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June 29 The New Moon 2




 

IN OCEAN PARK, the man answers his front door, a wineglass in one hand, some kind of bright orange wine filling it up to his index finger on the side of the glass. Hes wearing a white terry cloth bathrobe with Angel stitched on the lapel. He wears a gold chain tangled in his gray chest hair and smells like plaster dust. His other hand holds the flashlight. The man drinks the wine down to his middle finger, and his face looks puffy with dark chin stubble. His eyebrows are bleached or plucked until theyre almost not there.

Just for the record, this is how they met, Mr. Angel Delaporte and Misty Marie.

In art school, you learn that Leonardo da Vincis painting, the Mona Lisa, it has no eyebrows because they were the last detail the artist added. He was putting wet paint onto dry. In the seventeenth century, a restorer used the wrong solvent and wiped them off forever.

A pile of suitcases sits just inside the front door, the real leather kind, and the man points past them, back into the house with his flashlight in hand, and says, You can tell Peter Wilmot that his grammar is atrocious.

These summer people, Misty Marie tells them carpenters are always writing inside walls. Its the same idea every man gets, to write his name and the date before he seals the wall with Sheetrock. Sometimes they leave the days newspaper. Its tradition to leave a bottle of beer or wine. Roofers will write on the decking before they cover it with tar paper and shingles. Framers will write on the sheathing before they cover it with clapboard or stucco. Their name and the date. Some little part of themselves for someone in the future to discover. Maybe a thought. We were here. We built this. A reminder.

Call it custom or superstition or feng shui.

Its a kind of sweet homespun immortality.

In art history, they teach how Pope Pius V asked El Greco to paint over some nude figures Michelangelo had painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. El Greco agreed, but only if he could paint over the entire ceiling. They teach that El Greco is only famous because of his astigmatism. Thats why he distorted his human bodies, because he couldnt see right, he stretched everybodys arms and legs and got famous for the dramatic effect.

From famous artists to building contractors, we all want to leave our signature. Our lasting effect. Your life after death.

We all want to explain ourselves. Nobody wants to be forgotten.

That day in Ocean Park, Angel Delaporte shows Misty the dining room, the wainscoting and blue-striped wallpaper. Halfway up one wall is a busted hole of curling, torn paper and plaster dust.

Masons, she tells him, theyll mortar a charm, a religious medal on a chain, to hang inside a chimney and keep evil spirits from coming down the flue. Masons in the Middle Ages would seal a live cat inside the walls of a new building to bring good luck. Or a live woman. To give the building a soul.

Misty, shes watching his glass of wine. Shes talking to it instead of his face, following it around with her eyes, hoping hell notice and offer her a drink.

Angel Delaporte puts his puffy face, his plucked eyebrow, on the hole and says, ... the people of Waytansea Island will kill you the way theyve killed everyone before ... He holds the little flashlight tight to the side of his head so it shines into the darkness. The bristling brass and silver keys hang down to his shoulder, bright as costume jewelry. He says, You should see whats written in here.

Slow, the way a child learns to read, Angel Delaporte stares into the dark and says, ... now I see my wife working at the Waytansea Hotel, cleaning rooms and turning into a fat fucking slob in a pink plastic uniform ...

Mr. Delaporte says, ... She comes home and her hands smell like the latex gloves she has to wear to pick up your used rubbers ... her blond hairs gone gray and smells like the shit she uses to scrub out your toilets when she crawls into bed next to me ...

Hmm, he says, and drinks his wine down to his ring finger. Thats a misplaced modifier.

He reads, ... her tits hang down the front of her like a couple of dead carp. We havent had sex in three years ...

It gets so quiet Misty tries to make a little laugh.

Angel Delaporte holds out the flashlight. He drinks his bright orange wine down to where his pinkie finger is on the side of the glass, and he nods at the hole in the wall and says, Read it for yourself.

His ring of keys is so heavy Misty has to make a muscle to lift the little flashlight, and when she puts her eye to the small, dark hole, the words painted on the far wall say:

... youll die wishing youd never set foot ...

The missing linen closet in Seaview, the missing bathroom in Long Beach, the family room in Oysterville, whenever people go poking around, this is what they find. Its always Peters same tantrum.

