posted by Mohammad on .
i write first part of story out cause i confused with first question.
I was sitting in my room when the phone rang. "Hello" it's me, she said. Mother. I was almost glad to hear her. But something must be wrong. She never phoned me.
"is something wrong?"
"your father," she said. " The doctor called yesterday and told me."
"What! What did he tell you?" why did she have to turn everything into one of those serial mysteries? Each episode yanked from her btween commercials.
"Ive been telling him for years" she said.
"never mind that. what did the doctor say?"
"cancer, its in his lungs. ive been telling him for years but he'd never listen. stubbornn. smoking his damn cigarettes like a train. i told him..."
her voice broke. she was crying. it made me angry to hear her crying for herself. she never once mentioned cigarettes that i could remember.
"will you come up to the cottage this weekend?"
"why? whats the point?"
"he's going to die!" she said, back to her favorite soap opera. he's your father, jake. you're his only son"
and you're his only wife, i felt like saying; his only wife, but what was the point, it would be like taking away her bingo card with one number to go.
"come." she said.
question i need help with be that the whole telephone conversation jake have with his family tells abt nature of his relationship with family, how do he react to his mom phone call? what be reaction to his father having cancer?
He doesn't have a good relationship with his parents. He does't want to talk with his mom because she only complains and talks about herself. He also doesn't care much for his father because he seems uninterested in his cancer diagnosis.
thanks very very very much ms. sue :)
ms. sue if you not mind i be able to post whole story here? there be other questions i not understand. only if u not mind and if u not busy.
Yes, please post the whole story here. I'll try to answer your questions for the next 2 1/2 hours.
thank you very very much ms. sue you very nice :)
You're very welcome, Mohammad. I enjoy working with you.
i continue from above part
"come." she said.
"all right. tomorrow. I'll drive up in the afternoon."
"in the morning," she said. "or tonight, jake. come up tonight. I'm scared. When Im alone with him I don't know what to say."
"I'll be up tomorrow."
"early," she said.
"yeah." and i hung up. it was crazy, her being scared after all these years of being along with him. But it scared me too in a way. It was like suddenly now that he was going to die we had to face the fact that he was alive.
I sat starting at the telephone for a long time and thought about statues. I hated them. Statues were the way other people made you stand still. Like dying. People loved you, made you their hero and killed you so they could build a monument to their feelings. Statues. And now in my mother's mind I could see the old man turning to stone. She would buy the biggest and best headstone. Bingo! perfect card. A prize.
I picked up the phone and called my wife
"It's me," I said. My mother's sonn.
"you sound like the ghost of somebody I used to know..."
The father, the son, the holy ghost. Yes the holy ghost was the rattling skeleton in my closet.
"I havent got this months cheque yet," she said.
"It's in the mail," I lied. I'd drunk it the weekend be4 with some girl from Baltimore who was in Toronto for a hairdressers' convention. You might say she clipped me, but I didn't mind. I needed a trim.
I like to make jokes to myself. Its a good cover for all the laughing I do.
"So how are things," she said. "Selling lots of cars?"
"Great, but I'm thinking of going into another field. Selling headstones."
"You make money at that?" "People keep dying."
"I suppose .... "
I could see her, face pulled in like an accordion to squeeze her thoughts into a recognizable tune. Everything has to be familiar to her before she can accept it. I guess I never became familiar enough. And when I left she kept expecting me to come back. like Eurydice waiting and I didn't even look back.
"Is this a social call or what?" she said. "I haven't heard anything from you for months."
"Sort of business," I said. "How's the kid?"
"Great. She even mentioned you a couple of days ago; the man that used to live with us."
"I was wondering if it'd be okay for me to take her away fot the weekend."
"Up to my parents' cottage."
"Since when did you get chummy with them?"
"Look Edith, it's just a thing. The old lady asked me up, the old man's sick and I said I'd come. I thought it'd be nice for the kid. Fresh air, swimming, the whole thing."
"What about me? I'm supposed to sit in this lousy sweat box while you and her go gallivanting off."
