Excerpt from For Blue Boy (2012)

She had come from a small town out West, and was therefore new to the city. Even if Castle Garden is not New York City at its most metal and cold, it is still the city. People have things to do, and there are a lot of people. When a lot of people have contradictory things to do all at the same time then they have to just ignore anybody in their way and push on to their goal, to get what they need to get done done. It makes outsiders think that we are rude, but we are just busy, and busy is a place where way too many get in our way while being busy. This fundamental problem that we all spiritually sit out most of our lives in bottleneck spaces is too often interpreted by outsiders as rudeness. But in fact it is just that it is a big city.
But, she was from a small town, with ‘small’ in its name, Kleinschmitt. And, to drive it home even more, she bore the name of that town: Marguerite Kleinschmitt. A nice old German-American name. The fact that she came from small town to the big city made her reaction to the general crowdedness of the city worse, because she was used to dealing with people in a personal way. She did not, could not understand them, the robotic way that busy people in a mass culture place behaved toward each other. She had met Tad, or Thaddeus, at an art opening, and he had responded to her vulnerability immediately. He had always been a rescuer of lost cats, he had a master’s degree in the literature of lost cat streetlamp pole postings, and felt only a warm heart-bracing pity for her. He promised her friendship and love. He said that where he came from everyone was friendly. He told her that his family was wealthy—ridiculously–because they owned a house. He in fact thought that they were—and as a result she began to open wide her tearstained eyes to him, seeing in his figure and presence an answer to all her problems, a savior in whose arms she could hide from the cold brutality of the big city and its life. They had a whirlwind romance staged in a dorm room on 21st street and after holding their breath and noses through the robotic processing of licenses and ceremonies conducted at the Municipal Building came out to Brooklyn to settle down in a vacant third floor apartment in the Honeygold home.
From the first moment she cast her longing eyes on the simple frame of a simple brownstone, it was not enough. She was still in the city, still out in the cold. Immediately, from the moment she turned her neck slightly to wince out a squint of condescending appraisal of her future home, her highness of small town ideals expressed her disdain for the life Tad had arranged for them to live in. When she shook hands hello to all the family members, the chill of her cold sweaty handshake was sent coursing through the blane of the house. She could hardly put down a snarl of withdrawal at Tad’s father’s move to give her a cheek peck, as if it was a form of sexual abuse, and at the same time she was rejecting that overture her rolled eyes alighted upon the bare walls of rooms lacking any curled-wave molding on the ceiling of the parlor or any quaint out of datedness of that style that spoke of home to her, only adding to her sense of suffocation. A lunch had been prepared for their arrival but when she smelled whatever stew had been cannibalistically concocted for that ceremonial welcome, pirates as superstitious as gypsies about family welcoming rituals, she suddenly feigned faint sickness and begged to be let go to freshen up and so about seven deadly awkward minutes after she had arrived in her new life, she was out of the room, leaving Tad to sheepishly apologize for her rudeness with an of course,
She’s not feeling well.
In this she made a first impression on her future family that was indelible: and it was an impression that violated to such an extent customary expectations of welcoming of the bride home, that the truth is she was shut out from any hope of acceptance from the inner circle of power in the family ever after.
She must—go through. Honeygold said to his son, she must.
I know, pop, but if she’s not into it.
What she must go through were rituals of welcome. Entrance into the family and life and continuity with the living flesh of the family as passed down from one generation to another.
It’s not like we’re cooking babies.
But its—Indian, I think she said she hated that, or maybe she doesn’t know what that is.
Missing the meal I can stand, grandpa Honeygold put in, but if it, he rolled his eyes to the ceiling, does not happen tonight, oof, that is bad, bad luck.
She’ll be fine.
She is in fact, unbelievably, it’s possible, I can’t believe it, but she tells me she is a virgin.
Excellent, Honeygold, excellent.
Alright, popula.
They sat down to lunch, a wait ensued.
She must be very stale, to need so much freshening up.
What is freshening up anyways?
What do you mean?
Why do you use that expression, and right then and there, the only time a woman has to freshen up is after she arrives at a place after travelling for some time. What does it mean? Did she have to pee?
Oh! the mother let out a sound, it is not good, to put an image like that in the mind, ladies do not pee.
I think it’s about fixing one’s makeup, splashing a little water on their face, maybe they worry that the freshmintiness of a morning’s toothbrushing or deodorant application has gone sour, so they will do that again. I don’t know, sometimes it means they’re tired, they take a nap.
A nap! She could be up there sleeping, while we sit and wait for her?
You know, let’s not wait for her, let’s just go ahead, we’re at home.
That’s right, sonny is home, the old married man, who’d of thought it?
So, the welcoming lunch—or, now, supper, proceeded without the bride. It was a bad omen.

