A journal of narrative writing.
Happy New Year
Page 2

Daniel interrupted, and on Sunrise Highway here on Long Island, according to my mother-the-history-teacher.

Ruth nodded and then shook her head. Wait, she said, that marzipan store didnt open till the late 30s.

She swallowed, and the dissolving sweet was thick in her throat. She asked him for a cup of tea. The tall boy returned with one of those china cups with the thin handles that were so hard to hold and with another glass of champagne for himself.

Thank you, Ruth said. How old are you?

Illegal in this state, he said, downing half the glass, but Im not driving home. Ill be 18 in September.

Ruth managed to lift the tea cup without spilling any. It was very hot. She had to put it down right away.

When I was little, I had a glass straw, the boy said.

Youre surprised.

I suddenly remembered

The tricks memory plays.

Arent funny, are they, he said.

Ruth put her hand over Daniels and squeezed. Her palm was soft and warm and strong. What a grip, he thought. But the back of her hand looked like north-facing tree roots, gnarled, greenish, and black-spotted.

You have a girlfriend? Ruth asked.

He nodded.

Youre lucky.

* * *

dont goddam Lynne said, pushing, your mother for exactly what you want us to do!

Daniel leaned forward and kissed her to shut her up. She squirmed and made a sound, but suddenly she went limp and then abruptly bit his lip as hard as she could. He yelled and licked the blood and felt the deep cut with his tongue.

You stink. You are Ironic, Lynne said. Anyway, I dont believe you about your parents. I think you made it up.

My mother yelled it at me.

She mustve been angry at you. Im angry at you, Lynnes voice softened. I bit you.

I deserved it.

* * *

He saw that Ruths tea was too hot. Daniel went into the kitchen and found a lowball glass. Thats what his stepfather called them. He also found a spoon and brought both back into the den. He poured the tea from the china cup into the glass and put the spoon into it and handed it to Ruth, who was talking to his mother about some distant relative who had died years before. Ruth sipped tea from the spoon and looked up at Daniel.

How tall are you? she asked.

Six one.

His father is tall, his mother said.

Ruth reached for the tape recorder and fumbled at the keys. Daniel leaned over and pressed RECORD.

Greek olives and chipped ice, Ruth said. There was a Greek grocery store underneath the El. The July I was 25, it was so hot, I sat on the brownstone steps outdoors and ate Greek olives. They were black and salty and fat and shiny, like seals. I drank tea in a glass with chipped ice.

Ruth held the glass of tea and swirled it as if it contained ice, then took a sip and put it down. No one talked about the trial in Tennessee. People were too absorbed in their own lives. But I recall, much earlier, back upstate, having a long-lasting discussion with a boy in my high school class. It lasted many months until he finally wrote to a Harvard professor to tell him I believed in evolution, and coming from a family of church people, he was all for Adam and Eve.

She talked like a creaking chair.

We were classmates and it was a horrible blow to his thinking. This was about 1915 or 1916. I remember that my father and mother talked about the Scopes trial with all of us and this must be after, when I went home for a visit I cant remember and we all had a firm belief in evolution. The whole family listened and took part. We early learned to observe animals on our weekly trips to the zoo.

* * *

Its starting to snow, Lynne said.

Its time to get you home, anyway, Daniel said.

He lifted her up so she could reach the edge of the boardwalk and then gave her a gentle push until she could maneuver her legs over. He jumped and pulled himself up after her. There was no one else on the boardwalk, just the streetlamps and snow swirling in beams of light. Though the wind blew, he could hear the heartbeat thud of the ocean. Snow fell on Lynnes long light hair, then into the mittens she was holding up to the sky.

Not Spain, she said, presenting her cupped palms holding the transformed water, snow!

It was then that Daniel remembered from AP class was what missing from Ironic lives. He bent to sip her offering. The time was after midnight when the snowflakes burned his lip and melted in his mouth.