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“”Hazel Jones.“ A mysterious name out of the past.”

The elderly invalid leaned forward in his wheelchair to grip both Hazel’s hands in his, rather hard. She had no idea what he meant: mysterious? The man’s large glassy veined eyes of the hue of pewter gazed up at Hazel with such intensity, she was unnerved not knowing if Thaddeus Gallagher meant to be naively adoring, or was mocking such adoration of a young woman visitor. His hands gripping hers were doughy, warmly moist, seemingly boneless. Yet the man was strong. You understood that Thaddeus Gallagher was strong in his heavy upper body if not in his lower body and that he exulted in this strength, all the while continuing to smile at his startled visitor with the smiling air of a benevolent host. Hazel felt a shiver of dread that he would not release her, Gallagher would have to intervene and there would be an unpleasant scene.

Don’t let my father manipulate you, Hazel! Immediately we step into his presence, he will exert his will upon us like a fat spider at the center of its web.

The shock of meeting Gallagher’s father! Not only was the old man confined to a wheelchair but his body appeared deformed, a shapeless mass of mollusc-flesh inside weirdly jaunty tartan plaid bathing trunks and a white cotton T-shirt strained to bursting. Massive thighs and buttocks were squeezed against the unyielding sides of the wheelchair. Thaddeus’s arms were muscled while his legs hung useless, pale and atrophied. Yet his feet were large and wedge-like, resting bare against the wheelchair’s padded footrest. The big bare toes twitched in obscene delight.

An invalid! Thaddeus Gallagher! Hazel cast her companion Gallagher a look of dismay. How like Gallagher to complain of his father to her for years while neglecting to mention that the man was an invalid in a wheelchair.

Thaddeus winked at Hazel as if they shared an intimate joke, too subtle for Gallagher to grasp. “You seem surprised, dear? I apologize for greeting you so casually dressed but I swim, or try to swim, every day at this time. I confess that I also feel less constrained by decorum and fashion in my seventies than I did at your young age. My son ”Chet Gallagher,“ the prize-winning journalist and public seer, might have warned you what to expect.” Thaddeus laughed, sucking at his fleshy lips. He was reluctant to release Hazel’s hands that were damp and numbed from his grasp.

All the while, Gallagher stood awkwardly beside Hazel, staring at his father in vague unease. He had said very little. He seemed as confused as Hazel. The sight of his father whom he had not seen in several years must have alarmed him. That the elderly man was in a wheelchair and they were on their feet seemed to put the couple at a disadvantage.

Thaddeus said fussily, “Please do sit, both of you! Pull those chairs a little closer. We’ll have drinks now. After, I hope you will both join me for a swim in the pool. It’s a very warm day, and both of you are overdressed, and are looking uncomfortable.”

Thaddeus had been awaiting his visitors outside, by the pool. An Olympic-sized pool it was, exquisitely tiled in a deep rich aqua intended to suggest, as Gallagher had explained to Hazel, the Mediterranean. Yet the water exuded a warm sulphurous odor as of stale bathwater. Hazel’s nostrils pinched. She could not imagine herself in that water, she felt a wave of faintness at the prospect.

Gallagher was saying, quickly, “I don’t think so, Father. We don’t have time for that. We-”

“You’ve said. You must get back to the ”music festival‘ in Vermont. Of course.“ Thaddeus spoke with dignity, though looking rebuffed. He pressed a button on the arm of the wheelchair and the motorized chair moved forward. Sunlight illuminated oily beads of perspiration on his wide sallow face. ”But sit with me a while, at least. As if,“ smiling up at Gallagher, ”we had something in common beyond a name.“

It was late August 1970. At last, Gallagher had brought Hazel to Ardmoor Park to visit his aging father. In the past year Thaddeus had several times invited them, with a hint that his health was “worsening”; he had learned that Hazel’s son Zacharias Jones was one of the young musicians in residence at the Vermont Music Festival in Manchester, Vermont, less than an hour’s drive from Ardmoor Park. Reluctantly, Gallagher had given in. “Maybe my father is really ill. Maybe he’s repentant. Maybe I’m crazy.” Gallagher joked in his usual mordant way but Hazel understood that he was genuinely fearful of the visit.

