty-seven—is indeed fast asleep.
Evelyn does not waste time envying either of them. They can sleep; she can’t; that’s life.
But life also exists inside of Patrick’s former bedroom.
At least, that’s where much of Evelyn’s life seems to exist now.
ADAM, AGE 7-10 is the direction she receives from the first folded-up square she pulls from the bowl.
Adam, Evelyn thinks, retrieving the corresponding box. Adam! Whatever will I find in here?
What Evelyn might have been thinking, while retrieving the box, is dramatically different from what she comes upon once she opens it.
She pulls out a knit top. Totally generic. Casts it aside.
Another knit top. A different shade of pale blue, but still pale; still blue. Casts it aside.
As she continues foraging, she is more completely dumb-founded by her pack-rat self than she has been up to this point. These clothes are not special! she thinks. What the hell was I thinking?!?
Then. Suddenly. Buried beneath the dullness, Evelyn sees something that makes her sigh and smile. A soft pink ruffled shirt, specifically made to exist within the tuxedo jacket that is folded beneath it. Each, for some reason, designed to fit the body of an eight-year-old boy.
“Ladies and Gentlemen!” Adam spoke authoritatively, having gathered his family in the backyard, against the protests of some.
“Welcome! Welcome! And I am so glad you all could come tonight!”
“What choice did we have?” Evelyn heard Patrick say to Marilyn.
“Tonight, I am proud to share with you the amazing world of…” (and then he swirled his hands about in a tantalizing fashion) “…Adamagic.”
“OOOOHHHH!” Davy chanted, inspiring his wife and children to join in.
“OOOOHHHH!” the family chanted.
“Thank you very much,” said the young magician, clearly encouraged by the response.
“Tonight,” Adam continued, “you will witness the unfalmable…”
“Unfalmable!” Davy repeated, raising an arm of solidarity and causing the entire family to chant: “OOOOHHHH!”
“Tonight,” Adam said, beginning to show signs of selfconsciousness, “you will witness magic as you’ve never witnessed it before. May I have a volunteer, please?”
For a moment, there was quiet in the crowd—quiet that made Evelyn uncomfortable. She certainly didn’t want to volunteer herself, but she hated the thought that her baby would have no takers.
And Adam, ever the showman, recognized that quiet, too. “Any takers?” he repeated, his voice cracking a bit as he tried desperately to retain some sense of authority.
“At your service, Adamagic!” Davy exclaimed with enthusiasm, standing to the family’s now common “OOOOHHHH!”
“Very good, then,” Adam said, regaining his confidence. “Thank you, sir. If you will step forward.”
Adam then waved his arm dramatically, leading his father onto the “stage.”
Evelyn’s recollection of the ensuing program is that it did not go well for Adam-as-magician. His card tricks failed miserably. And, to make matters worse, they failed repeatedly.
But, as Evelyn recalls now, that failure did nothing to undermine Adam’s conviction. Because Davy—who remained the guinea pig throughout the repertoire—miraculously made every mistake look like it was his fault. It wasn’t Adam who failed to produce magic. It was Davy.
How did he do that? Evelyn now thinks. How did Davy produce magic by being party to the failure of magic?
How did he DO that?!?
Having tossed aside all other contents of the ADAM, AGE 7-10 box, Evelyn looks at the two pieces in front of her: the soft pink ruffled shirt and the tuxedo jacket.
Perfect, she thinks, envisioning the quilt. These two will go together… as an ensemble… in the same square.
* * *
to be continued on November 20th .
In the meantime, if you want to read a short piece about the back story, click here.