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The Full Cleveland, страница 1

 

The Full Cleveland
 

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The Full Cleveland


  SIMON & SCHUSTER

  Rockefeller Center

  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

  Copyright © 2004 by Terry Reed

  All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

  SIMON & SCHUSTER and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Reed, Terry, date.

  The full Cleveland /Terry Reed.

  p. cm.

  I. Title.

  PS3618.E43585F85 2004

  813.6—dc22 2004052529

  ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-8977-8

  ISBN-10: 1-4165-8977-5

  Visit us on the World Wide Web:

  http://www.SimonSays.com

  To my parents

  And their children

  And their children

  Acknowledgments

  You know who you are to me and you know what you did: Terry McDonell, David Rosenthal, Denise Roy, Christina Richardson, David Kuhn, Leigh Feldman, Richard Giser, Kirsten Dehner, Fred Botwinik, John Homans, Angela Britzman, Jane Clark, Peter Wilkinson, Peter Kreutzer, Elizabeth Royte, Jon Glascoe, Joe Pierson, Nancy Butkus, David Auchincloss, Sheryl Lukomski, Sarah Jewler, Philippe Qualisse, Deborah Zdobinski, Jeff Ballsmeyer, Kay Arav, Paul Scott Drake, David Colbert, Jan Van Lacre, Jack Barth, Ilene Schneiderman, Christa Worthington, Christopher Horn, Mark Reed, Sally Reed, Leslie Reed, Michael Neubarth, Ike Reed, Zarifah Reed, Lisa Reed, and John Seabrook. Thank you.

  THE FULL CLEVELAND

  TEN

  When we were rich, we had no real use for the Easter Bunny.

  We had an Egg Man. When I found out other children had the Bunny, I didn’t envy them. Because either way it’s your father, of course, and a father is an important thing and things happen to them over time, plus I’d just rather not have the Easter Bunny. Who needs the embarrassment. Especially if you went downtown and found him in Public Square trying to amuse everyone as well as sell them something, except he was eight feet tall and his eyes didn’t blink and his teeth didn’t move and some of the smaller children started screaming or sobbing and had to be instantly whisked into the arms of their mothers. All because of the Easter Bunny. No, I’m sorry, I mean maybe I should apologize, but we had Egg Man.

  But I already said, that’s when we were rich.

  Easter Sunday, Egg Man was in charge of hiding. He was very good at it, so it was natural to think it came to him naturally. He hid chocolate eggs in baskets from us and jewelry and such in a blue box from Mother, but the main thing is, he did it with clues, and the whole thing got harder as you got older. We had a big house, and Egg Man made sure finding the stuff was almost impossible.

  Mother said it was so Protestant of him. To maybe make us look until Christmas. Once Mother had to, her clues were so hard.

  Egg Man hid other things also from Mother. Easter afternoon, after she took us to church, he took over and took us to Cleveland. To the worst parts of it, was the best part. Which was the part he hid from Mother. It was about the one thing he did alone with us all year, but it was a good one. Sometimes it was to a river he claimed was famous for burning. The Cuyahoga, it was called, but Matt called it The Combustible. It had already caught fire twice, see, so Matt said that was the name for it.

  Easter when I was still ten, all of the hidden things had been found except Mother’s.

  Noon mass was over and Clarine, Matt, Cabot, Luke, Lucy, and I were all packed in Mother’s blue Buick convertible, except the top wasn’t down. It was hot but we were helpless, because Mother was hanging back in the church parking lot, planning to talk to people. That’s what she did after church on Sunday and it was much worse on Easter. We were usually used to it, but today we wanted to get home and see about Egg Man.

  But a woman in a wide black hat saw Mother across the parking lot and started over on her walker. All of us in the hot car moaned. Clarine flashed dark eyes around, so we stopped. Then she told us to roll our windows all the way down.

  Clarine was the oldest except for our parents. She lived with us and all, but she wasn’t our sister. She was really the nanny, but really the housekeeper. Today she sat up where Mother would sit if Egg Man were driving. Shotgun, Matt liked to make a big point of calling it.