Through the 1960s, the Gallagher newspapers had remained staunchly in favor of the Vietnam War. Yet, most of the papers continued to run Chet Gallagher’s column, that had won national awards and appeared now in more than fifty newspapers. Gallagher also published opinion pieces in popular magazines and occasionally appeared on television panels discussing politics, ethics, American culture. Hazel had become his assistant; she liked best doing research for him at the University of Buffalo library. It was becoming more difficult for Gallagher to maintain his distance from Gallagher Media, and from Thaddeus. Through intermediaries he heard that his father was “proud” of him-“damned proud”-though he would never agree with his youngest son’s “rabid radical politics.” Gallagher had been told, too, that Thaddeus was eager to meet his “second family.”

Gallagher would introduce Hazel to Thaddeus as his friend and companion, he would not even call her his fianc'ee. He would not be bringing Zack to Ardmoor Park at all.

He had warned Hazel not to be drawn into personal conversation with his father, still less into answering questions she didn’t want to answer. “I know he’s curious about you. He will interrogate you. He’s an old newspaper man, that’s what he knows. Poking and prodding and stabbing until the blade finds a soft spot, then he shoves it in.”

Hazel laughed nervously. Gallagher had to be exaggerating!

“No. It’s impossible to exaggerate Thaddeus Gallagher.”

Gallagher’s newspaper column was accompanied by a line-drawing caricature: a comically quizzical horsey face with a high forehead, deep-pouched eyes, lopsided smile, jutting chin and prominent ears. Around the near-bald dome of a head a fringe of kinky curls like a wreath. “Caricature is the art of exaggeration,” Gallagher told Hazel, “yet it can tell the truth. In times like ours, caricature may be the only truth.”

Yet on the drive from Manchester to Ardmoor Park, Gallagher’s composure leaked from him like air from a deflating balloon. He was chain-smoking, distracted. He avoided the subject of Thaddeus Gallagher and spoke only of Zack whom they’d heard perform the previous evening at the music festival. Zack was now thirteen, no longer a child. He was becoming lanky, loose-jointed. His skin had an olive-dark pallor. His nose, eyebrows, eyes were striking, prominent. In the company of adults he was withdrawn, rather reserved, yet his piano performances were praised as “warm”-“reflective”-“startlingly mature.” Where many child prodigies perform with mechanical precision and a deficiency of feeling, Zacharias Jones brought to his playing an air of emotional subtlety that was beautifully reflected in such pieces as the Grieg sonata he’d played at the festival. Gallagher could not stop marveling over the performance.

“He isn’t a child, Hazel, in his music. It’s uncanny.”

Hazel thought Of course he isn’t a child! There wasn’t time.

“But we’re not going to discuss Zack with my father, Hazel. He will want to know about your ”talented‘ son, he will hint that Gallagher Media could “put him on the map.” He will interrogate you, he will stick and stab if you let him. Don’t fall into the trap of answering Thaddeus’s questions. The one thing he wants to know-to put it bluntly-is whether Zack might be his grandson. Because of all the things he has, he doesn’t have grandchildren. And so-“

Hazel saw that her lover’s face was creased, contorted. He looked both angry and aggrieved, like a gargoyle. He was driving too fast for the narrow road curving through hilly countryside.

Hazel said, “But you and I didn’t even meet, until Zack was in school, in Malin Head Bay. How can your father-”

“He can. He can imagine anything. And it’s a fact he can’t know, even if he has hired private investigators to look into our relationship, when we first met. That, he can’t know. So I will field his questions, Hazel. We will stay for an hour, maybe an hour and a half. All this I’ve explained, but he will try to dissuade us of course. He will try to dissuade you.”

They were passing large estates set back from the road like storybook houses. Vast green lawns in which fugitive rainbows leapt and gleamed among sprinklers. Enormous elms, oaks. Juniper pine. There were ponds, lagoons. Picturesque brooks. The estates were bordered by primitive stone walls.

Gallagher said, “And please don’t exclaim that the house is ”beautiful,“ Hazel. You aren’t obliged. Sure, it’s beautiful. Every damn property in Ardmoor Park is beautiful. You bet, anything can be beautiful if you spend millions of bucks on it.”

