At 6 AM Carmina Burana, our serf, tiptoes in with my tray. She is small, mute, and as usual radiant with contentment, which we love. I nod warmly but say nothing, and sit up to read the telex from my wife, Jane, saying that I should go ahead and breakfast without her, as she has a 9:00 lunch in town. Dipping an unsweetened madeleine into my coffee, I begin dictating my column, due later that hour, on the recent encyclical reaffirming the doctrine of isostasy (I approve). I eat only a small piece, since I have more to do this afternoon.
When I have said finis, I slip into the clothes Jane has laid out for me, palpating the snack she always places in my right-hand pocket, and without which the day is practically graham-crackerless. I saunter on out to the orangerie and, after pulling off some of the ruching she has attached to trees, pinch one of the fruits with a calipers given to us by our old friend Luther Burbank.
Staring out across the lawn that Jane has so marvelously had mown, I am reminded of something Whittaker Chambers said to me once in this room: “Sometimes I just want to scream.” And yet normally he was the least given to postprandial pronunciamentos of anyone I have ever known.
I tug now on the bell sash and Junipera Serra, our Spanish-American duster, appears to carry me out to the car. I peek to see if Pete is driving. He is; he’s always driving. I wave to him through the soundproof divider, but am careful to give no instructions. He throws the knucklebones on the upholstery, and soon (exactly right) we are tearing off to New York. Pete is a real sine qua non. His discernment is Olympian in everything but ornithology: he and I share an inability to distinguish between a prothonotary warbler and a right-wing blackbird, or whatever.
I open my briefcase now and spread out as much as I like. After my old limo was gathered to its maker, I discovered that the only way to duplicate its perfections was to design one myself. I reflect wryly on a letter I once wrote John De Lorean, saying that if he was looking for the maneuverability of a rickshaw with the capaciousness of St. Peter’s, he could do worse than to conjoin the hulls of a trimaran with an old B-52, as I have done. (I never heard from him and, well—nolle prosequi.)
Purring along the Bruckner Expressway—was Bach less deserving?—I ponder a surprise note from Frank Marigold. Since the scandal in May of ‘79 when, while jogging, he was caught making overtures to a young woman not his wife, I have been out of touch. Although repelled at the time, I was impressed by Frank’s subsequent public shrivening, when he announced that since laying off exercise he was no longer interested in women. That someone of my acquaintance …