  Like Egg Man himself, Clarine wasn’t Catholic. Today she’d come to see the Easter hats, to hold Lucy, and maybe for curiosity, because in Catholic Church, you can see people kneel down. During mass, she hadn’t knelt down herself, though. When I’d tried to not do it with her, Mother had frowned.

  “Boyce, girl,” Clarine had whispered when I tried it. “Do like the others.” But at first I thought she said, Do unto others. It was an unbelievable coincidence, to have that happen in church, and instead of praying like I was supposed to, I sat around smiling about it.

  Matt was the oldest. He sat up front, his head all slumped, due to staring down chronically at his new double-breasted, brass-buttoned blazer. He’d complained that morning that cool kids would see it. Now he lifted his head for about the first time since being ordered into the jacket regardless. “People,” he said, “let us pray. Let us pray she doesn’t run into any more people.” He said it with his hands up, palms out, as if he had self-appointed himself our personal preacher. It was pretty funny, but you couldn’t laugh too much or he’d do a ton more of it.

  Clarine said, “Children. Please. Shut up.” Which was something, because she usually said, “Children, please hush up.” She was from the South, and that’s where they say that. But “shut up” wasn’t even allowed. Even for adults, strictly forbidden.

  But she sure had said it, and Cabot and I turned to look at each other, bumping our hats with the streamers. We were so close in age, we had to wear the same hats. Except Cabot had long blond hair and looked like a picture from a magazine that sometimes features the world’s most presentable children. Pictured in a riding habit with a horse, I bet, riding along with her beautiful mother. That Town and Country, no doubt. Anyway, under my hat, I had a crew cut.

  Luke, in pint-size brown loafers, sat with his legs and arms ramrod straight and his eyes squeezed shut, bearing up under the delay rather nicely. He’d once had special preschool psychologists who had taught him to do that.

  Over Clarine’s shoulder, Lucy tried to wing her own head off, but then I suppose she gave up. Her Easter bonnet went all cockeyed, and she had to peer around the brim of it to still see us in back. This made her appear of debatable character for a two-year-old, like one of those questionable men in the movies you’ve not allowed to watch, the ones with the guns and the crooked fedoras.

  I knew in my heart church hadn’t made any difference.

  We had been quite in love with each other inside when we were told to thank God and sing Hallelujah, but now we’d forgotten all that, because of Mother keeping us waiting. If we didn’t get home soon Easter was pointless. Egg Man might say it was too late for Cleveland.

  During the sermon, my stomach felt strange, though to be fair to the speaker that could have been chocolate for breakfast. But it did seem that every time you tried to really listen to a preacher, you automatically heard about another leper. Then I decided it wasn’t chocolate or lepers. The problem was, I was lapsing. Which can happen to Catholics. Lapsing made my stomach feel strange, is all that I’m saying.

  Outside the Buick, Mother was still stalling.

  Mrs. Taft waddled over, trailed by two more ladies with canes and h
eavy pearl necklaces. They all stared wide-eyed into the Buick and Mother introduced us for the first time since last Sunday. We said, How do you do, smiled and everything and possibly would have curtsied if we could have, and then we resented those poor ladies for it. Even if Egg Man weren’t Protestant, this was the part of church he wouldn’t be going for.

  The ladies straightened up so we could see only the pearls and eyeglasses tangled hopelessly at their stomachs. Then they told Mother how weren’t we simply the sweetest-looking family, with simply the handsomest children with simply the biggest blue eyes and simply the cutest blue coats and simply the longest blond hair. Except the windows were open and we could hear all of it.

  In whispers, we complained about the factual errors they’d made. Such as Matt’s hair was almost black, almost like Mother’s. And mine wasn’t long and blond because of the crew cut. I told the others maybe their code word was simply, and they were telling each other in code we were a simple family, see, as in not so smart, without having to break the bad news to Mother.

  At that, Clarine looked displeased, then changed her mind and chuckled, but with a certain finality. Amen, is what she was saying. Could make you suspicious she thought we were simple. But all she actually said was, “Boyce, girl, now hush up now.” She said it the usual way, nice and soft and southern. With a smile, even.

