Tuesday, August 3, 2010

“A Town Called Disdain”, Episode Thirty-Five: Hope’s investigations, and an interruption

The time: an afternoon in September, 1969.

The place: the sprawling Victorian Johnstone mansion, several miles outside of a town called Disdain, in that land of enchantment that men call New Mexico.

(Click here to read our previous episode; go here to read the first chapter of this long-lost American epic of which Cormac McCarthy has said, "It makes my shit look effete.")

Hope looked up and down the corridor and then unlocked the door with the master key, went inside and locked the door behind her.

There lay all their things.

Suitcases and bags open, clothes strewn all over the floor and the bed.

Hope went over and knelt down by the big cerulean blue suitcase on the floor with women’s things gently exploded all around it, and her hands ran tumbling like small mischievous creatures through the treasure.

Chanel, Balenciaga, Dior, Cardin, Mary Quant.

Two books.

Miss Craig’s 21-Day Shape-up Program for Men and Women, which didn’t seem to have been opened.

Jacqueline Susann’s The Love Machine, with a receipt from Saks 5th Avenue stuck in as a marker between pages 74 and 75. On the half title page an inscription in purple ink:

“To the lovely Daphne -- I HATE you because you’re beautiful and I WANT your divine hubby -- Love, Jackie”

A pair of pale blue bikini panties edged in lace caught Hope’s eye. She picked them up and held them to her face.

Then, after checking the tiny label, she put the panties into the side pocket of her blue jeans.

She spent about twenty minutes going through all of Dick and Daphne’s stuff.

Daphne had excellent if occasionally bizarre taste in clothes.

Dick’s clothes were refreshingly free of Nehru jackets, white plastic belts, oriental pendants, and paisley ascots, but she noticed the reinforced and oddly-shaped leather-lined side pockets in several of Dick’s older jackets and coats. She found the boxes of bullets, .38 Special and 9mm, and correctly surmised the purpose for the holster-shaped pockets.

More books. Dick’s books. Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honour. A Vietnamese-English dictionary. Ripley Under Ground by Patricia Highsmith. Three Novels by Samuel Beckett and The Way of Zen by D.T. Suzuki. An old New Cambridge Shakespeare, worn and foxed, the cloth gone from its spine. Boyish notes and drawings on the tissuey pages, more drawings, and notes and class times scrawled on the inside covers, along with a poem:

I hate this school
And its every damn fool
But I hate not least
Every pederast priest

Some magazines. A New Yorker, a Ramparts, a Evergreen, a Zap comic book.

She expertly rifled through Dick’s old seabag and found the velvet-lined boxes with the medals in them. Dicks’ passport with the pages all filled with the stamps of many countries. His honorable discharge from the US Navy. Another passport in his name, this one with a different picture, with moustache and blond hair. And another passport with yet another picture, blond hair but no moustache, and another name: Richard Cadwallader.

A paperback on the bed, Slaughterhouse-Five. She folded her legs beneath her on the bed and began to read.

Five or ten minutes later someone was fiddling with the door lock.

She sat there with the paperback open in her hands and the door came open.

It was that weird man Mr. Adams, that friend of that Mr. Philips who was also weird.

“Oh,” he said. “I -- uh -- must have the wrong room.”

He took some strange instrument out of the keyhole and put it into his pants pocket.


“I was changing the sheets,” said Hope.

She put down the book but remained sitting yogi-style on the bed.

“Yes,” said Mr. Adams. “Right, well, I’ll, uh, leave you to your work then.”

He left, and she sat there for a bit and then she drew the jumbled covers back and lay down stomach first on the bed, her face in the pillow, breathing in the redolent smells of Daphne and Dick.

(Continued here, just on the off-chance that some slight hint of a plot might appear.)


Akeith Walters said...

This is great. Now I'll have to go back to the beginning and play catch-up.

Dan Leo said...

Good luck, Akeith! (Please let me know at once if you find any stray plot strands lying around.)

Unknown said...

Hope might have saved their lives. For me, she's the ultimate mystery in all of Disdain.

Dan Leo said...

Y'know, Kathleen, I think you may be onto something here...