Interviews Tommy Lasorda – Upstate New York – The War – Ally Takes Cookie –Asks “Where are you going with that cookie – Scares Tommy Lasorda because he was eating a cookie
Bounding alongside the cacchinating Schuylkill River by its ironbled silted banks, not knowing how long the nights, or how long the days. I was a boy, tiding with the hours, searching for the absolute in the inabsolute. When I first moved to Los Angeles the city stank of the burning flesh of men, then the war happened and the war stank of souls riven in the dark. The tolling of a bell in El Alamein and then back to Norristown, the godfeeling all but left. I arrived in Schenectady evacuated of warmth, carrying in me nothing but relentless cold. My shoulders turned lycanthropic, my pitch supine. That year I did become the winningest pitcher, assigned up north to the Montreal Royals and its hollow DeLormier Downs. Then I had my son, Tom Jr. and I appealed again to a dark holiness, an organic providence. My wife burned sage through the rooms in our house and the relentless cold began to abate, Do you understand Raymond?
I think so.
It was my final stand.
Where are you going with that cookie? Raymond said to the thing of whose animation he was half responsible for. The girl, named Ally, ambled with the exultation held only by the truly blameless. Across the airless static of miles separated by leagues, Tommy Lasorda dropped the wafer he was about to raise to his mouth, dusted with sugarsweet powder, the perfectly named sweet nothing, sweet never.
To Nemo’s Pizza – Red pasta sauce "Gravy" – Bernie and Linda moaning in the dark Like cats – Is in the dog house – Debra – Orders cacciatore – Eats cacciatore
Debra orders rotini with cream and tomato sauce. Alla Gigi. The waitress, an old woman puts the plate in front of her.
Do you have bread? Raymond asks. The old woman nods. Debra and Raymond sit across from Bernie and Linda. In her seat, Debra looks small: as though lines of fate were never born from her, as though she had never become a woman. Linda bites into the hull of the loaf, her eyeteeth flashing. Bernie grabs her shoulder, kneading it between thumb and forefinger with a prehensile mien. Debra watches, not intimidated but evincing ancient sadness. With the pads of his fingertips Bernie brushes against Linda's waist, kissing her openly on the mouth, his tongue pressed to hers. Breaking away from him, Linda laughs. She does not acknowledge the existence of a Debra or a Raymond, sensing an implacable lowness bonding them. Soaking up red oil with his bread, Raymond's heart remembers the cacciatore of his Nonna. The deep knowledge of her hands when pressing the spine of a bird's beak knife into the rind of an overripe squash.
Raymond, how's work Bernie asks.
Getting any better?
Can't say, last place. Raymond answers.
As they leave Linda tells Bernie to give their compliments to Nemo. Debra watches Raymond, to see if he follows instructions. Pushing the exit door, Raymond notices in the reflection how thin his wife's face looks - how lupine.
With the sun setting down the house became a sarcophagus for the hours, days and seasons that ran before. Raymond was a man with a family. He vowed not to forget the flaxen cascades of his twins' hair when they were but damp puppies writhing around each other in crib, or the shadow of oceanic downlight in his daughter's eyes.
Outside dogs barked, as Debra sighed remotely. Raymond sensed her discontent, and decided it convenient not to open his eyes, lest she know he was awake. She looked at his body, fiftyish, thickened by the sacrament that bound them. He was a comfortable man. Lying down by his side she raised her hand to brush his soot-dark hair.
Ray are you up.
He feigned disturbance.
Ray did you see Bernie and Linda tonight.
I saw them.
Did you see how they were with each other?
I guess so.
Why aren't you like that with me?
Aw. I dunno. Suppose I don't feel like showing off.
Raymond turned away.
Bending her head down, Debra moved towards Raymond's lips with the deliberation of a woman leveling her charges, redressing all the misaffections she’d suffered at the hands of godless men and mannish gods. Debra in youth had been afflicted with the malignant belief that love could last a long time; she wanted the kiss to show it, still. Raymond, uncomfortable, abided this token then turned over without another word, falling to sleep quickly in the dark hermetic night.
Breakfast – Frank Fixes Shower – The Dark Lashed Dancer from Calabria –Mountains like palisades – Frank is good to Marie – No one else is good to Marie
In the damp, hay-scented room, Raymond awoke alone in his bed. The smell of damp earth and roasted coffee wafted from downstairs. He eased his feet into his slippers, and walked downstairs. Debra looked up from the stove, her flushed pale skin pink without flaw, as though painted on.
Will you tell your dad to fix the shower?
Give me the phone
Debra handed him the phone.
Dad? Can you come over today?
Our shower is broken. That's right. Bro – ken.
He placed the phone back in the cradle and looked at Debra.
An hour later, Frank showed up, clutching a red aluminum toolbox, with Raymond's mother Marie in tow. Marie and Frank followed Raymond to the pale bathroom, where Raymond leaned against the door frame. Marie sat on the ledge of the bath while Frank stood in the stall, examining the showerhead. Frank looked down at Marie.