By the time they arrived at his father’s house, the house of his boyhood, Gallagher was visibly nervous. It was a French Normandy mansion originally built in the 1880s but restored, refurbished and modernized in the 1920s. Hazel did not tell Gallagher that it was beautiful. Its enormous dull-gleaming slate roofs and hand-hewn stone facade reminded her of the elaborate mausoleums in Buffalo’s vast Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Gallagher parked beyond the curve of the horseshoe drive, like an adolescent preparing for a quick departure. He tossed his cigarette onto the gravel. With the bravado of an afflicted man mimicking his own discomfort, he thumped his midriff with his fist: he’d been having gastric attacks lately, dismissed as “nerves.”

“Remember, Hazel: we are not staying for dinner. We have ”other plans’ back in Vermont.“

Thaddeus Gallagher turned out not to be eagerly awaiting his visitors inside the massive house, but at the rear, by the pool. A female servant unknown to Gallagher answered the door, and insisted upon leading them to the pool area though Gallagher certainly knew the way. “I used to live here, ma’am. I’m your employer’s son.”

Along a flagstone path, beneath a wisteria archway, through a garden whose roses were mostly spent, fallen. Hazel glanced into tall windows bordered by leaded-glass panes. She saw only her own faint and insubstantial reflection.

And there, in his motorized wheelchair, in white T-shirt and tartan plaid trunks: Thaddeus Gallagher.

An invalid! Elderly, and obese! Yet the man’s eyes snatched at Hazel Jones, hungrily.

Close beside the pool they sat. A festive gathering! A male servant in a white jacket brought drinks. Thaddeus talked, talked. Thaddeus had much to say. Hazel knew, from Gallagher, that Thaddeus continued to oversee Gallagher Media, though he’d officially retired. Thaddeus woke at dawn, was on the phone much of the day. Yet he talked now with the air of one who has not spoken to another human being in a long time.

For this visit to Ardmoor Park, Hazel was wearing a summer dress of pale yellow organdy with a sash that tied at the back, a favorite of Gallagher’s. On her head, a wide-brimmed straw hat of an earlier era. On her slender feet, high-heeled straw sandals, with open toes. In a playful mood to celebrate Zack’s three-week residence at the Vermont Music Festival, she had painted both her fingernails and toenails coral pink to match her lipstick.

On the wheelchair footrest Thaddeus Gallagher’s toes twitched and writhed. The abnormally thick nails were discolored as old ivory. Like embryonic hooves they seemed to Hazel who could not help staring, revulsed.

This old man, Thaddeus Gallagher! A multi-millionaire. A much-revered philanthropist. Hazel recalled the wall of photographs in the lodge at Grindstone Island: a younger, less monstrous Thaddeus with his politician friends.

The shadow of death is upon him Hazel thought. She saw it, the fleeting shadow. Like the hawk-shadows passing over her and Gallagher as they’d climbed the steep hill on Grindstone Island.

Yet the older man confronted and confounded the younger. By quick degrees Gallagher lapsed into muttered monosyllables even as Thaddeus talked with zestful animation. Gallagher shifted uneasily in his chair, he seemed unable to catch his breath. Ordinarily, Gallagher did not drink alcohol at this hour of the day but he was drinking it now, very likely to show his father that he could. Hazel saw how he was refusing to glance at her. He was refusing to acknowledge her. Nor did he look Thaddeus Gallagher fully in the face. Gallagher looked like a man whose vision had gone blank: his eyes were open but he did not seem to be seeing. Hazel understood that she, the female, was meant to observe father and son: son and father: the elder Gallagher and the younger: meant to appreciate how the elder was the stronger of the two, in this matter of masculine will. This scene, Thaddeus had arranged.