If she'd been in my room I would have punched her. It made me sick, the petty talk that led to this kind of thought. It was a way of chiseling at you, a re-forming. My wife, the reformer.
"She hasn't even met your father," she continued. "I can't understand why you'd want her to get involved with them now. You never did before. You hardly saw them yourself."
"Forget it then," I said. "I just thought she might enjoy the outing." "I don't want to forget it, I want to know why all of a sudden you want to be nice to everybody. You know how often I've asked you to take her for the weekend so I could get away by myself, but you were always too busy. Now all of a sudden you're the good samaritan."
"Edith, my old man's sick. I want the kid to meet him at least once before he dies. At least once."
I was tired of this and sorry I had called. I t had been a stupid idea and only proved how scared I was too. Frightened to go up there alone.
"Is he that bad?" "Yeah."
"I never met him either," she said and began to cry. I began to wish that the hairdressers' convention hadn't been the week before and that it would happen this weekend. Or that my phone was disconnected. I felt the same way from the calls being made to me and the ones I made too.
''I'm sorry," I said. And I was. I was sorry that that was all I could be. There was nothing I could change or would if I could, except maybe to never have had a phone installed.
"What time did you want her?" she asked. "Whatever time's best for you."
"I'll send her over about ten," she said. "She can ride the streetcar by herself now."
She sounded proud. "That's great," I said. ''I'll have her back
Sunday after supper. Okay?"
"Take care of her." "I will. Goodbye." "Goodbye Jake."
I hung up and spent another long time staring at the phone. It was black like the night was becoming outside my windows. The phone could brighten up the night; one call to someone. A name somewhere in a directory.
I walked out to the balcony. The stars were like tiny animals' eyes.
A coldness Out there. "This is the winter of the world; and here we die." Did Shelley mean that? I'd have liked to have been on the moon with an endless supply of light bulbs; wire the moon to shine away the night.
I dreamed a while. Night dream of people I'd lost long ago in a daylight somewhere.
The old man was dying and I preferred to be seen in the dark. It was as though I was preparing myself for a sudden departure. Cutting myself off except for the phone. And telling myself I liked my privacy. I went to bed early without even one drink.
A knock woke me. The room was full of light. A beam of dust parti-cles formed a moving mural in one corner. In a way it was more of a picture than the posters I had pasted on the walls. Art should always be elusive. Somebody said that, I'm sure.
"Come in," I said. "It's not locked." I never lock the door. Locking anything defeats its own purpose.
"It's me," she said and stood in the doorway with a brown shopping bag and a brown face split like a potato with a jagged grin.
"Com'on in," I said again. "Close the door."
She closed it and discreetly held her back to me while I fumbled around for my pants. They were on the floor and in a minute I was up and jamming the blankets from the studio couch into the closet.
"You look great," I said. "How's school?" Standard question. "It's holidays," she said.
"Oh yeah. I forgot."
"You always forget," she said softly so I almost didn't hear her. "You're starting to sound like your mother."
''I'm sorry. I didn't mean that. But you do forget. All the time when I see you, you always say you forgot this or you forgot that. All the time you say that."
It's true. And it's strange because I really want to be remembered. But not as a statue. I want to be remembered in an unclear way. Like a stranger that you see some night on the subway and never forget.
"Let's forget it," I said.
She laughed. "See!"
I laughed too. ''I'm just lazy," I said.
She continued to laugh in the nervous way my wife has. An un-natural sound from a ten-year-old. But maybe not. I don't know any other ten-year-olds. Maybe they all end up sounding like that. I shaved and came back to find her asleep. It frightened me.
"Hey, com'on sleepy-head, time to go. Didn't you get any sleep last night?"
"I couldn't," she said. "I was too excited."
At least she's still honest enough to admit what she feels.
"Let's go then. You got all your stuff?" "Right here. I put my bathing-suit in too."
Because my living is made selling cars I always have a road-worthy vehicle at my disposal. My boss believes that as I zoom along the highway in one of his red convertibles, people will flag me down and make wild offers to buy the thing from me. So far the only person who's flagged me down was a hitch-hiker headed for the east coast. Another dreamer. But still it's pleasant to have a nice car waiting for you at the curb. And the kid liked it.