La morte mi troverà vivo
She shook her head. E questo allineare?
Il mattino ha l'oro in bocca
It was this manner of speech that caused Raymond to lie with the heavy weight dragged along like a dead horse, since his youth, while his simple brother Robert still relished boyish afternoons of being wild and free. He would watch how his father looked at his mother with disinterest, as his mother suffered under the heel of time, growing ungirlish, uncheerful, bloating with unhappiness. By the feint of propriety they rarely touched one another.
Why weren't you more affectionate with each other? Raymond asked, to neither in particular. His father ignored the question, as Marie looked up, startled.
Raymond your father has a problem with intimacy, Marie said. Frank looked up, She's right.
Raymond could hear his heart beating in his ears, and could feel his face grow hot.
Debra doesn't like how I am.
Frank and Marie exchanged a long glance. Frank thought about the first woman he had ever been with, a dark-lashed dancer from Calabria. She had been raised by her elder brother, Vittorio, a friend of Frank's. The two of them would lie on the balcony in the waning hour of sunlight before night fell at their feet. One day, Frank waited for her until the air hardened in the cold, the bright stars pronouncing she would not come. The next day however, she sat on the balcony waiting. Buttery gold shafts of light framed the one side of the street and Frank affirmed she was Botticelli's Grace. Watching overhead she smiled, looking down as Frank let himself in through the downstairs door. As he entered, he saw her shyly stand before him clutching a thin sheet around her, the fabric gathering like a gown at the wisp of her waist. He stood solid and quiet as she stalked towards him one foot in front of the other, her dark hair falling around her shoulders. And for a moment it was as though a shroud had been lifted off this blighted planet and everything shone burnished silver and copper and gold. Frank reached his hands out toward her, she took his hands, putting them there on her body, anointing him with a soft but unholy bliss.
That night, Frank dreamed of boundless plains with gypsum scintillating in the light of a cloudless sky. In the distance blue mountain ranges anchored in the plains like palisades. The landscape rose unconcealed before him in all its loamy tractable majesty. By morning he felt that same far off beauty inside him, compelling him to remember the Marie he loved long ago - he chose her for her likeness to the dancer, for her hair long and black as well as her eyes - less dark, less available to him.
When Raymond called Frank to say he left his hand-sized toolbox behind, Frank arrived in high spirits with Marie, standing next to her laughing. Raymond looked at them skeptically, Debra hanging back demurely.
You seem different, Raymond said.
Ray, your mother and I are experiencing a little something called love. We are in love.
It seems strange
Some things in life are mysterious
Frank picked up his toolbox and started for the door, his arm languidly spread over Marie's once delicate shoulders.
We liked how you were before! Raymond said, thinking of himself and Debra.
Road trip with the New York Mets – The Flying shortstop – Presumably says I love you to Debra – Says it to young Ally – Loves his children
Debra watched as Raymond assembled his generic belongings. He was due to set out for the fortnight and twine together a sermon on the New York Mets.
I'll be laid up for a couple weeks.
She watched him from within the secrets of her world, understanding that the corpus of her thoughts was inscribed in a sister tongue Raymond was not fluent in. Like the unnoticed quietus of the last of the arsenical Hittites, Debra no longer sought to repossess the uncomplicated happiness of early life. Raymond drew the zipper around his luggage and looked up, his hand pressed on the back of the suitcase.
On the team bus he sat next to Rey Ordonez, a young shortstop who did everything to scoop the ball out of the dirt. Ordonez's teammates suspected him of flying, and in the locker room would shout at him Cucoooo, cuco eres un pajaro en o ago! He would smile and laugh a soft pattering laugh. Sitting next to this warm dense man, Raymond listened carefully as Ordonez described the process of breaking in his first glove, how he painted the hide with olive oil, baking it on hissing coals for a day until the leather grew porous, supple.
Excuse me, my phone is ringing.
It’s not a problem, guy. Ordonez looked out the window.
Hello? Raymond unfolded a cellular phone, but heard nothing.
Hello? He gazed at the seat in front of him, his eyes trained on the insipid pattern of brushed colorful fibers. His expression funereal. He listened for a moment, expression softened.
I love you. He waited, listened.
I love you, he said a little louder, turning his body in an attempt to buffer some small kind of privacy.
Okay, I’ll be home soon.
The girl stood on a chair, placing the phone receiver back on the wall. With her hair wrapped in a rag, and an old sweater on, Debra walked through the kitchen carrying a laundry basket. Hey Ally, she smiled.
Who was that
I was just talking to dad
Debra put down the laundry down on the kitchen table, and tried to foresee whether the fire of her daughter’s heart could somehow relight the crumbling ashes of her own, if that was worth waiting for, if she even wanted that.