At first, Hazel felt sympathy for Gallagher. As she’d felt a maternal protectiveness for Zack when he’d been a younger boy, at the mercy of older boys. But also impatience: why didn’t Gallagher confront his bully-father, why didn’t he speak with his usual authority? Where was Chet Gallagher’s corrosive sense of humor, irony? Gallagher had a superbly modulated “radio” voice he could turn on and off at will, playfully. He made his little family laugh, he could be devastatingly funny. Yet now at his father’s house the man who never stopped talking from morning to night was speaking vaguely, hesitantly, like a child trying not to stammer. This was the first Gallagher had returned to his childhood home since his mother’s death years before. It was the first Gallagher had seen his father in such intimate quarters since that time. He is remembering what hurt him. He is helpless as a child, remembering. Hazel felt a wave of contempt for her lover, unmanned by this overbearing invalid.

Hazel would have wished not to be a witness to Gallagher’s humiliation. But she knew herself, by Thaddeus’s design, the crucial witness.

Beyond the flagstone terrace and the swimming pool with its rich aqua tiles was a stretch of gently sloping lawn. Not all of the lawn was mowed, there were patches of taller grasses, rushes and cattails. On a hill above a glittering pond, a stand of birch trees looking in the sun like vertical stripes of very white paint. Hazel remembered how in the drought of late summer, birches are the most brittle and vulnerable of trees. As in a waking dream she saw the trees broken, fallen. Once beauty is smashed it can’t ever be made whole.

Seeing where Hazel was looking, Thaddeus spoke with childlike vanity of having designed the landscaping himself. He’d worked with a famous architect, and he’d had to fire the architect, finally. In the end, you are left with your own “genius”-such as it is.

Adding, in a pettish tone, “Not that anyone much gives a damn, among the Gallaghers. My family: they’ve all but abandoned me. Nobody comes to visit me, hardly.”

“Really! I’m sorry to hear that, Mr. Gallagher.”

Hazel doubted it was true. There were many Gallagher relatives and in-laws in the Albany area, and she had not heard that Thaddeus’s other adult children, a brother and a sister, were estranged from him as Gallagher was.

“You have no family, Hazel Jones?”

There was a subtle emphasis on you. Hazel felt the danger, Thaddeus would try to interrogate her now.

“I have my son. And I have…”

Hazel’s voice trailed off. She was stricken by a sudden shyness, reluctant to speak Chet Gallagher’s name in his father’s presence.

“But you and Chester are not married, eh?”

The question came blunt and guileless. Hazel felt her face heat with discomfort. Beside her, withdrawn and seemingly indifferent, Gallagher lifted his glass to his mouth and drank.

Hazel said, “No, Mr. Gallagher. We are not married.”

“Though you’ve been together for six years? Seven? Such free-thinking young people! It’s admirable, I suppose. ”Bohemian.“ Now in the 1970s, when ”anything goes.“” Thaddeus paused, shifting his bulk eagerly in the wheelchair. His groin appeared swollen as a goiter in the snug-fitting plaid trunks. His flushed scalp was damp beneath thin floating wisps of silvery hair. “Though my son is not so young, is he? Not any longer.”

Gallagher let this remark pass, as if unhearing. Hazel could think of no reply that was not fatuous even for Hazel Jones.

Thaddeus persisted, gaily: “It is admirable. Throwing off the shackles of the past. Only we, the elderly, wish to retain the past out of a terror of being thrust into the future where we will perish. One generation must make way for another, of course! I seem to have offended my own children, somehow.” He paused, preparing to say something witty. “There’s a distinction naturally between children and heirs. I no longer have ”children,“ I have exclusively ”heirs.“”

Thaddeus laughed. Gallagher made no response. Hazel smiled, as one might smile at a sick child.

The old man must have his melancholy jokes. They were this afternoon’s audience for his jokes. Gallagher had estimated, Thaddeus would leave an estate valued somewhere beyond $100 million. He had a right to expect to be courted, visited. The fat dimpled spider at the center of his quivering web. He wished now to persecute his youngest son whom he loved, who did not love him. He would poke, prod, stab at his son, he would demoralize his son, try to rouse him to fury. He hoped to make Gallagher squirm with guilt as with the most severe of gastric pains. Long he’d planned this passionate love-encounter, that was also revenge.

Winking at Hazel You and I understand each other, eh? My fool son hasn’t a clue.

