The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 44

After Dinner Episode

“I saw a title on Sam’s desk with your name on it and there is a painting in the foyer signed, Peggy Hudson,” Rich said.
“Have you ever thought about being a detective?” Peggy said.
‘I can’t tell you why I remember Dennis’s name, except there was a lot of comments in red on the paper and I couldn’t take my eyes of the painting. I could tell it was an original so I looked for the name. I don’t know anything about art, but I know what is good. I never knew colors like yours could be put on canvas. And on Dennis’s paper there were big red letters, Good Story. Sam only says good when something is exceptional.”
It was quiet.
“So where can I find a better deal on car insurance,” Dennis feigned seriousness.
Rich smiled. He felt defensive at first, but Dennis’s humor relaxed him.
“We live just outside Port Clyde,” Peggy said. “I have an studio and shop there.”
“And I have a small room where I write,” Dennis said. “I’m a kept man. Peggy’s talent is paying the bills and my writing pays the postage for my submissions.”
“Dennis is a talented writer,” Sam said. “He’s getting a lot of notice in literary circles. He worked at the paper for a while. If Peggy’s work hadn‘t started selling he‘d still be with me.”
“That’s not true,” Dennis said. “I’d have been fired by now.”
The talk continued from one thing to another. They ate sumptuous traditional Thanksgiving meal and afterwards sipped a licorice liquor in the living room.
During a light conversation about the Cuban missile situation Sam turned to Dennis and asked. “Do you know where the word silhouette comes from?”
“The French I suppose,” Dennis said.
“More specifically who was Silhouette?”
Dennis shrugged as though giving up.
“It is said that when nature calls one goes to the crapper. From where does that expression come?” Sam said.
Dennis shrugged again, but this time seemed a bit embarrassed.
“Katie, Peggy, how ‘bout it, Silhouette and Crapper?” Sam said.
They appeared puzzled.
Sam said, “now our young lad, Richard, knows.”
Rich squirmed as the eyes of Dennis, Peggy, and Katie fixed upon me.
Sam looked at Rich and rested his hand on Rich's knee. “I do not wish to embarrass you, but I must speak. Rich knows and it came up not to impress me as we might do, but as an off-handed remark, specifically to finish a toast. In the last month he has worked as a janitor for me. A task for which he performs well. I sense that he holds back. He has read most of the World Book Encyclopedia, some of the American classics, and currently the Bible and yet he has dropped out of school while a freshman - in high school, not college.”
Dennis moved forward in his chair, “What type of grades did you receive.”
“I was happy if I got a C,” Rich confessed.
“How can someone with that much desire not do well in school,” Katie said.
“I’ve thought about that one,” Rich said. “I enjoy learning, but don’t enjoy being taught.”
“Fascinating,” Peggy remarked.
“I take things and use them my way,” Rich said. “I think different.”
“How so?” said Dennis.
“Peggy, you see a tree and you paint what you want others to see. Dennis, you see a tree and describe it in a way that most people will recognize it. I see the tree and describe it the way I see it. I use things not in the way that it can be recalled or used in a test, but how I can use it. When I capture something in my mind it is mine. I will give it back the way I want to. And I know that is a flaw, but I can’t help it. I don’t know where I got it from. I‘m not a non-conformist. I just don‘t participate well. I want to, but I can‘t.”
Rich was surprised by what he said. He had never been able to express himself in quite those terms before and above all no one had ever listened. If he ever said anything that remotely resembled that it was always replied with “That’s crazy” or “I don’t get you.”
“That’s the way we all felt ten years ago, but we lost our passion.” Sam said passionately. “We lost our way. “
“Sometimes the current and wind is so strong it takes us into different directions,” Katie said reflectively. “Are you not happy with the direction you have gone?” She asked Sam.
“No, no, not at all,” Sam said. “But it’s in here,” he said placing his hand over his heart. “A rich man has it all, takes a gun to his head, and blows his brains out. A lobsterman tends his traps till the day he dies and has a long and brutal life. When he dies all he has to his name is his name Why? Passion.”
“We are getting stodgy,” Dennis said and sipped his liquor.
“I see it in my work,” Peggy said.
“And in mine,” Katie said.
“When I first bought the paper I loved writing the obits,” Sam said. “I would strive through a phrase or just a word to give a lasting meaning to a person’s life, to give that one the dignity in which they lived. Of that old lobsterman I said, ‘he lived his life in honorable, honest, and noble dignity admired by all.’ I have lost that honorable, honest, noble dignity. Not only do I not see it in myself, but I no longer see it in others.”
“My god!” Peggy said. “We’re beginning to sound like we did in college.”
“College made us into what we are,” Dennis said. “We thought that it would open our minds, but it took away who we were and made us into it’s image.”
“Exactly,” Katie said. “I had ideas before I went to college and they changed so drastically by the time I left.”
Dennis laughed heartily. “We thought that conforming to nonconformity was nonconformity, you dig, daddio.”
Everyone chuckled.
Rich related the events in Alfred at the coffee house.
“That was us in our college days,” Peggy said.
“It’s a conspiracy!” Dennis chuckled. “They’ve taken our passion and sold it to the commies. Wait a minute, I was a commie.”
Sam smiled broadly. “They could not take it unless we gave it up willingly.”
Everyone became somber.
“Here, here,” Katie said. “Let’s drink to that.”
They raised their glasses and sipped.
“See what you’ve started,” Sam said to Rich.
The talk continued until seven. The wind outside had picked-up and their was talk of a possible nor’easter.
Dennis and Peggy insisted that they drive Rich home. That was good, because the wind was so brisk it shook the car when large gusts came along. They approached Rich’s place.
“This is it,” Rich said. “Thanks for the ride.”
“Think nothing of it,” Dennis said.
“This is a beautiful home,” Peggy said as they came to a stop.
“Looks sturdy,” Dennis said.
“I’m in the penthouse,” Rich said opening the door and a gush of wind welcomed him. “That ole place cracks and groans in the wind like wooden vessel.”
“Come out and visit us sometime,” Peggy said.
“I’d like that,” Rich said.
“We’ll come get you,” Dennis said.
“I’m getting a car before long,” Rich said. “People are starting to look at me as if I’m an eccentric.”
“You are,” Dennis said, “the good kind.”
“Take care,” Rich said, “and drive safely.”
The Hudson’s drove away. He wondered if Peggy or Katie might have younger sisters.
Rich quietly walked up the steps to his apartment.

The room was cold. Rich felt the wind seep through the walls with each bellow. He opened up the valve on the radiator and sat in the rocker wrapped in a blanket. He read until past midnight. The room had become a place of comfort. It was taking on form and comfort and security one feels with a home; curtains, a couple of pictures, a small desk with a small lamp and a globe.