Your same old tantrum.

... youll die and the world will be a better place for ...

In all these mainland houses Peter worked on, these investments, its the same filth written and sealed inside.

... die screaming in terible ...

And behind her, Angel Delaporte says, Tell Mr. Wilmot that he spelled terrible wrong.

These summer people, poor Misty, she tells them, Mr. Wilmot wasnt himself for the last year or so. He had a brain tumor he didnt know about forwe dont know how long. Her face still pressed to the hole in the wallpaper, she tells this Angel Delaporte how Mr.

Wilmot did some work in the old Waytansea Hotel, and now the room numbers jump from 312 to 314. Where there used to be a room, theres just perfect, seamless hallway, chair molding, baseboard, new power outlets every six feet, top-quality work. All of it code, except the room sealed inside.

And this Ocean Park man swirls the wine in his glass and says, I hope room 313 wasnt occupied at the time.

Out in her car, theres a crowbar. They can have this doorway opened back up in five minutes. Its just drywall is all, she tells the man. Just Mr. Wilmot going crazy.

When she puts her nose in the hole and sniffs, the wallpaper smells like a million cigarettes came here to die. Inside the hole, you can smell cinnamon and dust and paint. Somewhere inside the dark, you can hear a refrigerator hum. A clock ticks.

Written around and around the walls, its always this same rant. In all these vacation houses. Written in a big spiral that starts at the ceiling and spins to the floor, around and around so you have to stand in the center of the room and turn to read it until youre dizzy. Until it makes you sick. In the light from the key ring, it says:

... murdered despite all your money and status ...

Look, she says. Theres your stove. Right where you thought. And she steps back and gives him the little flashlight.

Every contractor, Misty tells him, theyll sign their work. Mark their territory. Finish carpenters will write on the subfloor before they lay the hardwood parquet or the carpet pad. Theyll write on the walls before the wallpaper or tile. This is whats inside everybodys walls, this record of pictures, prayers, names. Dates. A time capsule. Or worse, you could find lead pipes, asbestos, toxic mold, bad wiring. Brain tumors. Time bombs.

Proof that no investment is yours forever.

What you dont really want to knowbut you dont dare forget.

Angel Delaporte, his face pressed to the hole, he reads, ... I love my wife and I love my kid ... He reads, ... I wont see my family pushed down and down the ladder by you low-life parasites ...

He leans into the wall, his face twisting hard against the hole, and says, This handwriting is so compelling. The way he writes the letter f in set foot and fat fucking slob, the top line is so long it overhangs the rest of the word. That means hes actually a very loving, protective man. He says, See the k in kill you? The way the front leg is extralong shows hes worried about something.

Grinding his face against the hole, Angel Delaporte reads, ... Waytansea Island will kill every last one of Gods children if it means saving our own ...

He says, the way the capital I s are thin and pointed proves Peters got a keen sharp mind but hes scared to death of his mother.

His keys jingle as he pokes the little flashlight around and reads, ... I have danced with your toothbrush stuck up my dirty asshole ...

His face jerks back from the wallpaper, and he says, Yeah, thats my stove all right. He drinks the last of the wine, swishing it around, loud, in his mouth. He swallows it, saying, I knew I had a kitchen in this house.

Poor Misty, she says shes sorry. Shell rip open the doorway. Mr. Delaporte, he probably wants to go get his teeth cleaned this afternoon. That, and maybe a tetanus shot. Maybe a gamma globulin, too.

With one finger, Mr. Delaporte touches a big wet smear next to the hole in the wall. He puts his wineglass to his mouth and goes cross-eyed to find it empty. The dark, wet smear on the blue wallpaper, he touches it. Then he makes a nasty face and wipes his finger on the side of his bathrobe and says, I hope Mr. Wilmot is heavily insured and bonded.

Mr. Wilmot has been unconscious in the hospital for the last few days, Misty says.

Reaching a pack of cigarettes from his bathrobe pocket, he shakes one out and says, So you run his remodeling firm now?

And Misty tries to laugh. Im the fat fucking slob, she says.

And the man, Mr. Delaporte says, Pardon?

Im Mrs. Peter Wilmot.

