edited by professor dan leo
illustrated by rhoda penmarq and konrad kraus
executive producer: kathleen maher
part six of fifteen
to begin at the beginning, click here
As soft as her hand was, she had a strong grip. Every few steps or so she would lift her feet off the pavement and let me carry her along.
“Just like flying!” she said, holding up her free arm. “I’m not too heavy, am I?”
“No,” I said.
She added her right hand to the left one that was already holding my right hand, and she did a chin-up, turning to look up at me.
“You seem awfully calm about my antics, Arnold. Most men would toss me into the nearest bush and run screaming. Why are you so nonchalant?”
“It’s all in a day’s work for me,” I said.
“I knew it! You’re special!”
“That’s one way of putting it,” I said.
“Can you lift me higher?”
I lifted her up a bit more, so that her face was almost at a level with mine.
“Lift me higher, Arnold!”
I stretched my arm all the way up.
She swung back and forth, kicking her legs.
“Higher!” she said.
“That’s as high as I can go,” I said.
“Oh, we can go much higher!” Keeping a grip on my hand with her left hand, she let go with her other hand and stretched her arm up into the air. “Hold tight now!”
And all at once it was not me lifting her but she lifting me, pulling me up off the pavement, swerving out over the street and up past the thick leaves of an old elm tree, beyond the dappled pools of light from the street lamps and up perhaps a hundred feet or so.
“Which direction shall we go in, Arnold?”
“Your choice,” I said. (Perhaps I should mention here that I still held her grey cardboard box under my left arm.) “But let’s make it quick. I really have to get back to my friends.”
“To the ocean then?”
“Okay, a quick run to the ocean, then right back.”
We flew over the rooftops, past Washington Street, Carpenter’s Lane, Hughes Street, no one looked up, and so no one noticed man and small child flying above their heads, and on we sailed past Columbia Avenue and Beach Avenue and over the promenade flowing with strolling people, over the slivery beach and the ebbing and flowing surf and on about a hundred yards or so out over the gently undulating dark and gleaming ocean.
Clarissa then zoomed straight up for a couple of minutes until we were perhaps three or four hundred yards above the sea. Her dark curls floated around her head as if she were underwater. She continued to hold me up by my right arm, gripping my hand in her small but powerful fist.
“Right, now kick your feet, Arnold,” she said, “as if you were treading water. Like this.”
By the thrashing of the folds of her dress I could see she was rhythmically working her small legs, almost as if she were riding a tricycle. I did the same, and now we were holding our height at a steady level, looking down at the glowing and sparkling town.
“It looks very beautiful from up here, doesn’t it, Arnold?”
“Yes, it does,” I admitted. The air was cool and fresh up here, smelling faintly of the ocean. “Can we go back now?”
“In a minute. I want you to try letting go of my hand. Don’t worry, I’ll catch you if you fall.”
“I don’t know,” I said.
“What don’t you know? Don’t be such a big party poop, Arnold!”
“Well -- all right,” I said. “I’ll give it a try.”
“Oh good, now, when I let go, just sort of wave your arms up and down, just as if you were doggy-paddling in the ocean, like so.” She demonstrated with her free right arm.”
“You forget I’m holding this box.”
“Just wave with your one arm then. It’s only to keep you steady in one place.”
“And keep kicking your legs. That’s key.”
“Legs up and down, and sort of steady yourself with your right arm, in a paddling motion.”
“Got it,” I said.
“All right. Leave go now.”
I let go of her hand, she let go of my hand, I continued to kick my feet, I started to wave my arms downwards, and I dropped like a stone, straight down toward the ocean like a sack of potatoes.
For some reason I still held onto that cardboard box, don’t ask me why.
But then just as I was about to crash into the water back-first the doll Clarissa swooped me up in her arms and carried me skimming along the crests of the waves and then up high into the dark air again. I couldn’t believe her strength, but there it was.
“Well, Arnold, I suppose you’re not so special after all,” she said into my ear.
And I supposed she was right.