Adding to the momentum of domestic problems that beset the household—causing all current residents to recoil from the bad energy source that, they perceived, brought it in–was that there was no momentum, there was only entropy in the household. Marguerite took to the marriage bed, but left the marriage part out. She was not a duck to the water, or a fuck to the lubricant, for the sheets, but a sick corpse, lying comatose in fear and dread and disgust and sickness and sick of it allness of the whole place. She peered from out behind nosecovering sheetful with darting nervous eye, cringing away from what she imagined to be the—exposure of the modern room.
What’s the matter (it took a few more questions before Tad, in impatience, added a ‘now’ to that question).
It’s like a hospital.
What is?
The room, the house, it doesn’t feel like a home, but a hospital.
He’s a developer, he likes the modern style. He’s a man of 90 degrees in the land of 86 degree houses, that’s for sure.
A modernist?
A modernist, he likes the machine for living look, everything in every room like a very very clean kitchen or bathroom, all sparkling clean gleaming surfaces.
Sh.
It kind of makes me feel comfortable. I always feel like I’ve come to a fancy little hotel, coming back home.
Is he gay then?
Gay?
Very clean, I’ve heard that man guys, regular guys are pigs. Maybe you’re gay too.
I’ll show you how gay I am if you would let me.
She pulled the sheet higher and turned her head briskly from him.
He was sorry he brought up this sore point.
I mean, but he trailed off.
The family was confused. She did not make an appearance. After three days dead, they more or less mutually declared that the marriage was an annulled nothing, and began to conceive of her as an outsider, an intruder, as mysterious to them as the dithering hairpinned witches of apron-over-head tossing barristresses in response to the Invisible Man. As soon as she ceased to be ‘one of us,’ and became again, one of them, them being everyone who lived outside their 56 walls (four rooms on each floor, two in the basement), and beyond their stoop, an unspoken pressure to have her out began to silently build in the house. Marguerite then too felt this pressure of animosity as it crept step by step and by runner and oriental rug to her door and almost turned her doorknob against her too, causing the door itself, bolted with her disgust, to bulge out toward her, and made it seem to her too that at times their clean sleek furniture was taking a step in her direction. At first, this negative energy began to make her hunker down in bed even more, like a patient in hospital, fearful most of all that some visitor or staff would kill her by infection, but after a while this pressure began to inflate her with a kind of negative caged tiger energy, and, reconceptualized now as an outsider, she found the strength to get up out of bed and begin to forage for things in the house that met her needs.

note: For Blue Boy (2012) is set up by the one fact I remember most about my paternal grandfather and his relationship with my mother: he used to drive her absolutely crazy when, after dinner on Thanksgiving, or other holiday dinners, he would sneak back into the kitchen at night and rearrange all her silverware and dishes. I use this scenario of genetic OCD to situate the son and grandson of the Mac Honeygold of the story doing battle in a duplex in Castle Garden, Brooklyn, when the son moves in with his wife who turns out to be a kitchen reorganizer as well. And then the father tells the story of why this apparently little thing is so….important.

The story is that Mac Honeygold uses some of his OCD problems to his advantage during his time in the trenches in World War I. After the War he is posted to occupation duty in Trier, Germany. There he encounters a woman who turns out to be witch and possibly demonic, in any case is up to no good. Honeygold escapes with his life, permanently traumatized by a memory of her and a fixed animosity for Germany. Fast forward twenty years of normal lower middle class life, happily married, with a son: his handsome son Tad has taken up with an upper class girl in Kleinschmitt, Harley Foxhall, who lives the perfect sorority 1940s life, just like the ones you see in all the old movies. She’s an All American girl of a decidedly All American family, with one problem, her brother has what today is called Down Syndrome, a fact which causes her family considerable stress. Alarmed by the possibility of the Honeygolds marrying into a family with what he saw as genetic problems Honeygold begins to worry about where the relationship between Tad and Harley is headed. He also happens to be in debt to Harley’s father, reinforcing some degree of social animosity. Mac begins to snoop into the family history and finds that George Foxhall has a brother with links to the German Bund, a fact which alarms Mac further. Still more, he discovers that Foxhall is the Anglicized name for Fuchsjagdschloss, and that the Foxhalls are in fact German Americans and possibly those Nazi spies that Mac had read all about in the papers. Even more startling is that their German name is the same name as that of the woman who terrorized him in Trier, twenty years before. He will not marry his son into a family of witches and demons! So Mac declares war on the relationship, on the idea of marrying into that family, and the story follows all the ways in which he goes on the offensive. The climax takes him to a strange religious gathering of conservative German Catholics at a rural lake resort in Wisconsin in 1941 where his worst fears are realized by what he sees at a religious-themed sideshow, but then in the end both George and Harley are revealed to have themselves turned against the worst excesses of German American enclave defensiveness in the between war years and were attending the event to rescue their loved ones from getting too involved in the cult. And so at last the marriage takes place, end of story.

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