"Can you put the top down?" she asked. " Sure," I said.
The drive took less than two hours. Just over a hundred miles from Toronto. The old man had bought the cottage years back when I was still a kid and prices were on a level that only demanded a man's right arm stopping at the first joint. Now they wanted the shoulder and, both legs.
With the top down it was difficult to talk and after a few distorted questions to each other that the wind blew around we gave up. When I pulled off the high way onto the dirt road that led to the lake she asked me something she seemed to have been saving for a long time.
"Do you have any girl friends?"
It startled me. Was she a spy? My wife liked to know things like that, but the kid had never sought information to take back with her before. Not that I could remember. Maybe I hadn't noticed. I didn't want to have to be cautious with her.
"Sometimes," I said. "What do you mean?"
"I mean sometimes women are my friends but sometimes they won't leave me alone. You know what I mean?"
"Like mommy when she calls you?"
"Yeah, like that." But you're my friend, I wanted to say, but perhaps that wasn't true either. An infiltrator.
The old lady was sitting in a lawn chair when I pulled in the lane.
Waiting. She got up slowly as though unwilling to admit we had arrived.
"I thought you'd be coming up on your own," she said when we got out.
"Thought I'd surprise you," I said. "You remember Bernice." "I should say, my only grandchild. And how you've grown."
She didn't touch the kid. Standard policy. She hadn't seen her for over two years, since the separation, and she still didn't even put a hand out. Some families grow like trees, each separate but the branches touching from one to another and intertwining. Our family was like a series of telephone poles strung along a highway without even the wires to link us up. We were not a close family. I mean that as a kind of joke.
"What a lovely outfit," my mother said. ''I'll bet your father got you that."
"Oh, wasn't that nice? And yellow too. You look so nice in yellow." "Thank you," the kid said. I could tell it was killing her, this crap, and I was glad. All she had to do was one of those curtseys and the old lady would have been all over her, but the kid held back. No fancy dog tricks to get a bone and a pat on the head.
"Could you run along and play, Bernice? I want to talk to your daddy for a minute."
The kid fluttered around and took off into the trees behind the cottage; her yellow skirt like a wind•borne kite.
"What was the idea of bringing her up?"
"It was just an idea. You don't like it we can leave."
"You don't think I've got enough to worry about with him in that condition? And what's he going to think? He hasn't even met the girl."
"That's not my fault," I said. "And he can think what he wants. I figured it was time he met her. Where is he anyway?"
"Down at the dock," she said, and began to smile her secret scorn. "What's he doing down there?"
The dirty pool look was there now. She was out to get him. She would have het revenge before she bought the statue. Her rule.
"When I told him you were coming, he decided you'd like to go fishing. He's down at the dock now getting the boat ready."
"That sounds like a hell of an idea. I haven't been fishing for years.
We can take the kid too. She's never been."
"Crazy foolishness, in his condition." She was disappointed. She wanted me to join her in lashing out at the crazy old fool. She was right, he probably wasn't in any condition to fish, but maybe he was looking for revenge too. It was hard to say and I wondered where I'd fit in, if I did, and the kid too.
"He even took a case of beer down too, " she said, as if this were some final proof of his unbalanced state.
''I'll go down and see him," I said. "Has he got the rods and stuff with him?"
"Everything. It's all gone down. He carried it all. If he'd've died on the path it's me that would've had to drag him back. He doesn't care. It's just too bad."
"Stop it, will you? Just leave the guy alone. We'll be back later."
She muttered something at my back that I didn't hear, but I'd heard it all before.
I found the kid sitting on a stump along the path to the lake. She faced the trail as though she'd been waiting. Sure I'd come. That felt nice for some reason.
"Is he really my grandfather?" she asked. "Sure. My father, your grandfather."
She took my hand and hers was warm and wet and I moulded its gentle roughness like an autumn apple. She knew the gestures that lead me to standing still. For statue making. To become a hero. But it was only for today, I thought. I could afford it for one day at least.