The suggestion of complicity between them left Hazel shaken, uncertain. Her face was very warm. Here was an old man long assured of his appeal to women. He was suffused with a thrumming life that seemed to have drained from his son.

“Of course, none of us are. Is. Any longer. Young.”

Now Thaddeus began to complain more generally of the United States federal government, saboteurs in the Republican party and outright traitors among the Democrats, America’s cowardly failure to “pull out all stops” in Vietnam. And what of the “media manipulation” of leftist intellectuals in the country, that Senator Joe McCarthy had been onto but got sidetracked, and his enemies bludgeoned the poor bastard to death. Why, Thaddeus wondered, were Jews invariably the ones most opposed to the war in Vietnam? Why were most Jews, when you came down to it, Communists, or Commie-sympathizers! Even Jew-capitalists, in their hearts they’re Communists! Why the hell was this, when Stalin had loathed Jews, the Russian people loathed Jews, there had been more pogroms in Russia than in Germany, Poland, Hungary combined? “Yet in New York City and Los Angeles, that’s all you will find. In broadcast journalism, newspapers. The ”paper of record‘-the Jew York Times. Who was it founded the NAACP-not the “colored people,” you can bet, but the “chosen people.” And why? I ask you, Hazel Jones, why?“

Hazel heard these sputtered and increasingly incoherent words through a steadily mounting ringing in her ears. Mixed with the mad cries of cicadas.

He knows. Knows who I am.

But-how can he?

At last Gallagher roused himself from his stupor.

“Is that so, Thaddeus? All Jews? They don’t disagree with one another, about anything? Ever?”

“To their enemies, Jews present a unified front. The ”chosen people‘-“

“Enemies? Who are the enemies of Jews? Nazis? Anti-Semites? You?

With a look of indignation Thaddeus drew back in his wheelchair. The subtlety of his argument was being misunderstood! His disinterested philosophical position was being crudely personalized!

“I meant to say, non-Jews. They call us goyim, son. Not enemies per se except as Jews perceive us. You know perfectly well what I mean, son, it’s a matter of historic fact.”

Thaddeus was speaking solemnly now. As if his earlier baiting had been a pose.

But Gallagher rose abruptly to his feet. Mumbling he had to go inside for a few minutes.

Gallagher stumbled away. Hazel worried he was having one of his gastric attacks, that sometimes led to spasms of vomiting. His face had gone sickly white. Gallagher had begun to experience these attacks when he’d first been heckled at anti-war rallies several years ago, in Buffalo. Sometimes he suffered milder attacks before one of Zack’s public performances.

Damn him: Hazel couldn’t help resenting it, being left behind with Gallagher’s father. This grotesque old man in his wheelchair glaring at her.

Saying, in Hazel Jones’s way that was both breathless and apologetic, and her widened eyes fixed upon the glaring eyes in a look of utter distress, “Chet doesn’t mean to be rude, Mr. Gallagher. This is an emotional-”

“Oh yes, is it, for ”Chet‘? And for me, too.“

“He hasn’t been in this house, he said, since-”

“I know exactly how long, Miss Jones. You needn’t inform me of facts regarding my own God-damned family.”

Hazel, shocked, knew herself rebuffed. As if Thaddeus had leaned over and spat on her yellow organdy dress.

God damn your soul to hell, you bastard.

Sick dying old bastard I will have your heart.

The gravedigger’s daughter, Hazel Jones was. There was never a time when Hazel Jones was not. Saying, in an embarrassed murmur to placate the enemy, “Mr. Gallagher, I’m sorry. Oh.”

The white-jacketed servant hovered at the edge of the terrace, perhaps overhearing. Thaddeus noisily finished his drink, a vile-looking scarlet concoction laced with vodka. He too might have been embarrassed, speaking so sharply to a guest. And to so clearly innocent and guileless a guest. His glassy eyes brooded upon the swimming pool, its lurid artificial aqua. In the ripply surface, filaments of cloud were reflected like strands of gut. Thaddeus panted, grunted, scratched viciously at his crotch. He then rubbed his hefty bosom up inside the T-shirt, with a sensuous abandon. Hazel lowered her eyes, the gesture was so intimate.