  Then the last car in the lot pulled out. But Mother must have been hoping for one last slowpoke in a wheelchair, because now she began fishing around in her purse finding her keys and inching around the car to check the door was closed okay for the baby. When two more ladies popped up in the windshield, we all groaned without even trying to muffle it. “Hush up. Now.” This time she wasn’t smiling.

  The longer we waited in enforced silence, the more I was forced to think about church.

  After the sermon, Father Dietz had asked for the quiet necessary to search everybody’s consciences. Except he said “social” consciences, I think in honor of people who didn’t exactly live in the neighborhood. Since I didn’t know where to find that one, how could I search it? I looked up at Mother.

  But she was already searching. Her head was bowed and her eyes were closed and her lips were pursed. I wondered if having a social conscience made you beautiful, with smooth skin and a sweet mouth and good taste in clothing. Mother’s made her look like a chic saint, one dressed up in a smart, navy blue wool suit. I tugged on her sleeve.

  She opened one eye, put her finger to her mouth, shook her head frowning, and went back to searching. She was fed up, you could tell, because that was after the do unto others.

  I suddenly felt sorry about the old ladies. So I looked around to my brothers and sisters and said maybe Mother was just out there acting Christian, to lonely people because it was Easter Sunday and all, and we should be nice and quiet about it.

  Clarine nodded approval, and nobody said anything for a while. Then Matt said between acting Christian and glomming-up compliments about your sideshow kids, tell me the difference.

  Clarine turned and glared at him.

  Then Cabot said, “Hey, only the front seat’s a sideshow.”

  And Matt mumbled, “The backseat’s a bigger one.” And he glanced at Clarine, like he was actually expecting backup, her being an official front-seater like himself.

  And Cabot said, “Hey, Matt? What’s with the blazer?”

  And Luke finally exploded with, “But what about CLEVELAND?!”

  And we all said hush up, because Mother couldn’t know that’s where Dad took us on Easters. She couldn’t hear about Cleveland. It was downtown.

  Then finally God sent Batman out to save us. Through the church doors here came Father Dietz all in black, flashing his pastor cape with a flourish, making a big thing of it, making us laugh, opening the car door and installing Mother in behind the wheel, as if even God had had enough of her loitering in his parking lot. We cried, “Bye, Father Dietz, thank you! Happy Easter! Thanks a million!” And then we were finally off, heading for home.

  Except we forgot another tradition. On Easter and other Holy Days of Obligation, Mother sometimes celebrated after church by taking a spin around Shaker Heights, looking at everyone’s houses. Even though Matt said, “Are you serious?” Mother automatically took the turn to start the tour at South Park Boulevard. Cabot and I crashed hats again turning to shake our heads at each other. Cleveland was becoming out of the question. Although secretly, we both liked this part of it, the looking at everyone’s houses.

  On the first corner was Matt’s friend Rey McDowell’s house. Frankly, it looked like the White House. It was painted-white sandstone, like the White House, and was about as wide as the White House, though not quite as tall. But the prettiest part wasn’t even the house, it was the way it was wrapped like a present, with its rounded-off hedge, which rippled like a long green ribbon over the top of the hill, down the hill, around the corner, and across the front, ending in a nice pink bow of rhododendrons over where my friend Mickey Knight’s flat-topped hedge began. That is, Mickey Knight’s parents’ flat-topped hedge.

  That hedge grew so high you couldn’t even see Mickey’s house, but if you could, it was really quite pretty. As we went by, Cabot said, “Gee, looks like everyone’s gone on vacation.” Then they all started grumbling how come we didn’t get to go, spring skiing or something, which started sounding so bratty, I was embarrassed to be with them.

  I said, “Relax. Maybe we can’t afford to.”

  Mother frowned at me in the rearview mirror.

  “Well, we’re not as rich as the McDowells, right?”

  But it was as if Mother had you on remote control through her tiny mirror, though, because I instantly said, “Excuse me.”