"Mommy's father is dead," she said. "He was my grandfather too." "I know."
"How come your father never came to see us. Mommy's did sometimes."
"He's pretty busy," I said. "I hardly ever see him myself." "Like you," she said. "Always busy too."
"Not like that. I mean ... " I couldn't assemble the words to build the picture the way it really was. Maybe someday.
"He's been sick a lot," I said.
"Oh." It was a wounded sound. A moan. Orpheus looking back and regretting it in his throat.
We passed out of the trees and could see the water now. The sight, sheared from our full view by more trees, left the shape of an orchestra pit. It shone in the sun like a bluefuzz blanker. And the old man was there in front of us loading something in the boat.
"That's him," I said.
"I see. He's smaller than you."
She was tight. I had always thought of him as being bigger, but he was tiny and shriveled in an old-dog kind of way. I hadn't seen him in over two years and it was like I had forgotten what he looked like.
"This is a surprise," he said. "Who've we got here?"
"This is my daughter Bernice. This is my father, Bernice, your grandfather."
"Well," he said, and took her hand smoothly. They walked away, he holding her hand and talking. "I was just gettin' the boat ready to do a bit of fish in' . You ever been fishin'?"
She shook her head. The long brown strands of hair reflecting gold in the sharply focussed sun. Her mother's hair. It had reflected like that two summers ago in this very spot. Nothing changes.
"It okay to bring het along Jake?"
His tone was polite but we all knew the question had been settled.
He was already helping her into the boat.
"Sure," I said. "You got an extra rod?" "She can use mine."
He'd done it again. I stood there feeling awkward, the way I had so often in the past. Like I was a kid again and didn't know what to do with my hands or feet, or the words in my mouth.
"You comin' Jake?" He was behind the motor tugging at the cord, as thin as the cord himself and looking frail in a tough way with an old ragged y wine-coloured sweater dropping from his shoulders. So often in the past when he had offered things in that tone 1'd refused. Now I jumped into the boat before he left without me.
He had the kid sitting across from him helping steer the boat as it plowed through the water making miniature rainbows in the spray. He was talking to her but I couldn't make out the words above the sound of the engine.
Once he had taken me to a baseball game at Maple Leaf Stadium. In the eighth inning I had to go to the bathroom, and he didn't want to miss any of the game so he let me go by myself. I was seven or eight. I got lost and he didn't find me until an hour after the place was cleared out. He wasn't angry. Disappointed maybe. And I was ashamed. Always when I was around him I did things to make me ashamed.
The motor slowed, gurgled, stopped. He dropped the paint can full of stones he used for an anchor.
"I s this the place where you catch the fish?" the kid asked. She was excited now, on the brink of some new discovery. Animated face like her mother.
"This is it," he said, "but don't forget what I said, fish can hear, so you've gotta be real quiet."
She put her hand to her mouth and ssshed.
"Right," he said.
So easy for her to get his approval. Was it easier now than it had been for me? He baited the hook for her as she watched intently. He plunked the line in the water and looked up to see me watching him.
"I was just remembering the first time you showed me how to put a worm on a hook," I said. "You remember?"
He laughed drowsily and coughed quietly. He was a quiet man, I thought. A quiet, polite man. He was sitting four feet away dying the same way he had lived.
"You were worse than a girl," he said.
"Yeah," and I tried to smile politely too, but I had always resented that about him; his attitude to my ... what did the old lady call it? My frailness.
"Sssh daddy, the fish'll hear," Bernice cautioned, her face serious
The old man smiled. He had a way. Maybe I was jealous. I was a sickly kid, lousy at sports, anything physical, but he had a way of making it harder for me. Just stand there politely smiling at my attempts. He never laughed. Just that damn polite smile. And sometimes, now that I remembered, not even that. He wasn't always around when I tried my sums; the day I finally made the hockey team and actually scored a goal. The second-place medal for swimming. He was busy playing golf, a game he was so good at different people encouraged him to turn pro. That made me proud when I heard that. I had day-dreams of caddying fat him in the big tournaments, but he just smiled his polite smile and said no.