Misty Marie Wilmot, the original shrewish bitch monster in the flesh. She tells him, I was working at the Waytansea Hotel when you called this morning.

Angel Delaporte nods, looking at his empty wineglass. The glass, sweaty and smeared with fingerprints. He holds the wineglass up between them and says, You want I should get you a drink?

He looks at where she pressed her face to his dining room wall, where she let one tear leak out and smeared his blue-striped wallpaper. A wet print of her eye, the crows-feet around her eye, her obicularis oculi behind bars. Still holding the unlit cigarette in one hand, he takes his white terry cloth belt in his other hand and scrubs at the tearstain. And he says, Ill give you a book. Its called Graphology . You know, handwriting analysis.

And Misty, who really did think the Wilmot house, the sixteen acres on Birch Street, meant happily ever after, she says, You want to maybe rent a place for the summer? She looks at his wineglass and says, A big old stone house. Not on the mainland, but out on the island ?

And Angel Delaporte, he looks back over his shoulder at her, at Mistys hips, then her breasts inside her pink uniform, then her face. He squints and shakes his head a little and says, Dont worry, your hairs not that gray.

His cheek and temple, all around his eye, hes powdered with white plaster dust.

And Misty, your wife, she reaches toward him, her fingers held open. Her palm turned up, the skin rashy and red, she tells him, Hey, if you dont believe Im me, she says, you can smell my hand.

 

June 30

 

YOUR POOR WIFE, shes racing from the dining room to the music room, grabbing up silver candlesticks, little gilded mantel clocks, and Dresden figurines and stuffing them in a pillowcase. Misty Marie Wilmot, after working the breakfast shift, now shes looting the big Wilmot house on Birch Street. Like shes a goddamn burglar in her own house, shes snatching up silver cigarette boxes and pillboxes and snuffboxes. Off fireplace mantels and nightstands, shes collecting saltcellars and carved-ivory knickknacks. Shes lugging around the pillowcase, heavy and clanking with gilded-bronze gravy boats and hand-painted porcelain platters.

Still in her pink plastic uniform, sweat stains wet under each arm. Her name tag pinned to her chest, it lets all the strangers in the hotel call her Misty. Your poor wife. She works the same kind of shitty restaurant job her mom did.

Unhappily ever after.

After that, shes running home to pack. Shes slinging around a string of keys as noisy as anchor chains. A string of keys like a cluster of iron grapes. These are long and short keys. Fancy notched skeleton keys. Brass and steel keys. Some are barrel keys, hollow like the barrel of a gun, some of them as big as a pistol, the kind a pissed-off wife might tuck in her garter and use to shoot an idiot husband.

Misty is jabbing keys into locks to see if theyll turn. Shes trying the locks on cabinets and closet doors. Shes trying key after key. Stab and twist. Jab and turn. And each time a lock pops open, she dumps the pillowcase inside, the gilded mantel clocks and silver napkin rings and lead crystal compotes, and she locks the door.

Today is moving-out day. Its another longest day of the year.

In the big house on East Birch Street, everybodys supposed to be packing, but no. Your daughter comes downstairs with a total of nothing to wear for the rest of her life. Your loony mother, shes still cleaning. Shes somewhere in the house, dragging the old vacuum cleaner around, on her hands and knees, picking threads and bits of lint out of the rugs and feeding them into the vacuum hose. Like it matters a good goddamn how the rugs look. Like the Wilmot family will ever live here ever again.

Your poor wife, that silly girl who came here a million years ago from some trailer park in Georgia, she doesnt know where to begin.

Its not like the Wilmot family couldnt see this coming. You dont just wake up one day and find the trust fund empty. All the family money gone.

Its only noon, and shes trying to put off her second drink. The second is never as good as the first. The first one is so perfect. Just a little breather. A little something to keep her company. Its only four hours until the renter comes for the keys. Mr. Delaporte. Until they need to vacate.

Its not even a real drink drink. Its a glass of wine, and shes only had one, maybe two swallows. Still, just knowing its nearby. Just knowing the glass is still at least half full. Its a comfort.

After the second drink, shell take a couple aspirin. Another couple drinks, another couple aspirin, and this will get her through today.

