Hot Tin Roof

At eight I was interested in fishing, reading and the diligent scavengering of fabulous pieces of glass and metal and, sometimes, wood. I have clear memories of specific finds: a blue glass insulator from a fallen telephone pole; a railroad spike from the tracks behind Mike Didelot’s; hundreds of thin, unidentified strips of metal that I found on the streets of my lonely new home town. I found coins and bike-pedals and spoons and, once, an old cast-iron witch’s pot. I even had a weathered board with Chinese writing on it, which I’d found floated up at the beach on Long Island Sound. How far had it come? (Well, probably from Stamford or Norwalk or New York, but I had a grander vision).

At eight I knew about an old truck in the woods way back behind our house, a Model A I thought, the lord of all treasures, with speedometer and steering wheel intact. I also knew about an old steamer trunk which sat half-buried in leaves just off Jelliff Mill Road. I had spied it from the height of the school bus, kept it secret from all but Mike Didelot, convinced it was full of jewels or some poor prince’s head or a giant gladiator’s outsized armour. When Mike and I finally broke into the trunk, the flowerpots were treasure enough, three of them, at least a little bit ancient, and broken.

And when I was eight, unbeknown to me, Juliet Karelsen was born, 15 June 1962, away off in New York City, that tall town where my father worked and where a penny could kill. By the time Juliet herself had turned eight she was already an independent little New York girl, owner of an elaborate doll’s house, maker of 200 faces, eater of ice cream, seller on the street of home-made greeting cards, rogue child of Central Park West, in charge of her parents, in love with her teacher, in cahoots with the doormen, going steady with a black boy from school, studying ethics, playing guitar, husbanding a hamster named Willy. So sensitive, said a family friend, that she could feel the grass grow under her feet. That summer, Juliet, bearing her hamster, and in league with her little sister Eva, deigned to accompany her parents to Wellfleet, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. I was sixteen by then, about to turn seventeen, and Juliet and I had kept our relative distance. New York City, New York, to New Canaan, Connecticut, is about forty-five miles. Wellfleet, Cape Cod, to Edgartown, Martha’s Vineyard, is also about forty-five miles and in Edgartown I was on vacation with my own family.

Gift for a Sweetheart
A House in the Country