Read the first part of the story. Pay attention to the major characters behaviour. What impression does the kid and his family evoke ?

:
  1. A) The first of March nineteen seventy-six.
  2. About myself and my family
  3. Choosing Colour to Make the Right Impression
  4. Complete the sentences, using the words from Ex. 3. Three of them are used twice. The first one is done for you.
  5. Describe someone in your family who you really admire.
  6. Ethics of family relations
  7. Family as the key social structure
  8. Family patterns in the modern world
  9. Family: Perspectives
  10. Family; youth; marriage; non-traditional marriages; commune; polygamy; population policy of the state.
  11. Finish reading the first half of the story. Prepare to explain what exactly is happening to the teacher.
  12. Finish reading the story. Decide how you find the ending unexpected or quite predictable.

 

I`ll exquisite day you, buddy, if you dont get down off that bag this minute. And I mean it, Mr. McArdle said. He was speaking from the inside twin bed the bed farther away from the porthole. Viciously, with more of a whimper than a sigh, he foot-pushed his top sheet clear of his ankles, as though any kind of coverlet was suddenly too much for his sunburned, debilitated-looking body to bear. He was lying supine, in just the trousers of his pajamas, a lighted cigarette in his right hand. His head was propped up just enough to rest uncomfortably, almost masochistically, against the very base of the headboard. His pillow and ashtray were both on the floor, between his and Mrs. McArdles bed. Without raising his body, he reached out a nude, inflamed-pink, right arm and flicked his ashes in the general direction of the night table.

October, for Gods sake, he said. If this is October weather, gimme August. He turned his head to the right again, toward Teddy, looking for trouble. Cmon, he said. What the hell do you think Im talking for ? My health ? Get down off there, please. Teddy was standing on the broadside of a new-looking cowhide Gladstone, the better to see out of his parents open porthole. He was wearing extremely dirty, white ankle-sneakers, no socks, seersucker shorts that were both too long for him and at least a size too large in the seat, an overly laundered T-shirt that had a hole the size of a dime in the right shoulder, and an incongruously handsome, black alligator belt. He needed a haircut especially at the nape of the neck the worst way, as only a small boy with an almost full-grown head and a reed-like neck can need one.

Teddy, did you hear me ?

Teddy was not leaning out of the porthole quite so far or so precariously as small boys are apt to lean out of open portholes both his feet, in fact, were flat on the surface of the Gladstone but neither was he just conservatively well-tipped ; his face was considerably more outside than inside the cabin. Nonetheless, he was well within hearing of his fathers voice his fathers voice, that is, most singularly. Mr. McArdle played leading roles on no fewer than three daytime radio serials when he was in New York, and he had what might be called a third-class leading mans speaking voice: narcissistically deep and resonant, functionally prepared at a moments notice to out-male anyone in the same room with it, if necessary even a small boy. When it was on vacation from its professional chores, it fell, as a rule, alternately in love with sheer volume and a theatrical brand of quietness-steadiness. Right now, volume was in order.

Teddy. God damn it did you hear me ?

Teddy turned around at the waist, without changing the vigilant position of his feet on the Gladstone, and gave his father a look of inquiry, whole and pure. His eyes, which were pale brown in color, and not at all large, were slightly crossed the left eye more than the right. They were not crossed enough to be disfiguring, or even to be necessarily noticeable at first glance. They were crossed just enough to be mentioned, and only in context with the fact that one might have thought long and seriously before wishing them straighter, or deeper, or browner, or wider set. His face, just as it was, carried the impact, however oblique and slow-travelling, of real beauty.

I want you to get down off that bag, now. How many times do you want me to tell you ? Mr. McArdle said.

Stay exactly where you are, darling, said Mrs. McArdle, who evidently had a little trouble with her sinuses early in the morning. Her eyes were open, but only just. Dont move the tiniest part of an inch. She was lying on her right side, her face, on the pillow, turned left, toward Teddy and the porthole, her back to her husband. Her second sheet was drawn tight over her very probably nude body, enclosing her, arms and all, up to the chin. Jump up and down, she said, and closed her eyes. Crush Daddys bag.