In the big Wilmot house on East Birch Street, just inside the front door, youll find what looks like graffiti. Your wife, shes dragging around her pillowcase of loot when she sees itsome words scribbled on the back of the front door. The pencil marks there, the names and dates on the white paint. Starting from knee high, you can see dark little straight lines, and along each line a name and number:

Tabbi, age five.

Tabbi, whos twelve now with lateral canthal rhytides around her eyes from crying.

Or: Peter, age seven.

Thats you, age seven. Little Peter Wilmot.

Some scribbles say: Grace, age six, age eight, age twelve. They go up to Grace, age seventeen. Grace with her baggy jowls of submental fat and deep playsmal bands around her neck.

Sound familiar?

Does any of this ring a bell?

These pencil lines, the crest of a flood tide. The years 1795 ... 1850 ... 1979 ... 2003. Old pencils were thin sticks of wax mixed with soot and wrapped with string to keep your hands clean. Before that are just notches and initials carved in the thick wood and white paint of the door.

Some other names on the back of the door, you wont recognize. Herbert and Caroline and Edna, a lot of strangers who lived here, grown and gone. Infants, then children, adolescents, adults, then dead. Your blood relations, your family, but strangers. Your legacy. Gone, but not gone. Forgotten but still here to be discovered.

Your poor wife, shes standing just inside the front door, looking at the names and dates just one last time. Her own name not among them. Poor white trash Misty Marie, with her rashy red hands and her pink scalp showing through her hair.

All this history and tradition she used to think would keep her safe. Insulate her, forever.

This isnt typical. Shes not a boozer. In case anybody needs to be reminded, shes under a lot of stress. Forty-one fucking years old, and now she has no husband. No college degree. No real work experienceunless you count scrubbing the toilet ... stringing cranberries for the Wilmot Christmas tree ... All shes got is a kid and a mother-in-law to support. Its noon, and shes got four hours to pack everything of value in the house. Starting with the silverware, the paintings, the china. Everything they cant trust to a renter.

Your daughter, Tabitha, comes down from upstairs. Twelve years old, and all shes carrying is one little suitcase and a shoe box wrapped with rubber bands. With none of her winter clothes or boots. Shes packed just a half dozen sundresses, some jeans, and her swimsuit. A pair of sandals, the tennis shoes shes wearing.

Your wife, shes snatching up a bristling ancient ship model, the sails stiff and yellowed, the rigging as fine as cobwebs, and she says, Tabbi, you know were not coming back.

Tabitha stands in the front hallway and shrugs. She says, Granmy says we are.

Granmy is what she calls Grace Wilmot. Her grandmother, your mother.

Your wife, your daughter, and your mother. The three women in your life.

Stuffing a sterling silver toast rack into her pillowcase, your wife yells, Grace!

The only sound is the roar of the vacuum cleaner from somewhere deep in the big house. The parlor, maybe the sunporch.

Your wife drags her pillowcase into the dining room. Grabbing a crystal bone dish, your wife yells, Grace, we need to talk! Now!

On the back of the door, the name Peter climbs as high as your wife can remember, just higher than her lips can stretch when she stands on tiptoe in her black pair of high heels. Written there, it says Peter, age eighteen.

The other names, Weston and Dorothy and Alice, are faded on the door. Smudged with fingerprints, but not painted over. Relics. Immortal. The heritage shes about to abandon.

Twisting a key in the lock of a closet, your wife throws back her head and yells, Grace!

Tabbi says, Whats wrong?

Its this goddamn key, Misty says, it wont work.

And Tabbi says, Let me see. She says, Relax, Mom. Thats the key to wind up the grandfather clock.

And somewhere the roar of the vacuum cleaner goes quiet.

Outside, a car rolls down the street, slow and quiet, with the driver leaning forward over the steering wheel. His sunglasses pushed up on top of his face, he stretches his head around, looking for a place to park. Stenciled down the side of his car, it says, Silber InternationalBeyond the Limits of Being You .

Paper napkins and plastic cups blow up from the beach with the deep thump and the word fuck set to dance music.

Standing beside the front door is Grace Wilmot, smelling like lemon oil and floor wax. Her smoothed gray head of hair stops a little below the height she was at age fifteen. Proof shes shrinking. You could take a pencil and mark behind the top of her head. You could write: Grace, age seventy-two.

