Articles

BACK IN TWO WEEKS

Loafing around his summer cottage with the grasshoppers and minnows Bob longs for the trill of a typist's tongue and the wide padded shoulders of his pin-stripe suit

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN August 1 1951
Articles

BACK IN TWO WEEKS

Loafing around his summer cottage with the grasshoppers and minnows Bob longs for the trill of a typist's tongue and the wide padded shoulders of his pin-stripe suit

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN August 1 1951

BACK IN TWO WEEKS

Loafing around his summer cottage with the grasshoppers and minnows Bob longs for the trill of a typist's tongue and the wide padded shoulders of his pin-stripe suit

ROBERT THOMAS ALLEN

THE theory of summer holidays —that for two weeks I am going to abandon all my cares— is like saying that for two weeks I am going to make ten thousand dollars a week. If I could do it for two weeks I’d do it for fiftytwo.

Life’s not so simple. You can’t just taKe a man away from his gas bills, insurance premiums and income taxes, plop him down among some trees and say: “Now, be happy until the morning of the seventeenth at nine o’clock.” It’s like loosening an old plumbing joint. It may need repairs but the rust is helping to keep it together. Once you break the corrosion it falls apart.

The first Monday, when all the other husbands have gone back to work, I go out to my lawn chair to start enjoying my holidays. After about five minutes I begin to throw little pebbles in the air. I feel oddly detached from the rest of mankind. I feel as if I’ve broken loose from my moorings in time and space. I wander down to watch the petunias growing. A little boy comes over and watches me. I don’t know who this little boy is. He comes over every year, dragging a stick. We both stare at one another. It’s very quiet. There is just me, the little boy and the solar system.

I say, “Hello.”

The little boy backs off and disappears into a bush.

I am alone again among the leaves and the p-s-s-s-s-t! of grasshoppers. Pretty soon I am saying p-s-s-s-s-t! back at them. This alarms me and I get up and wander down to the dock. Nobody is there except two dead crayfish and a lot of little minnows darting around the dock on who knows what business of their own.

I think of the boys back in the city having their morning coffee session, talking about yesterday’s baseball scores. I long to hear a cop s whistle and to get pressed close to my fellow man in a crowd.

I realize this is not what you are supposed to do on summer holidays and I attempt a rally. “Oh boy!” I tell myself. “No worries about dictation,

memos or getting up early in the morning!”

I immediately find myself worrying about things I haven’t thought of since I was a boy scout. I wonder what I’d do if I met a grizzly bear on a mountain trail. Would I kill it with my hare hands or start to cry? I worry about whether my nose is too long, about going bald, losing my teethf getting varicose veins, and about being falsely accused of a murder.

What Shape is a Millionaire?

A few days of this and a trip to the local post office is as exciting as a round trip to the World Series with Jean Simmons. But even this contact with familiar things lacks any lasting basis. The young people lounging around the post office are as brown as berries, and the youths look like those young men you see in advertisements hanging from the mainsails of sloops, whereas I just look like a plump middle-aged man in shorts with glasses and pink legs. In the city my pinstripe suit and padded shoulders carry a certain amount of dignity. After all, I might be a millionaire. At the cottage, if I’m a millionaire it doesn’t matter. Nothing would make up for my shape.

All this explains why a lot of men on holidays make desperate efforts to keep occupied. I’ve seen them change the position of outhouses that were good for another five years, dig holes so deep that they would hardly be heard when they called up to ask what time supper would be ready, move whole flower beds, tear down docks, build them up again, and talk about moving the lake back two feet.

A lot of men have learned that serenity and composure are a state of mind, not a summer subdivision; and that life without a struggle doesn’t always mean happiness. It explains, too, why every year I come back from my holidays the way most people start on theirs: full of bounce and good spirits, and glad I’m leaving it all Lehind. -k