Town and Country
A famous Thanksgiving dinner at my stucco urban palace. The tables arrange themselves variously: two very long ones, four shorter ones, two middling short, one slightly long. I realize the scene is unreal, my guests imaginary, conjured largely from the dead. My father, my Uncle Aloysius, Jack Bate and Herman Melville, Lord Byron and Teddy Roosevelt, Aunt Esther and Henry Adams, Charlotte Bronte and One-Arm Connolly, who killed himself at forty. The rattle of glassware makes a ghastly but cheerful music.
Unable to correlate my guest list, I step outside the urban dream and enter the rural one. A huge maple has broken and half-fallen, angled over the eggshell of my country house. Let it topple and smash the antique slate roof if it wishes. Meanwhile on a nearby ridge of naked basalt a gaggle of teenagers silly with beer is climbing a sullen mossy cliff. I shout at them to halt and descend, but they ignore me. When one falls and breaks her bones with a snap audible for a mile I laugh the meanest laugh.
Nothing will induce me to return to the Thanksgiving dinner I dreamed in a sorry moment. My country house, a sprawl of twenty rooms, is also a ghost of the mind, but it doesn’t repulse me the way the imaginary dead, eating real food in my townhouse, do. I lack a motive for either dream; but watching the huge broken maple sway like the Sword I suppose revenge against myself will do—the brief November day going sulfur-yellow at sundown and the lawn torn by frost-heaves exposing the bedrock.