“No, they don’t.”
“Ever since the crash that killed Mrs. Barnes’s son, all they do is fight.”
“But New Year’s Eve…the party, the diamond earrings…”
“All an act. God forbid Corinne’s friends think there’s trouble in paradise. One time she slapped his face at a party.”
“She accused him of flirting with one of her friends. I found out from listening in on a phone call between my mother and Ceil Rubin. ‘We all understand,’ Ceil said. Then my mother started crying and I hung up the extension. That’s one good thing about being here. I don’t have to listen to them arguing. They never visit at the same time unless the doctors say they have to. Sometimes I think it would be fun to live in Nevada. No plane crashes. I’d have my own horse.”
“But where would you go to school?”
“They have schools. At least I think they do. I’d go anywhere to get out of this place. But first I have to eat.” She jumped up and grabbed a banana from the snack table. “I’ve been eating bananas without throwing up. Next is sweet potatoes. Did you know sweet potatoes are a perfect food? All the vitamins and minerals you could want wrapped into one tuber. Come on, let’s go…” She grabbed Miri’s hand and led her down the hall, back to her room. “I’ve been studying food groups in science. My tutor—did you know I have a tutor?”
“She graduated from Teachers College at Columbia. She’s Lulu’s tutor, too.” Natalie pushed open the door to her room. “The trouble with Lulu is she wants to die. I don’t want to die. I really don’t.”
Miri reached for Natalie’s hand and for just a moment Natalie looked right into her eyes. “Will you miss me if I go?”
“You know I will.” Did she mean die or move to Nevada?
Lulu said, “If I wanted to die that badly I’d be dead by now, Goldilocks.”
“She pulls out her tubes,” Natalie said. “She tricks the nurses. You know what she has? It’s called anorexia nervosa.”
“You have it, too, cutie pie.” Lulu looked at Miri and pointed a finger at Natalie. “She has it, too.”
“You never know if she’s telling the truth or lying,” Natalie said with a nod toward Lulu. “You can’t believe anything she says. If she croaks I just hope she does it when I’m not around.”
“I’ll remember that, Golden One.”
“See this banana,” Natalie said to Miri, as she began to peel back the skin.
“Don’t eat that in front of me or I’ll vomit,” Lulu said.
“She can’t even look at food.”
“I can if it’s a picture in a magazine. Just not the real stuff. Not the smelly stuff.”
“I have to go outside to eat a banana,” Natalie said. “Banana!” she shouted, wagging it in front of Lulu.
Lulu gagged and reached for her call button. A nurse came into the room. “What now, Lulu?”
“She made me gag.”
“I didn’t make her gag,” Natalie said. “I showed her the banana, that’s all.”
Miri snuck a look at her watch. She wanted to get out of there in the worst way.
“I think your mother is waiting for me,” she told Natalie. She picked up the gift-wrapped copy of Seventeenth Summer from the chair where she’d set it down earlier and handed it to Natalie. “I brought this for you.”
“I hope it’s not chocolates.”
“It’s a book.”
“Let’s see,” Lulu said as Natalie tore the paper off Miri’s gift. “Seventeenth Summer…how sweet. Are you in love with her?” Lulu asked Miri.
“Don’t answer that!” Natalie said. Then, quietly, she told Miri, “I already read it.”
“I know,” Miri said. “We read it together. I just thought…I thought…”
Lulu started singing, “Be my love…”
“Shut up, Lulu!” Natalie said.
“I’ve got to go,” Miri said.
“Sure,” Natalie said. “I don’t blame you.”
“HOW DID SHE SEEM?” Corinne asked on the way home.
“She was good.”
Miri nodded. “A little.”
“That’s better than depressed. She’s eating again. Not a lot. And only a few things. But that’s progress. Green grapes, iceberg lettuce and bananas. Like a chimpanzee.” Corinne gave a sharp laugh. “Oh, god—I don’t know why I said that. Please don’t mention that I said that, about the chimpanzee.”
Miri wanted to say she liked chimpanzees, but she didn’t.
Elizabeth Daily Post
REASON HAS ITS LIMITATIONS
APRIL 14—The inflamed mob action which has been taking place in Egypt, Tunisia, Iran and elsewhere should point a major lesson to democratic western policy makers—the futility of placing too much faith in logic and reason when dealing with angry, impassioned peoples. Something similar can be seen even here in a few of the more violent and irrational proposals made to combat Newark Airport Expansion.
On April 15 Steve got an acceptance letter from Syracuse. Phil got in, too. Just the way they’d planned. Instead of celebrating, Steve went down to Williamson Street and walked around where Kathy died, all the time talking to her, trying to explain what was going on. Or maybe he was trying to explain it to himself. How someone his age, someone beautiful, someone he had dreamed about, someone he had kissed, could have stepped onto a plane one January afternoon and be dead an hour and a half later. How could that happen? How could that be real? So, thanks, but no thanks, Syracuse. He was never setting foot on that campus again, never setting foot in that town, in the whole of upstate New York.
Phil was waiting for him when he got home, sitting outside in his car. “I figured you’d come home sooner or later.”
Steve shoehorned himself into Phil’s MG, an early graduation present from his parents. “I’m not going to Syracuse,” Steve told him.
“Me neither,” Phil said. “So which one do you want to go to—Rutgers or Lehigh?”
“I say Lehigh,” Phil said. “Put some distance between us and our families.”
“We have to send back our forms with a check.”
“I’m counting on you,” Phil said.
“Don’t count on me too much.”
“What do you mean? We’re in this together.”
“I got to go,” Steve said, getting out of Phil’s car.
He supposed by now his mother had told his father he’d gotten into all three schools he’d applied to. But maybe not. Because his mother and father didn’t seem to be speaking these days. Life at home was no fun, to put it mildly. Natalie was lucky she was at that rest home. He hoped she was getting plenty of rest. Because there was nothing restful about living here. Only Fern carried on as if everything were okay. Maybe that was her way of dealing with it. Pretend everything is fine. Same as always. Too bad he couldn’t do that.
Inside, his parents and Fern were waiting for him in the kitchen. “Congratulations!” they called out. Was this a surprise party? Were his friends hiding in the other room? He looked around, but no, it was just the family. What was left of the family. He supposed he should be grateful. A surprise party was the last thing he wanted. Besides, all his friends would be celebrating with their families tonight, except for the ones who didn’t get into their first-choice schools.
“Look at your cake!” Fern sang. “It’s your favorite. All chocolate. From Allen’s Bakery.”
“We’re proud of you, son,” his father said, throwing an arm over his shoulder.
His mother embraced him. “I never doubted you’d do well.”
“Can we eat the cake now?” Fern asked, practically drooling over it.
“After Steve has his supper,” his mother said. “I’ll heat up the plate I saved for you.”
“No, I’ll have cake for my supper,” Steve said, making Fern clap her hands.
His mother started to protest but his father said, “You’re not going to be there next year to make sure he has supper before dessert. You might as well get used to it.”
At which point his mother burst into tears and left the room.
“She’s just emotional about you leaving home,” his father said, trying to reassure him.
“Good Natalie’s not here,” Fern said. “She doesn’t eat cake.”
Elizabeth Daily Post
DESK-FAX SERVICE COMES TO AREA
APRIL 28—Western Union has introduced an electronic service which provides the busy businessman with a push-button telegraph office right on his desk. The device is the Desk-Fax, a machine which sends and receives telegrams by literally taking a picture of them.
Transmission is possible up to nine miles. The quality diminishes over longer distances because of the limitations of telephone lines.