  You weren’t allowed to mention money, much less who was very rich and who wasn’t. That and lying. Plus saying shut up and you guys. And of course telling people our house cost a dollar.

  Mother’s raised eyebrow was still in the mirror. “Boyce, honey? What’s the matter? Don’t you feel well?”

  I didn’t answer right off. I didn’t know what the matter was anymore, or if there was even a word for it. But Mother’s eye was still waiting. So under pressure like that, I chose a weird one. “Me? I’m remarkable.”

  Luke reached across Cabot and patted me sympathetically. He knew I wasn’t remarkable. That was an old person’s word. You’d have to be almost dead to come up with it.

  I slid closer to my window and looked out, getting ready for my other best friend’s house, Mickey Joslyn’s. I’d always thought Mickey’s was the best Tudor ever made, because it wasn’t one of those tall, phony-looking Tudors, it was sort of low Tudor, old Tudor, hacked-up Tudor, as if a couple of Tudor warriors carved out a house there say five hundred years ago. About eight of the bedrooms had fireplaces big enough to cook a moose in, but my favorite room was Mickey’s mother’s. It was blue and yellow, which may not sound too good, but it was that certain blue, the color not really of the sea, but what the sea should be, and there were a couple of yellow things tossed around, say a pillow on the bed to break up the blue, or when you stepped into the room you’d probably start thinking you were walking on water. There was also a Monet painting on one of the walls, and it had a sea in it, exactly the color the sea should be.

  I already said, I liked looking at everyone’s houses.

  • • •

  Then it was extremely quiet in the car, because of Grandfather’s house. Once you passed the second Mickey’s, the next corner was Grandfather’s, or at least Grandfather’s house before he died. Everybody said, There’s Grandfather’s. It was definitely our favorite one.

  It was just an old brick house with wings on either side, but we could remember being in there, and sinking back carefully into big, upholstered chairs with cake balanced on china plates, and being no taller than the dining room table itself, and it made you sit still in the car to think it all ended because Grandfather died. I didn’t say it out loud because of not mentioning money, but when
I saw his house, I remembered how he gave us ours for a dollar.

  I was two, and we came to Grandmother’s funeral from New York City, where Mother and Dad and Matt and Cabot and I lived then. After, there was a ride in a long line of cars with lights on at noon, then another ride, through these very streets, in Grandfather’s old Mercury, a car he christened that day for our benefit, naming it the Dream Machine. And then our house, surrounded by flowers, filled up with furniture by Grandfather and long kept a secret from Grandmother (who could never really know because she could never really approve Dad’s marrying a Catholic), and then Matt, Cabot, and me running all through and around, and then Dad and Grandfather shaking hands, and Dad opening his brown wallet and handing over one single green dollar. Looking at Grandfather’s, I remembered now how I never forgot that.

  “Hallelujah,” Matt said, but not with his hands up. “It’s over, you guys.”

  Mother said, “Matt.”

  We circled back to South Park and then to our house. Ours was nice and everything, but it didn’t look like the Magic Kingdom like some of the others. It was just big and brick with a lot of windows. In the sunlight, they were shiny and dark, and the panes in the French doors almost looked like so many mirrors, and in them you could see reflections so intricate you could practically watch the wind blowing in the trees. That was all there was to it.

  Though of course the inside also, with Grandfather’s touch on it. The tall front windows had been treated in pale silk curtains finished with a slash of valance at the top, the ornate moldings had been stripped of paint, the walls papered in the faintest eggshell. In the dining room, the original old murals depicting faint green hills and glowing stacks of hay and a shepherd boy in a gold straw hat tending round gray sheep had been restored as well as reasonable, then left to delicately crack and peel. The wood floors downstairs were covered with old rugs Grandfather probably rolled up and carted off from his own house when Grandmother wasn’t looking. Then Grandfather had retiled the bathrooms, filled up the linen closets, and stuffed the library with books. In the basement, he fitted out a toolroom, a playroom, and a sort of a gym. You’d have to say, it had almost everything.

 
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