Carrot Salad

Paul Lowinger

 

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 August day.

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