I watched him put together a cigarette. He rolled his own and his hands moved quickly like a woman knitting.
"Nothin' bitin'," he said.
"No, not today by the look of it. Could be too hot. Maybe we should go in. The kid's got no hat, she might get sun-stroke."
''I'm okay daddy. This is fun."
She kept standing up when she thought she had a bite. It made me nervous but the old man was right beside her. She was okay. Just my nerves.
"A beer?" he said.
"Yeah. Okay." He handed me a bottle and it was warm in the clammy way of a fish. I drank it quickly. I like beer, it reminds me of my mother: from hand to mouth, that's the way she describes the way I live, from hand to mouth. The beer being lifted, sucked at, the liquid measuring out my life. Like Hemingway, I thought with a sudden fright. From hand to mouth; his hand taking the gun to his mouth because he had nothing left to say and no reason to go on living. His statue moulded and waiting for his death.
My trouble is I want to be remembered so much and yet I spend my time trying to forget. That's what my life is about these days; trying
to forget. My wife. The kid. Mother. Everyone including the old man, and I never wanted to be spending this weekend with him in a boat supposedly fishing. I've dreaded the thought of such a weekend all my life.
"Surprised you're up this way," he said. "Mom invited me."
"Probably told you about the business," he said.
So like him; business, his death.
"Yeah, she mentioned you weren't well." "She gets excited."
Not like you with your polite smile.
"Daddy, you guys are gonna scare all the fish."
The old man puffed on his cigarette and grinned, his mouth unsealing like a steamed envelope. What was behind the flap? What songs had found their way out, or had any? Had the old man ever made music somewhere with someone? 1'd have liked to have known. Somehow I felt it would make me feel better if he had. More hopeful. Something.
And suddenly the kid was standing, jerking forward like a Buddhist monk in prayer falling to his knees.
"There's something ... " she yelled and splashed into the water.
It was a short distance to fall from her position at the back of the boat and I watched the bright yellow dress congeal into a dish rag. It was all so strange: once I had fallen off the end of the dock when I was five. I may even have done it on purpose and I kept my eyes open in the water as I sank and I saw the eerie arm of my father reach down and grab me. He used a fish gaff to hook me. I still have the scars on my shoulder. The proof. Of something.
The old man was right beside her. All he had to do was reach over the side and pull her in. It would be easy for him.
He yelled at me. Something was wrong. He never yelled. A quiet polite man.
"Get her Jake! Move, you stupid bugger!"
I plunged in. The water turned my clothes into a smothering blanket.
It was cold. I couldn't see her. I had to go up. I couldn't breathe. I didn't want to drown. I didn't want to die. I really didn't.
Oh God! Everything was ending. God. God. God. Damn. And then I saw her. She was upside down, her dress over her head. She seemed to be spinning slowly and I grabbed a leg. I pawed upward with my hand, not knowing any longer that there was anything beyond. The surface was a spot in my mind that had receded to a soft blur. Like a memory of a long-ago pain.
But it was there waiting. I punched into the air, my arm clawing for something to hold but the boat was several yards away. I saw the old man still seated. He spotted me and leaned forward, yelling something and I was under again. I fought to turn the girl around. She was like a shot deer. Stiff feeling. Her head was up and I cupped her under the chin and swam back to the boat just the way I'd been taught in the Red Cross life-saving course. The old man hadn't been around when I got that certificate either.
He was waiting and held her arms while I crawled in the boat. Every-thing was clear now. Pull her aboard, put her on the bottom of the boat with his sweater under her head. Check her mouth for obstructions. Head to one side. Arms in position. Pushing down gently. Pulling back. Counting. And repeating the whole thing over and over again.
The old man watched. He rolled a cigarette and coughed politely several times. He didn't smile and I saw he was sweating.
She began to cough. And then she was sick. That was good. It was okay. She began to cry. And then louder, screaming. Shock. The old man handed me his sweater and I wrapped her in it. Soon it was reduced to a sob.
