Thursday, July 7, 2011
Spoiler Warning: the remembered events I recount below spoiled some portion of my adolescence. Be forewarned that not all backstory is happy. Backstory is, however, always meaningful.
But first, the present tense, and in ascending order of importance:
--Parenthetical Man contacted me because he was passing through (no one really passes through where I live but whatever) on his way to Canada, and we had dinner. I finally told him my name was not Mary Gordon and he said: “yeah, the bartender at L’Express told me.” [http://tinyurl.com/473jvwx] He has legal tangles, and I think it has something to do with Bernie Medoff. Despite the hair plugs [http://tinyurl.com/42d6m3v], he’s nice, but it’s Richard I really like [I wrote “I really like” because I’ve been retreating to memories of adolescence lately; see below].
--I’m pretty sure I like Richard more than he likes me [sorry, it’s hard to fast forward out of sojourns into adolescence]. But I’ll see Richard in NYC next week, and without his dog, who suffers from a borderline personality disorder [http://tinyurl.com/3vvwyb4]. Next week, I’m going to squat, yet again, in the coop of Thomas who’s going to Sag Harbor with his BF. I’d like to go to the Hamptons too because….
--discussions have resumed about my screenplay adaptation of Far From the Madding Crowd with producer Helen, who is in Southampton with women friends. [http://tinyurl.com/3h3ypfh]. She’s testing out endings of FFMC on them. I am doing a lot of revisions, some of them crazy-assed. And gratis. I hinted that the process would be more productive were I ensconced in her guest house, from which I could emerge at the cocktail hour to discuss the endings with the girls. Helen ignored the suggestion. Next week, we’re meeting. In Manhattan.
--I have about three weeks to figure out how I’m going to tell my son Jamie the truth about his father. [http://tinyurl.com/3whrqqe]. I have agreed to let Jamie decide for himself if he’d like to meet Biological Dad [who is desperate now to meet his progeny]. This would be easier if Jamie knew he had an identifiable, not a sperm bank, father. If I were the Julianne Moore mom [in The Kids Are All Right” I’d be better at this: http://tinyurl.com/4zknj9f.
Now, back to the past:
Some people hate Thanksgiving. Some hate Xmas. Some hate Arbor Day.
I hate Independence Day. That was the day Mr. Noonan, the local high school’s shop teacher, destroyed his right arm at the Bowl-O-Rama. The bowling alley my parents managed. It happened because of what JD, my oldest brother, did to the bowling ball. Which he learned to do in shop class, which is how I apprehended viscerally the meaning of the term “irony.”
I was 13, and JD was 17. JD wasn’t targeting Mr. Noonan when he hollowed out that luminous, blue marble bowling ball and filled it with lead. I caught JD doing it out in the garage. We used to call boys like JD “hoods.” When I threatened to tell our parents, his look said to me: as if. Go look up “hood” if you’re unclear about the connection between “hood” and “as if.”
Then I forgot about it. I was reading Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles at the time, and southern England was more real to me than northern Vermont. My eighth- grade teacher was a displaced poet who recognized me as a changeling and had given me nine old paperbacks—“essential to your salvation” she said-- to read over the summer. I’d just finished Jane Eyre and, frankly, hadn’t liked it, but I took salvation seriously so had just started Tess.
Anyway, it was the Fourth of July. My parents had for several years made all bowling free [not shoe rental or food or Pabst Blue Ribbon, of course] on the July Fourth. Mr. Noonan was standing at the ball rack, contemplating. I saw the blue marble ball, which I’d not seen since JD had it in the garage. I went to the rack with the intention of telling Mr. Noonan to use the black ball in the center. Then things changed.
“Well, little missy, when did you grow up?"
It was the first time I wore my new hip-hugging bell bottoms with a big buckled belt. I’d just learned about ironing my hair straight, so for the first time ever I went out in public with my hair down, not in a ponytail. My mom had let me put on a little of her lipstick.
I didn’t know what to say to Mr. Noonan. He was very tall man whose gray hair looked like it was cut with a lawn mower. He was looking right at me, but not exactly at me either.
“I don’t know which of these to use, sweetheart. How about you kiss these nice, big balls here to help Mr. Noonan decide.”
I was dumb about a lot of things when I was 13, but I’d grown up with three brothers. I looked at Mr. Noonan. He looked back at me, unflinching. I looked around for JD who was on the other side of the snack bar, playing pinball as if for his life, humping and smacking the machine. I headed to the shoe island where my dad was spraying germ killer into promiscuous shoes.
Ten seconds later everyone and everything in the free day o’ bowling at the Bowl-O-Rama went into freeze frame when Mr. Noonan howled in agony. At the hospital they diagnosed a torn rotator cuff. He had surgery but, you know, it was northern Vermont. And another era. His right arm dangled around after that, and Mr. Noonan went on disability; you couldn’t have him teaching teenaged boys welding and table saws.
There was some kind of investigation; I’m fuzzy on the details now. I was asked if I knew anything about a rigged bowling ball. “No,” I said, and since I was the girl genius in town, it was a gospel-truth “no.”
It was my first run-in with the proposition that the truth’s a complicated thing.
Posted by JF at 9:38 AM