Your poor, bitter wife looks at a wooden box in Graces hands. Pale wood under yellowed varnish with brass corners and hinges tarnished almost black, the box has legs that fold out from each side to make it an easel.

Grace offers the box, gripped in both her blue, lumpy hands, and says, Youll be needing these. She shakes the box. The stiff brushes and old tubes of dried-up paint and broken pastels rattle inside. To start painting, Grace says. When its time.

And your wife, who doesnt have the spare time to throw a fit, she just says, Leave it.

Peter Wilmot, your mother is fucking useless.

Grace smiles and opens her eyes wide. She holds the box higher, saying, Isnt that your dream? Her eyebrows lifted, her corrugator muscle at work, she says, Ever since you were a little girl, didnt you always want to paint?

The dream of every girl in art school. Where you learn about wax pencils and anatomy and wrinkles.

Why Grace Wilmot is even cleaning, God only knows. What they need to do is pack. This house: your house: the sterling silver tableware, the forks and spoons are as big as garden tools. Above the dining room fireplace is an oil painting of Some Dead Wilmot. In the basement is a glittering poisonous museum of petrified jams and jellies, antique homemade wines, Early American pears fossilized in amber syrup. The sticky residue of wealth and free time.

Of all the priceless objects left behind, this is what we rescue. These artifacts. Memory cues. Useless souvenirs. Nothing you could auction. The scars left from happiness.

Instead of packing anything of value, something they could sell, Grace brings this old box of paints. Tabbi has her shoe box of junk jewelry, her dress-up jewelry, brooches and rings and necklaces. A layer of loose rhinestones and pearls roll around in the bottom of the shoe box. A box of sharp rusted pins and broken glass. Tabbi stands against Graces arm. Behind her, just even with the top of Tabbis head, the door says Tabbi, age twelve and this years date written in fluorescent pink felt-tipped pen.

The junk jewelry, Tabbis jewelry, it belonged to these names.

All that Grace has packed is her diary. Her red leather diary and some light summer clothes, most of them pastel hand-knit sweaters and pleated silk skirts. The diary, its cracked red leather with a little brass lock to keep it shut. Stamped in gold across the cover, it says Diary.

Grace Wilmot, shes always after your wife to start a diary.

Grace says, Start painting again.

Grace says, Go. Get out and visit the hospital more.

Grace says, Smile at the tourists.

Peter, your poor, frowning ogre of a wife looks at your mother and daughter and she says, Four oclock. Thats when Mr. Delaporte comes to get the keys.

This isnt their house, not anymore. Your wife, she says, When the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the four, if its not packed or locked up by then, youll never see it again.

Misty Marie, her wineglass has at least a couple swallows left in it. And seeing it there on the dining room table, it looks like the answer. It looks like happiness and peace and comfort. Like Waytansea Island used to look.

Standing here inside the front door, Grace smiles and says, No Wilmot ever leaves this house forever. She says, And no one who comes here from the outside stays for long.

Tabbi looks at Grace and says, Granmy, quand est-ce quon revient ?

And her grandmother says, En trois mois, and pats Tabbis head. Your old, useless mother goes back to feeding lint to the vacuum cleaner.

Tabbi starts to open the front door, to take her suitcase to the car. That rusted junk pile stinking of her fathers piss.

Your piss.

And your wife asks her, What did your grandmother just tell you?

And Tabbi turns to look back. She rolls her eyes and says, God! Relax, Mom. She only said you look pretty this morning.

Tabbis lying. Your wifes not stupid. These days, she knows how she really looks.

What you dont understand you can make mean anything.

Then, when shes alone again, Mrs. Misty Marie Wilmot, when no ones there to see, your wife goes up on her tiptoes and stretches her lips toward the back of the door. Her fingers spread against the years and ancestors. The box of dead paints at her feet, she kisses the dirty place under your name where she remembers your lips would be.

 

July 1

 

JUST FOR THE RECORD, Peter, it really sucks how you tell everybody your wifes a hotel maid. Yeah, maybe two years ago she used to be a maid.