The photographs she’d seen of Thaddeus Gallagher in the lodge at Grindstone Island were of a stout man, heavy but not obese, with a large head and a self-possessed manner. Now his body appeared swollen, bloated. His jaws had the look of jaws accustomed to ferocious grinding. Hazel wondered what cruel whimsy had inspired him to dress that day in such clothes, exposing and parodying his bulk.

“Bullshit he’s ”emotional.“ He’s a cold-hearted’s.o.b. You will learn, Hazel Jones. Chester Gallagher is not a man to be trusted. I am the one to apologize, Miss Jones, for him. His idiotic ”politics‘! His Ne-gro jazz! Failed at serious piano, so he takes up Ne-gro jazz! Mongrel music. Failed at his marriage so he takes up women he can feel sorry for. He’s shameless. He’s a mythomaniac. He told me, bratty kid of fifteen, “Capitalism is doomed.” The little pisspot! These newspaper columns of his, he invents, he distorts, he exaggerates in the name of “moral truth.” As if there could be a “moral truth’ that refutes historical truth. When he was a drunk-and Chester was a drunk, Miss Jones, for many more years than you’ve known him-he inhabited a kind of bathosphere of mythomania. He has invented such tales of me, my ”business ethics,“ I’ve given up hoping to set them straight. I’m an old newspaper man, I believe in facts. Facts, and more facts! There’s never been an editorial in any Gallagher newspaper not based upon facts! Not liberal crap, sentimental bullshit about ”world peace‘-the “United Nations’-”global disarmament‘-but facts. The bedrock of journalism. Chester Gallagher never respected facts sufficiently. Trying to make himself out some kind of white Ne-gro, playing their music and taking up their causes.“

Hazel was gripping a sweating glass in her hand. She spoke evenly, just slightly coquettishly. “Your son is a mythomaniac, Mr. Gallagher, and you are not?”

Thaddeus squinted at her. His chins jiggled. As if Hazel had reached over to touch his knee, he brightened.

“You must call me ”Thaddeus,“ Hazel Jones. Better yet, ”Thad.“ ”Mr. Gallagher‘ is for servants and other hirelings.“

When Hazel made no reply, Thaddeus leaned toward her, suggestively. “Will you call me ”Thad‘? It’s very like “Chet’-eh? Almost no one calls me ”Thad‘ any longer, my old friends are falling away-every season, like dying leaves.“

Hazel’s lips moved numbly. “”Thad.“”

“Very good! I certainly intend to call you ”Hazel.“ Now and forever.”

Thaddeus moved the wheelchair closer to Hazel. She smelled his old-man odor, the airless interior of the old stone cottage. Yet there was something sweetly sharp beneath, Thaddeus Gallagher’s cologne. A monster-man, crammed into a wheelchair, yet he’d shaved carefully that morning, he’d dabbed on cologne.

Unnerving how, close up, you could see the younger Thaddeus inside the elder’s face, exultant.

“”Hazel Jones.“ A lovely name with something nostalgic about it. Who gave you that name, my dear?”

“I-don’t know.”

“Don’t know? How is that possible, Hazel?”

“I never knew my parents. They died when I was a little girl.”

“Did they! And where was this, Hazel?”

Gallagher had warned, his father would interrogate her. Yet Hazel could not seem to prevent it.

“I don’t know, Mr. Gallagher. It happened so long ago…”

“Not that long ago, surely? You’re a young woman.”

Hazel shook her head slowly. Young?

“”Hazel Jones’ The name is known to me, but not why. Can you explain why, my dear?“

Hazel said lightly, “There are probably ”Hazel Joneses‘-Mr. Gallagher. More than one.“

“Well! Don’t let me upset you, my dear. I’m feeling guilty, I suppose. I seem to have upset my overly sensitive radical son, who has run off and left us.”

Briskly then Thaddeus pressed one of the buttons on the wheelchair. Hazel heard no sound but within seconds a male attendant appeared, in T-shirt, swim trunks, carrying terry cloth robes and towels. This young man called Thaddeus “Mr. G.” and was called by the older man what sounded like “Peppy.” He was about twenty-five, darkly tanned, with a blandly affable boy’s face; he had a swimmer’s physique, long-waisted, with broad wing-like shoulders. Hazel saw his eyes slide onto her, swiftly assessing yet vacant. He was one who knew his place: a wealthy invalid’s physical therapist.