"Daddy, the fish tried to take me away."
"It's okay baby. Everything's okay. I've got you now."
And as suddenly as the tears had come, she fell asleep in my arms. We sat there for a few minutes and then the old man spoke.
''I'm sorry Jake. I just didn't have the strength. She was right there but I didn't have the strength to get her. She could've drowned."
"She didn't," I said. "That's the main thing. Everything's all right now." "We'd better go back," he said.
He turned and started the motor. The girl slept huddled against me, and I thought of the phone in my room, the receiver in its cradle. And I thought of all the nights when I had almost called so many people like the girl I was holding. After today I would have to begin to make some of those calls or have the phone removed. I wasn't sure why, but something had changed and I'd have to face it.
At the dock he helped me lift her out of the boat.
"Careful," I said.
''I'm fine now," he said. "Just sometimes my strength goes all out of me."
"You shouldn't've gone to all this trouble with the boat," I said.
He smiled. Polite again. We began walking back to the cottage, the girl asleep still in my arms.
"See Jake," he said, when he reached the trees, ''I'm a selfish man." "We all are," I said.
"Yeah, but with me it was different in some way. Sometimes I fee11ike I missed something. I always figured the most important thing to a man was his privacy. A man's got to have his privacy. I always lived that way Jake."
It may have been an explanation or even an apology but whatever it was, it was enough. He'd had his polite smile all his life and I had my telephone. You could hide behind either one or use it to reach out. I could learn a lot from the old man. If only he'd tell me. Maybe, though I had to ask. And maybe privacy was another way of saying lonely.
The old lady was waiting for us on the path. He walked straight toward her voice. I felt the pinch of her words and fell behind. The man walked straight ahead and didn't look back.
what be reason for jake calling his ex-wife? he give us real reason 4 hving his daughter go with him to see his dying father. whats the reason behind this?
i write before that he wants her to to know abt his father, he feels it be right thing to do and let her know what going on in his family.
but i not feel this right because one my people who sit beside me say it not right.
Jake called his ex-wife because he was afraid to go alone. He wanted his daughter with him to help him face his parents. I think he also wanted his daughter to know his father -- to have some feeling for family and the company of others.
thanks very much ms. sue :) i be able to post more questions? sorry i reply so late i be eating dinner.
Sure. I'll help you for the next hour or so.
thank you very much :)
jake give description of relationship of his family p. 32. what comparison he use to describe his family?
this part start from..
pulled off the highway onto the dirt road that led to the lake she asked me something she seemed to have been saving....
this part end with "Could you run along and play, Bernice? I want to talk with yur daddy for a minute."
comparison he use be series of elephone poles strung along a highway without the wires linking up?
Yes, that's how he describes his family.
when jake arrive with his daughter, how does his mom react? how does she feel abt jake's father taking out his son and grand daughter out fishing?
She feel uneasy? she not close to girl. she not want jake and his daughter to go fishing because she want jake to stay with her?
I think you're right. In addition, she doesn't want her son and husband to have a good time out fishing.
ms. sue u please be able make this sentence proper?
Jake's mom reacts uneasy, she don't have tight relationship with son, and she not close to grandaughter. She also not want her son and husband to have good time fishing.
Jake's mom reacts uneasily. She doesn't have a tight relationship with her son and she's not close to her granddaughter. She also doesn't want her son and husband to have a good time fishing.
thank you ms. sue :)
jake not see his dad for over 2 yrs. why he surprised when he see him again?
he look different to jake?
How did his father look different? Why?
he look smaller to him than before. he looked tiny and shrivelled in old-dog kind way. this be trick question? or this be right?
It's not a trick question. Your description is right. Remember that Jake's father is sick and has cancer. He probably won't live for very long.
so he surprise to see him alive?
Jake's father is thin and weak. He's not healthy; he's dying. It's a surprise to see how sick he is.
thanks very much ms. sue:) i post other questions tomorrow. have a very good night! :)
You're very welcome, Mohammad. I'll see you tomorrow. Have a great evening!