“The Light in Springs,”

Fiction by Dan Marsh

Part Two
Mr. Papadopoulos’s Cousin Lalekos

    The time came when Etienne and I desperately wanted a boat. We saved. It would have to be a used boat, of course, but we found family backing, matching funds and so on from those who also wanted to see the shore from Gardiner’s Bay.

    We scanned the classifieds each week in The East Hampton Star. Finally we found what we thought was to be our craft. It was a very small cabin cruiser, great for bay fishing, old, yes, but in tip-top shape. We could nearly afford the price, if we hadn’t needed to insure, register, and equip it. We arranged to meet the owner early one morning at the Harbor Marina on Three Mile Harbor. The man’s name was Lalekos and he was cousin to Achille Papadopoulos, a colleague of Dad’s.

    Uncle Doc came with Eh and me, as he was the only one among us with a driver’s license. We shook hands with Mr. Lalekos and he gave us a tour of that pretty boat. It was painted aquamarine and yellow, with a crimson stripe on the hull. It looked like it could have been lifted from a National Geographic photo spread, “Working Boats of the Mediterranean.” There was oily water swishing around below deck and the berths smelled of ineradicable mold. As I said, my brother and I wanted a boat desperately and now we knew we wanted this one in particular.

    Mr. Lalekos sat in the captain’s chair and turned the key. “P’roooom,” he said. “She starts right up.”

    We made it out of the slip before the dying engine failed. Eh dove into the water with a line. Paint flecked off the gunwale. He stood on the dock and bitterly pulled us back in. Uncle Doc asked Eh and me to go back to the car so he could talk man to man with Mr. Lalekos. Our hopes were high.

    Our hopes were dashed. Neither of us had synchoresi (if synchoresi truly means forgiveness in Greek) for either man.

Clubbing the Seals
    Dad may have had his second heart attack that night in January. It might have been his third. About such events he kept his own counsel. He very, very rarely took a day from work. He called his cardiologist that night. He thought that Jules would drive him to the hospital. The doctor had another idea. The ambulance arrived, sans sirens, but lights flashing on the houses of our street. He said he would call. Don’t worry.

    Jules followed in the English Ford. He knew he couldn’t keep up with the ambulance. When he arrived, he found Pop already out of Emergency and in a room on the floor. He was hooked to monitors and breathing through a nasal cannula. He smiled at Jules. Jules said, “Pop could say a lot with a shrug.”

    It is rare, very rare, for the telephone to ring before 7 a.m. with good news crackling down the wire.

    We dressed as fast as we could and squeezed into the Zephyr. The car did not start. Jules told Eh and me to get out. We pushed the vehicle, while Jules popped the clutch. The engine turned. P’roooom, I thought. She starts right up.

    When Jules came out of the hospital room, his eyes looked like the eyes of a harp seal that had been clubbed, close but not to death.

At the Town Sanition Landfill
    Mr. Wochsmuth took care of our trash for a while, but use of the Springs home varied wildly from day to day, month to month, and year to year. Sometimes the task of garbage disposal fell to Eh and me. We had two balloon-tire bikes that had been built during the war, the Second World War. Each had a rack over the rear fender on which a large bag of trash could be secured.

    Most trips to the landfill were routine. Eh and I would toss our bags, seeing which landed farther away, and then go home. Once in a blue moon a fellow would pull up in a pickup truck of indeterminate color that had recently transported a day’s catch, watched by fierce gulls. This indeed was the poet Wallace Stevens’s sailor in red weather. From a cardboard box he seized cup after chipped and broken china cup and tossed them underhand high into the stench-visible air. The shattered plates followed.

    Broken bits on the sandy dirt at the bottom of the pit.

    China shining on the table of the newly wed.

Mark, Fore & Strikeout
    In a large family, the adjective “hand-me-down” was often used. Shirts, blouses, trousers, skirts, belts, shoes, all show up on different individuals, somewhat disconcertingly, in different photographs. Underwear resurfaced in different drawers. Etienne and I did not have a care of fashion. This was our summertime garb: one pair dungarees, five T-shirts, five pairs of white athletic socks, one pair black socks, one pair sneakers, one pair black shoes, one white Arrow shirt, one pair Robert Hall slacks, one necktie (the last four items for Sunday wear). Also one bathing suit.

    Eh nevertheless formulated a rule of dressing appropriately to one’s surroundings. One must never wear a garment that advertises a place within a hundred miles of it. Therefore a T-shirt that read “East Hampton” could never be worn in Amagansett, Bay Shore, or Manhattan. He considered such a gaucherie evidence of being nouveau riche.

    So it is that I have a photograph of his son James on a junior year class trip to Spain in the Alhambra. He is wearing a shirt that says, “est. Montauk, 1957.”

Enci at the Art Barge
    Aunt Margie was maid of honor to Nancy Cassavetes at her wedding to Stanley Cross. Everyone called Nancy “Enci,” and the Cross surname allowed a tradition to continue. Enci stayed in a guest room in Tante’s house on her wedding eve. She had served as an active-duty nurse in the Army from the Second World War through the Korean Conflict and was on reserve if the current war turned uglier in Southeast Asia. One can’t imagine that she awoke in Richmond Hill, Queens, in the night before her nuptials with fears or jitters.

    Although Queens is, except at the airports, mostly served by gypsy cabs, she and my aunt arrived at the church in Middle Village, Queens, in Manhattan style in a yellow cab. Stanley wanted a photograph of that to send to his relatives in Davenport, Iowa. Uncle Doc obliged.

    Enci was a fine artist: She worked in watercolors, pastels, oil, acrylics, and collage. She also designed, sewed, and painted some of her own clothes. Thus under her wedding gown she was wearing something special. She laughed hard one day when she told me, “No one ever saw that but Stanley.”

    For six weeks in 1968 she took instruction from Victor D’Amico himself of MoMA fame on the Art Barge in Napeague. It was the first time she had been away from Stanley since the wedding. She did a series of landscapes that I admired very much. These she would later donate to a nursing home near her apartment in Washington, D.C., after Stanley died. Stanley’s hobby had been ham radio. He kept meticulous logs of places he had found and those that had found him, and their frequencies. Springs was on a list, but not Montauk, East Hampton, or Amagansett.

    Enci was renting a room at a fellow artist’s home in Montauk. That woman lived with her widowed mother, who had been born on the Island of Samos, the birthplace of Epicurus. Epicurus served two years in the army in Athens. Perhaps this is when he had the notion that gods neither reward nor punish humans and that the universe is infinite and eternal. Enci said, “That summer, because I didn’t have to cook for Stanley, I ate tuna almost every day for lunch. In that house it seemed there was an infinite supply.”

    Enci had packed her suitcase the night before the course ended. It barely fit in the trunk of her yellow Mustang convertible.

    As the students left the Barge, what had been light rain turned into an almost-biblical torrent.

    Enci fired up the car and turned on the radio. At least the highway on the Napeague strip was straight and flat. The war had turned uglier in Southeast Asia.


    Dan Marsh, a native Long Islander and frequent contributor to the Star’s “Guestwords” column, writes from Garrett Park, Md.