Thats a Jesus-brilliant thing to say, Mr. McArdle said quietly-steadily, addressing the back of his wifes head. I pay twenty-two pounds for a bag, and I ask the boy civilly not to stand on it, and you tell him to jump up and down on it. Whats that supposed to be ? Funny ?

If that bag cant support a ten-year-old boy, whos thirteen pounds underweight for his age, I dont want it in my cabin, Mrs. McArdle said, without opening her eyes.

You know what Id like to do ? Mr. McArdle said. Id like to kick your goddam head open.

Why dont you ?

Mr. McArdle abruptly propped himself up on one elbow and squashed out his cigarette stub on the glass top of the night table. One of these days he began grimly.

One of these days, youre going to have a tragic, tragic heart attack, Mrs. McArdle said, with a minimum of energy. Without bringing her arms into the open, she drew her top sheet more tightly around and under her body. Therell be a small, tasteful funeral, and everybodys going to ask who that attractive woman in the red dress is, sitting there in the first row, flirting with the organist and making a holy

Youre so goddam funny it isnt even funny, Mr. McArdle said, lying inertly on his back again.

During this little exchange, Teddy had faced around and resumed looking out of the porthole. We passed the Queen Mary at three-thirty-two this morning, going the other way, if anybodys interested, he said slowly. Which I doubt. His voice was oddly and beautifully rough cut, as some small boys voices are. Each of his phrasings was rather like a little ancient island, inundated by a miniature sea of whiskey. That deck steward Booper despises had it on his blackboard.

Ill Queen Mary you, buddy, if you dont get off that bag this minute, his father said. He turned his head toward Teddy. Get down from there, now. Go get yourself a haircut or something. He looked at the back of his wifes head again. He looks precocious, for Gods sake.

I havent any money, Teddy said. He placed his hands more securely on the sill of the porthole, and lowered his chin onto the backs of his fingers. Mother. You know that man who sits right next to us in the dining room ? Not the very thin one. The other one, at the same table. Right next to where our waiter puts his tray down.

Mm-hmm, Mrs. McArdle said. Teddy. Darling. Let Mother sleep just five minutes more, like a sweet boy.

Wait just a second. This is quite interesting, Teddy said, without raising his chin from its resting place and without taking his eyes off the ocean. He was in the gym a little while ago, while Sven was weighing me. He came up and started talking to me. He heard that last tape I made. Not the one in April. The one in May. He was at a party in Boston just before he went to Europe, and somebody at the party knew somebody in the Leidekker examining group he didnt say who and they borrowed that last tape I made and played it at the party. He seems very interested in it. Hes a friend of Professor Babcocks. Apparently hes a teacher himself. He said he was at Trinity College in Dublin, all summer.

Oh ? said Mrs. McArdle. At a party they played it ? She lay gazing sleepily at the backs of Teddys legs.

I guess so, Teddy said. He told Sven quite a bit about me, right while I was standing there. It was rather embarrassing.

Why should it be embarrassing ?

Teddy hesitated. I said rather embarrassing. I qualified it.

Ill qualify you, buddy, if you dont get the hell off that bag,
Mr. McArdle said. He had just lit a fresh cigarette. Im going to count three. One, God damn it... Two...

What time is it ? Mrs. McArdle suddenly asked the backs of Teddys legs. Dont you and Booper have a swimming lesson at ten-thirty ?

We have time, Teddy said. Vloom ! He suddenly thrust his whole head out of the porthole, kept it there a few seconds, then brought it in just long enough to report, Someone just dumped a whole garbage can of orange peels out the window.

Out the window. Out the window, Mr. McArdle said sarcastically, flicking his ashes. Out the porthole, buddy, out the porthole. He glanced over at his wife. Call Boston. Quick, get the Leidekker examining group on the phone.

