The Writers’ Block
|Flesh and Blood and the
- P.S. Ehrlich
The home screenings began a
few months later: part of my mother’s film studies that ultimately led to
her career as a movie critic. This was long before the days of videos and
DVDs, so we got to see genuine 16mm movies on a Bell & Howell
projector that often broke down midreel. My mother squeezed the most she
could out of each rental, playing every feature multiple times, though the
projector often balked at rewinding. She always watched the first show
alone (at least until she had to call in my father to unjam or rethread or
deglitch) but would permit others to join her during reruns. The Girl Next
Door and I were welcome providing we kept quiet; which we always did,
having found alternate ways to communicate with each other.
“Try to be quiet when you go upstairs,” he told me. “Your mother’s… resting.”
Cassie did go to California, and there went through most of what the later Sixties had to offer. Though I can’t say I ever particularly missed her (other than noticing she was gone) it soon became apparent that her absence caused things to go out of whack between my mother and father, and between them and me. Even between myself and Rozay, now that we were ungovernessed. That damned Hammond demanded more and more of her attention—that is, when she wasn’t spending more and more time out at her father’s house in the country—that is, a place I was never invited to visit and a part of her life I knew nothing about—
The inevitable began to happen at the end of that summer, when Rozay jumped at the chance to accompany her dad on a business trip to Genoa. Her Greco-Romanness was manifesting itself: at just-turned-eleven she’d started sprouting breasts and hips, plus an arrivederci derrière that all the neighborhood ladies merrily predicted would get pinched left and right. A prospect Rozay dismissed airily when I went over to wish her buono viaggio. She promised me lots of postcards and opportunities to test intercontinental esping.
How can I try when I won’t know where you are?
Well, I know where YOU are; so there you go.
Hugging me goodbye, which was not a habit of ours. With me uneasily (not yet acutely) conscious of her sproutings, and how warm she felt, and how clean she smelled.
I received no postcards. Nor any messages after an initial Testing 1-2-3, we are at the airport. Nor did she return on time, which freaked her mother transatlantically. Mrs. Franzia had opposed this excursion from its first proposal, though she herself—as confided to my mother when they didn’t think I could hear—only opted out of going too because “that son-of-a-bitch Dick” (Mr. Franzia) expected her to pay her own passage.
Finally Rozay came back, three days into the new school year. Ciao and cheek-kisses and deep olivaceous tan and shades never taken off. With souvenir-gifties for all of us (I got a lira) and so many layers of Audrey Hepburn sophistication I would’ve been sick to my stomach, had I not sensed something else.
Are you okay?
C’mon, something’s the matter.
You wouldn’t understand.
Sure I would. Now what is it?
“Only the wind, my dear.”
Flesh and blood and the sandman, whistling down the wind.
I might not have understood, but I could sure as hell be jealous of any supplanters. No doubt by now that she’d have her pick of them, though if I knew Rozay she’d probably go for some fitful mystic like Simon in Lord of the Flies.
Nor was I far wrong: she chose Robert F. Kennedy.
With a sudden constant “Bobby why” and “Bobby wherefore” and “Bobby inasmuch-as-which.” While it was a pleasure to see Rozay so eager, so energized, it really stuck in my craw. Not least her taking for granted that I was foursquare behind her on this, however much I might dislike her candidate. Who always struck me (and my craw) as a cold-eyed, frosty-blooded bastard: the type of sandman who’d put you out by funneling grit under your eyelids.
I strove to keep these opinions hidden, lest I lose Rozay for good—a threat that grew as time went by, since she would realize not only that I wasn’t wild about “Bobby,” but had been throwing sand in her eyes (as it were) her week after week. So I grinned and bore it, esping Sure is! and Sure does! to all her crusading gush.
Then the frosty bastard had the gall to open his campaign right there in River City, on the KU campus. You’d have thought the Beatles were parading down Jayhawk Boulevard after winning the Final Four. I found myself trapped on the Field House bleachers by 20,000 demented groupies, with Rozay squealing at my side. It took all my strength to avoid having an asthma attack—and risk being branded (maybe on the cover of Time magazine!) as the Kid Who Swooned In Public At Kennedy Charisma. I finally succumbed when the rally was safely over, and Rozay had to help me home. Solicitous with half her mind, supportive with one of her arms, and full of Bobby-babble every step of the way.
Then he had to go and get shot, for crying out loud.
When I heard the news I didn’t think about him or Ethel or their dozens of children or the future of America, but only how Rozay would react. There’d been no fits for years—none, at least, that I was aware of—thanks perhaps to better medication, or her oncoming pubescence, or our telepathic outlet. Now fearing the worst, I extrasensored a variety of solicitous/supportive messages next door, then went over to check on her in person.
To have Rozay, with eyes dry as sand, tell me aloud that esping was childish, and she would not be doing it
[Sadly, The Sidewalk's End is now gone from the Web. Above is a replica of their November 2005 publication.]
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