Page 55 - WTP Vol. XI #5
P. 55

and cautious, was saying to me, “Whatever it is, Wen, I know we’re going to disagree about this. But go ahead, read it to me. I cannot believe you found this, Wen. Classic.”
“I’m starting to think there was a squid,” Chris chimed in.
 I began to read. My audience riveted.
“Actually, Wen, I was seven. And I’m going with the squid here.”
As I came to a close:
We all cracked up, in the same painfully sad way we had been laughing until we couldn’t breathe through tears for hours.
Since that day, I have stayed far away from fishing hooks, really hooks of all kinds. We continued to go on fishing trips, but we all agreed: no casting. And that fishing trip has gone down in history in my neigh- borhood, as the one and only day that John Vaccaro hooked a live one.
It was time to say goodbye. I took Peter’s hand and leaned in for a lingering kiss on his forehead.
“See, Pete, according to this story, John wasn’t at fault. We allowed casting. When I tell the story, I say we didn’t allow casting, and John broke the rules. But he was following the rules. I walked into it.”
“I love you, Peter,” I whispered in his ear.
“You left out the squid,” John jumped in. “Pete, she left out the squid.”
I held his gaze another second longer, and thought, “I’ll see you on the other side, forever beach boy.”
“There was no squid, John.” “Wen, there was a squid.” “John, there was no squid.”
“Then where did the squid go, Wen? When the hook went into your face where did the squid go? I wouldn’t have been casting a line without bait on it. It doesn’t make any sense.”
The next morning, I found myself, again, sitting cross-legged on the living room couch in the peace- ful pre-dawn hours, with the folders and notebooks scattered about. As I continued to soak in the day before by Peter’s bedside and write a story about... writing and living without it for over a quarter century and the gnawing sense it was too late, I re- ceived an email from my brother Jim with a picture attachment.
“I don’t know, John, but there was no squid.”
The email’s subject: “Final Grade.” Jim wrote, “I just picked this up off a small pile of Mommy’s stuff in my office.” It was a photograph of one side of a plain off- white postcard, my mother’s unmistakable script in blue ink in the upper left corner:
“Wen, there was squid on your cheek. That was the best part of the story. That’s what made it so hilari- ous.”
“Pete...,” and as I turned to face Peter, though smil- ing, he was struggling to keep his eyes open. It had been hours of listening to us banter, chuckling along, giving us nods, smirks and affirmations.
Rachel Lehr Goodman Comp. Revolutions History 3963Y
Spring 1981
We were exhausting him. I prayed that the once commonplace sound of John and me arguing was comforting.
In the center, a large capital letter “A” in a different hand and a different ink. And beneath, “Good luck, Prof. Onuf.”
Throughout this precious time, Peter’s parents, sis- ters, cousins, aunts, uncles, were taking turns casu- ally strolling by, tiptoeing down the hall, snooping around every corner. Wanting to give us space, but longing to watch, to sunbathe in our communal glow. To see Pete alert, smile, laugh. To hear our familiar voices, the teasing, the love. The pixie dust swirling around us.
This was my mother’s final grade in Comparative Revolutions during her final semester as an under- graduate at Columbia University. In a few weeks, she would graduate and, a few weeks after that, she would turn 49. (And a month later, her daughter
“Chris, you were six.”
“I love you, too,” he whispered back. “Thank you for coming,” he said in what was left of his voice.
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