Now she happens to be the assistant supervisor of the dining room servers. Shes Employee of the Month at the Waytansea Hotel. Shes your wife, Misty Marie Wilmot, mother of your child, Tabbi. She almost, just about, nearly has an undergraduate degree in fine art. She votes and pays taxes. Shes queen of the fucking slaves, and youre a brain-dead vegetable with a tube up your ass in a coma, hooked to a zillion very expensive gadgets that keep you alive.

Dear sweet Peter, youre in no position to call anybody a fat fucking slob.

With your kind of coma victims, all the muscles contract. The tendons cinch in tighter and tighter. Your knees pull up to the chest. Your arms fold in, close to your gut. Your feet, the calves contract until the toes point screaming straight down, painful to even look at. Your hands, the fingers curl under with the fingernails cutting the inside of each wrist.

Every muscle and tendon getting shorter and shorter. The muscles in your back, your spinal erectors, they shrink and pull your head back until its almost touching your ass.

Can you feel this?

You all twisted and knotted up, this is the mess Misty drives three hours to see in the hospital. And that doesnt count the ferry ride. Youre the mess Mistys married to.

This is the worst part of her day, writing this. It was your mother, Grace, who had the bright idea about Misty keeping a coma diary. Its what sailors and their wives used to do, Grace said, keep a diary of every day they were apart. Its a treasured old seafaring tradition. A golden old Waytansea Island tradition. After all those months apart, when they come back together, the sailors and wives, they trade diaries and catch up on what they missed. How the kids grew up. What the weather did. A record of everything. Heres the everyday shit you and Misty would bore each other with over dinner. Your mother said it would be good for you, to help you process through your recovery. Someday, God willing, youll open your eyes and take Misty in your arms and kiss her, your loving wife, and here will be all your lost years, written here in loving detail, all the details of your kid growing up and your wife longing for you, and you can sit under a tree with a nice lemonade and have a nice time catching up.

Your mother, Grace Wilmot, she needs to wake up from her own kind of coma.

Dear sweet Peter. Can you feel this?

Everyones in their own personal coma.

What youll remember from before, nobody knows. One possibility is all your memory is wiped out. Bermuda triangulated. Youre brain-damaged. Youll be born a whole new person. Different, but the same. Reborn.

Just for the record, you and Misty met in art school. You got her pregnant, and you two moved back to live with your mother on Waytansea Island. If this is stuff you know already, just skip ahead. Skim over it.

What they dont teach you in art school is how your whole life can end when you get pregnant.

You have endless ways you can commit suicide without dying dying.

And just in case you forgot, youre one chicken-shit piece of work. Youre a selfish, half-assed, lazy, spineless piece of crap. In case you dont remember, you ran the fucking car in the fucking garage and tried to suffocate your sorry ass with exhaust fumes, but no, you couldnt even do that right. It helps if you start with a full gas tank.

Just so you know how bad you look, any person in a coma longer than two weeks, doctors call this a persistent vegetative state. Your face swells and turns red. Your teeth start to drop out. If youre not turned every few hours, you get bedsores.

Today, your wifes writing this on your one hundredth day as a vegetable.

As for Mistys breasts looking like a couple dead carp, you should talk.

A surgeon implanted a feeding tube in your stomach. Youve got a thin tube inserted into your arm to measure blood pressure. It measures oxygen and carbon dioxide in your arteries. Youve got another tube inserted into your neck to measure blood pressure in the veins returning to your heart. Youve got a catheter. A tube between your lungs and your rib cage drains any fluids that might collect. Little round electrodes stuck to your chest monitor your heart. Headphones over your ears send sound waves to stimulate your brain stem. A tube forced down your nose pumps air into you from a respirator. Another tube plugs into your veins, dripping fluids and medication. To keep them from drying out, your eyes are taped shut.

Just so you know how youre paying for this, Mistys promised the house to the Sisters of Care and Mercy. The big old house on Birch Street, all sixteen acres, the second you die the Catholic church gets the deed. A hundred years of your precious family history, and it goes right into their pocket.

The second you stop breathing, your family is homeless.

But dont sweat it, between the respirator and the feeding tube and the medication, youre not going to die. You couldnt die if you wanted to. Theyre going to keep you alive until youre a withered skeleton with machines just pumping air and vitamins through you.

Dear sweet stupid Peter. Can you feel this?

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