“Will you join me, Hazel? They say I must swim every day, to keep my condition from ”progressing.“ Of course, my condition ”progresses’ in any case. Such is life!“

Hazel declined the invitation. She came to assist Peppy as he helped Thaddeus into the pool, at the shallow end: this was a Hazel Jones gesture, spontaneous and friendly.

“My dear, thank you! I hate the water, until I get into it.”

Peppy fastened red plastic water wings onto the obese man, over his fatty shoulders and across his immense drooping bosom. Slowly then he helped Thaddeus into the water with the frowning attentiveness of a mother helping her clumsy, somewhat fearful child into the water, that shimmered and quaked about him. Hazel offered her hand. And how grateful Thaddeus was, gripping her hand. As his weight slipped into the water like a bag of concrete Thaddeus squeezed Hazel’s slender fingers in a sudden helpless panic. Then, as if miraculously, Thaddeus was in the pool, wheezing, paddling with childlike abandon. Peppy walked and then swam beside him slowly. Thaddeus was laughing, winking up at Hazel who followed his slow progress through the now choppy water, walking at the edge of the pool.

“Hazel! You must join us. The water is perfect, isn’t it, Peppy?”

“Sure is, Mr. G.”

Hazel laughed. Her pretty dress had been splashed, and would stink of chlorine.

“Really, Hazel,” Thaddeus said, holding his head erect out of the water, with an absurd dignity, “you must join us. You’ve come so far.” The motions of his hefty arms were energetic, those of his atrophied legs feeble.

“I don’t have a bathing suit, Mr. Gallagher.”

“”Thad‘! You promised.“


Thaddeus was enlivened again, with a frantic gaiety.

“There are women’s bathing suits in the changing rooms, over there. Please, go look.”

Hazel stood irresolute. Almost, to spite her lover she was tempted.

As if reading her thoughts Thaddeus said slyly, “You must, dear! To show up my cowardly son. He fled, he’s afraid of his old crippled father who has prostate cancer, and a touch of colon cancer to boot. But do you see Thaddeus slinking away in cowardly defeat? You do not.”

Hazel knew not to react to this disclosure. Never must she make any reference to Thaddeus Gallagher’s health. She would pretend she had not heard. Carefully she removed her high-heeled sandals, to walk barefoot at the edge of the pool. Her legs were long, supple with muscle. Her legs were smooth, shaven. It was a fetish with Hazel Jones to shave her legs, thighs and armpits and other areas of her body that might betray her by sprouting dark, rather curly coarse hairs. As Hazel Jones ate sparingly, to remain Hazel Jones who was slender, very feminine and very pretty. In the smelly aqua water, Thaddeus Gallagher strained to watch her.

He could not speak very clearly, paddling and splashing with his absurd water wings. Yet he kept calling to Hazel as one might call to a perverse child. “Surely you can swim, dear? Nothing would happen to you, with Peppy and me at hand.”

Hazel laughed. “I don’t think so, Thad. Thank you.”

“And if I gave you a gift, dear? A thousand dollars.”

Thaddeus meant to speak in such a way that Hazel could interpret the remark as a joke, and not be offended. But the words came out awkwardly, his glassy blinking eyes stared and strained at her.

Hazel shook her head, no.

“Five thousand!” Thaddeus cried gaily.

An old man’s harmless teasing. He was falling in love with Hazel Jones. Cavorting in the water, making even Peppy laugh. Paddling and splashing and kicking and wheezing like a baby elephant. His behavior was so ludicrous, so strangely touching, Hazel had to laugh.

“My dear, don’t abandon me! Please.”

He’d thought that Hazel was walking away. She’d gone only to examine a lattice of crimson climber roses, against a cream-colored stucco wall.