Oh, youre such a brilliant wit, Mrs. McArdle said. Why do you try ?

Teddy took in most of his head. They float very nicely, he said without turning around. Thats interesting.

Teddy. For the last time. Im going to count three, and then Im

I dont mean its interesting that they float, Teddy said. Its interesting that I know about them being there. If I hadnt seen them, then
I wouldnt know they were there, and if I didnt know they were there,
I wouldnt be able to say that they even exist. Thats a very nice, perfect example of the way

Teddy, Mrs. McArdle interrupted, without visibly stirring under her top sheet. Go find Booper for me. Where is she ? I dont want her lolling around in that sun again today, with that burn.

Shes adequately covered. I made her wear her dungarees, Teddy said. Some of them are starting to sink now. In a few minutes, the only place theyll still be floating will be inside my mind. Thats quite interesting, because if you look at it a certain way, thats where they started floating in the first place. If Id never been standing here at all, or if somebodyd come along and sort of chopped my head off right while I was

Where is she now ? Mrs. McArdle asked. Look at Mother a minute, Teddy.

Teddy turned and looked at his mother. What ? he said.

Wheres Booper now ? I dont want her meandering all around the deck chairs again, bothering people. If that awful man

Shes all right. I gave her the camera.

Mr. McArdle lurched up on one arm. You gave her the camera ! he said. What the hells the idea ? My goddam Leica ! Im not going to have a six-year-old child gallivanting all over

I showed her how to hold it so she wont drop it, Teddy said. And I took the film out, naturally.

I want that camera, Teddy. You hear me ? I want you to get down off that bag this minute, and I want that camera back in this room in five minutes or theres going to be one little genius among the missing. Is that clear ?

Teddy turned his feet around on the Gladstone, and stepped down. He bent over and tied the lace of his left sneaker while his father, still raised up on one elbow, watched him like a monitor.

Tell Booper I want her, Mrs. McArdle said. And give Mother a kiss.

Finished tying his sneaker lace, Teddy perfunctorily gave his mother a kiss on the cheek. She in turn brought her left arm out from under the sheet, as if bent on encircling Teddys waist with it, but by the time she had got it out from under, Teddy had moved on. He had come around the other side and entered the space between the two beds. He stooped, and stood up with his fathers pillow under his left arm and the glass ashtray that belonged on the night table in his right hand. Switching the ashtray over to his left hand, he went up to the night table and, with the edge of his right hand, swept his fathers cigarette stubs and ashes into the ashtray. Then, before putting the ashtray back where it belonged, he used the under side of his forearm to wipe off the filmy wake of ashes from the glass top of the table. He wiped off his forearm on his seersucker shorts. Then he placed the ash-tray on the glass top, with a world of care, as if he believed an ashtray should be dead-centered on the surface of a night table or not placed at all. At that point, his father, who had been watching him, abruptly gave up watching him. Dont you want your pillow ? Teddy asked him.

I want that camera, young man.

You cant be very comfortable in that position. It isnt possible, Teddy said. Ill leave it right here. He placed the pillow on the foot of the bed, clear of his fathers feet. He started out of the cabin.

Teddy, his mother said, without turning over. Tell Booper I want to see her before her swimming lesson.

Why dont you leave the kid alone ? Mr. McArdle asked. You seem to resent her having a few lousy minutes freedom. You know how you treat her ? Ill tell you exactly how you treat her. You treat her like a bloomin criminal.

Bloomin ! Oh, thats cute ! Youre getting so English, lover.

Teddy lingered for a moment at the door, reflectively experimenting with the door handle, turning it slowly left and right. After I go out this door, I may only exist in the minds of all my acquaintances, he said. I may be an orange peel.

What, darling ? Mrs. McArdle asked from across the cabin, still lying on her right side.

Lets get on the ball, buddy. Lets get that Leica down here.

Come give Mother a kiss. A nice, big one.

Not right now, Teddy said absently. Im tired. He closed the door behind him.

...

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