Paul was sixty-four and Herb was sixty and they were at PaulÕs beach
house in Provincetown on Cape Cod. This small frame summer house was
at the end of a luminous sandy beach facing a placid harbor. Above the
harbor and its thronged tourist street and galleries stood a replica
of an ornate Siennese tower. The artists came for the light while the
others came for relaxation and high times.
From the shingled house, PaulÕs wife margaret, three adult children
and friends moved back and forth from beach to town on this hot, calm
Herb was slim and discontent with thin hair and quick gestures. Paul
had thick dark curly hair and was assertive, demanding and abrupt.
Herb had been married for ten years when his wife died of cancer. They
had no children. By now, fifteen years after her death, Herb was a carefully
closeted gay. He had avoided commitment and was alone as he dabbled
in ProvincetownÕs gay bar scene.
In the Depression-era pleasantly furnished Chicago apartment, there
was a round dining room table. Paul, six and his brother Herb, three
were at this table with Ernest and Rena, their parents. Paul was brown
haired, sturdy and restless; Herb was thin and fair. The meal emphasized
meat and potatoes with a middle European flavor but the contention was
about the carrot salad. Paul finished his carrot salad early and had
taken Herb's in an outright and surreptitious aggression. Of course,
there was a wail and a parental response which was too late for the
restoration of the appropriated carrot salad. The disturbance escaated
as Paul was momentarily expelled to be called back to finish his milk.
Herb continued to be inconsolable despite Rena's attempt to make peace
and offer Herb emotional compensation. Ernest was in supposrt of peace
but remained resolute in his dining.
Herb adjusted his deck chair for a maximum of the beachÕs afternoon
sun. His inner thoughts moved from his concern about being HIV positive
to his anger about Paul's selfishness. Paul had no awareness of a wanting
to return to the Utopia of his four years of being an only child before
Herb was born.
No word was spoken until Herb made an attempt to win Paul's attention
saying, ÒI may be asked to go to Yeman to set up a real estate title
system like we have in the Chicago RecorderÕs office. A French contractor
brought the Yemani officials to our office last week.Ó
Later Paul went fishing with his son. Herb was alone in the house with
Margaret, Paul's wife who was making carrot salad for dinner. Herb told
her in detail the story of the theft of the carrot salad and felt satisfied.
When Paul returned all was bland and tense again and Herb went out
that night before dinner.
© Paul Lowinger 2003