After a few more minutes, Thaddeus abruptly ordered Peppy to haul him out of the pool. Again, Hazel Jones came to help: took the old man’s big fleshy hand, that gripped hers tightly. Hazel also brought towels, terry cloth robes for both men. Thaddeus wrapped the enormous towels about his body, rubbing himself briskly. His thinning hair that lay now flat against the big dome of his head, he dried as energetically as he might have done in his youth when his hair was thick. It was exactly Gallagher’s practice. Hazel saw this, and felt some tenderness for Thaddeus.

In his wheelchair, wrapped in towels large as blankets, Thaddeus puffed and panted and smiled, exhilarated. The white-jacketed servant had brought him another scarlet drink as well as a silver bowl of mixed nuts which he ate noisily.

“Hazel Jones! I must confess I’d heard certain things about you. Now I see, none of them were true.”

Thaddeus spoke in a lowered voice. He kept glancing back at the house, concerned that his son would reappear.

He reached out to take Hazel’s hand. She shivered but did not pull away.

“My son is a man of integrity, I know. I have quarrels with him but in his own way, yes of course he is ”moral.“ I wish that I knew how to love him, Hazel! He has never forgiven me, you see, for things that happened long ago. He has told you, I suppose?” Thaddeus squinted wistfully at Hazel.

“No. He has not.”

“He has not?”


“He complains about my politics, surely? My convictions that are so very different from his?”

“Chet only speaks of you with respect. He loves you, Mr. Gallagher. But he’s afraid of you.”

“Afraid of me! Why?”

There was something furtive and sick in Thaddeus’s face. Yet a glimmering of hope.

“You should ask Chet, Mr. Gallagher. I can’t speak for him.”

“Yes, yes: you can speak for him. Far better you can speak for him, Hazel Jones, than he can speak for himself.” The old man’s pose of drollery had quite fallen away, now he was fully earnest. Almost, he was pleading with Hazel. “He loves me? He respects me?”

“He thinks that your political beliefs are mistaken. That’s all.”

“He has never said anything about-his mother?”

“Only that he loved her. And misses her.”

“Does he! I do, too.”

Thaddeus and Hazel were alone on the terrace. Both Peppy and the servant in the white jacket had departed. Thaddeus sat swathed in white terry cloth, sighing. Still he continued to glance back at the house nervously. “You have no family, Hazel? No one living?”

“No one.”

“Only just your son?”

“Only just my son.”

“Are you and Chet secretly married, dear?”


“But why? Why aren’t you married?”

Hazel smiled evasively. No, no! She would not say.

Wistfully Thaddeus asked, “Don’t you love my son? Why would you live with him, if you don’t love him?”

“He loves me. He loves our son.”

The words escaped from Hazel Jones as in a dream. For all her shrewdness she had not known she would utter them until that moment.

She saw in the old man’s face an expression of shock, triumph.

“I knew! I knew that was it!”

Worriedly Hazel said, with the air of one who has confided too much, “He can’t know that I’ve told you, Mr. Gallagher. He can’t bear the thought of being talked about.”

Thaddeus said, panting, “I knew. Somehow, seeing you. I did know. Hazel Jones: this will be our secret.”

A blind, dazed expression came over the old man’s face. For some seconds he sat silent, breathing hard. Hazel felt the terrible pounding of his heart in that massive body. Thaddeus was deeply gratified yet suddenly very tired. Cavorting in the pool had exhausted him. This long scene had exhausted him. Hazel would summon one of the servants to help him but Thaddeus continued to grip her hand, hard. Pleading, “You won’t stay for dinner, Hazel? You don’t think that Chet could be talked into changing his mind?”

Gently Hazel said no. She didn’t think so.

“I will miss you, then. I will think of you, Hazel. And of-”Zacharias Jones.“ I will hear the boy play piano, when I can. I will not push myself upon you, I understand that that would be a tactical error. My son is a sensitive man, Hazel. He’s also a jealous man. If-if Chester ever disappoints you, dear, you must come to me. Will you promise, Hazel?”

Gently Hazel said yes. She promised.

In a sudden clumsy gesture Thaddeus lifted her hand to his lips, to kiss. Long Hazel would feel the imprint of that kiss on her skin, the fleshy, unexpectedly chill sensation.

The fat dimpled spider, the gravedigger’s daughter. Who might have predicted!

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